How are we to build ourselves up in the the faith?

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” Jude 1:20

How are we to build ourselves up in the the faith? We talk a lot about God building us up. The Spirit working monergistically in us and on us. How are we to build ourselves up in the faith?

One way in which I believe Jude, the author of this short letter, has in mind that we build ourselves up is by understanding that their are false teachers whose desire is to destroy our faith. We build ourselves in the faith as we not only understand their teaching and why it is false, but when we grow in our understanding of our own faith. We will never guard against false teaching if we do not know our own faith.

Knowing our own faith is where many Americans, and Christians, struggle. Many are not able to answer simple questions like, “What is the gospel? Who is God? How were Old Testament saints saved?” We must, however, have a simple understanding of the Bible, its doctrine and theology. We must know how to answer our critics and why a particular teacher’s teaching is false. If we don’t, we open ourselves up to deception.

Christian, build yourself up in the faith!

Spiritual growth comes through faith not works

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3)

How do we grow as a Christian? Is it through ascetic practices, being more disciplined than we once were, or by keeping the Law to a greater extent?

Salvation comes through faith not by works. We are justified in God’s sight through the work of Christ on our behalf when we exercise faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf.

If we are saved/justified by faith, we are also sanctified by faith. We don’t come to Christ through faith, then grow in righteousness through our works. No, we grow as a believer, putting off the old and putting on the new through faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf and the Spirit’s work in our life.

It is the Spirit who works in us to bring to mind our sin. He also works to change our desires so that over time, or in some instances in a moment, no longer desire the things of the world. We live for and long for the things of God.

Beating our body into submission through ascetic practices will not work. The desires of our flesh is strong. For thousands of years, the law didn’t work to make man righteous. We need Jesus’ justifying work and we need the Spirit’s sanctifying work in order to grow in righteousness.

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian? – Part 3

Stagnating in our faith is never a good thing. It is something we need to guard against. But how?

How do we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by staying focused on what awaits us

In verse 11 of 2 Peter 1 we read,

“For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pe 1:11)

The first time I traveled back home from a long week of classes at Southern Seminary my flight was delayed. We were actually loaded on the plane, about to push back when the pilot came over the intercom and said, “Folks, this is your captain speaking. A thunderstorm is rolling into the area, and we are going to have to wait for it to pass before we can take off.” What the captain thought was a passing thunderstorm turned into several passing thunderstorms. Just as soon as one moved out of the area, another would pop up. So we waited…and waited…and waited, until finally just after midnight we were able to take off.

When we finally landed and deplaned in Dallas, it was close to 2 o’clock in the morning. I was tired. I had just spent a week away from home, attending class all day, and sleeping in a foreign bed. I was ready to be home, to say the least. That’s what made that drive doable, that’s what propelled me down the highway in the wee hours of the morning — the thought of home.

That’s the same thought that should propel us to supplement our faith with these qualities, the thought of our heavenly home. The home that awaits us is greater than any home that we can have in this world. It is perfect in every respect. It’s a home free from death, disease, and corruption. A home where God will reign and rule and the corrupting influence of sin won’t be felt because it won’t be present. That is the home that awaits us. The home we will walk into one day. So keep pressing on. Your eternal home awaits.

But here is the thing, we can’t press on alone. We have to have people around us helping us, encouraging us, pushing us forward, which tells us that:

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by surrounding ourselves with those who will stir us up

Motivational speakers abound in this country. You can find someone to motivate you on almost any topic. The reason for that is because we need motivation. We need someone to stir us up so that we will head in the right direction.

But as helpful as motivational speakers can be, Christians don’t need them. Instead, what we need are other Christians dedicated to reminding us of these qualities. We need others who will remind us that we have been given all that we need to press on, that we have a glorious eternal home for which to look forward.

Look at verses 12-15,

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Pe 1:12–15)

Just as Peter commits to remind his church and to make sure that they have someone to remind them when he is gone, we need others committed to reminding us, which is why we have a church family, and why we should not neglect to meet together with one another. We need one another. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We can’t do it on our own. When we try, we end up becoming stagnant. It’s no coincidence that those who are not connected to the church, who are not active in fellowship are not growing in their faith. We need others right there alongside of us committed to encouraging us to keep running the race, and we need to do likewise. If we don’t, we are going to grill we’re going to become stagnant, unfruitful Christians for the kingdom.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you focused on the future?
  2. Do you have others around you holding you accountable and encouraging you?
  3. Do you gather with the church often?


Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian? – Part 2

I know it doesn’t look like it, but believe it or not at one time I weighed 215 lbs, and none of that was fat. It was all muscle. But that growth didn’t occur overnight. I had to hit the gym hard — 3-4 days a week for 2 hours at a time.
Along with working out regularly, I consumed a few supplements, mainly, creatine and protein powder, which helped me grow stronger. That’s what supplements are supposed to do. They are supposed to help you grow by supplementing your normal diet and workout routine.

That is not only true of our physical body but of our spiritual life as well. If we want to maintain and even grow, we must supplement our faith with godly qualities. Doing so will keep us from becoming stagnant.

Now, a word of caution here. Working these godly qualities into your life doesn’t make you a Christian. You’re a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You can’t short circuit the process, faith comes first, just like getting a gym membership and working outcomes before taking supplements.

But once we have faith, we can and we should work these godly qualities into our life.

What qualities are we to work into our lives?

In verse 5, we learn that we are to make every effort to supplement our faith with:

Virtue – Virtue refers to moral excellence or character, which means we are to strive to be someone who lives an upright life. One that accords with God’s Word.

Knowledge – The knowledge to which Peter most likely refers is the knowledge of God’s will. If we are going to live upright lives, we need to know God’s will, which is only gained through reading and studying God’s word.

Self-Control – There are all kinds of temptations that are going to come at us from the world. If we’re going to consistently live according to God’s will and His way, we need to exercise restraint, we need self-control. So we must add self-control to our faith.

Steadfastness – Which might also be translated as endurance. The Christian life is not a sprint it is a marathon. If we are going to continue to live for God, we need endurance.

Godliness – Which means that we are to constantly seek to embody the character of God just like Jesus did.

Brotherly Affection – Which means that we are to care for and be devoted to our brothers and sisters in Christ just like we are to our own family.

Love – Not just any love, but self-sacrificial love. The love that drove Jesus to the cross and the Father to give up His only Son. That’s the type of love we are to have for God and for one another.

These are the qualities must supplement our faith.

If we supplement our faith with these qualities, we keep ourselves from becoming stagnant Christians.

I mean how can you be stagnant, if you’re actively seeking to grow in these areas? You can’t! That’s exactly what Peter tells us in verse 8:

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pe 1:8)

So if you want to keep from being a stagnant Christian you need to actively work these qualities into your life. Which implies that we actually have to work at it. I like how one commentator puts it:

“We do not automatically become more virtuous as if God infused virtue into us intravenously; we need to make plans and expend effort.”

I know many of you wish that you could hook yourself up to an IV and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a few weeks. But it doesn’t happen that way. If we want our muscles to grow, we have to work them out. We have to take supplements.

If we want our faith to grow, we have to work it out. We have to supplement it with these qualities. That’s something that we must do. These supplements are not “nice to have’s”, they are foundational.

If you aren’t working them into your life

Peter says in verse 9:

“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Pe 1:9)

If we aren’t actively seeking to work these qualities into our life, we are living as if we are blind and as if our heart has not been cleansed from sin. But Christians are not blind. We have been made to see by Jesus. He has opened our eyes to the truth of the gospel and God’s word. As well as, our heart has been cleansed, it has been changed, we have been freed from sin’s grip on us.

As Christians, then, we should be actively working to supplement our faith with these qualities. We have no excuse! We not only know what we are supposed to do but we have the ability to do it.

Those who supplement their faith with these qualities, we are told in verse 10 that:

Assurance and growth will be ours

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Pe 1:10)

So if you are questioning your faith, if you are wondering if you are God’s child? Look at your life and see if these qualities are present. If they are, and if you are actively seeking to work them into your life, you can be assured of your salvation and you will continue to grow. But if you find that these supplements are lacking in your life, you are either not a believer or you have grown stagnant in your faith. If that is you, you’re in danger. Not only are you living without assurance and the anxiety that comes with that. But you are in danger of stumbling, falling, and never finishing the race.

Next time

Next time we will keep our discussion going regarding how to keep from becoming stagnant.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you working these qualities into your life?


Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian?

When I was a kid I had a ditch by my house that would flood when it rained at high tide. It was deep and wide enough for it to become a makeshift swimming pool for the kids in the neighborhood. While many of my friends laughed and played in that water, I had to look on from the banks.You see, my mom wouldn’t let me get into that murky stagnant water. And for good reason. An article I came across recently warned that:

“While playing in floodwater looks like fun, experts warn that stagnant water left behind after a rainstorm…can be extremely hazardous. …water-borne illnesses and infections, chemical exposure, drowning and electrical shock” are some of the most common dangers.

While I don’t believe anything serious ever happened to my neighborhood friends back then, I’m thankful my mom knew the risks and wouldn’t let us dive in.

Just like stagnant water poses health risks, a stagnant faith poses spiritual risks.

As humans, we are created for growth.

Our need for growth is why many of us are attracted to books and documentaries, while many pursue degrees, and are constantly learning how to do new things. God designed us for growth. But God didn’t just design us for intellectual growth, He also and more importantly designed us to grow in the knowledge of how He would want us to live in His good creation. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day and they did that to learn more about God and His desires. As Christians, we are to continue to learn more about God as well. We are to do that so that we will grow in our knowledge of God’s will and live according to His ways.

But growth is not something that comes natural to us.

We are easily distracted by the things of this world, pulled off course, hindered, and the result is stagnancy. Slipping into stagnancy isn’t new, Christians have grown stagnant from the beginning. I don’t know if you’ve experienced a time of stagnancy in your life but I have. A time where I wasn’t growing in my knowledge of God, His word, and Christlikeness. A time when I was walking backwards instead of forwards. That’s just not good. It’s not good for us, our family, or our community.

We weren’t created for stagnancy, which is why we must continue to grow. But that isn’t going to happen on its own. We have to actively work to grow while at same time guarding against stagnancy.

Next time

Next time we will begin discussing how to keep from growing stagnant.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe your faith is stagnant?


Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

How Can Both the Pastor and Congregation Continue in the Faith? – Part 5

In my last several posts, I have been exploring those things that a pastor should do and the church should expect, encourage, and allow. While we have explored those things, we haven’t answered the why question. In other words, we still need to explore and answer the question:

What is the benefit of a pastor consistently practicing these fundamentals and the congregation expecting, encouraging, and allowing him to do so?

What difference is it going to make in his life and the life of the church?

Paul concludes this section of his letter to Timothy by saying,

“Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Ti 4:16b)

So by consistently practicing these fundamentals, a pastor will not only help secure his own salvation but that of his congregants as well.

How does that work?

We have to understand the scope of salvation. When we come to Christ, we are said to be both saved and being saved. You can picture the Christian life like a race. When you believe in Jesus, you enter the race. But in order for us to experience true and lasting salvation, we must finish the race. We can’t walk off the track at some point and still expect to call ourselves a Christian, just like a runner can’t call himself a professional if he quits a race and never returns to the track again. You see, true Christians press on toward the heavenly prize that awaits. They don’t go half or even 3/4 the distance and quit. They make it to the end. They persevere; they cross the finish line, and in so doing, they obtain true and lasting salvation.

Now, of course, true Christians have the Holy Spirit, and He is the main reason Christians persevere to the end. So I am not advocating a works-based salvation where believing in Jesus gets us into the race and then we have to finish it on our own in our own strength. We are saved, sanctified, and glorified by God. Romans 8 makes that clear.

While that is true – it is God who empowers and motivates us to finish the race – one of the ways He motivates us to persevere and grow in our faith is through the efforts and example of others. One of the persons God uses as an example is the pastor.

So Paul’s argument then is that as pastors:

  • consistently practice right speech, right living, right affections,
  • as they lead the congregation to the Word of God through right worship,
  • as they use their spiritual gifts to build up the church,
  • and as they serve as an example to the church in spiritual growth,
  • they help the congregation persevere and grow in their faith so that they make it to the end of the race.

So that is how a pastor can save both himself and his hearers.


Hopefully, by now, you see why it is important for a pastor to consistently practice the fundamentals of the faith. It is one of the ways God saves and sanctifies both the pastor and the congregation.

So may we remember that it is the fundamentals God uses, not something new and revolutionary, but the fundamentals. May they be our bread and butter. May they be the things we practice and desire as we move forward as a church.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you think about this series? Give me some feedback.



Post adapted from my sermon How Can Both the Pastor and Congregation Continue in the Faith?