PART 7 FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN
PART 7 FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN
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.
But what should we be seeking God for in respect to ourselves?
Earlier in this study, we talked about the reasons why our misperceptions about Christ have inhibited God the Holy Spirit from coming into our lives and making His abode there. Along with this, clear instruction was provided as to how this spiritual reality could take place in our life. If we followed this directive and have received the Spirit, you will find yourself at a place where I was in my spiritual condition at the young age of 26. Let me tell you about my experience.
In 1977, 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 comprised of about 100 members whose male pastor was young and energetic. Had I been asked at that time about my spiritual desire, I would probably have said that 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 did find 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, unfortunately, it didn’t always last for a long period of time because after I left the facility it seemed like 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 mornings 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 assembly gatherings, 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 along with how to address areas of personal weakness. So, 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 to address my inadequacies. In essence, what I was really desiring is the answer to this question.
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. Second, there is another approach to growing spiritually which is described as being filled with the Spirit. Filled with the Spirit? What is this all about?
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.
The apostle Paul was writing to the believers at Ephesus, instructing them to stop choosing to be controlled habitually by the abuse of alcoholic consumption 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 another member of the trinity, this being the person of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:13, 18 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.
Uh oh, did I say something wrong? Our reliance should not be on Jesus but on the Holy Spirit. Here is what I mean. 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 growing in wisdom, by hearing from God the Father, and by 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 the recollection of Scripture, for healing, for a personal word, etc. which He will provide for us by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So, to be filled with the Spirit means to be under the Spirit’s control or rule.
Romans 12:2 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.
Besides the Holy Spirit, we also need something else which will help us grow. What it is, you ask? We need to have our minds 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 further 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 Him, we will express the nature of the Spirit-filled-life which could also be termed as exhibiting Christ-likeness.
Let me give you one brief example of what it means to be 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? What we need to do is find a verse or verses that allows us to think with God’s perspective in this area. Well, here is one verse in this regard.
Hebrews 13:5a 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):…
The Word of God goes on to declare to us that the kingdom of God in our life has nothing to do with what we eat or drink, i.e., in 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) by means of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The reason why meat and drink are 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.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we sin mentally, verbally, or overtly we should confess this to God the Father. After this, we should put on (think with) the newness of thought (the divine perspective) that God has declared to us in his Word.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:24 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 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
This will activate the filling of the Holy Spirit, and thus His fruit (His spiritual qualities) will be operational within us and manifested to others.
You might be thinking, is there a verse that supports the last statement. There is.
1 John 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
The word keepeth according to the Koine Greek, the common language of the people at the time, means to keep on continually keeping. Keeping what? Keeping the word. This refers to all that God has made known to us as to His will in regard to our conduct. When we keep on keeping God’s perspective as it pertains to our conduct in Him, God’s love produced in us by the Holy Spirit will be perfected. Any guess as to what the word perfected means? This word means that God’s love will be manifested or exemplified.
There you have it; two distinct approaches to spiritual growth.
One says to follow the tenets of the 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.
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/recovered in the mind (by applying God’s Word in all areas of thought, so that human perspective is replaced with divine perspective), which triggers the filling of the Holy Spirit, whose spiritual qualities of character will become operational within us and expressed toward others thus evidencing Christ-likeness.
Wow! Two entirely different approaches to spiritual growth. Who would have thought such to be the case?
We are nearing the close of this study. Closing remarks are next, where we will summarize what has been presented throughout this book. Whether you have chosen to continue to believe that the elements of communion turn into the literal body and blood of Christ during communion or have changed your mind about this teaching at least your ultimate decision in this matter will be based on a more thorough understanding about this topic. Don’t you agree?
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