Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Growing Spiritually in 2020 & Beyond | Guaranteed to Succeed

Summary:  I was born again 50 years ago in my mid-20s, through “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21, NASB). After five decades of serving the Lord, I still realize how short I still fall of the image of Christ to which God desires us to be conformed (Romans 8:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

In my home nation, the USA, 2020 promises to be a tumultuous year. We will have a presidential election. Centuries-long “ancient landmarks” of morality will probably continue to be discarded. In various places in the world, wars are likely to be fought, and perhaps increase.

We face much uncertainty. But this one thing I can guarantee you: if you follow diligently after the Lord and obey His Word the Bible, you will personally walk in victory in 2020, even if chaos surrounds you. Come see some of the Lord’s beautiful commandments and promises. These are things you can do! Will you join with me and determine before God that 2020 will be a year in which we obey the apostle Peter’s wise exhortation to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”? (2 Peter 3:18) Even after 50 years I need that growth, and I’m sure you would agree that you do too.

(Note: Please forgive the personal reflections I will offer below. They help me to frame these Scriptures in a living context, rather than just a teaching one.)

Love God with all that is in you

Matthew 22:37-38  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

There are hundreds of commandments in the Bible. Jesus said this is the “first and greatest” — that is, to love God with all that is in us. I greatly desire in this coming year to cultivate a stronger love relationship with God the Father and with His Son Jesus.

Love your neighbor

Matthew 22:39-40  “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This is a commandment I need and want to fulfill better. If all the other commands of the Law and the Prophets depend on these two, then Lord, help me to love not just you more, but also my “neighbor,” even those whom the world wrongly considers unloveable. Let me see everyone through your eyes.

Be given to prayer

Romans 12:12, NASB  [Be] devoted to prayer.”

Many Christians I speak to agree that prayer is not a strong point for them. I too want to strengthen and enlarge my prayer life.

Read and/or study God’s Word the Bible daily

Deuteronomy 17:19  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.

Israel’s king was to secure a copy of God’s Word and to read it every day of his life. We Christians who are “kings and priests” unto God (Revelation 1:6; 5:10, KJV) should follow that example and spend fruitful time daily in the Word of the Lord.

Let God’s Word be frequently on my lips

Jeremiah 23:28  …He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.

We all have the Word of God available to us. Let’s purpose to speak it faithfully to others. I have many times seen the profound impact of simply quoting a Scripture to a friend. Don’t hide that light under a bushel, but be ready and faithful to speak the Word of the Lord as God opens up the opportunity.

Be more worshipful throughout the day

Revelation 19:10d  Worship God!

One of the Bible’s shortest sentences reminds us of a simple thing: God is worthy of and is expecting our worship and praise. Take time often — even if just for a few brief seconds in the midst of a busy day — to thank and praise the Lord for His greatness and His goodness to you (Psalm 150:2).

Know God the Father and Jesus His Son more closely

John 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

In the private high school I attended, we studied Religion daily for 4 years. The same was true at the college I attended, where I studied 4 years of Theology. And yet for all that, I didn’t “know” God the Father and Jesus His Son. I only knew about them. Later on, in early 1969 during a Holy Spirit-prompted time of voraciously reading the Bible, I received the revelation of the Lord in the Scriptures and accepted Jesus as my Savior personally and came to truly know Him and God the Father in a genuine relationship sense. As Peter exhorted us in the Scripture in our opening Summary above, in 2020 I greatly desire to grow in my personal relationship with the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit).

Speak often in tongues

1 Corinthians 14:14-15  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

When a born-again Christian receives the subsequent baptism with the Holy Spirit, he or she will speak in tongues as the Spirit-given evidence. The apostle Paul emphasized the importance of keeping that gift stirred up — “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18). It is easy for Spirit-filled believers to let this slip. I am purposing in 2020 to be faithful daily to pray in tongues, as well as with my understanding, in order to have a balanced prayer life.

Become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice

Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22  [Seven times Jesus said] “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

My wife and I often cry out to the Lord for a greater sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit. May 2020 be for us (and you!) a year of increased perception of the Spirit’s voice.

Covet and stir up the gifts of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:31, KJV  Covet earnestly the best [spiritual] gifts.

2 Timothy 1:6, KJV  [Paul to Timothy] …stir up the gift of God.

The apostle Paul wrote extensively about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. In chapter 14 (King James), the apostle approved of the believers’ zeal for spiritual gifts and encouraged them to seek to excel in manifesting them for the edifying of the church (vs. 12). He exhorted them further to “covet to prophesy” (14:39) and to “desire spiritual gifts” (14:1). And as Paul wrote to Timothy, we should be faithful to “stir up” whatever gifts of God are in our lives from God for His service.

See the sick healed more and more

Mark 16:16-18  “And these signs will accompany those who believe … [18] they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

In Mark’s account of Jesus’ Great Commission, the Lord is quoted as promising believers that as we lay hands on the sick, the sick shall get well. My heart’s desire and prayer personally, and for you, is that we grow in faith in 2020 to see more and more divine healings as we step forth in faith in Jesus’ absolutely reliable promise.

Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:16, 22-23  So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… [22] the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Once many years ago I prayed a simple prayer to the Lord: “Lord, show me my faults.” He answered immediately by pointing me to some fruits of the Spirit where I needed some significant improvement. And that remains my prayer for 2020: “Lord, help me to grow, by your grace, in the fruits of your Spirit, so that I might daily become more and more conformed to your image. And especially may my life show an ever-increasing holiness.”

Rejoice in the Lord throughout the day

Philippians 4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

No matter what 2020 brings, I desire to have a heart that rejoices always. Not in earthly things, and certainly not in carnal things, but rejoicing always “in the Lord.” As Jesus Himself said to His followers, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). So we can rejoice — in the Lord! — even when all around us may be in chaos and turmoil.

Take time to fast and seek the Lord

Matthew 6:16  [Jesus said] “When you fast…”

Hmm, “when you fast,” said our Lord, not “if.” I am convicted by this. With the Lord’s grace and help, I hope to set aside more time in 2020 to fast and seek the Lord. Our church, led by our pastor’s devotion to this spiritual discipline, typically begins each year with a 21-day “Daniel fast.” It has borne good fruit over the years. I sense that there is wisdom and encouragement from the Lord to me personally to take time also throughout the year to draw apart and just seek the Lord.

Share Jesus Christ with humility yet boldness

Acts 1:5,8  [Jesus said] “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… [8] “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

As the late T.L. Osborne said well, the purpose of Pentecost, of being filled with the Spirit, is to give us “power [to] … be [Christ’s] witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” Most of us will remain in our own Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria (our home area). Some will go to the mission field. But all of us should receive and use Holy Spirit-given power to be Jesus’ witnesses to a lost world. Lord, grant us holy boldness, coupled with humility, to share the the Good News of salvation in Jesus with those around us.

Be an example, a role model, of a biblical Christian

1 Corinthians 11:1  [the apostle Paul said] “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

The world needs Christ-honoring role models. Your family and friends need godly role models. And we can be that to the extent that each of us “follows the example of Christ.” In ourselves we can’t do it. But as we allow Him to conform us increasingly to His splendid, faultless character, then we can become those flesh-and-blood, godly examples that people around us can look to. The apostle didn’t hesitate to put himself forth as a role model, consistent with his living after the example of our Savior. We can too.

Be a good, attentive husband, father, & grandfather

Ephesians 5:25; 6:4  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… [6:4] Fathers… bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Jesus’ love for the church is the example I am determined to follow in being a giving, loving husband to my wife.

And although my children are now adults with their own families, I’m thankful that my wife and I took the time when they were young to raise them up to know the Lord, His Bible, and His ways. And as we continue to serve the Lord, we can still have a wholesome influence for the Lord upon our grown children and upon [at last count] our 24 grandchildren.

Serve my church, my pastor, and others as opportunity presents

Mark 10:45  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus our Lord came “to serve…to give” even His very life for us. How can we His servants do any less! My hope in 2020 is to be one who serves the Church, its leaders, God’s people, and (as the Lord gives opportunity) others in my sphere of influence. Will power and good intentions alone won’t suffice. But the Lord by His Holy Spirit can and will guide us into situations where He would have us serve.

Continue to bear fruit in old age

Psalm 92:14  They will still bear fruit in old age.

At age 76 I'm retired from the workaday world. Or, as I like to put it, I’m retired “from office hours.” But I do have a compelling desire to continue to bear fruit for the Lord. My pastor occasionally has me fill in for him in the pulpit when he is away, and I enjoy helping out that way. And this website that you are reading today gives me an enjoyable opportunity to share God’s Word with a wider group of people seeking after God and His Word. I pray in 2020 that the reach of this website will increase more and more as part of the Lord’s Great Commission to preach and teach His Gospel to the nations.

Keep our lamps burning for the Lord!

Luke 12:35  [Jesus charged His followers to] …keep your lamps burning.

Oil in the Bible is a frequent symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (e.g., 1 Samuel 10:1,6; 16:12-13). Determine not to be like the five foolish virgins of Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25:1-12). To their own spiritual detriment, they failed to have at all times an abundant supply, a consistent flow, of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

May you and I and our families devote ourselves in 2020 to a year in which we love God deeply, honor His Son Jesus our Savior, seek God in His Word and worship and prayer, and determine to keeps our “lamps burning” brightly for Jesus each and every day. If we do these things that we’ve looked at today, I can guarantee that 2020 will be a year in which each of us will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

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©2019, James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.