Speaking the Truth in Love
Ways To Improve
Intro. A. Belshazzar was weighed in the balances and found wanting. Dan. 5:22-31 B. If God was to weigh us in His balances, how would we stand? 1. Would we be found with a surplus or would we be found wanting? C. It is good from time to time to resolve in our hearts to improve in various things. 1. The Psalmists often prayed for a revival. For example, Psalm 85:6 says, "Will You not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in You?" 2. We often need a revival. We need to improve ourselves. 3. This is especially true in things which we might be lacking. 4. It is good for all us to set basic goals (goals that we can actually meet) and work toward them. D. In this lesson we suggest some ways in which we can improve. I. LET US STRIVE TO INCREASE OUR SPIRITUAL-MINDEDNESS. A. We should enrich our minds with proper thinking. Phil. 4:8 1. Someone once said, "We should not make a sewer out of our ears, and a septic tank out of our hearts." 2. Our world readily provides a sewer and septic tank for all who want them. B. One of the reasons God destroyed man in Noah's day was because the imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Gen. 6:5 1. Indeed, the heart is very hard to control. Jer. 17:9 2. We must bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor. 10:5 3. We need to set our minds on things above. Col. 3:1-2 4. We need to mediate on spiritual things. Psalm 19:14 a. Let us strive to develop a spiritual vocabulary, speaking words of edification which minister grace to the hearers. Eph. 4:29 b. Consider the words of Boaz and how his servants replied. Ruth 2:4 5. Those who are spiritual are more respected among their co- workers a. Some people might contend that religion has no place in the office, but a recent study proves otherwise. It might be to your advantage, the study concludes, if you profess your religious beliefs rather than keep silent about them. Professionals who actively expressed their religious beliefs were perceived to be more intelligent, more trustworthy, more moral, and better adjusted than those who did not. (From Roger Bailey and Philip Doriot, via Pulpit Helps) II. LET US ATTEND EVERY SERVICE. A. Of course, this will not apply to most because they already attend every service. 1. For some reason unknown to me, some are not attending on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. 2. For those who are unfaithful in this matter, can you think of a better way to improve during the coming year? 3. It is our duty to attend every service. Heb. 10:25 B. A preacher was once asked to define "Faithful Attendance at Worship," and this was his reply: "If your car started one out of three times, would you consider it faithful? If the paperboy skipped Thursdays and Sundays, would they be missed? If you didn't show up at work two or three times a week, would your boss call you faithful? If your refrigerator quit a few days now and then, would you excuse it and say, 'Oh, well, it works most of the time.' If your water heater greets you with cold water one or two mornings a week while you are in the shower, would it be faithful? If you miss several mortgage payments in a year's time, would your mortgage holder be pleased? If you miss worship and attend meetings only often enough to show you're interested, but not often enough to get involved, are you faithful?" (From Illustrations Unlimited, by James S. Hewett, p. 87, slightly adapted) C. The water spider lives at the bottom of muddy pools and has the distinctive power of ascending to the surface of the pool and there surrounding itself with a tiny bubble of air. Thus enveloped, it descends to the sludge and ooze at the bottom of the pool and remains there unsullied by its environment until the air is exhausted. Then it rises again to the surface and the process is repeated. (From Illustrations of Bible Truths, Compiled by Ruth Peters, p. 66) 1. Likewise, Christians find rejuvenation by worshiping regularly with the saints. Through Bible study, worship, and fellowship with those of like precious faith, they can continue to be unsullied by the hostile environment of the world. III. LET US STORE OUR MINDS WITH SCRIPTURE. A. We all need nourishment for our souls, just as we need nourishment for our bodies. Matt. 4:4 1. A study of the Scripture will build and increase our faith. 2. The Scriptures produce patience, provide comfort, and give hope. Rom. 15:4 B. Diligent Bible study seems to be a rare commodity today. 1. It is a lost heirloom, time worn, and out of date. 2. A preacher in a Meeting mentioned that he stayed in the home of an elder who didn't open his Bible during the whole week. C. Let us all determine and resolve to store our minds with Scripture. Psalm 1:1-3; James 1:25 1. Bible study can be intriguing and challenging. Let us find a workable study plan, and stick with it. 2. A man had three sons. He wanted to test their ability to discern; so he gave each of them a piece of an apple with a rotten spot on it. The first ate the whole thing; the second threw the whole thing away; and the third separated the bad and ate the good. The father noted that the third was the wisest, and explained, "When we receive instruction, some of us believe everything we hear; others reject everything because some is bad; but the wise separate the bad from the good and benefit from the good." (Author Unknown) IV. LET US PROMOTE LOVE AMONG OUR BRETHREN. A. God commands us to love one another fervently with a pure heart. 1 Pet. 1:22 1. Above all else, we should have fervent love for each other. 1 Pet. 4:8; Col. 3:14 2. Love is one of the identifying characteristics of the Lord's disciples. John 13:34-35 B. One way to show love is to be alert to the needs of others. 1. Will we be like those on the judgment day who said, "Lord, when did we see you..." Matt. 25:41-46 2. Often, we do not see the needs of others because we are not alert; we do not notice when they have needs. C. May the Lord help us to increase and abound in love. 1 Thess. 3:12-13 1. We should remember the love of Christ, and try to do likewise. 1 John 3:16 2. A man driving on a dark highway one night accidentally stuck a hitchhiker who had been near the roadside. Hearing the sickening thud on his front fender, he stopped to see what had happened. When he saw the injured fellow on the ground, he wanted to jump into his car and drive away. But as he started toward his car door, the injured man moaned, "For the love of God, help me!" The driver resisted the fearful temptation and returned to help. a. Because of the love of God, let us love others. V. LET US BECOME BETTER STEWARDS OF OUR MONEY. A. Let us work to arrange things in our lives so that through good stewardship we will have extra to give to those who have need. Eph. 4:28 1. Laboring for this purpose, to be able to give to the needy, is certainly an excellence taught only in the Scriptures. 2. Often, it is through poor stewardship of our money that we barely have enough to make ends meet, much less, extra that we can give to those who have need. B. It is very easy to get entangled in money endeavors which hinder our service to God. Luke 8:14 1. Money often comes between us and God. Someone has said that you can take two coins and shut out the view of the landscape. Go to the mountains, and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes. The mountains are still there, but you cannot see them because the coins are shutting out your vision. Similarly, it doesn't take large quantities of money to come between us and God. Just a little can shut out the proper vision for spiritual things. C. I am not encouraging one to become a miser, as one who hoards up for that "rainy day," which never seems to come. 1. God wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Eccl. 5:18 2. However, it is very easy to place undue interest in money. 3. Jesus said that we cannot serve God and mammon. Matt. 6:24 a. Consider Prov. 23:4-5. Concl. A. Belshazzar, an evil king, was weighed in the balances and found wanting. 1. He was slain that very night and his kingdom was given to another. B. Let us seek to improve in these various ways (chart below) so that we will not be found wanting before God. 1. May God help us to improve, to do better, that we might measure up to what He requires of us.
A. "Think about people who find themselves in religious ruts. They discover a number of things about themselves. They will find that they are getting older but not getting any holier. Time is their enemy, not their friend. The time they trusted and looked to is betraying them, for they often said to themselves, 'The passing of time will help me. I know some good old saints, so as I get older I'll get holier and better. Time will help me, purify me and revive me.' They said that the year before last, but they were not helped any last year. Time betrayed them. They were not any better last year than they had been the year before." (From in "Rut, Rot or Revival," by A.W. Tozer in Christianity Today, Vol. 38, No. 3) B. It is certainly true that some of us are not getting any better spiritually as we get older. 1. We need a revival, a renewed zeal, a determination to do better. 2. Let us recognize the challenges before us. 3. Let us lay out our strategy and follow it faithfully. C. We continue our study on ways to improve. I. LET US LEARN TO PRAY MORE. A. 1 Thess. 5:17-18; Luke 18:1 1. We need to establish good prayer habits. 2. We need to pray at all times and patiently wait on the Lord. Psalm 27:14; Isa. 40:28-31 3. Through prayer we can continually resort to a place of strong refuge. Psalm 71:3 B. Knowing how to pray can be more difficult than it might seem. 1. One of Jesus' disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Luke 11:1-4 a. His prayer in verses 2-4 has all the ingredients for an acceptable prayer: adoration, spiritual requests, physical requests, prayer for forgiveness, and asking for help in daily living. 2. Jesus followed with the parable of the persistent friend. Luke 11:5-8 3. He continued by encouraging us to pray. Luke 11:9-13 4. This was written by a seventeenth century Frenchman by the name of Francois Fenelon: "Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and to others. If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will never be any lack of what to say." (From Strengthening Your Grip, by Charles Swindoll). II. LET US CONTINUE TO AVOID THE WORKS OF THE FLESH. A. The works of the flesh manifest themselves in many ways. Gal. 5:19-21 1. Paul lists 17 works of the flesh and then adds "and such like." 2. Peter said that fleshly lusts war against the soul. 1 Pet. 2:11 3. The carnal mind is enmity against God and brings forth death. Rom. 8:6-7,13 B. The Christian keeps the works of the flesh under control by walking according to the Spirit. Rom. 8:1; Gal. 5:16 1. The Christian crucifies the flesh with its affections and lusts. Gal. 5:24 2. He uses strong discipline to control the desires of the flesh. 1 Cor. 9:27 C. What areas do we need to improve in? 1. Perhaps there is some sinful habit that we need to conquer. a. Are we spending too much time on pleasure, having fun? b. Are we guilty of gluttony, smoking, or social drinking? c. Are we guilty of sinful language? III. LET US BE A HAPPY PEOPLE REJOICING IN THE LORD EVERY DAY. A. The Christian finds happiness "in the Lord." Phil. 4:4; Col. 2:6-7 1. When we are rooted and grounded in the Lord, many of the worldly things will take care of themselves. 2. Even though our earthly life may be full of heartache, pain, and trouble, we always have reason to rejoice because of our spiritual blessings. Eph. 1:3 a. According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, the word "worry" comes from an old English word which means literally "to choke or strangle." b. Truthfully, that's what worry does to us. It chokes and strangles us, leaving us in a miserable, depressed condition. c. Worry is a self-imposed curse which can be avoided. 3. Someone has rightly said, "If it's bad enough to worry about, it's bad enough to pray about." Phil. 4:6-7 4. "Every day of your life is a gift from God. Don't waste it by being angry with anyone. Don't let it slip away by feeling sorry for yourself. Be grateful for this precious gift of life, and spend it by being as happy and as thankful as you possibly can. Let your mind dwell on the good things which have happened to you. Let gratitude be your attitude. Think of your assets, and don't let anyone else spoil your day for you. Enjoy every day of your life to the fullest. Realize that you can add to the joy of each day by making someone else happy." (Author unknown) IV. LET US IMPROVE OUR FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS. A. We need more love in our marriage relationships. Eph. 5:33; Titus 2:4 1. We need to show appreciation for our spouses. 2. This is from a letter to Ann Landers. "Dear Woman: Your husband became greatly enamored of me because I paid attention to him, which obviously you haven't done in quite some time. I mean real attention, complete with conversation and verbal recognition of his extraordinary qualities. I made him feel alive and important. He believes you prefer the company of your sisters, your mother, and your women friends to him. When you need a man's viewpoint, you ask your father. I am not going to see your husband again, lady, because he likes me too much already, and I am no home wrecker. But I believe you should take a good, hard look at that wonderful man of yours, and come up with some evidence of appreciation - before you lose him." (Letter to Ann Landers, via The Challenge Of Being A Wife, p. 68-69) 3. Parents need much love for their children. a. Children are a wonderful gift from God. Psalm 127:3-5 b. We must do our best in the early years because our children soon grow up and leave home. Eph. 6:4: Prov. 13:24; 22:6 c. Consider the love of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. Luke 15:17-23 d. In a small town in Spain, a man named Jorge had a bitter argument with his young son Paco. The next day Jorge discovered that Paco's bed was empty. He had run away from home. Overcome with remorse, Jorge searched his soul and realized that his son was more important to him than anything else. He wanted to start over. Jorge went to a well-known store in the center of town and posted a large sign that read, "Paco, come home. I love you. Meet me here tomorrow morning." The next morning Jorge went to the store, where he found no less than seven young boys named Paco who had also run away from home. They were all answering the call for love, each hoping it was his dad inviting him home with open arms. (From "A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul") V. LET US SEEK TO LEAD A SOUL TO CHRIST. A. We all have a responsibility in this matter. 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:15 1. We are the "servants" who are to go out in the highways and hedges and compel people to come in. Luke 14:23 2. The fields are already white for harvest. John 4:35 3. Let us do our best in leading people to Christ, and let us pray for more laborers in this great work. Matt. 9:37-38 B. The wise man said - Prov. 11:30. 1. Daniel added - Dan. 12:3. a. Saving souls is the greatest work that can be done, and all Christians should give much time and attention to it. b. No greater or more enduring work can be undertaken. 2. This is entitled "Am I a soldier of the Cross," and was written in 1724 by Isaac Watts. Am I a soldier of the Cross, a follower of the Lamb; And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name? Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas? Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this dark world a friend of grace, to help me unto God? Sure I must fight if I would reign. Increase my courage, Lord; I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy word. Concl. A. Let us recognize the challenges before us. B. Let us resolve, first, to be devoted, dedicated followers of Christ. C. Let us then lay out our strategy and follow it faithfully. Chart: Ways To Improve Increase our spiritual mindedness. Attend every service. Store our minds with Scripture. Promote love among our brethren. Become better stewards of our money. Learn to pray more. Continue to avoid the works of the flesh. Be a happy people rejoicing in the Lord every day. Improve our family relationships. Seek to lead a soul to Christ.