Thursday, April 23, 2015

racing forward to spiritual maturity

Today, I will be writing about a topic that is difficult for me to address. Admittedly, I am uncomfortable bringing it up, but I do feel that even though it may be difficult, it is honest and in need of our attention. I also know that the Holy Spirit has been pushing me to talk about it. So here we go...

Today, let's talk about our maturity.  Specifically, SPIRITUAL MATURITY.

The reason this subject is particularly hard for me to address is because I know it is inevitable that I will receive countless emails from readers who want to engage in a theological argument about what I believe salvation really means (faith alone vs. faith plus works). So, before we go any further, let me say this... I am not interested in getting into a theological debate with anyone. If you wish to know in depth my beliefs regarding salvation, please visit DW's formal website at www.thedevotedwoman.org and read our statement of faith under the "What We Believe" section.

However, in the interest of expediting time, I believe that the Christian doctrine of salvation is about complete deliverance and eternal freedom offered by the grace and mercy of God from an eternal punishment for sin. It is granted to those who accept God’s condition of repentance and trust completely in the Lord Jesus as their God and King. This salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is dependent on God for provision, assurance, and security.

Of course, the debate of "faith alone" verses "faith plus works" has caused quite a controversy throughout history (ultimately causing the Reformation). So, to avoid any argument, let's look directly at what the scriptures say about the matter. Compare with me Romans 3:28, 5:1, Galatians 3:24 and then James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul's writing and James' writing.  Paul dogmatically tells us that our justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be claiming that justification is by faith plus works. So which is right? The good news is, they both are! If you further examine what James is stating, you will see that he is arguing that a person who claims to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, cannot live a life of following Christ without also then producing good works. (James 2:17-18). Why? Because Jesus is God... and God is GOOD!

James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life that showcases the goodness of our Savior (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly saved by faith alone will have good works in their life because they have accepted God's gift to be a new creature in Jesus.

This is in total agreement with Paul who talks about the spiritual fruits that should be recognizable in the Christian life (Galatians 5:22-23). Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created by God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). That makes total sense since our whole existence was intended for the purpose of glorifying our GOOD God.

In summary, both Paul and James state the same thing. Salvation is by faith alone. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Phew!  OK, well not that that has all been said, let's talk about Spiritual Maturity.

Take an honest look at your present relationship with Jesus. Are you following Him at all cost? Do your actions and works point to Him as the FIRST PRIORITY in your life? I know these are hard questions, but if you have accepted Jesus to be the Lord of your life, are you growing and maturing in your faith? Do you strive to know Him regularly? Spiritual maturity in Christ is a lifelong process, but I feel compelled to ask... Where are you in the process? What is your relationship with God?

Why do I ask? Well, I frequently speak with many Christian women who have claimed that they accepted Christ earlier in their lives. Yet, most seem to still be standing at the starting line of their faith when it comes to their relationship with the Lord. They are like infants who have not developed or grown. Most have not taken the time to really know and understand God's Word. And many are not at all eager, or even know how, to share the gospel message with others. This is concerning!

The writer of Hebrews spoke with caution concerning the spiritual maturity of the believers in his day. As he begins to give an explanation of the heavenly priesthood of Christ in Hebrews chapter 5, he is not sure his readers are ready for what he has to teach to them. The problem is not that he is a bad teacher, but that they have become slothful. He refers to their condition as a kind of spiritual apathy that has prevented their development. Read what he wrote to these believers...

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. (Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6:1a)

He writer continues addressing the matter in chapter 6 by actually warning them against becoming lazy in their faith...

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case — things that accompany salvation... We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Friends, we must not take this matter of spiritual maturity lightly. We each need to be disciplined to follow God over our own selfish desires and comfortable routines every single day. I bring the topic to the table to challenge each of us (myself included) to choose to LIVE IN CHRIST NOW - AS A NEW CREATURE DESTINED FOR ETERNITY IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD ALMIGHTY!!! We are not to remain as infants in our faith. Rather, let's crave His solid food... the "meat" of the Word.  Let's dig in deep and know Him as much as possible.

An immature believer can listen to any preacher, teacher or leader out there and not be able to identify whether or not God's truth is really being stated. We must not be like that.  We must KNOW God personally. We must follow Paul's advise and exercise ourselves into godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). We must be able to discern good from evil and follow through with what is good and pleasing to our Master. We must step up and be ready to serve and do whatever the Holy Spirit leads us to do. Let's LIVE our faith and not just talk about living our faith!!!

It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life. You are either moving forward and claiming God's blessings and promises, or you are moving backwards and wandering about aimlessly in sin and lukewarm living.  Christ has gone to heaven to prepare an eternal place for us so that one day we may follow. As followers of Jesus, we must progress in our spiritual maturity and prepare ourselves for our Almighty King. God has made it possible for us to do this and become more like Christ each day! So, wake up your faith and be alert!  Avoid drifting away from the Word (Hebrews 2:1-4), or doubting the Word (Hebrews 3:7-4:13). Don't let Satan distract you from God's promises and cause you to become lazy in your spiritual growth. Keep your focus! Lay hold of Christ and secure your eyes on Him alone! Let's not live close to the starting line of this race. Let's claim the fruit of the Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to work in us so that we can run with endurance and become mature believers who are always ready to do God's eternal GOOD.

We can do all things in Christ TODAY because we are His! So let's GO GO GO!!!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

1 comment:

  1. Excellent teaching! Good works is a supernatural extension of our salvation. If God created us for a purpose, then good works is essential for living righteously in this world as a believer. It is the evidence of our faith. Belief in Jesus Christ is essential to eternal salvation. Love it!

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