Thu, 12/20/2018 - 7:00am



What Precedes Spiritual Growth?

It seems appropriate to say that in order for a believer to grow spiritually Christ must come into their life. There are two distinct views as to how Christ comes into one’s life.

       The first view says that at water baptism the Holy Spirit shows up and the infant or adult at this time becomes a child of God. Later, at Confirmation, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer in order to strengthen them for Christian service. At communion, Christ comes into the believer’s body by means of the elements of the bread and wine that turn into His literal body and blood according to a doctrine known as Transubstantiation, which causes the participant to evidence His qualities of character to others.

       The more a person partakes of communion, the more they come in contact with Christ’s literal flesh and blood. Another way to say this is, at communion deity shows up in the elements of the bread and wine and when consumed sanctifies the recipient’s soul. If this is indeed the case, then receiving communion would be the pinnacle of going to church.

        Surprisingly, the second view has nothing to do with water baptism, confirmation, or the elements of communion. This seems hard to believe. You would think that these views would have something or someone in common. They do, but this is not expressed in the same way. This view doesn’t stress Jesus coming into the believer’s body, but places the emphasis on another person coming into their body, this being a different member of the trinity, called the Holy Spirit.

        In John 6:37-39, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles. On the last day of this feast take a look at what he said.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

       Jesus didn’t say that whosoever believed in Him, would receive Him into their life. He also didn’t say that whosoever believed in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit will cause Him to come into their life. He said that whosoever believed in him and him only would receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean that by believing in Jesus the remaining members of the Trinity (God the Father and the Holy Spirit) are lesser in importance, but it is only by believing in him as to who he is and what he has done will procure the receiving of the Spirit.

      By the way, there is one more condition to mention that precedes believing in Jesus in order for the Holy Spirit to be received and that is to repent (to acknowledge one’s sins) to God the Father.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19)

But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20)

     Well, this view is quite contrary to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, isn’t it?

     With that said, how does spiritual growth take place?



How Does a Believer Grow Spiritually?

As a believer, what should be our desire? Depending on whom you ask, the answers will vary. It might be us asking for God to heal a sick friend, to help with our finances, to protect someone in the military, or to deliver someone from addiction. All of these are desires that most of us have probably asked God for at one time or another. Shouldn’t our desire be for God to come into our life and as a result cause us to evidence Christ-likeness?

      In 1977, at age 26, I came to know the Lord in a personal way. I found a church to attend, which was located in my home city. This was a church of about 100 members, whose male pastor was young and energetic. Had I been asked at that time about my desire, I would probably have said I wanted God to help me find a Christian girlfriend. Each of us has our own desire. What’s yours?

      As I continued to attend church services, something began to happen to me. I began to experience God’s presence (e.g. love, joy, peace, etc.). I can honestly say that at first I didn’t understand the messages at all, but I found a release from anxiety, worry, fear, insecurity, self-centered thoughts, etc. I would walk out of the church services with a smile on my face stretching from ear to ear. However, it didn’t always last for a long period of time because after I left the facility it seemed that the cares of this world would come back into my mind, along with insecurity, anxiety, worry, and fear.

      The more I attended to the gathering of the saints the less preoccupation I had with finding a girlfriend. I couldn’t wait to attend the next worship service in order to experience this new release from not only outward pressures, but also from my own internal mental and emotional battles. Something was going on in my life, but I didn’t know how to explain it in words other than to say that I knew God was doing a work inside of me.   

      Church services were held on Sunday morning along with a Bible study during the week. On Friday night, I would attend an affiliated church service in another part of the state whose speaker was the president of an affiliated Bible college. Each time I attended one of these assemblies I was not only impacted by God’s presence, but I slowly began to understand who I now was in Christ through the teaching of the Word of God. My desire for attending church was now two-fold. I wanted not only to continue to experience God’s presence, but I wanted to understand from the teachings how this spiritual reality could be experienced on a day-to-day basis.

       This is another way of saying, how does a Christian grow spiritually? There are two main views concerning this. The first, the Catholic view says that if the child of God follows the tenets of the faith, then their heart will be prepared to receive the literal body and blood of Christ at communion, which will sanctify their soul and evidence a Christ-like attitude toward others. What are the tenets of this faith that they are asked to observe?

       We mentioned them already in the Introduction, but I will briefly state them again. Be baptized in water; attend catechism, receive first communion, be Confirmed, go to church on a regular basis, confess your sins to a priest, attend the six days of obligation, and observe the two church fasts. If you want to grow spiritually, then follow what it is that the church says is necessary in order to prepare one’s heart for participating in communion. If you have tried to the best of your ability to follow these guidelines, then Christ will be received by you at communion. I have to admit this sounds pretty good. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that and God will come into your life. If this is the way to procure God’s favor, then why would I want to try another approach?

       There is an alternative approach to growing spiritually. Would you like to know what this is or are you satisfied with the initial approach?

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

      The apostle Paul is writing to the believers at Ephesus, instructing them to stop choosing to be controlled habitually by the use of alcohol, but to be continually filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit. Paul didn’t say to them, “Well if you drink less or not at all, you will be ok”, because he knew the answer for addiction, as well as for all of our problems is our reliance on someone else. This reliance is not on Jesus, but on the Holy Spirit.

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:13, 18)

     Uh oh, did I say something wrong? Our reliance should not be on Jesus, but on the Holy Spirit. Here is what I mean. According to this view we must repent and believe in Jesus in order to receive another member of the trinity into our life, this being the Holy Spirit. I do not deny that Jesus, when he walked on the earth, was not an example for us as to how we should walk (i.e. by hearing from God the Father and obeying him in the power of the Holy Spirit). This protocol should be our protocol. We, because of Christ, can approach God the Father on a moment to moment basis for answers to prayer, for strength, for guidance, for discernment, for recollection of scripture, for a personal word, etc. which he will provide for us by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

       Besides the Holy Spirit we also need something else which will help us grow. What it is, you ask? We need to have our mind renewed. What in the world does this mean? To be renewed in our mind means to apply God’s word in all areas of thought, so that human perspective is replaced with divine perspective. This, the word of God, along with the filling of the Holy Spirit will be what addresses our areas of weakness, propensities, passions, etc. So, we can say that being filled with the Holy Spirit means to be constantly controlled by Him in our mind, emotions, and will. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will express the nature of the Spirit filled life.

      Here is one brief example of being renewed in our mind. Let’s say that we have a propensity for monetary greed, then what should we do in order to address this desire or tendency. We need to find a verse that allows us to think with God’s perspective in this area. Well, here it is.

Let your conversation (manner of life) be without covetousnesss (monetary greed); and be content (depending on God’s providence; be happy; be satisfied) with such things as ye have (with what God has given you): … (Hebrews 13:5a)

      The word goes on to declare that the kingdom of God in our life is not what we eat or drink, i.e. obedience to doing this or that, but is righteousness (correct thinking, feeling, and acting), peace (regulating, ruling and harmonizing the heart), and joy (inner happiness) in the Holy Spirit.

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)

       The reason why meat and drink is mentioned was that in the early church there was an issue with consuming what had been offered as part of a sacrificial ritual in pagan temples. While this issue was eventually addressed, the idea here is that our Christian walk should not be based on outward observances, rituals, commandments, etc. If we sin mentally, verbally, or overtly we should confess this to God the Father. After which, we should put on (think with) the newness of thought (the divine perspective) that God has declared to us in his word. This will activate the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit, and thus his fruit (spiritual qualities) will be operational within us and manifested to others. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)

      There you have it. Two distinct approaches to spiritual growth. 

      One says follow the tenets of their faith. Do this, do that, don’t do this, and don’t do that. Prepare your heart in this manner so that when you partake of the elements of the bread and wine at communion a mystical occurrence takes place where they become Christ’s literal body and blood. When this happens and they are consumed the participant grows spiritually. The more often they partake of communion the more Christ-likeness will be evidenced to others such as there being a lessening of racial and national prejudices or neighborhood resentments, and an increase in neighborliness, compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others.

      The other view says that when we sin mentally, verbally, or overtly we should confess this to God the Father. Following this, we should be renewed in the mind (applying God’s word in all areas of thought, so that human perspective is replaced with divine perspective), which triggers the filling 

(control) of the Holy Spirit, whose spiritual qualities of character become operational within us and expressed toward others thus evidencing Christ-likeness.

       Which approach will you adopt?

       We are nearing the close of this topic. The final chapter is next, where we will summarize what we have presented throughout this book. Whether you have chosen to believe or not that the elements of communion turn into the literal body and blood of Christ during communion at least your decision in this matter will be based on a more thorough understanding about this topic.




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