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Discipleship

Barriers to Growing in Christ

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
What Blocks us from Encountering Jesus Christ? Part II

What Blocks us from increasing our trust and faith in Jesus Christ?


Barriers to Growing in Christ  Part II

What Blocks us from increasing our trust and faith in Jesus Christ?


 

                        GOD AS OUR SAVIOR       

  
       John 3-5; 14-15                                            Barriers??

                     What God Desires          

                 ------------------   

         Others    ↑  ß ME à    Self 

   

                          Environment and Experiences 

   

John 4:1-26

 

In the last article we looked at a man named Nicodemus who had to come face to face with his barrier to knowing Christ. He had to learn what it meant to be born again, to receive his redemption and new life. He had to overcome his pride and social status as a religious leader in order to cross the ultimate barrier from sin to His salvation and grace. This barrier had been built by a willful refusal to know Him, and a wall of pride and strong willed self-centeredness. This wall had to be climbed by the ropes of realizing his need and knowing that Christ cared for him. The Spirit sent the rope with which to climb the wall, but his faith had to follow though with the motivation and commitment.

 

Did you know that there are many other barriers, too? We all have barriers stemming from our will that prevent us from pursuing our faith in Christ. We also struggle with the daily obstructions of life that motivates our attention towards other things causing us to be unwilling to be obedient and follow His will. In this article, we will be looking at barriers that prevent our growth in Him. Some Christians have made that great stride; they have accepted Christ's work, become saved, and crossed that ultimate, impenetrable barrier that only He can remove. On the other hand, many Christians have taken this new life and have done little or nothing with it. We crossed the first barrier, then came to another and decided to just settle down there and not go any further in the faith and walk with Christ. What causes one person to be more mature in his or her life than someone else in the same age range and life experiences? What causes some people to have more virtue and character than others? Why do some Christians tend to do over 90% of the work of the church when they are usually less than 10% of the church's population? Why do some Christians seem to get it and grow while others stay where they are-shallow, failing, and stuck, repeating the same bad decisions and strife? Because; they came to an obstacle and decided it was too difficult, so they did not go further!

 

Christ has given each Christian a new life; saved from our sins, it is a purchase we could never fathom or pay. So, why are we so inclined not to do much with it? I believe one of the main reasons is that we place so many obstacles in the path of our walk and growth in Christ. We become stagnate in the faith, so our character and relational growth does not happen, and the work of the Church goes unmet. We just stumble over the opportunities Christ gives us, and the issues of life, tripping ourselves from attaining what is right in front of us. Sometimes, we do not even see Him for all the barriers we have built, brick-by-brick! Sometimes, God brings us into circumstances that require a greater effort, and sometimes we may even suffer; but, more often than not, our backsliding and choice to remain stagnate in our faith is a result of just plain refusing to look up and see the wonders He has for us. We only see our situations and problems, and not Christ as the ultimate solution and the focus of life. We get too comfortable and build a rift into our lives because we do not want to be challenged. We remain where we are and do not go where He wants us to be.  When we are comfortable, we feel we do not need to strive anymore. So, our Bible reading, prayer life, Christian fellowship, and other spiritual disciplines go unmet and unused as we miss our opportunities and growth.

 

Sometimes, it is not about being comfortable; rather, it is about being too stressful. Perhaps a persecution arises; a family member cuts you down for making a commitment to Christ. Why, it is foolishness and ignorance, they say, so you cave in to this and decide not to put any more effort His Way. Or, perhaps you lost a loved one. Stung with grief and hurt, you lose hope and become angry at God. It must be His fault I am going though this. Why should I bother with Him if He does not care for me? Perhaps your life is so busy that you just do not have time. Work, school, kids, hobbies, even church have become your focus, and the time you once had for Bible study, devotions, and prayer has been taken up by other things. So, you are no longer growing His Way!

 

The Woman at the Well

 

This passage reveals an outcast woman, crossing her social and personal barriers to pursue her faith deeper and stronger, and our Lord, who transcends His culture to minister to a person who would not have been met or helped. Our Lord is cutting across strict cultural barriers of race and gender, pointing us to the unity of the Gospel! Jesus interacts with a race extremely hated and rejected by the Jews. This should cause us to think about our own bigoted reactions, those we do either unconsciously or deliberately. To make matters even more scandalous to those who have distaste for others outside of their perceived likeness, our Lord engages in conversation with a moral outcast and models for us the proper approach to take with such a person. He practices listening, respect, care, and conviction, all converging with the Gospel. 

 

For this quest, let us venture into God's most precious Word, and examine the Scriptures carefully to find His Will. The Bible holds the truth for life today, including how to apply your new life-whether you are a brand new Christian or have been a Christian all of your life-and how to grow further in your faith. If you feel that the Bible is not the paradigm for your faith and practice, you will be stranded in a barrier, disappointed and hurt in life. His full measure is given, but you refuse to take it. We are to have the perspective and desire for what God wants, not what we want. Our focus is to be on Him, because He has the best plan for us! Our plans will only lead us into the wrong decisions, and we will miss out on the best opportunities and situations He has for us.

 

Jesus overcame a cultural barrier to reach a woman in need. He was weary from a long journey and required rest. While His disciples went into town to get some food, an opportunity arose. "The sixth hour" by Jewish reckoning would be noon. But, according to Roman time, which John uses throughout his gospel (19:14), it was six o'clock in the evening, the same time as we use today. So, it was no surprise that Jesus was weary. He had been walking in the hot sun all day. He was thirsty, so He sat beside the well to rest and drink while the disciples went into the city to find something to eat. Here, we have a very beautiful picture of our Lord's humanity.

 

A woman in deep need and in deep sin came to get some water. She had a barrier, not just of knowing Christ, but also of making Him real and known to others. She was an outcast-a cancerous lump in her community. How could she make the Savior of the world known when she was an outcast, hated and rejected? Jesus came to make her well. The women gave Jesus a drink to quench a temporary, yet real and needed thirst. Jesus then pointed her to an eternal thirst she had. Quenching her thirst would redirect her from sin to Him, and transform her from a social pariah to a person of real warmth who could proclaim the great news of The Word. Her barrier was that she did not want to do what was right. She had slipped into wrong relationship after wrong relationship. She did not how to get out of her rut. She knew of God, perhaps all she needed to know, yet somehow she was not able to overcome her sin and cross that barrier to growth and healthy relationships. Perhaps, she thought there was something wrong with her, and that she did not deserve a better life. Perhaps, her heart was hardened from pursuing exciting and forbidden relationships in order to find meaning, yet only finding a meaningless life. She had to learn a lesson we all have to learn-a need to surrender to His Lordship. Christ has to be our meaning, not anything else found anywhere else where we just want to do our own thing and go our own way, perhaps not even caring about the long term effects and consequences. Who cares what others think or what God has to say? But, what will it get us in the long run?

 

The first thing the woman realized was that God cared for, and had a plan for her, even though she was considered a social pariah. She was willing to be challenged and confronted for her sin. She was willing to repent and become clean. She was able to learn and develop character, so God used her to transform her community. It is the same for us. We must see our sin and deal with it by confession and removal. We have to see His love and care for us! We are to study the Word, seek wisdom, be prudent, and lean on the strength of the Lord! These things do not come merely by chance; they come by knowing and following Christ (Proverbs 12:4; 28:20; 31:10)! She had to learn and follow. Have you learned that lesson?

 

This woman had a thirst, and a desire to obtain the living water. This desire translated to willingness to grow, and willingness to strive and be challenged in the faith. She was able to do so-crossing one barrier in order to know Him, and another barrier in order to grow in Him. This barrier was one most Christians may never cross. For us, it is a lesson given to shake us from our situation to see what is in front of us. Perhaps, we need to be kicked out of our complacency into areas where we fear to go. The journey He has for us need not be feared, because Christ will not call you to an area in which He has not gifted you and for which He has not given you a desire. It is when we do not heed His call that we get in trouble, not because the call is too difficult, as He gives us all we need.

 

Jesus is directing us to look around and consider all the opportunities He has provided. What stops us? Is it our culture? Is it our fear? What about our past failures? Can we see what He has for us, the wonders of His grace and new life? Can we see His plan unfolding in front of us? Can we walk by faith, even when we are not sure where He is leading? Or, do we even see what is around us? Is the barrier so tall it blocks out the Son?  Perhaps we are too busy running from what is ahead, taking the long road in a desert of despair and hopelessness.

 

Background

 

The route Jesus took on His journey to Galilee is the most direct route, traveling through Samaria, which lies between Judea and Galilee. Samaria is known today as the West Bank. This direct route from Judea to Galilee was about 70 miles, or a two and a half day walk on a safe and well made Roman road, well-traveled and patrolled by Roman guards. This road was laden with frequent rest stops, inns, and oases. But, most of the Jews chose not to go through Samaria. Rather, they chose to embark upon the hot, harsh, and foreboding desert and the rocky road northeast from Jerusalem to Jericho, up the Jordan valley and then crossing the inhospitable Jordan River-twice. Thus, because of the prejudice they exercised against the Samaritan people, they journeyed almost twice the distance on a much, much hotter and sinister road-not by a carriage or car, but by foot. To illustrate this in Southern California, it would be as if Samaria was Oxnard, and you needed to travel to Santa Barbara from Pasadena. So, instead of taking that nice freeway, you cut across the Los Padres mountains, skipping the rest stops, motels, and the straight and easy way. And remember, you are on foot, and you are doing this because you hate strawberries and detest the Disney store outlet. Sounds ridiculous, huh? Well, prejudice is that! We all are created and loved by our Lord. But, our Jesus ignored the customs and prejudices and cut His way right through those barriers of ignorance, narrow-minded thinking, and fear, and went through Samaria. Then, He sat down and asked for a drink.

 

Perhaps you need to consider the efforts you put forth to stay where you are in your faith. Usually, when we do not want to grow, we busy ourselves with other activities so our Bible never gets read. We have so many social engagements, we never stop and pray. We spend so much time at work or school we negate our study and social interaction with mature Christians. The things you may be chasing and which fill your life may be good things. School is important; so is work. But, what about what is really important-your time in Him? Are you taking a shortcut to your life, skipping your meals in Him? All you will accomplish when you venture off His road is to get lost and tired. is road is easyer than you getting lost    

 

Why were the Samaritans hated?

 

They were the remnant of the 10 tribes of the Northern Jewish Kingdom who had been taken captive by the Assyrians in 729 B.C. They then intermarried with them instead of remaining separated, as the Southern peoples did in Babylon. Thus, ever since the days of Nehemiah, when the two Southern tribes came back from captivity to find their Northern brothers in heinous sin, intermarried with Gentiles, and forsaking much of the Law, they have been regarded as reprobates-a hated, heretical, Jewish cult. Although the Samaritans were still Jews and practicing their faith, they differed because they accepted only the five books of Moses, and they stirred and mingled in some idolatrous practices. They had even erected a temple on Mt. Gerizim as a rival to the temple in Jerusalem, perhaps because either they were not welcome in Jerusalem or chose to rebel-or probably both. This animosity directed toward one another was centuries old, and they hated each other even more than they hated the Gentiles. No wonder the Samaritan woman was so surprised when Jesus talked to her.

 

But, notice how Jesus treats her:

 

Here is a moral outcast, a thirsty woman in many ways, who comes to draw water after going a half a mile way out of her way around the other, much closer well in the village. She was possibly forced to do so either by reasons of shame or just to avoid the other townspeople. The Jews did the same thing, going way around her and her town. As she came this way, she encountered Jesus, and He said to her, "If you knew about the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me to drink,' you would have asked of him and he would have given you living water." The "gift of God;" Jesus read her heart and what she, as well as we, really thirst for. We all place barriers between us and the springs of living water, which leaves us parched and empty, looking for substitutes for our thirst. Jesus encountered one of those sinners whom He came to call to repentance, a sinner just like us, and gives her love, setting her on the right path. "I did not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners," (Matt 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32).  

 

The water Jesus was offering was not the substance of a drink or to quench a physical thirst; rather, it was the refreshment of eternal life. The Holy Spirit imparts to us the new life. This new life impacts us totally, constantly, and continually to usher us into eternity. But, it is still up to us to take that impact and let it come in contact with our application of life to God, ourselves, our environment, and others. This impact from the Spirit nourishes us, invigorates and empowers us to deal with life here and now. His qualities and character become real in us and are modeled as real to others around us. This empowerment bulldozes those barriers and creates the maturity we are called to have. This maturity helps us have joy and contentment, purpose and meaning. It allows us to know we are deeply loved and makes us able to replicate that love. In that way, we can worship Him in power and adoration, a deeper level that we could not do without that growth.

 

If you lack peace and joy in your life, it is usually because you lack growth and have forsaken your time in Him for the rough road of following yourself and being lost in life. Your focus is on the physical water and not the living water. This woman's focus was the quenching of her physical thirst, which was lust, until she realized a much greater thirst that needed to be quenched. Her quality of life vastly improved, her seat into eternity was secured, and her entire being was transformed. Her barriers dissolved, and her life became filled with the Spirit, giving her joy and contentment. We have to be willing and able to drink His Living Water. The Spirit gives us the enablement; we have to take His lead and follow through so it touches all aspects of our life and relationships. If not, what good has it done? What kind of peace can you have without His living water?

 

What are the real reasons you do not spend as much time growing in your faith as you should? We all can come up with a multitude of good excuses, and even more lame ones. But, the end result is what life is all about, who we are in Christ, and the working out of our salvation so it means more than just a "get out of hell" card (Philippians 2). Are your other activities so important? To see if they are, consider this; how important will this activity be five or ten years from now? How important will your time be in Christ five to ten years from now? It would be a good bet that you will not even remember the activity. But, your growth in Him is eternal.

 

It does not make any difference how good your plans are or how successful you are. It does not matter if you have lost at everything you ever tried in life. It does not matter whatever your age or place in society. The only thing that makes a difference is your identity in Christ because what He has done for you. Only God can make us real and effectual; only He can give us meaning and purpose. He gives us physical life, and offers us eternal life. It is up to us, by faith, to apply His work. What we experience in life, what we go through, what we suffer through, what we give up-all are mere shadows compared to the Eternity to come. What we seem to lose is of no comparison to what we gain in Him!!!! But, the catch is, after it is offered, in order to grow and make it real, we have to put effort into it. Grace is free to us, but a gift of unfathomable cost to our Lord. In order to come closer, the woman took a chance, and an act of faith was exerted that expanded into boldness as she told her neighbors about Him.

 

Tom Landry, a famous American Football coach, once said, "The job of a coach is to make men do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they really want." That is what Jesus does. He puts us through circumstances we do not want to go through; He makes us face things we do not want to face, so that we can achieve what we have wanted with all our hearts all along. To do so requires the growth of faith and trust, so as to cut through those barriers that hinder us and hold us back. And, we must be equippers and encouragers to one another for this! That is what this incident at the well is all about.

 

The point I am trying to make is that all of us set up so many barriers and walls in front of our growth in Christ they cause us to hold back or stagnate from receiving and living the best He has for us. For a professional football player, the barrier is the willingness to play as a team for a unified goal. Seems simple, but a professional player and coach told me once this is very hard, because everyone on a team is out for only their own personal interests; getting them to play tighter as a team is the job of a coach-and a very difficult one at that. They do not want to do that, as it may bench some, reduce play, increase play, or follow plays they do not like to do. The players at that level are so good, any team has the potential to beat any other team regardless of past wins or losses. The star players bring in the fans and sell tickets, but they do not win the games. Only when a team coalesces and starts to have a unified vision and the togetherness to follow the best play plans, will it succeed. This is also true for the Christian and the Church. We have to be willing to play His way, as He is our Coach. We cannot afford to be in Christianity for self interests; to grow, and in order to play effectively and powerfully, we have to make His interests ours.

 

The choice is ours, to make it simple or complicated, to be hurt or to be happy. By simply following 1 Corinthians 12 - 13 and Galatians 5:22-23, you will be able to cross those barriers to discipleship and Christian growth. Your relationships will vastly improve because you will be acting as God calls you to, and people normally respond in kind to being treated in kind. The choice requires your faith in action and your growth in Him. It requires us all to recognize what Christ has done for us so our fears and letdowns do not become either our gods or our focus in life. He is the Focus, He is our God (Philippians 1:6; 27- 2: 11; 3:10).

 

The key to the success of finding and crossing those barriers is simple; it is obedience, the willingness to serve God over our needs, even before we know what the call may be, and taking this mindset into life and to others! To grow even further, we can be more contemplative in His Word and in prayer. God's will for our life is for us to totally surrender and trust in His power and authority, and to abide in Him. He will shape our destiny if we allow it. He will teach us His ways if we will walk in His ways. Trust yourself to our LORD and receive His call in order to build yourself as well as others up!

 

In Matthew 13:23, we see two key words that strike at the foundation of our compliancy, Hears… and Does. He calls us to wake up and do something with our faith, not to just sit in a pew and complain, or lay on a couch as life drifts by. A call is pronounced. An action must take place to secure that His precepts will cause an impact; we cannot just hear; we have to obey. Obedience is not in words, but in deeds that demonstrate our words through practice and action (James 1:22-25)! This is not about our salvation; it is about our worth and our impact. Our salvation by faith alone may secure us, but for what impact if we do nothing with it? When we read and/or hear the Word of God, as His elect, we will have the desire and heed the call to put it into action.

 

Yes, there will be times we do not feel like it. Life is tough; it is full of setbacks and hurts that seem to cripple us. So, do we go on permanent disability, unable to hurdle barriers that are really simple to climb? Did you know all it takes to tie down a horse is a simple leather strap? Did you know a horse could easily break it, like we can break a kite string? A horse does not do that because he thinks he is unable to do so! You are able to cross any barrier to grow in deeper worship and faith in Christ, because He is there with His healing power. When we ignore Him, we just end up stagnate in life, continuing in our hurting. Yes, we will struggle and hurt; we will need times to recover; but, we must make the determination to recover, and not remain disabled from abiding in Him. Obedience will override our feelings so that we will remain steadfast and secure (1 Thessalonians 2:23).

 

 

Discovery Questions:

 

Read John 4:1-26 and make some observations:

 

1.      When you were growing up, did your parents tell you not to associate with people of certain social classes or ethnicity? How did you feel about it? How have those feeling changed since Christ has become more rooted in you?

 

2.      How are prejudices a barrier to Christ?

 

3.      What are your thoughts about the Woman?

 

4.      What are the barriers that the Woman may have had to overcome in order to accept who Christ is?

 

5.      The question we have to ask ourselves is what barriers do we place in the way of growing in Christ? Consider personal and cultural barriers!

·        Barriers from knowing Christ further, about Him, His story, character…?

  • Barriers from growing in Christ, taking the time and effort in your spiritual walk?
  • Barriers from following His will?

 

6.      Maybe this is not a problem, but what perceptions and presumptions do you have that keep you from further growth in your sanctification?

 

7.      What holds you back?

 

  • Traditions?
  • Presumptions?
  • Time?
  • Commitment?
  • Understanding how important this is?
  • Trusting in His provision?

 

8.      What will it take for you to make a further commitment to pursue your faith and spiritual growth in a richer and deeper way? How can that help fuel you to further persevere in your spiritual gifts, relationships, opportunities, and purpose or call?

 

 

9.      How do His ways give freedom? 

 

Read John chapters 14 and 15: Knowing you are Christ's friend and are called to abide in Him:

 

10. What do you need to do, to be focused upon to build your life on His precepts?

 

11. Can you benchmark some goals? That is draw up a spiritual action plan, like a business plan is essential to establish vision and build a business, so is establishing a plan to build your faith.

 

a.      What is this plans goal?

 

b.      How will you accomplish this goal?

 

c.      Who will help you be accountable?

 

12. What can you do to see that these goals turn to reality and not trash?

 

 

·        Perhaps you can read through the Bible, all it takes is 12 to 15 minutes a day, see our Bible Reading Plans: Bible Reading Plans 

 

·        Perhaps you can commit to draw closer and deeper to our Lord, here is an article to help you: Drawing near to the heart of God

 

 

I hope you have been, and can be encouraged further in your faith, and that you are ready to trust the Lord in all of the circumstances in which you find yourselves-today, tomorrow, and even yesterday-knowing that our Lord is there and is responsive!

 

So, carefully consider any barriers in your thinking that block you from this core truth and reality of life: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. If you remain stuck, afraid to venture further in your faith and walk with Christ, you must seek why. Christ can make the difference for you; allow Him to do so. This can only happen with a heart that has been changed to a willingness to move ahead from where you are now.

 

Do not forsake your living water, your "gift of God."

 

Make sure you carefully check out theBarriers to Discipleship Chart
 

Richard Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries © 1992, revised 2004

Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California. He has amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.

 
 
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