Just to review here is my definition of incrementalism:
The method used in which desired changes are implemented gradually or in small steps instead of giant strides.
In part one we focused on two concepts – we are sheep and we tend to wander off, thus the need to change our mind, or to use the Biblical word – repent.
We gain or lose ground in small steps. If we are walking in the wrong direction, no matter how sincere or good we may feel about the direction, we are going the wrong way. We must turn around.
When we turn around we begin to head the right way. We learn to hear the Shepherd’s still, small voice. Our actions change. John Baptist put it this way in Matthew 3:8 – “Bring forth fruit with your repentance.” Being born again should result in a visible, discernible change of our behavior.
So, what does the right direction look like if we turn around? What is it that sheep that are following the Shepherd’s voice do? While each of us is unique there are general principles we all follow.
We must learn to slow down and look at the Shepherd. If we are wandering off because we take our eyes off of Him, it would seem wise that we should change that behavior and gaze upon Him. We must learn to listen to His voice. We must make room for Him to speak into our lives.
Most of us seem to need noise. We get up, plug in, turn on, and begin to chatter. Throughout our day we avoid quiet. Silence is deafening to our generation. Being still and quiet is scary to some, yet we are told to be still and know that He is God.
- Psalm 46:10 – Be still, (relax, let go,) and know that I am God.
- Psalm 62:1 – For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.
We must learn to be quiet. We must learn to make time to interact with the Shepherd. We must be sheep of the Word. I know there are things to do. I know there are children, work, and distractions of plenty. That does not change the fact that we need to slow down, quiet our souls and listen. There are seasons, I understand that. We still need to do it. We grow one decision at a time. If we don’t spend time with the Shepherd we will not know His voice. If we don’t spend time reading His words, we won’t know what to do or how to think properly. Our minds will not be renewed.
If you are struggling with this issue, try a noise fast, or a technology fast, perhaps a social media fast, maybe even an email fast, or if really desperate, a sports fast. How about a just turn it all off and be quiet fast. We must renew our minds and fight noise/distraction clutter. For the record, I like computers, smart phones, sports, etc. But I love the Shepherd and if I allow those things to squeeze His voice and His word from my life, I will simply wander away and become entangled in a mess. So will you. Try to obey – 1 Thess. 4:11 and hear His voice.
- and to make it your ambition (strive earnestly) to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, (NASB)
After our primary relationship with the Shepherd then we have other people in our lives. Most of us live with many people around us. Is that an accident of did the Sovereign God of the Universe decree it? Did God put those people in your life or not?
If He did, and BTW, He did, then He has reasons for it. I believe there are two primary reasons – first, we grow into maturity by learning how to interact with others –
- Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Second, we are given the opportunity to fulfill the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself (See Mat. 22:37-39) We attempt to fulfill the first commandment of loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, by spending time with Him and learning to hear God’s voice. We also learn to walk in obedience to what He says. We learn to fulfill the second one by how we love one another, which also fulfills the first one. John the beloved said this about love:
- 1 John 3:10 – If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Day by day, often minute by minute, we are given the opportunity to grow in our walk with God because of the people in our lives. Many of us are married and God has provided a perfect opportunity in that relationship to help us learn servanthood, death to self, esteeming someone as better than our self, humility, long suffering, and overcoming all manner of sin.
Because many of us are married, we have produced children and we gain even more opportunities to grow in spiritual maturity. We learn how to serve, how to be careful with our words, control our anger, grow in self control and all the other fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.
Those who are unmarried have parents, siblings, and countless others that they can learn how to grow in the Lord with. God has provided everything we need to learn to obey the two greatest commandments He gave to us. He loves us that much!
As we look to a new year and our desire to grow, to walk in the right direction, we know a great deal of what to do. Love God, love others.
As we leave our homes, we encounter even more people. Everywhere we go, there are opportunities to grow. Driving, eating, meeting, working, playing, social media, wherever we go, growth potential abounds.
Walking in the right direction involves choices that lead to action. Jesus put it this way:
- Matthew 5:14-16 – You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
We are light in the darkness. Light will be seen. As light, those in the darkness will look at us, and Jesus says they should see our good works. We are to go around doing good works.
We do not work for salvation, but because of it.
We are called to do good works:
- Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Each of us, for however long we live our lives post salvation, is called to fulfill the works God has for us to do. That work includes love.
In fact, the world will know we are His by how we love one another.
- John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Love is an action word. How we speak, what we do, how we serve all speak to the reality of Christ’s Gospel changing power in our lives.
We do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith
- Galatians 6:10 – So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
As we go around doing good, the darkness notices. They may not like it, they may in fact attack it, but they can’t ignore it.
Many believe that the believers were called Christians early on as a slam – little Christs…mocking, yet the darkness noticed. We love others because we are loved by Love Himself.
So, how do we enter a new year – I would suggest the following:
- Make time to listen to the Shepherd’s voice
- Embrace growth potential through relationships beginning at home
- Do good to everyone, especially the household of faith
We can learn how to live our lives in a worthy manner. This is not all there is to walking in the right direction, but it is not less than this either. What will you do with this challenge? Is there something you can change in your schedule to include more Shepherd time? Is there something you need to do to improve the relationships in your life? Given the gift of tomorrow, is there something good you could do for someone? If we keep walking in the same manner as we have been walking we will end up in the same place we are. That may be a good thing, or perhaps not. I do know that our lives will not change unless we begin to, or continue to walk in the correct direction.