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Checklist for Christian growth

If you are unable to drive an automobile properly, you had better stay out from behind the wheel. Otherwise, you are going to create a great hazard for other motorists in addition to needlessly endangering your own life. You'll break the rules that make driving helpful and enjoyable — and reap the consequences for breaking those rules.

But what kind of a driver are you spiritually? Are you prone to break God's laws that produce happiness and good? How many spiritual traffic signs do you violate? How many spiritual citations have you had?


The spiritual stakes

In our Christian lives, we are dealing with even more serious issues than the driver of an automobile going down the road.

But just as physical drivers can ignore traffic laws and take their own skills for granted, we can begin to overlook the flaws in our spiritual development and thus create deadly hazards for ourselves on our way to eternal life.

God only gives us one chance for salvation. That doesn't leave us any room to gamble. It's better to obey God's rules and submit to His purpose (Rom. 8:28) than to take a chance on failing to fulfill our incredible human potential.

We have just passed that time of year when, as Christians, we should have examined ourselves spiritually and rededicated ourselves to eradicating any imperfections from our character. But that process, pictured by the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, must go on constantly.

When you sow a thought, you reap an act. When you sow an act, you reap a habit. And when you sow a habit, you reap the whirlwind. That is where the biggest problem lies in trying to develop spiritual character — when people refuse to see the error of their ways.

The biggest stumbling block in your path is not a what — it's a who — you. You need to stand in front of the mirror of God's perfect law, see your shortcomings and work on them. We all need to be wrestling to bring ourselves into control.

How many times have you reviewed the book of Jude? There (verse 3) we're admonished to never lose the original faith — the gift of God — that will lead to salvation by grace (Eph. 2:8).


A sure foundation

For those who have legitimately been called by God, converted and given the faith to achieve salvation, there is only one chance. Unless we succeed with this only opportunity we will ever have for salvation (and the bonus of ruler-ship with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God), we will be like a driver who is seriously injured in a car crash for which he is at fault. That driver may find himself crying out to God for one more chance.

But we in God's Church are being judged now (I Pet. 4: 17). If we do not now answer the great calling God has given us — if we choose to return to the hopeless condition from which God called us—we will not have another opportunity: "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:26-27).

Thus it behooves us to build our spiritual lives on a structure that the trials of this life will only purify and not destroy (I Cor. 3:12-15). What building materials are we using? What goals have we set for ourselves? We are living in a physical world that seems to crowd any awareness of God out of our minds. It seems our main interest and confidence are in material, and not spiritual, things.


The proper emphasis

Christ showed us how to build a sure foundation, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal" (Matt. 6:19).

When we amass material things, we feel we have to guard them rather than invest them, spiritually speaking, with wisdom. But we needn't be that concerned.

Christ said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (verses 20-21).

So the emphasis should be on spiritual buildings — individually and collectively. We must be concerned with our Christian reputations as future sons of God. Using Jesus Christ as our standard, here are four concepts we should never forget. If we do, we are in big trouble.


Our Need for God

(1 ) We must never forget our need for God. Are we going to victimize ourselves by careless driving — take a wrong turn and slide down into the destruction into which this world is hurling itself?

The crown of righteousness is the most precious thing we can obtain in this life. We're admonished to hold fast to that crown and let no one steal it from us (Rev. 3:11).

When we lose our awareness of our helpless condition — when we no longer feel we need God's protection or guidance — we have exceeded our position and will run into difficulty.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt totally helpless? Imagine how the people who were aboard the DC-10 that crashed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport last year must have felt.

When you're sitting in a plane, you have to rely on the pilot. You place confidence in his ability, his experience and his flying record. You trust the airline. You relax and enjoy the flight.

But, you see, when this plane took off and the pilot became aware that something had gone haywire, all confidence in those physical things was lost. The question became, "God, where are you?"

Although officials said there wasn't very much panic on that plane, I'm sure it must have been present in the minds of the individuals aboard.

I think this and other similar incidents define what a helpless condition really is. When we feel satisfied, self-sufficient, like we don't need anything, we are setting ourselves up for a great fall.

Generally, it was some kind of an emergency that first made us seek God at all. God probably used some crisis to bring us to our senses, make us examine ourselves and see the fruits of our lives and grant us the power of repentance.

"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:1 1-12).

We were far away from God and had no way of reaching Him when He first called us (John 6:44).

"But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). We shouldn't ever allow this attitude to slip from our minds — that God reached out and, through no merit of our own, lifted us from the far-off position we were in and brought us into fellowship with Him and His son, Jesus Christ. We continually need the presence and help of God, for we are nothing without Him.