Rooted in Discipleship: Growing Deeper Through Fertilization
Christians should participate in discipleship as a method to encourage individual and corporate growth.
A sermon delivered to the congregation of Eastside Community Church on June 5, 2016 as part of a series. Click to the right for the audio and/or read the sermon notes (not verbatim with the audio).
Rev. Matthew E. Morgan, MA, LPC
Certified Minister, Licensed Professional Counselor
Matthew E. Morgan molds his work as a husband, father, therapist, minister, and general Renaissance man (*salute* General Renaissance) into discussions of worldview and philosophical ideals … or sometimes just to find things to laugh at.
So apparently if you accidentally miss the planning meeting for the teaching series, you get assigned the topic of “Fertilization.” That results in the problem of having tons of different jokes running through your head – not all of them appropriate. I thought of passing along one of the earliest jokes I remember my father telling me. We were on the way back from my great-grandmother’s funeral and he told me, “That John Deere makes a lot of great products – but there’s one thing they won’t stand behind … the manure spreader.” Yeah, I needed it explained, but in my defense, I was like 5 at the time.
And then I remembered a clip from “The Simpson’s” – not that I would ever watch that drivel, but my “friend” told me about it. Into one episode – that my friend watched – Homer purchased a farm and was frustrated nothing would grow. His well-meaning wife offered her advice, “Maybe it needs more fertilizer.” And poor old Homer replied, “I’m only one man, Marge!” But I figured I shouldn’t show that clip either.
So I finally arrived at the point where I realized, I’m not going to try to be funny. You are just too much of a discerning and sophisticated audience for this base humor.
Now that I have that crap out of my system…
Okay – now that it is really out, we’ve been sharing about the parallel between the agricultural process and our spiritual growth. Most everyone in here has had the seed of the gospel planted in them at some time. For some of you, this is new and the growth might just be starting to show. For others, your plant is in full bloom. You are going to need water – quickly – as Pastor Charlene talked about.
And if we take very good care of our plants, watering them and giving them sunlight, we might get some decent growth for a while, but you’ll notice eventually that the plants can’t sustain themselves. They will get weaker, emaciated, and then even die. We’ve seen this in our own garden. For the first couple years, everything went fine, but then they started getting weaker.
So here’s the problem – dirt isn’t just dirt. It needs nutrients to help support the plants. So I bought a soil test kit. I put the dirt in there and checked it for nutrients. And it laughed. Apparently my dirt was just … dirt.
So that’s where fertilization comes in. Plants – and people – need to have fertilizer in order to grow well and bear fruit.
Can you grow without it? Of course. Look at the weeds that grow up between the pavement stones or the dandelion that can grow out of the driveway. Things grow all the time – but that doesn’t mean that they are useful.
Meaningful plants – fruits and vegetables – all benefit from having fertilizer
Does the same apply to our Christian lives? Absolutely. The equivalent of fertilizer for the Christian, is known as discipleship
Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christlike. (http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-discipleship.html)
Really, you can look as so many people in the Bible, who exemplify discipleship. One of my favorites is Paul. See we get spoiled by the great teacher Paul – the one who writes these eloquent passages:
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. (Romans 7:15-16 NASB)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38 NASB)
As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:12 NIV)
Okay – so even Paul wasn’t perfect.
In fact, I used those passages as a tongue and cheek way to show what discipleship can do. Romans was written later in Paul’s ministry, while Galatians one of his first.
Yet even before that, Paul was in need of discipleship.
Most of us know Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-9). But it’s not like he was magically transformed into Paul the super-apostle
Paul needed some time to grow.
For his first stop, he went to Arabia (Gal 1:17). Why? We don’t know. I think N.T. Wright gives us our best answer. Paul had just had his world rocked – turned completely upside down. He had to take this incredible zeal he had as a Pharisee, relinquish it, and then work out something new. He was a new plant, no longer just a seed, but a viable growing organism that needed to draw on something.
Interestingly Paul does not go to the disciples at this point – he sets out on his own. Essentially he was taking some time to get fertilized – to let God work on Him … and he probably didn’t even know why at that point.
Who should use fertilizer?
The Natural: Weeds don’t need fertilizer; Fruits, veggies, and flowers do
The Spiritual: Discipleship is for those who are desiring to become more Christ-like in their faith
34 He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NASB)
Once Paul took his preparation time in Arabia, he returned to the city of Damascus – his original destination – with a completely different purpose in mind. He preached there with a completely different fervor.
21 All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” (Acts 9:21 NASB)
Now granted, he had to leave again – fleeing for his life. But there was no doubt that he had changed.
What is Fertilizer?
The Natural: A substance added to soil to aid the growth of plants – usually made of decaying matter
The Spiritual: Discipleship is added to the life of the believer to aid in his or her growth – usually made from saints and scholars who came before them
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
After Paul left Damascus, he went to Jerusalem. Things were not easy for him, but he made some important friends.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord” (Gal 1:18-19)
Why do we use fertilizer?
The Natural: Fertilization helps a plant to grow deep roots, process nourishment, and bear healthy fruit.
The Spiritual: Discipleship helps a believer to grow deeper, nourish his or her soul, and bear the fruit of evangelism
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NASB)
In Jerusalem, Paul continued to grow in knowledge.
29 He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. (Acts 9:29 NASB)
When do we fertilize?
The Natural: Fertilization is a continuous process for the plant – it’s required before planting, after growth, and before the harvest
The Spiritual: Discipleship is a continuous process for the believer who desires to be strong and healthy
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (I Peter 3:15 NASB)
Despite all this, Paul returned to Tarsus – the city of his birth.
30 And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus. (Acts 9:30 NASB)
Where does fertilizer go?
The Natural: Fertilizer is added into the soil since the plants draw nourishment from the roots
The Spiritual: Many Christians like what looks and feels good – but true nourishment comes from deep places
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5 NASB)
Paul stayed in Tarsus for eight to nine years. He witnessed several governmental overthrows, famines, and wars. I don’t know what was going through his mind then, but I can only imagine what it was like when Barnabas finally showed up to find Saul.
“25 Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:25-26 NASB)
How do we fertilize?
The Natural: Find out what the soil is missing and augment it with the appropriate material
The Spiritual: Find out what you are missing and augment it with the appropriate material
1 Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. 2 Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (I Cor 15:1-3)
There’s not an official altar call – but a call to know God more. Here’s some suggestions for discipleship
- Study a book of the Bible in depth – find a book study online or in a bookstore
- Study an aspect of Christianity more in-depth
- Apologetics, Salvation, Comparative Religions
- Suggested Books:
- The Case for (Christ, Faith, a Creator, etc), Lee Strobel
- Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer
- Find a Podcast and listen to it at home or in the car
Rooted: Growing deeper through Fertilization
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