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God's Growth Plan

Read this message transcript by Sr. Pastor Harold Bullock from the "My Story" message series

Harold Bullock: What exactly is life about? What's your life about? When I was in my teens that was the question. You're getting older and older and you wonder what life's about and somewhere in my mid or late 20s, I felt like I ought to do something with life. What's it about? Is it really about all the great things I'm going to do one day that will make people remember my name forever? Nah, probably not. Is it about trying to have a good life? Well, I mean, you want one. Is that all it is?

You saw the images on the screen of the threads being woven together. What's the whole tapestry about? Of course, what is my thread about really? The Bible has some answers on those. I'm Harold Bullock, I'm Senior Pastor here at Hope. If we haven't met, I'd enjoy meeting you after the service. This is a really good question because we keep bumping off of stuff in life. A lot of it's hard, and then we have those moments where we get a few moments alone, we wonder. According to the Scriptures, life ... The whole big tapestry ... Not just my life, but the whole tapestry ... When it's finally woven is going to be about the Honor of God and the Glory of God and that will have turned out to be something really good.

My own thread ... As you are woven into what God's doing, you run into a lot of other threads and a lot of things are happening, but my own thread, what's that about? Very interesting. The Bible says that God actually has a goal for you. If you have become a Christ follower, this is true. If you become one it'll be His major goal for you. This is what it says. "From the very beginning, God decided that those who came to Him shall become like His Son." Become like His Son. It's talking about Jesus Christ. Become like Jesus Christ. Wow.

One day, according to the Bible, we'll finally be like him whenever we're with The Lord Himself and beyond this life. Whenever we walk the streets of Heaven, no one will confuse us for Jesus Christ, but we're gonna be like him. I mean, He is God and we're not gonna be God. If you're counting on that, I hate to disappoint you, but you are intended to be like Him. Particularly like Him in character. Like Him in the way that you handle life. Very interesting.

This is God's goal for us and it's something that begins whenever a person yields their life to Jesus Christ. You have to be reasonably convinced that He's real, and that means different things for different people what it takes to be convinced. You need to actually believe that's true, and then you decide that He's going to lead your life and you yield your life to Him. You ask Him to take it and lead. When you do, God Himself actually moves into you. The Holy Spirit comes in and He begins something. It's a process that goes on the rest of our lives.

I'd like to show you a picture of it. Spiritual growth is what we're talking about, becoming like Christ in character. That's God's goal for us and there's a kind of process that occurs. Before we yield our life to Christ, we just have patterns of living. It's just us. Whenever you yield your life to Christ, He moves in and the seed of a new life is planted with a new ... It's not all there yet. The life is, but what it's going to be is going to grow over time. The new life begins to dominate. Until maturity, it's the dominant force in our life.

The old stuff never entirely disappears. That's exasperating, but it just never entirely goes away. Whenever we die or meet The Lord face to face, then we'll be completely like him in character, but that's intended to grow over the years in our lives. That's very interesting. We're going to become like Him and it's already in process. Spiritual growth moves through different stages. You see baby ... Let's go back to that slide. You see baby and child, and then the mature. As you first yield your life to Christ, you're ... In Scriptural terms you're a Scriptural baby, and then over time you become a child. It grows more dominant in your life than your life does until maturity. Maturity is a relative term. The new life does dominate, but you're always growing in this. It never stops, but there are different stages. Babies, children, adults.

Babies need someone to take care of them. If you leave a baby alone it will die. Children, they can pretty well take care of themselves, but you'd hate to put a seven-year-old in charge of other kids. They might do okay for a time, but things just get complicated. They can feed themselves, they can dress themselves, they can shower themselves, but they have trouble taking care of others. Adults, they can take care of themselves and others also. This is a process that grows over time. It moves through different stages and it just happens over time. What occurs is a change in how you see life. A change in how you see people, and actually a change in how you deal with life and how you deal with people.

As time goes on we see life and people more and more from God's perspective. I mean, the natural thing as you move through life is you look at people, you appreciate people, but they need to get out of your way. You've got things to do. Problem people are just a problem. As time goes on, you begin to see more and more of The Lord's perspective. He begins to change how you see and how you see situations. Basically we move from three fundamental things into something else. If you want to summarize what the Bible says about all our problems, the first one is this. We're selfish. I call it SAD, Selfish, Arrogant, and Damaging. This is me, this is you, my friend.

Selfish is, "I want it. For me. I just want it." That may not be bad, but I want it. Two-year-olds display this very well. "Mine", or they just grab the toy from the other kids. "I want it." Arrogant. Arrogant is proud, but it's a little bit more than that. It's a pride that thinks it deserves more than it's getting, more than it's due, actually. We all have this struggle. We deserve. "I want it and I deserve it." Whatever it is, I deserve you to get out of my way, I deserve to beat you to the restaurant door so I can be ahead of you in line. I deserve, I deserve, I deserve. Husbands and wives struggle with this all the time. It's just a problem for us. When we deserve it, it's wrong of other people to take what I want.

That's the third one, the D, SAD, S-A-D. Damaging. Selfish, Arrogant, and Damaging. We're willing to say the mean things that cause other people to just back off. Or punish them for blocking what we want. These three things just create all kinds of problems for us. Marriage, friendships, personal and emotional struggles. We respond to life SAD. We respond to people SAD. What The Lord does is over time he begins to change how we respond. Rather than selfish, He begins to teach us to sacrifice for other people. That turns out to actually work really well in life. Not easy, but it's how life flows. Instead of arrogant, we start working on humility. We begin to see what other people deserve and actually we begin to be a help to them. Rather than damage, just being helpful.

As that changes in a marriage, marriage changes. As it changes in the way that you deal with your kids, kids can change. As it changes in the way that you handle your job, it doesn't necessarily change your boss, but it really does begin to change what happens. The Lord wants to make you Christ-like in these things, and it grows over time. How we respond to life. The fruit of the Spirit, the Bible says, what grows out of God being within us is joy, peace, patience, self-control. That's how you respond to life. This becomes more and more of the pattern. Joy, peace, peace, patience, self-control. Responding to people, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. Keep your word. Gentleness. Sacrificing for their best. That's called love. This is what grows over time, and it does take time.

If you're a spiritual baby, you're just a baby. You act like the world does. That makes complete sense to you except when your conscience twinges. When you're a child, you've begun to understand more and more how The Lord's ways work better, but you really struggle with it. As you go further and further, more and more and more, God's ways make sense to you and you develop patterns. This is just how it grows. If you're a baby, enjoy it. Grow. If you're a child, enjoy it and grow. We have this Christian game we play. It's trying to act mature, because we have a little more status. It's part of "I want it." We try to act so spiritually mature whenever ... We're just not.

A lot of times, it reminds me of a three-year-old sort of being at Daddy's business, wearing one of Daddy's business suits, sitting in the staff meeting, the board meeting. At the chair, looking around with his diaper on. Just be where you're at and grow. Know we cut each other some slack. You don't have to throw temper tantrums. Just grow. It's okay, grow. We all develop this way and we all keep on developing. It doesn't stop.

There's a process, it takes time, but growth also takes action over time. You have to actually do some things. In the natural world, you grow physically just by being here. Baby's born, nine months later they're not only quite a bit bigger, and if they're ahead of the curve, nine month clothes don't fit. If they're behind the curve, they're too big, but they're still growing. It just happens. All you have to do is hang around. In the spiritual realm, though, spiritual growth is actually an option and it must be intentional. You have to be intentional about this. Time ... This is what The New Testament says in The Book of Hebrews. "At a time when you should be teaching others", He's talking to a group of people, "You need teachers yourself to repeat to you the ABCs of God's Revelation." You've been around a long time, you're still babies.

The adult has developed by experience his power to discriminate between what's good and bad for him. This happens by experience, and those who are mature have a discernment. It didn't just pop up one day. Nobody came to Christ ... There are some people who come to Christ and their lives dramatically change, but there's still a lot to go. For most of us, we come to Christ and the next day we're still married to the same person. Probably have the same kids. Got the same job. Life begins to change, but it's just over time. You have to be intentional about this. It does take time. Growth just time. Mushrooms, they grow quickly. You can find them very ... They weren't there yesterday, they are today.

Trees take much longer. They just take time. They come up, they grow up, but it's not like a mushroom. Spiritual growth is like a tree. We tend to actually move through phases, sort of like a tree adding a ring. We have some experiences that really spur us to grow, and then things consolidate and then some more come that spur us to grow and then consolidate and then some more. It just takes time, but you have to be intentional.

There are five actions that are key to growing. They're listed on your Listening Guide if you want to use it. First is this ... I want to just run through these quickly with you so you can know. First is worship. We get together as a group and talk to God, praise God, try to listen to His Scriptures as a part of our worship. Personally, we can spend time with The Lord personally. A lot of us do that every day, about five, 10 minutes a day. Worship ... John 4:23 Jesus says this, "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way."

This is actually ... It's not an option, it's a responsibility we have. As we're involved with it, changes occur in us. The first group of people who came to Christ as the Church began on Pentecost Sunday of the Pentecost Festival in Jerusalem long ago, there was a huge crowd that gathered and Peter, who the lead among the Disciples, spoke to them. Acts 2:41 talks about the kind of ... What they did that sets the pattern for us. "So those who received His Word", those who accepted what Peter said, "Were baptized and there were added that day about 3,000 souls and they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship through the breaking of bread and prayers."

One thing is the word "devoted". They were very intentional about this. If you're not intentional, not much happens. Haphazard. We're sort of like a ball in a pinball machine. We're banging off all these experiences in life and things are going off and noises and we're just having all these experiences and we hope something's happening. You need to be much more intentional than that. They devoted themselves ... You have to be intentional ... To the apostles' teaching, and that's the next step. You need to learn ... You actually have to learn what God has said. One of the things you'll discover is the Bible doesn't agree with you nearly as often as you thought. That's been one of my disappointment throughout life. You get into it and Bible study has ruined some of my biggest ideas.

God ... You want to learn God's Word, this is how you grow. It grows out of this, but you want to learn it not just to know it, you want to learn it to be able to use it in daily life. How do you put this into practice? 1 Peter 2:1, "You are babies", talking to people who have come to Christ, "Newborn in God's Family and you should be crying out for unadulterated spiritual milk to make you grow up to salvation." Babies do cry out for milk. Peter's saying this needs to be your attitude toward trying to learn what Scripture says, particularly for use. You need to assimilate it. It's not just learning ideas. A lot of people have lots of Scriptural ideas, but their lives don't change very much because they don't put it into practice. You want to learn it for use.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3, "All Scripture is breathed out by God." Some translations say, "All Scripture is inspired by God", but actually the way the Greek language reads ... The New Testament was originally written in Greek ... The way the Greek reads is, "Expired by God", it's breathed out. It's not breathed into, it's breathed out. "All Scripture is breathed out by God (it sources Him) and profitable for teaching" (I'm doing that right now) “for learning, and for reprove." The Bible will tell you when you're off track.

That's happened over and over again for me. I'm reading the Bible and I realize, "I shouldn't be doing that." That's good. That helps me move the right direction for correction. That's how we get things straightened out, and then, "For training and righteousness." How to keep on moving forward with God. You have to learn this. "So that the man of God the person may be competent, equipped for every good work." This is your toolbox. You want to learn this.

If you've never really dug into the Bible for yourself, start with John, then go to Acts and then to Romans. Three books in a row in the Bible, J-A-R. A friend of mine told me it's the Bible in a jar. Read those three. They're the core of everything. You can branch out from there, but you want to learn and you have to be intentional. You can't learn it all quickly. It's over time like eating, like a baby with milk, you grow.

You want to connect. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship." You want to connect. You want the fellowship with Christ followers. This turns out to be very important. Hebrews 10:25, there's a verse that whenever earlier on in life I thought that preachers just beat people to death with this. "Let's not give up meeting together, as is the habit of some, but let's encourage one another." Actually, this verse is in the Bible. Why don't you give up meeting together? Well, you have to encourage each other ... Why don't you give it up? Because you need it. It's actually a part of how you change. You actually become like the people you are around. Look at who you hang out with. You're looking at the future you. The Bible says this in different verses.

You change who you hang out with, you change. You can't hang out all the time, but you make sure that you're a part. You connect. Eric Metaxas is a very intelligent guy. He writes and speaks for BreakPoint, a podcast and radio program. He said this recently. "It's not good for man or woman to be alone" ... That's actually a verse out of Genesis ... "A new Canadian study confirms it. What makes people happy? I mean really happy? Many of us believe that we'll be over the moon if we get a good education, find a great job, and make lots of money. But a recent study has found that what really makes us happy is membership within a tight-knit community, one that includes regular church attendance."

This is a big study in Canada, which is exactly how Scripture tells us we ought to live. He goes on a little bit later, "Social isolation can literally change the brain, flooding it with a chemical that fuels fear and aggression." That's the Daily Mail, British paper. Very interesting. We just need this, God made this for our relationships. As you are a part of fellowship with Christ followers, stuff changes in you. For me years ago as a young man, I was in Los Angeles beginning to learn how to walk with Christ. Good things were starting to change in my life. Good things happening.

One morning I was headed to work and I realized ... The thought came into my head. I've seen shingles on a house, wooden shingles curl up in the sun and be a problem. That image came into my mind and it was just like The Lord said, "You know, a lot of good things have been happening in your life." I thought, "Yeah." "Unless you make some commitments, you're going to watch those things dry up and blow away." What was on my mind was this little church I'd found. Really good people. Some of them had high educations, others did not, but they were just really good people. Christ followers. They were about 15 miles away across L.A. traffic and I really enjoyed being there occasionally. What The Lord says was, "You need to make this a priority."

I made a commitment and the way I said it was not very poetic, but I meant it. "I'm going to be there every time the church doors are open." I didn't really know any other way to say it. "Gonna be there every time the church doors are open or they will find my body pointing in that direction." That actually, friend, is why I'm standing before you teaching right now. The impact of those people on my life and then others as time went on has been crucial. There's a strength that comes, and they're not perfect people. They've all got their problems just like me, but it's crucial.

Serving. As you give, you grow. 1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others." God gives us abilities, we use them to help each other. Ephesians 4:16, "All the different parts of the body fit together." God has so wired believers that they fit together and work together so that when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows. As you are playing your role, other people grow. They develop, but also you are developing. It's the whole body, so you find some way to help out, to serve, and it's amazing what happens in you. Christ Himself went about doing good the Scripture says, so you try to help people out.

I remember years ago trying to fulfill some of the ministry assignments I'd taken on. As I would do things, all kinds of insights would come to me. I told the pastor one day, "It's amazing." I helped out this Bible study and all kinds of stuff came to me. I think I got more than everybody else did, least that's the way The Lord does, you see. Whenever you give, He gives back to you really tremendous amount. You give, He gives back. I went, "Huh, I never thought of that." That's been the truth through the years, and the stuff opens up out of it. You change.

The last one is to step forward with Christ. You have to walk sort of like hand in hand or heart in heart with Him as you move forward through the day. Just tell Him, "Lord, take over my life, lead me, and help me." He'll give you thoughts you need at the moment and He'll ... As you start to stray, He'll mention it to you. If you discover you have gotten out of step with Him, Galatians 5:25 says, "Keep in step with The Holy Spirit." You tell Him, "Lord, I'm out of step. Please forgive me. Take charge again. Lead me forward." It's out of this moment that stuff changes in you. You also are able to deal with things a lot better.

There's more than that. You have to step forward with Him through difficulties. Hard things come. For some of us, they come occasionally. For others, they're just a string of hard things all the time. Our lives are different, but all of them have hard things in them. What you do is you learn to take the hard things as God's opportunity for you to grow. That's a very different mentality.

Years ago I read these verses. This is out of The Living Bible. "Dear brothers. Is your life full of difficulties and temptations?" I read that and I thought, "Oh yeah." The next was not ... It was disconcerting. "Then be happy." Happy? "For when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow." This word "patience" is a word ... It doesn't mean sitting on the front porch, rocking, waiting on time to pass. This is the kind of patience that hangs in when things are tough and presses through. It's more like endurance, really. It's willing to spend time enduring until it gets through. Your endurance has a chance to grow, so let it grow. Don't try to squirm out of your problems. That was another disappointing statement. When you got problems, what do you want to do? Squirm out of them.

What he's saying is the way to real growth is through this, not trying to get out of it. If you're just in bad situations and you need to get out, get out, but if it's normal stuff that's coming your way, it's hard, you press through this. For when you're patient, your endurance is in full bloom, then you'll be ready for anything. Stronger in character, full and complete. This is how maturity comes. It's by pressing through with The Lord. It's hard, it's just hard, but you take this time and you work through it. If something shows up again, you take it and you work through it. This is how life moves.

These five things are crucial to growth. You have to be intentional about them. If you're accidental, you don't grow very much. God's kind, but you don't grow. You want to watch out for the three big growth chokers. Jesus talked about these. They show up and the problem is they're just a part of everyday life. You have to watch out for this. Ultimately you've got two choices in life. Either you're going to try to get all you can that this world has to offer, and that's going to be where you find your good. You want what people say is "to die for." You want the experiences, maybe the possessions, relationships, the gratifications, or status. It's just "to die for."

Well, everyone's after it, but you try to get as much as you can out of this Earthly complex and you need to understand, it really is to die for, because life does not lie in this direction. If it did, the richest people would be the happiest on the face of the Earth, but they're not. We all need to suffer in this world. We all need ... I mean, we have to food, we have to have clothes, we need to live somewhere, but this is not what life's about. You live for God's Will and you have real life. Jesus said basically you'll hit points where you'll have to say no to yourself and say no to life in order to do His Will, and then you have your life. Or you can whatever you want and you have death.

We all have to live in the world, we all have to use it, but if you go for God's Will, you'll have to suffer this world, but your main goal in life is not that and life keeps opening up for you. It's the normal stuff that gets in our way. This is what Jesus said. These ... He talks about people who get started but just never really mature. These are the ones who hear ... They hear what Christ says, but as they go along, worries and wealth and life's gratifications crowd in and choke them so that their fruit never matures. Worries. Anybody worry? Yeah. Wealth? Anybody rich? Maybe some of you, but wealth is ... Being rich is not our problem. Our problem is just the money is bothering us all the time. We need to make more.

Pleasures. Or fun. We fall into what I call the Soon Deception. Here it is. "Soon, I'm going to do what it takes to grow. Soon, but right now, I need to deal with the stuff that's just worrying me to death. I've gotta focus on this." Well, when does stuff stop worrying you? Sometime after you die. "I've gotta make some money." When do you not have to make money? After you have an incredible amount. By then, you probably need to make some more. Money is always going to be an issue for us. You need to understand that. It's not wrong to make money. You need to work. You need to make money, but for that to be the focus is dangerous.

Or, "This is my chance to have some fun. This is a great chance. I can't do the growth stuff right now 'cause this is my big chance to have some fun." Next week, there's another chance to have some fun. Big chance to have some fun. It just rolls on like this. The worries, "I gotta deal with what worries me", the money, or the fun. We always intend to, but it just keeps interrupting and we never get around to the intentional stuff that results in change.

A frequent thought that comes up is, "Don't worry about me growing." Or, "I don't worry about me growing. I'll get around to it. I really well, I'll get around to it." Let me show you something. I actually had a little wooden circle one time that was a Round Tuit. It says, "This is a Tuit. Guard it with your life. Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones." It'll help you to be more efficient. For years, you've heard people say, "I'll do it when I get around to it." Now that you have one, you can do it all. You can do all those things you've been putting off.

I don't have a Round Tuit to give you, but I promise you, it's time. Life is waiting for you. You want to see things grow and change. There is no magic. It's supernatural, but it's not magical. You just begin to walk with Jesus, you do the things He says, and stuff begins to change. God has a growth plan. It's not massive and overwhelming. It's not so brilliant it just blinds your eyes. It's just very practical. Get around to it and you won't be sorry. Take the steps. If you need to start somewhere, read John, Acts, and Romans. Connect with God's people. Worship Him. Find the place where He can help out, and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, walk with Him.

I'd like to lead us in prayer. Next week, join us. We're going to talk about opening up the future.

Father, thank you for Your Kindness to us. Thank You for the fact that You loved enough to where the Living God Himself came and died for us to pay the price for our rebellion. Thank You for the moment that you enter our lives whenever we finally decide that You Lord Jesus are going to lead. Thank You for the good things you have brought. Thank You for being willing to put up with us. You know how squirrelly we are. Thank you Father for the opportunity to step forward. Thank You for giving us the option that we don't have to stay a baby forever. Thank You in Jesus name. We ask You, lead us forward. Show us our next steps with You. In His name we pray. Amen.