Step 1: With All Diligence Add Virtue To Your Faith – Audio

4STAGES-infantSQ“For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy)…” [2 Peter 1:3-5 AMP]  2 Peter 1:3-5 “[4] We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you — your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust. [5] So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character,” (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

AUDIO MESSAGE Week 1: The Overview of Level 1, The New Christian is A Spiritual Infant

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AUDIO MESSAGE Week 2: Level 1, Turn From Sin and Replace Sin with Virtue

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AUDIO Week 3: Level 1, By Grace Make Progress and Leave Your Old Lifestyle Behind

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The Lord Jesus died for you. He bought you from the terrible slave master, Satan, with His own blood at the cross of Calvary, over 2000 years ago. Your sin [the one or many criminal acts of disobedience to God’s Law] kept you under God’s wrath and final judgment as you lived and acted like the devil. God’s wrath and demand for justice is the same as the demand for justice that the U.S. government issues for all criminals who break the law. The same disgust that anyone has for the rape and murder of a little child, is the same feeling and hatred that God has toward all spiritual crimes of sin.

But if you are now born again, as a new believer, you have your sins forgiven [1 John 2:12], but like a newborn baby, you are totally weak and helpless to do that which is right before God. You are now a new spiritual creation, but like an infant with no strength, you are weak and can only lay helpless and drink the milk of God’s Word. It takes months of life before the newborn can be strong enough to lift his head, control his arms, sit up, crawl, and stand up and finally walk.

The intent of the parent and God is for the child to forever leave behind that helplessness and weakness to the end that he can get up and walk and talk for the rest of his life. At this point they are only interested in these basic developments and are not yet concerned in the infant going to college, riding a bike, or playing baseball.

Just like physical weakness and helplessness is the state of a new baby, sin is the overpowering force that spiritually weakens and overwhelms all mankind. And like a baby, this weakness must be overcome completely and left behind forever so that standing and walking in the Spirit is the new way of life.

God’s will is plain, he wants you to put all your faith into a powerful resolve to completely and totally repent [turning away] from all sin, overcoming all sinful acts, breaking all sinful habits, and learning to walk victoriously in the Spirit of freedom and obedience, as you follow Jesus.

You are a brand new, born again “Child of Obedience.” Peter makes it clear:

1 Peter 1:14-19 AMP

14 [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].

15 But as the one Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.

16 For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. [Lev 11:44,45.]

17 And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short].

18 You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold,

19 But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.

God’s will then is for you to take your first action step, which is to concentrate on your repentance. Like an addict who fights to be free using a sponsor, group meetings, and every means necessary for deliverance, so you must focus your attention using all diligence [Greek word from Bible = to “speed” (“study”), i.e. urge on (diligently or earnestly); by implication to await eagerly :- (make, with) haste unto.] What this means is, if it takes a year or more of constant struggle and effort, do not let anything distract you from this process, because this is God’s will for your life!

So where do you begin? Remember at first an infant is so weak it can only drink milk. So, too, you need to start by drinking the milk of God’s Word, you will need spiritual strength. And yes, the Bible is big and has a lot to say. But wait a minute, like an infant, only concentrate on the milk, not the whole Bible. You will have plenty of time later to get into the meaty stuff. So what is the milk? The Bible tells us…

“By now you should be teachers. Instead, you still need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food. [13] All those who live on milk lack the experience to talk about what is right. They are still babies. [14] However, solid food is for mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil.”

“[6:1] With this in mind, we should stop going over the elementary truths about Christ and move on to topics for more mature people. We shouldn’t repeat the basics about turning away from the useless things we did and the basics about faith in God. [2] We shouldn’t repeat the basic teachings about such things as baptisms, setting people apart for holy tasks, dead people coming back to life, and eternal judgment. [Hebrews 5:12-6:2 God’s Word]”

First, notice you must begin drinking the milk that focuses on telling you what is right and what is wrong. You must look for the places that explain what sin is [what is wrong to do] and also find what the Bible says what to do [righteousness]. You will have to put great effort into this, you must drink much and often in this one area until your mind is “trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil.”

Therefore start with the Ten Commandments as explained in Exodus 20. Read Gal 5:19-21 AMP: “Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Find in the Bible the places that people will say are negative, the places that tell you what sin is. Look up the words until you understand them. Be thorough in your pursuit of the truth.

Paul told the young believer Timothy; “Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life — a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.” (1 Tim 6:10-12 from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

You must understand the habits, bondage, and evil of the “normal person,” without Jesus. God’s perspective is far different than people! This is why much time is spent in the New Testament explaining this sinful condition and the difference between right and wrong. God says all Christians’ past, your past, before new birth, was a demonic, devil-inspired life of total selfish evil. Most do not feel that about themselves, instead, they feel like they are basically good.

Listen carefully to Ephesians 2:1-3 [AMP] “AND YOU [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins in which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God]. Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind.”

Then read and study Matthew 5-7 looking for the commands of your Lord Jesus. You probably will not comprehend what he wants you to do, or you may find yourself too weak to do them. But, do not lose heart, begin exercising your muscles like the infant, step by step working at the commands.

If you watch a little child they never give up trying to reach things, touch things, and taste things. There is an unexplained desire to grow up even when it seems no changes happen for days. Slowly and almost unnoticed they get stronger and stronger and after months make steps of progress. After failing many, many times they achieve a new level, whether it is rolling over, or finally standing up.

You too have a powerful ally working inside your spirit, the mighty Holy Spirit of God is training you to walk in obedience. As He releases grace it starts all kinds of desires to please God, He points you to important scriptures, convicts you of wrong and blasts your conscience as you blow it and disobey. You will find growing desires to please God, growing willfulness to stop your disobedience, and slowly you will find increased strength and longings to be free from the bondage of sin, accompanied with new power to stand up in righteous living.

My experience was excruciating because I was ignorant and had no mentor or teacher to explain to me what was happening. I cried out to God with many tears because this longing for freedom grew to such a feverish pitch I thought God was not listening to me. I was not patient like a baby but felt abandoned by God. I was wrong!

These feelings were the direct result of great grace releasing inside of me by the Holy Spirit to “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV]

Do not underestimate this powerful grace! The standard of the Law that convicts sinners to eternal judgment is the normal lifestyle of a Spirit-born Christian empowered by this steady release of grace.

As Paul explains, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires. If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.]” [Gal 5:24-25 AMP]

Do not neglect this first step of the Christian life. Just like the normal development of a child, you cannot go to school until you learn to walk and talk, feed yourself, etc. And remember infants get bruises and bloody lips attempting to walk, but they do eventually walk. You will honor God by the intensity of your efforts to please your Heavenly Father. Leave the overwhelming ignorance and weakness that sin does to you and take the promises of grace and power forcibly to the level of walking in the Spirit!

Eph 4:17-24 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

“And so I insist — and God backs me up on this — that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. [18] They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. [19] They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

[20] But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! 21 My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. [22] Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything — and I do mean everything — connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, [23] a life renewed from the inside [24] and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”

Four Stages of Christian Life: How to Know You Are Growing Spiritually

The moment of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ, when you are really born again, the Holy Spirit invades your spirit making you a spiritual infant. This is phase one of the Christian experience. Like physical birth you are “a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” [2 Cor 5:17 AMP]

Now we understand that there are four phases of spiritual life from 1 John, chapter 2. And John describes this first spiritual state with these words, “I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven {pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name}.” [1 John 2:12 AMP]

PHASE ONE: THE NEW BORN SPIRITUAL INFANT

You are a child of God! “Little children” is translated from the Greek word for infant, showing the parallel to the natural birth stage of a person. The new baby is alive but weak and totally dependent upon his parents to survive. A new spiritual baby is forgiven, but spiritually ignorant and helpless just like a new born baby.

This is where the church family is required to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you…” [Matt 28:19-20 AMP] The parents nurture and teach their child everything about life, and the spiritual church family nurtures and teaches all the commands of Christ to their spiritual babies.

PHASE TWO: THE SPIRITUALLY IMMATURE CHILD

The next stage of life for the Christian is the immature, child stage. John describes this group of saints like this, “I write to you, boys (lads), because you have come to know (recognize and be aware) of the Father.” [1 John 2:13 AMP] The toddler through teenage years are times of great change, learning, and development, but they are still years of immaturity. Make sure you dedicate yourself as a student of Jesus Christ! Learn to walk as He walked. Infants become toddlers when they begin to walk!

The difference that is experienced by the believer in this phase, compared to the infant stage is stated to be “because you have come to know the Father.” Again John explains it this way, “Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments.” [1 John 2:3 (from THE MESSAGE)] Development and school are a part of the toddler to teen years and so it is to be the same in spiritual maturity.

Peter warns these years are hard spiritually, just like growing up can be challenging. He warns, “Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'” [1 Peter 1:14-16 (from THE MESSAGE)]

And Paul explains graduating from school is a lot of hard work, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” [2 Cor 10:5-6 KJV]

PHASE THREE: THE MATURE SERVANT OF GOD

Every parent wants the best for their kids! They need to graduate, get trained, get a good job, and change the world for good, etc. And Your heavenly Father wants you to do the same. You can see phase three in John’s words, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” [1 John 2:14 KJV] These three clearly defined things must be achieved to be considered mature according to John.

In everyday life, the strong and vigorous young men and women finish school and join the work force, commit to military duty, or enter college for specific training to accomplish their dreams and goals. In a similar manner, strength of character comes from long exposure to God’s commands, until they are forged into your nature, and you can be described as not just knowing the words of God’s commands, but you live them! God has plans for your future!

Next, the success of every believer is determined as “the Word of God is [always] abiding in you (in your hearts).” [1 John 2:14 AMP] The importance of this in non-optional. To graduate from God’s school of obedience and live successfully is founded on this fact. The Lord promised in the Old Testament, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” [Josh 1:8 KJV] Don’t be lazy, or you will never succeed!

Just like Christ withstood the temptations of the devil, using God’s Word that filled His mind and heart, God’s will is for you to be mature in your faith so that you also withstand the enemies attacks, and not fall!

When Peter explains the seven steps of obedience to climb to spiritual maturity he proclaims, “For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed one). For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins. Because of this, brethren, be all the more solicitous and eager to make sure (to ratify, to strengthen, to make steadfast) your calling and election; for if you do this, you will never stumble or fall.” [2 Peter 1:8-10 AMP]

Your success is vital, and Paul reinforces this in his letter to the Ephesians, as he explains the preparation and training necessary to withstand temptation. “Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.” [Eph 6:11 AMP]

After Jesus withstood the evil day of great temptations, He then began His ministry. Therefore, we can understand then, to graduate from phase two, the school of immaturity, is to begin phase three, which is to follow our Lord’s example and serve our Lord. God uses the strong and vigorous, truth filled saints because “the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds…” [2 Cor 10:4 AMP]

The work required to see hardened sinners converted, the church healthy and strong, and the culture and communities transformed is a spiritual task beyond any human plan or effort. Remember the immature disciples were unable to help people who were strongly controlled by the enemy. At that point, the Lord Jesus “said unto them, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.'” [Mark 9:29 KJV]

Paul adds, “For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.” [Eph 6:12 AMP] The eternal destiny of your world is no joke, and it takes strong, dedicated believers to serve the King of Kings, relying on God’s power to fulfill His mission.

PHASE FOUR: THE EXPERIENCED LEADER, A TEACHER OR MENTOR

Finally, as time and experience take their course God intends for every believer to move into the final phase of their maturity. Spiritual grandfathers and grandmothers are essential to the stability and future of the church. John used a word for phase three Christians, “young men,” that in normal usage then described a man up to forty years old. Then a new phase of life was entered.

In the same fashion God expects the battle hardened veteran to slow down and pass on the legacy of the faith to others. John uses the words, “fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be conscious of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning.” [1 John 2:14 AMP] The understanding and wisdom of the faithful servant must be passed on to the next generation or the church weakens and fails to be the testimony of Christ Jesus.

Let these words sink into your heart, “By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves…” [Heb 5:12 (from THE MESSAGE)] Time, not a special calling, is clearly voiced as the reason to become a teacher in the church. This is the reason you find the church leaders in Acts are called, elders, with teaching responsibility.

This is why Paul ordered Titus to teach to the end that “the older women similarly to be reverent and devout in their deportment as becomes those engaged in sacred service… They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble, so that they will wisely train the young women…” [Titus 2:3-4 AMP]

Now that you understand the four phases of spiritual life, you need to know what God requires of you to grow spiritually and please your Lord. We are not left to our own opinions for this, but God’s Word provides clear steps of action for every Christian to take. This is covered in the Seven Steps of Obedience To Spiritual Maturity found in 2 Peter 1.

Do you love the Lord? Are you willing to grow up and serve Him? I pray that you do!