Just as Christ grew in wisdom and stature as He became the man of God He was to be, the same happens in our lives as we follow Jesus. We shouldn’t be the same person 10 years into our walk that we were 10 minutes after receiving salvation. But this isn’t automatic. The cross is the same. We are still reconciled the same way. But we are being brought back to the place God intended for us to be, not just in our standing with Him, but also in our walk with Him. So how does that change happen?
Paul said, “By the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2) Transformation is not automatic, but it is natural in the life of a believer who continues walking after their initial encounter with Christ.
This week, our devotionals are focusing on what it means to be a God-honoring, pastor-supporting, and believer-edifying parishioner. How can I be a better part of my church? Today we look at six traits of a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian. (They are in no particular order, since all of them are a key to being the Christians we are supposed to be.)
PRAYER LIFE – I have never met a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian who does not have a consistent prayer life. The most powerful discipline we have is prayer. Hell knows this. Heaven knows this. In our darkest moments, we know this. Yet it is probably the least used tool we have. Both God and Satan respond to the prayer of faith. God draws near to answer. Satan flees. Prayer is the heavy earth-moving equipment. Many people only pray when the wheels come off in their life. Successful Christians pray before the wheels come off. They pray regularly… not just when they want goodies from God, or need God to get them out of a jam they got themselves into. Prayer in the life of a struggling Christian is a struggle. For the strong Christian, it is a strength. It is a way of life, not a response of panic or greed. Lukewarm Christians use prayer like 9-1-1. Christians who are on-fire use prayer for 4-1-1, which means they usually have less instances to use it for 9-1-1. Paul tells the Christians at Thessalonica, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We can come up with plenty of excuses for not praying, but every successful Christian prays regularly. They don’t want to miss out on a single conversation with God.
Show me a successful Christian, and I will show you a person who has a faithful prayer life.
BIBLE READING – I have never met a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian who does not have a regular pattern of reading their Bible. You have your choice of version, color, style, and print size. You can listen to the Bible audibly. It is the written word of God. It touches on every area of life. It was written by people like yourself. It is full of wisdom and truth. It tells us about ourselves, and about God. It is 100% true. People run to it for tidbits of truth, but most people don’t read it every day. They use it to find an inspirational quote to put on their dashboard or desk at the office. But they don’t consume it in its entirety. They use it to justify their weak lifestyle, but don’t walk in it to become stronger. Satan knows the word of God, not to his benefit, but to our loss. We will never be able to succeed in battle with the enemy if we don’t spend quality time in the Bible. Jesus used Scripture to engage in combat with the Devil. What makes us think we can fight well without the sword of the Spirit? Internalizing the Bible is one of the things that keeps us out of sin and on the path of sanctification. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Show me a successful Christian, and I will show you a person who consumes the Bible on a regular basis.
CORPORATE GATHERINGS – I have never met a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian who only attends church on Sunday mornings. People say that they can worship God on the golf course… but they don’t. We are not lone rangers… and even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. The Christian walk is not taken in a vacuum. Certain transformational things happen when you gather together with other believers to worship, pray, hear the Word, etc. Sunday morning has become the main day of corporate worship. But most churches offer more throughout the week. Wednesday night is the most common time for a mid-week gathering. And some churches have various gatherings at other times. I’m not suggesting that you have to be at every service or small group. But I will say that I don’t know any successful Christians who go from Sunday morning to Sunday morning with no other corporate experience when it is offered. Most pastors will tell you that in many ways, a Christian life can be measured in by how often a believer comes to church. This may sound wrong, but it is what it is. Going to church will not make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s will make you a Big Mac. But Christians who attend multiple gatherings a week are stronger and more mature. As a side note, prayer and Bible reading come easier for them… or at least they are more effective in those areas. One of the Bible writers says, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Show me a successful Christian, and I will show you someone who attends church gatherings more than once a week.
DISCIPLESHIP RELATIONSHIP – I have never met a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian who is not learning from a believer who is older or more established in the faith. Churches often want to welcome new Christians into the family of God by giving them something. Sometimes it is a coffee cup with a Bible verse. Other times it is a devotional book. One of the most popular things to give a new believer is a Bible. That’s not a bad thing. But I think the best thing we can give a new Christian is an old Christian. I’m not talking old by age…but old by experience. Jesus had disciples. These were men and women who spent much time with Him learning about what it meant to be a child of God on mission to save the world. They were held accountable by Him, taught by Him, loved by Him, given opportunities for service. This relationship was interactive. Jesus was transferring to them holy wisdom and experience. Then as they grew, they were expected to turn and pour into the lives of others. Your Christian life was not handed to you by an angel straight from Heaven. It is the result of a chain of Christians going all the way back to Jesus. Discipleship is integral to becoming a transformed person. Decisions are made at the altar, but disciples are made in the trenches. There are no self-made men… and there are no self-made Christians. You need someone in your life who will be personally responsible for your spiritual growth. You also need to have someone in your life for whose spiritual growth you will be responsible. You aren’t just to be a disciple. This is a movement of disciples who make disciples. You will not be a healthy Christian if you aren’t in close community learning from a mentor AND leading a child in the faith. The apostle Paul was discipled by Peter, James, Barnabas, Aquilla and Priscilla, and others. He also discipled people like Timothy, Titus, and others. He once wrote to Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Going to a church service once a week does not equal discipleship. Hanging out with Christians is not discipleship. Discipleship is an intentional relationship of learning and sharing successful Christian principles and practices. Oh… and you never graduate out of discipleship.
Show me a successful Christian and I will show you someone who is being discipled, and is discipling another.
GIVING – I have never met a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian who does not give tithe and offering. Everything you have came from God. If you struggle to generously give back to His work, you really don’t understand or appreciate your source. The most successful Christians I know are also the most generous people I know. This includes giving 10% (tithe) of your income to support the work of the local church. People who just want a free ticket to Heaven struggle with this. But transformed people see this as entry level giving. Beyond the 10% there is a whole world of harvest. The Bible teaches that God loves a cheerful giver, and that you will receive according to how well you give. Yes… this is about money. This is the material world. God is willing to financially bless those who are a financial blessing to others. God will give you success in your work and your material life. The Bible is full of these promises. But I have found that the most successful Christians don’t give so they will get a blessing. They give because they want to be a blessing. Where do healthy, growing Christians give besides at church? To foreign and domestic missionaries, homeless ministries, a single mom who needs new tires, to orphanages, to camps that share the Gospel with young people, and many other places. God is a generous giver, so it would make sense that His kids are too. Paul put it this way in a letter, “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written: ‘He scattered; He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-10) A stingy Christian struggles. A generous Christian prospers.
Show me a successful Christian, and I will show you a generous giver.
SERVICE MINISTRY – I have never met a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian who is not using their gifts in service to the church and the lost world. Christians are conduits, not containers. We are less a capped bottle, and more a pitcher, designed to give of our time, talents and treasures to help other Christians become all God wants them to be, and pouring ourselves into a world that needs the grace of God. A water hose can be hooked up to a spigot that is on, but until the nozzle is released, the water will not reach its destination and become useful. As long as the nozzle is open and the water is provided, you can use the hose successfully. Each believer has been given a mission that feeds into the larger mission. When you don’t serve in some capacity, the benefits of the Christian life spoil or go stale. Ministry is God’s way of reaching the lost and edifying the church. If you don’t exercise certain muscles, they will become atrophied and useless. Sitting Christians don’t change the world. Serving Christians do. Christianity is a movement because we are people on the move. Peter wrote, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)
Show me a successful Christian, and I will show you an active worker in the Kingdom.
These are not things that make you saved. They are ways that God matures you. You can’t become a Christian by doing any or all of these things, though some of them can lead you to the Lord. But you cannot be a healthy, growing, successfully transformed Christian without these things happening in your life. This list does not reflect a legalistic regiment for the Christian life. It reveals what it takes to become all God wants you to be. You can see it as a prison, or a playground. If you see it as a prison, you likely aren’t wanting to be a Christian. If you see it as a playground, jump in and have some fun in the Lord.
The most significant leader in the early church was the apostle Paul. He lived a life that exemplified all of these elements. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) God will be with those who want to be with Him. Christ uses these spiritual disciplines to grow new creations into co-laborers with Him.
Most Christians are not always running at 100% in all six of these areas, but no successful Christian is not engaged in these at some significant level.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.