You Who are Spiritual Part 2

What is the impetus for spiritual growth? How many of us would vote for difficulties, challenges and the opportunity for offence? There is an expression, ‘Character isn’t formed in crisis, it is revealed.’ I think there is truth in that thought, though I think how we respond in these situations can deepen and help mature us, they real secret behind spiritual maturity is what we do when not in crisis. Look at what Paul penned.

1  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2  through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4  and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:1-4 (NKJV)

1  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; Romans 5:1-4 (NASB)

I have provided this passage in two translations because the NASB brings out the idea of ‘proven character’ in verse 4. That is, something is established and the test or crisis reveals or proves the reality of it. So what is the process above?

At conversion we are at peace with God and receive His peace, His shalom in our life. We stand by exercising our faith to access His grace. As Hebrews says, we can come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Our long term view should now be that we shall be revealed in glory with Jesus and His glory revealed in us (Rom. 8:28-30). Based on this reality we will sow into our relationship with Jesus on a daily basis and view difficult times as an opportunity to reveal Jesus character that has been worked into our lives.

While many may reject this course it is the pattern that is established in scripture. If our focus is on eternal realities we will have the heart and attitude of Paul and will come to spiritual maturity much more quickly.

 17  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NKJV)


You Who are Spiritual Part 1

What is the mark of a spiritual man or woman in the church? To set the stage a bit, in 1 Corinthians chapters 2 and 3 Paul distinguishes between the carnal (immature) and the spiritual (mature). In 1 John, John presents three levels of spiritual maturity. The many exhortations to growth in the New Testament letters point to the reality that spiritual growth is like natural growth, it is a process. At the same time, while age is inevitable, both spiritually and naturally, maturity is optional. I am sure we have all met middle-aged adults who are emotionally immature. Maturity is not automatic.

So what marks spiritual maturity? Is it amazing revelatory experiences? A profound knowledge of the scriptures? How about neither? As a new believer Paul, for example, had both but if you carefully read his letters he was also somewhat arrogant as a young believer in spite of his great knowledge, or perhaps because of it. Having an apostolic anointing did not automatically make him mature. That required time and process.

What is the scriptural perspective on spiritual maturity? Look at the passages below.

13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)

             1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 6:1-4 (NKJV)

24  And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25  in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26  and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NKJV)

Spiritual maturity is marked by discernment, emotional maturity, gentleness, deep respect and love for Jesus and His body, the church, and an awareness that we too are susceptible to falling. Given that, how are we doing?


The Truth is in Jesus Part 2

Continuing with the idea of finding and living out of the simplicity that is found in a relationship with Jesus I will quote a Christian from many generations ago and a present day believer. Jeanne Guyon lived from 1648-1717 in France. She spent a good portion of her adult life imprisoned for her faith because she bypassed all the trappings of the Catholicism she was born and raised into; instead of elaborate rituals she said it was easy to encounter and know Jesus living within. The current version of her most famous book on prayer is entitled, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.”

While there is an element of spiritual passivity in her writing, something we want to avoid, her basic instruction was sound then and is still sound now. Guyon believed that once we were converted we were all called to a deep and rich inner life with Jesus. She encouraged us to actually believe the scriptures, that Jesus is in us, and in trust turn within to encounter Him. Those of us who have this choice can attest to the reality of what she wrote.

In a similar vein let me quote a recent email article by Steve Thompson, “The essence of Christianity is how we understand and relate to God and He to us. The essence of Christianity is Christ inside you. It is not about us worshipping a distant God from inside a church building, but rather loving, worshipping, and following Christ who lives inside us, wherever we are.”

My own experience over the years is that what Guyon and Steve have written is true and is indeed simple, it simply requires a daily focusing of our hearts upon Him within and developing the habit of paying attention to our spirits throughout the day because that is where we encounter Jesus. When we learn to turn and tune our heart to His heart it becomes a habit where we hear His wisdom in ‘secular’ work situations, are at rest in rush hour traffic (does it really only last an hour?), and bring life to those around us wherever we are.

While I have failed in maintaining this communion many times over the years, I choose to look to the fruit of when I have maintained it. I have life and encouragement to offer people, I receive comments on there being something different about me. Those who don’t have ‘Christian’ vocabulary or thinking often tell me I am very zen. I accept the compliment in the spirit in which it is given as I and they know I am not a Buddhist, I am however in these moments given an opportunity to affirm and release life.

So I encourage to take some scriptures and believe them. Start with the sample below then find others to apply to your heart. Search the gospels and come to Jesus and enjoy life.

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

8  Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)


The Truth is in Jesus Part 1

I am sure most of us are familiar with John 14:6 where Jesus referred to Himself as the Way, Truth and Life. However, I want to look at something Paul wrote in Ephesians.

20  But you have not so learned Christ, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV)

In this passage Paul made two very interesting little statements. First, the truth is in Jesus, secondly, Paul said we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.

What is he referring to in making these statements? This short passage is in essence saying the same thing as Galatians 4:19. The truth of walking with Jesus is encountering Him within. As we deepen our relationship with Jesus through experiential knowledge of Him, rather than information about Him, we are renewed in the spirit of our minds and Christ is formed and made manifest within us. This presentation of how to know Jesus permeates Paul’s writings. I have already referenced Ephesians and Galatians. Look at the oft quoted verse below.

27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

The risen living Christ active within us is the heart of the gospel. If you read through Romans chapters 6-8 you will find this same message in different language. Paul’s message was all about knowing Jesus and being firmly rooted in the reality that our Christian walk is about getting to know, learn from and depend on the one living within us at the new birth. Paul knew no other form of Christianity. For Paul it wasn’t complicated. In fact his concern was that we would get caught up in complicated teaching in place of knowing Jesus. Look at what he wrote to the Corinthians.

3  But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)

Our Christian walk is a call to simplicity. If it is becoming increasingly complicated who did Paul say was behind it? We are called to the simplicity that is found IN Jesus. Is simplicity working in our lives?