A Blueprint for the Christian Life
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 3, 2004

 

Captain Hanson Gregory. Just hearing his name I already like him. Paul Harvey, the well-known radio personality tells about Hanson Gregory and the impact he has had on our society.

Captain Hanson Gregory was one of the youngest sea captains to ever sail off the coast of Maine. In fact, at the age of nineteen he was in command of his own vessel. While he was still nineteen, he was decorated by Spain’s Queen Isabella for saving the lives of an entire Spanish shipwrecked crew.

But that’s not why Hanson Gregory is remembered today. He is remembered today because he invented absolutely nothing. Confusing? Not after you hear… the rest of the story.

Two decades after the death of Captain Hanson Gregory, a furious debate took place in New York. It was late November, 1941, and the judges were Clifton Fadiman, Franklin P. Adams, and Elsa Maxwell. The leaders of the opposing sides were Fred Crokett of Camden, Maine, and Henry Ellis of Cape Code, Massachusetts.

The heated discussion revolved around whether or not Hanson Gregory had indeed invented nothing.

Lawyer Ellis maintained that he had not. Lawyer Henry Ellis claimed that it was, in fact, an American Indian from Yarmouth (Maine?) who invented nothing during the seventeenth century. But despite Mr. Ellis’ splendid courtroom tactics, there were many inherent weaknesses in his case – among them, the difficulty to prove anything three centuries past.

On the other hand, Mr. Crokett, seeking to prove that Captain Hanson Gregory had invented nothing in 1847, presented for examination an array of affidavits, letters and other documents.

In the course of the debate, the story of Hanson Gregory’s life unfolded. He was born in Clam Cove, Maine, in a charming colonial home overlooking Penobscot Bay. As already mentioned, at nineteen he assumed command of his own ship, making him one of the youngest sea captains ever to sail from the coast of Maine.

In that same year, he became an internationally acclaimed hero, as he was decorated by Queen Isabella for saving that shipwrecked Spanish crew.

Yet is was not for his bravery on that occasion that Hanson Gregory was discussed in 1941. It was for an invention that comprised of nothing more than thin air.

Debater Fred Crockett, attempting to ascertain the circumstances of this invention, acknowledged the blurring of much folklore with the truth. Hanson had not, as some said, invented nothing by accident during a storm at sea. He had invented it on purpose as a boy of fifteen in his mother’s kitchen.

Mr. Crockett’s evidence was sufficiently persuasive enough to win a unanimous decision from the debate judges. Today, over sixty years later, the Smithsonian Institute (plus a couple of sites on the Internet) confirms that nothing was invented just the way that Fred Crockett said it was.

It all started 157 years ago when Hanson Gregory noticed that his mother’s fried cakes were soggy at the center. The fifteen year old picked up his fork, and poked it through the middle of one of the cakes, and invented the something that will forevermore comprise of absolutely nothing: The hole in the doughnut. And now you know… the rest of the story.

Let me ask you something. What could cause Hanson Gregory’s mothers cakes to be soggy in the center?

PARTICIPATION

They were undercooked. They weren’t prepared the way they were supposed to be. Unfortunately, I think that also describes a lot of Christians today. They’re not prepared the way they should be. They have soggy centers in terms of their relationship with Jesus Christ. You might even say they’re half-baked. But the Bible in the book of Hebrews tells us that’s not the way it should be. Read this verse aloud with me…

Hebrews 6:1 (NIV)
“Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity...”

That’s what we should do. So what keeps people from maturing and attaining their full potential in their relationship with Him? What keeps them soft and inconsistent? And how can we change all that? How can we become the solid, mature, meat-eating Christians God intended?

This morning, I want to offer you a five-step strategy for helping you become a strong, mature, fully prepared and fully committed follower of Jesus Christ. You can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks.

How do we “go on to maturity”? How do we go beyond just saying, “Yes, I believe in Jesus and accept Him into my life,” to, “I want to know Him in all His fullness, and I want to realize His wonderful plan for me. I want to make myself available and prepared to be used by Him in any way He sees fit. I want to be mature!”

If that’s your desire this morning, this five-step strategy is for you:

 

Five-Step Strategy for Maturing as a Believer:

 

1. Get rid of excuses.

Help me out. What are some of the excuses that people may use for not growing… for not giving it the time, energy, or attention it deserves?

PARTICIPATION
(My life’s to hectic.
My childhood was dysfunctional.
My spouse abuses me.
I’m struggling financially.
I’m mature enough already
I’ll wait for my spouse to grow, too.
I’ll wait until I’m older.
I’ll wait until I have a family.
I’ll wait until my kids move away.)

There are all kinds of excuses people can come up with. And some of them are actually very real concerns. But none of them should prevent you from maturing. In the end, if any of these excuses prevent you from growing, it’s because you’re lazy, uncommitted, have mixed-up priorities or you’re just not willing to do what it takes to grow.

“There has never yet been a person in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
~ Donald Kendall, co-founder and former CEO of Pepsi Co.

Now catch what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. Read this aloud with me…

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.

If it’s true that everything is possible with God, and if it’s true that it is His will for you to grow and mature, then no excuse should prevent you from becoming what He has planned for you.

The second step in the strategy for maturing as a Christian is…

 

2. Decide to change.

Change. It’s everyone’s favourite subject. For the most part, people don’t like change. We avoid it if at all possible. We’d rather stick to our old ways and our old traditions. For example, take the standard computer keyboard. Have you ever noticed how far apart the keys that we use most often are? Originally, this arrangement of the keys was to slow down typing speed. Back in the 1800’s, typewriters used to jam if the typist went too fast.

But then, about 45 years ago, the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard was invented. On this keyboard, the most frequently used keys were placed in the same home row, and it was designed so that the right hand would do 56% more work than the left hand. Being left handed, I would find that annoying and almost insulting, but in general it was a pretty good design. In fact, typists could type up to five times faster with no increase in errors. But most of us including me still use the old keyboard designed to be inefficient. Why? Because we don’t like change.

So why do we find change so hard? Because it involves “leaving.” Leaving behind people, places, positions, comforts, relationships, things. It involves loss. Loss of things we don’t want to give up.

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)
Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

So we need to leave behind who we used to be and become more and more like Jesus. That’s change. I’ve read that the following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop (1100 A.D.) in the Crypts of Westminster Abbey:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: if I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

Back when I was in 5th grade my class sang a song that was also a popular Coke commercial: “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and…” what? “Let It Begin With Me.” We need to decide to change, and that change must begin with us. That will mean that there will be times when we will need to move outside of our comfort zone. We will need to try new things, accept new responsibilities, stretch ourselves.

Catch this: Change does not necessarily equal growth, but growth always equals change. There can be no growth without change.

“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to have changed often.”
~ Winston Churchill

 

3. Grow a little at a time.

Philippians 3:12 (NLT)
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.

We are people in process. Growth can only happen over time. Unless, of course, we’d be satisfied with being a squash. Let me show you something. An oak tree can take up to hundreds of years to grow. By comparison a squash takes only a few months. The question is, do you want to be a squash or an oak tree? There are no shortcuts. You need to be in it for the long haul.

A friend asked Longfellow the secret of his continued interest in life. Pointing to a nearby apple tree he said;

“The purpose of that apple tree is to grow a little new wood each year. That is what I plan to do.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow also expressed that thought poetically:

“Not enjoyment and not sorrow is our destined end always;
But to live that each tomorrow finds us further than today.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Growth is a process. And you and I need to aim to grow a little bit every day. I heard a story once about one person’s process of growth. Let me read it for you…

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
“There's A Hole In My Sidewalk”
by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost.... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in.... It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

Grow a little at a time… a little each day… that’s the process. The next step in maturing as a Christian is…

 

4. Don’t allow opposition to stop you.

  • Beethoven’s music teacher said to him “As a composer you’re hopeless.”

  • Thomas Edison was a young boy when his teacher told him he’d never learn anything.

  • In 1878 the British Parliament ordered a study of Edison’s electric light bulb. And the report concluded, “Edison’s ideas are good enough for our Trans-Atlantic friends, but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.”

  • F.W. Woolworth was 21 when he got a job in a store. But he was not allowed to wait on customers because they said he didn’t have enough sense.

  • Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor because they thought he had no good ideas.

1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

Don’t allow the world to tell you that you’re too old or you’re too young. Don’t allow the world to tell you you’re not smart enough. Don’t allow the world to tell you it’s not worth it. And don’t allow the world to use your past to limit what God can do with your future.

 

5. Plan for growth.

“You should set your goals high and direct your energies toward achieving them. Train your mind. Develop your skills. Discipline your appetites. Prepare for the future. Work hard. Go for it! You can’t steal second with one foot on first.”
~ James Dobson, Life on the Edge, ch. 4 p. 59

Growth doesn’t happen by accident. That means we have to be intentional about maturing as believers.

What I want to do right now is share with you five building blocks of an effective plan for maturing as a believer. This is not original with me. I’ve seen lists like this in several ministry and theological books dating back several years. In fact, my best guess is that it dates back at least as far as Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Most recently, Rick Warren has brought these building blocks, or purposes, to our attention again in his books, The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.

Different terms may be used in different lists, but the lists are essentially the same. I’m going to give you the terms I use, and for the sake of those of you that are going through The Purpose Driven Life right now, I’ve put the terms that Rick Warren uses in brackets.
 

a. Worship (Magnification)

The passage Bev read for us earlier in the service is the picture of the New Testament Church. It said…

Acts 2:46-47 (NLT)
They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.

You and I cannot even begin to mature as believers without regularly taking time to enter into His presence in worship. Entering the presence of God in authentic worship is what takes Christianity from being just another world religion to being the life changing relationship Jesus intended it to be. We just talked about Worship here two weeks ago, and if you want to read that message you can find it on our website.
 

b. Community (Membership)

“No man is an island.”
~ from a sermon by John Donne, 17th century English author

Let’s take another look at that passage in Acts 2…

Acts 2:44,46 (NLT)
And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had… They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity…

That’s community. Jesus designed the Church to be believers gathering together to encourage one another, hold each other accountable, inspire each other, comfort each other,
 

c. Spiritual Growth (Maturity)

Most of us enjoyed being kids. My sister sent me an email a while ago entitled, “Be A Kid Again.” It simply lists some of the ways to go back to our childhoods. Let me share some with you:
 

“Be a Kid Again”

  • Smile back at the man in the moon.

  • Grow a milk mustache.

  • Kiss a frog, just in case.

  • Make graham-cracker-and-frosting sandwiches.

  • Hide your vegetables under your napkin.

  • Make a “slurpy” sound with your straw when you get to the bottom of a milkshake.

  • Stick your head out the car window and moo if you see a cow.

  • Throw something and when it lands make a cool exploding bomb noise.

  • Help your salt-and-pepper shakers talk to each other in high, squeaky voices.

  • Talk to your invisible friend.

  • Eat some Jell-O, then squoosh it around in your mouth until it’s liquid.

  • Blow bubbles in your milk.

  • Go puddle-jumping.

  • Close your eyes really tight until you see stars.

  • Always remember that boys have cooties.

Yes, some things about being a kid were fun. And it’s good to remember them, But we can’t stay there forever. We need to grow up, a that’s not a negative thing. We all need to grow and mature and learn new things. That’s just a part of life. Here are a few things I’ve learned in life:

  • Never lick a steak knife.

  • Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
    (These aren’t necessarily things I’ve learned from personal experience)

  • Avoid driving in downtown Charlottetown in the summer.

  • Fatal error and illegal operation are not really fatal or illegal.

  • You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

 

Those are some of the things that I’ve learned. We all learn and grow. We have to if we’re going to survive. That’s true in everyday life, and it’s true in our relationship with Jesus, too. We need to learn about Him and come to understand His Word. We need to apply the lessons we learn along the way.

Hebrews 5:12-6:1 (NLT)
You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.
So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.
 

d. Ministry (Ministry)

Yes, Rick and I use the same term here. (I feel like I’m in good company all of a sudden.) Let’s take a look at Romans 12…

Romans 12:5-6 (NLT)
We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.

And in Ephesians 4…

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

There’s a connection between being involved in ministry and maturing as believers. We all need each other and the gifts we have to offer if we are going to grow and be healthy believers.
 

e. Outreach (Mission)

We can’t allow the Great Commission to become the Great Omission. What is the Great Commission? It’s found in the words of Jesus at the very end of the book of Matthew…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
“I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is why we’re here. This is the task Jesus gave us. So you and I need to be focused on introducing individuals to Jesus and helping them grow.

 

Those are the building blocks for maturing as a believer: Worship, Community, Spiritual Growth, Ministry, and Outreach. We gather together to worship every week. As for the other four, we’ve designed what we’re calling Christian Life and Service Seminars for each.

The first is being held this evening at our home. This seminar in particular is of extra importance because it will be a requirement for membership. So come tonight as we discuss who we are as a church, what our mission, vision and values are, and how Sunrise is meant to be an expression of the Body of Christ here in the Charlottetown area.

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2004 SunriseOnline.ca