2 Peter 3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day."
Spiritual maturity has two components: spirituality and maturity. Anyone who has been born of the Spirit can be said to be spiritual but the manifestation of the spiritual life is lived out as we walk by the Spirit and to the measure we are surrendered to His leading. Spirituality encompasses not only our walk in the Spirit but our whole identity in Him. What I mean by our identity in Him is that we live for Christ and in Christ to the point where the self has been obliterated and the only identity we know is the one we live in fellowship where we are lost in Him. This is literally a life out of this world.
Maturity however, is gradual and progressive and takes time dedication and spirituality. Two reasons I said maturity takes spirituality: the first one is that if you have not really been born of the Spirit, you will find out decades after decades in the pews you are not able to go on to spiritual maturity. In fact, you might even know the Bible by heart but it means nothing since even Satan knows the Scriptures. The second reason is that if we do not go on knowing Christ personally in a deep inner relationship and learn to live in oneness with Him, we can only mature to a certain extend. An example of what I just said could be the life of the Apostle Paul; we see his beliefs in Christ have been lived out in a way that has caused a complete inward transformation. In Philippians 3:7-14, Paul is living this life where everything in it, even past grace is counted as dung as he moved forward toward apprehending what Christ had apprehended him for. The distance he traveled meant nothing since there were so much more to be done and so far to go he had no time to gloat or live in past blessings as he lived moment by moment in His presence.
Take a look at the Pharisees, people in their time saw them as being matured in their faith, they were well respected for their knowledge and status, yet Christ could care less. He always goes beyond our showmanships, past our attitudes, motives, schemes, hypocrisies, masks, greed and ambitions straight to the heart. The problem with maturing in full stature is that it is closely linked to what extend we believe in Him since authentic beliefs will determine our lifestyle, attitude and motivation. Pastor Charles Stanley said in the Intouch magazine of 2008 "Though God is sovereign and omnipotent, many believers don't trust Him to guide them. Instead they think about obedience on a case-by-case basis, evaluating how the consequences of various choices might affect their life. But the Lord desires followers whose lifestyle is submissivein other words, people who've made a deliberate decision to surrender to His will in every circumstance." Sadly, I know Pastors and Elders living the Christian life on a case by case basis, yet they have been in the faith upward thirty years
Living a somewhat surrendered life tells God we are more willing to bring our definition of what we want to sacrifice and do not quite care about what pleases Him. Most of us feel quite satisfied because we think we have found loopholes in His Covenant with us so we redefined His terms, but we are kidding ourselves. When we surrender only sometimes it means the rest of the time we walk by sight and live the Christian life "outside in." This does not impress God and our response to the Gospel is not complete as we resemble to the Christians found in the Parables of the Wheat & Tares in Matthew 13:24:30. Our full surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit within makes it easier for Him to faithfully complete the good work God started in us. He is also constantly trying to get our attention, willing to help us cooperating through empowerment but we are so busy walking by sight according to our own will and often times hidden agenda, we do not have time for Him. One thing many of us do not realize is that there is a different depth in surrendering because we an only surrender to Him to the measure we know Him and this is one of the reasons He keeps calling us higher. Every time we answer in love to His call to come up higher, we find there are sacrifices to be made and another depth of trust in Him we did not know. Taking the step to trust Him every time is agonizing. But, you will come out with stronger, bolder and more faith.
Another component of Christ walking this earth was so that we have a perfect example of how the practice of Christianity is to be lived out, except He never said to go on doing it alone; nonetheless, He did say the Holy Spirit will help us. Christ lived His life in complete dependence to the Father. He did nothing on His own or for His own pleasure and glory. Not grasping well the concept of walking in the Spirit and because of unbelief in our heart, we also neglect the fact that we can move back and forth in this life while doing beautiful things for God in His name, showboating all sorts of programs, doing missionary works, put on healing shows and whatever tickles our fancy. Those tangible, quantative and easy kind of things which tend to bring us so much pleasure and satisfaction are just smoke screens if true Christianity has not been worked in our heart and soul by the Holy Spirit. I used the word easy in the above sentence in comparison to the pain of having true Christianity worked within.
Letting the Holy Spirit do His job and work out the truth within which in turn brings spiritual maturity is no picnic. It is this blind step of faith in Him, through surrender which goes completely against our nature that put us in a position to receive the truth. Beloved, the TRUTH is nothing else but Christ in His fullness. In my fifty fourth months in the wilderness when Christ showed me He was indeed the truth and each tiny word of the Bible is Him alive in His fullness, I could not sit down for hours and I kept walking with no aim just so my mind could take it in. As for my heart, I had no room to take all this truth in and I remember praying for a week to ask Him to please enlarge my heart since I had no room for even this truth, let alone learning more from the Holy Spirit. As I kept walking aimlessly the only words that kept coming out of my mouth was "the truth is a He not it". Understand that it isn't that I have not read it in the Bible before, I grasped the meaning with my understanding and with my mind, but I did not KNOW it according to God's revealed word in my inward parts and in my heart where it counts.
Same issue with Salvation, if God ever shows you what Salvation means by His standards you would never separate Salvation with each tiny word in the Bible and one would never utter those words we love saying in the Church "salvation is different from discipleship." Personally, when God revealed that itsy bitsy tiny bit of His Salvation plan to my soul, He showed me His plan is as big as the ocean. Instantly, I felt compelled to look into my left hand, and realized what I was holding onto so preciously as my own Salvation was so small, I threw it away. What is still strange to me is that I did not care that I did not have it anymore, I was not interested in going into that vast ocean that represented His plan either, but I had a need to go to Him and grab onto Him; He was so humongous, I could not reach further than what looked like His ankles. All I cared for was not letting go of Him!
Once we decide to let God be God in our lives by responding to His love in faith and abandonment to Him, we are free from forcing His word to fit our agenda, education, common sense, dreams, and intellect. We start hanging onto each kernel of His word because we are finding new spiritual depth as the Spirit teaches us. We become so focused as we walk like His single-eyed, devoted servant, we are kept by His power in such an awesome way that our abilities to hang on to Him isn't as important as He hangs on to us, and He stops us from wandering off at every turn because we are tied to Him. Our forefather's spiritual maturity isn't exclusively for them, it is for all of those who are truly committed to Him, and His word says He pays special attention to them too. (2 Chron.16:9) His word also promised us that He will divulge Himself to those who truly love Him in John 14:21. Please understand we are not talking about a perfect life here, just good old Christianity. Think about it, if He revealed so much of Himself to unbelievers and if He goes on carrying for people who would rather die than accepting Him, can you imagine the favors reserved for a true child of His?
As you go on possessing Him, it is amazing how the sermon of the mount makes sense to your soul and the virtues are worked out in your life one after the other. You are being merged with Him inwardly as you go on to maturity in Him. The more you merge with Him, the more you realize your spiritual bankruptcy which keeps your soul in a humble state because day after day, you are bewildered that this God knows you personally!
After decades in the Pews and behind the Pulpits, if you are not aware of the new heart, if being born again and walking in the Spirit are things that you have to assume are part of your Christianity, if abiding in Him totally escape you, then you should worry. Don't accuse Satan because it's too easy! Examine yourself! Be honest because He sees what's in your heart. Make a choice, because your name might be written in your Church's roaster as a member you have no assurance through the Holy Spirit that your name has been written in the book of life. So, you can either chose to go with the diluted Gospel around you and compare your holiness and righteousness according to the next person, or you can go straight to Him with an open heart in repentance. If you have not tasted the sweetness of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and you had to get yourself fake fruits to impress people around you and to convince yourself that you are okay with Him, then you need to get going before you kick the bucket. Beloved, if Christ shows your heart the state of the Church today and what we have done with His Salvation that caused His heart to lament for His bride, then you too you would speak the truth with boldness. Don't underestimate the severity of His judgment! Stop living in unbelief with limited perception! Stop living in ignorance of the truth, and stop living the Christian life backwards, "outside in." Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior! Hallelujah! My redeemer lived!
M.J. Andre has written the newly released Christian book "Apprehended & Apprehending"
The book is now availalbe on Amazon and Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble
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