August 25, 2021
Steven Mann, Elder at East White Oak Bible Church
“In him was life, and that life was the light of men” John 1:4
When I became an Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) instructor for Fellowship 13 in 2019, one of the first passages of scripture we tackled as young families and young adults was Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes. It is a book that Solomon wrote later in his life as instruction for young adults. Solomon’s message is not light-hearted and upbeat as you might expect with a youthful audience. Solomon laments early in his sermon that he had explored many unfruitful paths in his lifetime – he undertook large scale agriculture, amassed significant wealth, explored sensual pleasures like music, food and wine— “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” (Ecc. 2:10) The pursuit of these pleasures, however, ultimately yielded little satisfaction for Solomon …. “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecc. 2:11)
A study of Solomon’s warnings on life’s unproductive endeavors should leave one wondering where the productive efforts lie. The answer: Growing In Christ.
What does Growing in Christ mean?
Growing in Christ Means There Is Only One Source Of Life And Growth—Christ.
When we state “Growing in Christ” as one of East White Oak’s vital signs, we should be mindful of Solomon’s warnings that true growth does not take place in the physical realm. Sure we can grow in our knowledge here on earth, amass wealth, grow in influence and power over our fellow man—but what of true spiritual growth—the only growth that is everlasting? One of my great joys this year has been to lead Fellowship 13 in the study of the Gospel of John. The apostle makes clear that true life, and subsequently true growth, can only come from one source, Christ. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was light, and that light was the life of all mankind.” (John 1:3-4) Solomon echoes a similar sentiment in Ecclesiastes 12 that we remember our Creator in the days of youth.
In turning to the true source of creation and of life, we are submitting to the One who can grow us in the spiritual realm in exponential ways. One of the neat benefits of teaching young families in Bible Fellowship is to witness this spiritual growth together in fellowship as we ponder together the amazing, eternal wisdom and immutable attributes of Christ, our Savior. Understanding that Christ is the only means to growth also guides biblical instruction. A focus on Christ instead of submitting to wisdom of the “present age” is always a productive endeavor for our fellowship and endeavor that promotes true spiritual growth.
Growing in Christ Means: Knowing The True Christ Through Study of His Word.
Another great joy of preparing for my time of fellowship with the Fellowship 13 ABF is interacting with God’s Word. Praying over the passage. Challenging my finite mind’s perception of who Christ is through the Holy Spirit inspired Word. I am constantly amazed in my study of the Gospel of how I am always learning new aspects of Christ’s deity. When I study Christ—in both the Old and New Testament, it helps me identify the nature and attributes of Christ. In John chapter 1 for instance, we see Philip indicate to Andrew and Peter that Christ had been identified as “the one Moses wrote about in the law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:44) Philip’s recognition of Christ was, in part, a result of his knowledge of God’s Word. We, as an ABF, mirror the early church that “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Act 2:42)
I am mindful, along with my brothers and sisters in Fellowship 13, that we remain focused on Christ so that no one takes us captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Growing in Christ Means: Experiencing the Power of Christ in Fellowship With Other Believers
One of the great joys in Bible Fellowship with other believers is to experience the unity of fellowship through the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:1-6) Maybe it is an understanding ear when you need one. A hug. A prayer. A text message to say we are thinking about each other and praying for each other. A meal. The Spirit is also moving to influence and guide our fellowship. When we look to Christ in the midst of doing life together, we are admitting our brokenness to each other. Our struggles. Our fears and uncertainties. But we also share something else—our hope in Christ and trust that he who began a good work in us is carrying it to completion. (Philippians 1:6)
As an instructor of God’s Word in East White Oak Adult Bible Fellowships, Growing in Christ is the necessary result of (1) A true understanding and commitment to Christ as the true source of our spiritual growth; (2) a consistent study of God’s Word that unveils the immutable and sovereign attributes of Christ; (3) and fellowship through the Spirit of Christ with other believers supporting one another. It is not a path, it is the path to true growth.