Imagine holding a seed in your hand. It will not take root and grow until you bury it in the soil. The same is true for our lives. We cannot get in Christ without beginning with a burial in Him.
Today we are going to look at 7 important truths to help us get into Christ while growing deeper in Him.
1. Buried in Christ – Planted and Rooted
If you have listened and participated in this study but you have never taken the step of faith to get baptized into Christ, this really is the beginning of your new life of faith in the Lord. Have you taken the step of faith? While many see baptism as a work to earn salvation, the reality is that this is the only step in the process of conversion that you literally do nothing. Someone else plants you under water and into the likeness of Christ death, so that just as Christ was raised to new life you too might have the new life through His resurrection.
In order for something to grow, it must first die. Have you died with Christ? It is a submission step to allow someone to immerse you into water, where you do no work, but you allow the Holy Spirit to renew you as you are regenerated by the blood of Jesus through baptism into water. It is at the moment of baptism that the conditions are right for salvation. The light of the gospel is shining forth, a heart receives the seed of the word of God and repents with a confession of their belief in Jesus and they are immersed in water for the remission of sins. At this point the seed has been planted (teaching) and watered (reinforcement) and the begetting process starts (inception; James 1:18). When one is immersed in water for the remission of sins, the new birth takes place and one is born again (John 3:3) of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). From that moment on they are given the gift of the Holy Spirit which is referred to as living water that flows like a river in the innermost being to provide a steady stream (John 7:37-39) to sustain the growth of the seed. After being raised to walk in this new life (Romans 6:1-8), you are a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). This allows the Christian to produce the fruit of the Spirit (singular term representing a set of godly characteristics) that accompany salvation and spiritual growth.
When we surrender our lives and submit to the Lord’s command for baptism, Christ becomes our life (Col. 3:4). From that exact occurrence of a burial in water, it is no longer I who live, Paul said, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20; Acts 22:16). Baptism is a symbol of death, burial and resurrection to life. The life that we live in the flesh we live in faith toward the Son of God who loved us enough to give Himself for us in His death. That is why Paul says that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). While we have a breath to take let us exhale each one in service to the Lord. Our lives are to be consumed in service to the one that gave His life that we might live unto righteousness.
2. Growing in Christ – Germination and Sprouting
Once we have started our new life in Christ, it is expected that the seed of the word of God, which is Christ (John 1:1, 14) that is planted in us through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, will take spiritual nourishment and grow into something after its kind. If the seed that is planted in us is Christ and we are planted in Him, the kind of growth that should be evident in the life of a Christian is the image of God’s dear Son that we are transformed into daily (Romans 8:29).
We start on the milk of the word, which are the basic nutrients, but we eventually graduate to meat which is like a fertilizer that penetrates the soil of our hearts and causes even more growth. The transformation process only happens when we are a daily sacrifice and allow our minds to be changed by what we learn and we apply it to our lives through the service of worship that we offer to God acceptably with reverence and awe (Rom. 12:1-2).
Here we are able to distinguish right from wrong and we are not carried about and tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but we become deeply rooted and unmoved by the things that come our way. We remain in fellowship with others of the same faith that was once for all delivered (Jude 3), so that we can create a positive ecosystem in which we can thrive. Anything that is planted is expected to make progress. We would never expect anyone or anything that has life in it to remain the same. Over time, we expect to see clear signs of growth, which speak volumes about how deeply rooted or healthy the foundation is beneath each soul.
3. Fruition in Christ - Producing Fruit
In order to produce fruit a tree must be nourished from the root system up and that nourishment needs to reach every part of the limb attached to the trunk or main vine. Jesus is the vine and God is the caretaker of the vineyard. Every child of God is a branch connected to Jesus. In order to grow and produce fruit we need to remain connected to the source of our life. Any branch that is broken off and is separated from the main vine that feeds off of the root, withers and dies. Apart from Christ we can do nothing, but attached to Him we can do anything.
To measure the health of any plant, you can look at its leaves. If the leaves are turning brown, either the seasons are changing to fall (dormant), or the branch is no longer productive (dead). We learned earlier that those that love the word of the Lord and who meditate on it day and night are like a tree planted by streams of water and their leaves never wither but remain green. There is no dormant season for the child of God, but rather we are like the evergreen tree, that even during the cold winter month, will find a way to weather the snowy and icy conditions by storing up needed nutrition to keep us thriving all year round. Unfortunately, many trees that are very much alive at the root level and into the core of the tree will have most of their branches receiving nourishment, yet there are some branches that do not continue to draw nutrients and show no progress and they either fall off or when the care taker of the tree evaluates the dead branch, he will cut it off and remove the branch to avoid this limb from affecting the rest of the tree.
Jesus taught us that a sign of a faithful disciple is that they bear much fruit. If we are connected to the Lord and He is providing us with the opportunity to grow, but we refuse to receive the nourishment that He wants to provide, we will remain in Him but it will be evident that we are not producing. While fall and winter are real seasons of life that we have to endure, we need to be like the evergreen tree. What is it about the evergreen that keeps it green all year round? The evergreen has a wax layer over the leaves or needles on the conifers that protect the moisture in rolled coils and thick leaves so that when the winter months set in, the cold does not dry out the leaves and it can continue the process of photosynthesis remaining green. If we as Christians can trust in the source of our growth, that even when the rest of the trees are turning colors and dropping leaves and entering into a dormant stage, we can be green at all times. We will produce fruit in our season as the good Lord sees fit, but we will always be green.
4. Pruned in Christ – Deeper Roots and Stronger Shoots
In order for a tree to remain healthy, from time to time it will need to be pruned. This is the process of removing part of a branch to make it stronger, provide nourishment where it is needed and to keep a branch growing in the right direction.
While this can appear harmful or painful on the surface, a wise husbandman knows that you can make the branch stronger and get more fruit from a properly pruned limb. Some might question the shortening of the branch by saying it looks like you have removed growth, but the reality is the branch will be thicker and stronger and more viable for remaining green and producing fruit when it is properly trimmed.
The word used in John 15 for “pruning” is the same word in the context where Jesus said you are “clean” by the word that I spoke unto you. While I cannot say exactly how God prunes us and prepares us for greater growth on an individual level, He does it. It may seem unpleasant at the time while he is purging or cleansing parts of our lives, but it is a necessary part of the process. Without it you will not be as fruitful as you have the potential to be in the Lord. The pruning could come in the form of persecution, trial or testing. This process can also come from periods of deep reflection where God calls us to an opportunity that may challenge us. We also get prepared for greater growth through our own positive experiences where we are inspired and edified but it may require us to go out of our way or to make a sacrifice.
5. Firm in Christ – Standing and Staying Strong
When we reach a place where we are grounded in Christ we have to be reminded that we can always be uprooted. Standing firm does not signify being idle. We must constantly make progress.
In the battle an army that stands their ground but never moves forward to take on new territory might as well retreat. While no one can ever take us from our place in Christ, we can forfeit that place by a walk that is contrary to the will of God in Christ. A walk denotes movement and in this case movement in a positive direction. We can be cut off or severed from the Lord by our own doing.
The mighty oak is only mighty because it weathered the storms, droughts, winds, and other calamities that it had to face. Steady growth is the key. For those that are tossed by every wave and wind of doctrine they will struggle to remain firmly rooted. We need to become immovable in our faith staying in step with the Holy Spirit and moving toward heaven. Yes, it is possible and absolutely necessary to grasp the concept of being steadfast and immovable but still abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58).
6. Uprooting Evil in Christ – Purging and Purifying
We have learned throughout our time together about roots of bitterness that can spring up or if we love money it is the root of all kinds of evil. The fact of the matter is, we could all benefit from taking inventory in our lives (very similar to the assessment that we covered earlier) to determine the areas of our lives where we are weak and strengthen those zones, while also asking the Lord to reveal even secret sins and parts of our lives where we are transgressing against Him and remove the weeds in our lives.
I can remember walking through row and row of potato plants with my grandfather as a boy with a small bucket that had some fuel in it and pulling potato bugs off of the leaves of the plant because the bugs were killing the growth. I can still see my grandfather spraying pesticides on certain trees to keep the various pests away that could kill the bloom before it ever became fruit. In the walnut trees every year we would have to burn the worm bags that developed in the tree to kill off the worms that would harm the tree.
The point is that many of us would benefit greatly from a purging. What areas of your life simply do not glorify God? Where have you let down your guard and welcomed in some activity that while not inherently sinful , has you walking a fine line. While living on the edge sounds adventurous, you are one mistake away from falling away from the living God. Please note that if you don’t take it upon yourself to clean up your act, God will uproot these things for you eventually, and it can be a painful process. Every plant that He has not planted will be uprooted and the Lord knows those that belong to Him. The weed cannot hide in the wheat. Once you grow up it is evident what you have become by what you produce. The same plant cannot produce good and bad fruit. We will produce based on what fills our hearts.
7. The Harvest in Christ – Ready For The Storehouse
If you have been a Christian for a number of years, you are not done growing. You may reach a place where you feel like Paul and say that you have run the race, you have finished your course, and you have kept the faith, or in terms of our rooted class, I am ready to go home and dwell forever in the presence of God.
While you may be preparing for the golden years of your life and you might feel white and ready for harvest, you must not lose sight of your task. Just because Paul felt he had reached the finish line, he never stopped serving the Lord until he drew his last breath. We can never pass off the torch to a younger more vigorous part of the church because they need to see the generations before them serving as an example of what it means to be faithful unto death and until you are poured our completely in the service of the Lord.
There is no retirement plan on the earth for believers. After you have served the Lord for 30 years, you don’t get to sit back and watch others carry on the work of the kingdom. While the role that you undertake might change, in that you can mentor, challenge and feed others with wisdom, perhaps serve as an elder, deacon or Bible class teacher, but there are no reserves in the Lord’s army. You will either be enlisted and fighting for the right, or you are against Him. To use terms that relate to the class, you will either bring forth good fruit and be found thriving in Christ, or you are slowly dying and destined to be severed from the Lord. Jesus said he who does not gather with me scatters. There is no middle ground.
While your many years of dedicated work will never be forgotten, you cannot deviate from the level of service that you have been committed to and rest before reaching your eternal home where we enter the rest that remains for the people of God. Each one of us is a necessary part of the tasks that must be accomplished in the field of labor. To make sure we are ready for the harvest of our soul, we must be found faithfully serving the Lord (Rev 2:10).
Stay rooted and grounded in love and in the Lord Jesus Christ!