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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Spiritual Maturity

I've been writing extensively on spiritual maturity as of late, it's necessity in the Christian walk, our need to grow, to press ever onward toward the prize. Since I will be out of the country for seven days starting tomorrow, I've decided to post a somewhat longer writing, an excerpt from the soon to be published prophetic times magazine on the Christian walk. Thank you all for your prayers, and for your concern for each other, it shows in action, what it is to be a bond servant of Christ, and a member of God's family.
Mention spiritual maturity to some, and they will react as though you’ve happened upon a sinister and taboo topic. Others consider spiritual maturity a topic for the elders of the church, the evangelists and the preachers, those in leadership, in any case, not for them. In order to achieve spiritual maturity, sacrifice is required of the individual, and too many consider that throwing some loose change in the offering plate every service is sacrifice enough. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual maturity is not reserved only for the select few in leadership, but is a requirement and necessity for every individual who has yoked themselves to Christ, and began their journey toward perfection, sanctification, and the deeper mysteries of God. Just as growing and maturing physically is a natural process of this present life, so is growing and maturing spiritually. When one remains in a state of spiritual infancy, he becomes easy prey for the wolves and the enemy that roam about, looking for their next victim, the next soul they can corrupt, and the next heart they can defile.
The Word continually encourages us to grow, to pursue the deeper things, to ascend from grace to grace, and from glory to glory. Our journey is a process, wherein we are weaned off milk, and begin to consume solid food, and we begin to hear the voice of God for ourselves, understand the Word for ourselves, and eventually stop relying on surrogates to nourish us spiritually.
Many a soul should be further along in their spiritual maturity than they are, and the constant reaffirmations by some in Christian leadership that growth is not necessary, is largely to blame for this spiritually underdeveloped generation.
In his letter to the Hebrews, apostle Paul addressed just such a deficiency and lack of spiritual maturity. He reproved them for their lack of growth, and for their need to continue consuming milk rather than solid food.
Hebrews 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

Childhood is beautiful. The carefree days spent doing trivial things, the wonder of it all as we discover the world beyond our front door, the excitement of the first day of school, the rush of our first schoolyard tussle. The list goes on and on, the memories growing more vivid the further along we came into maturity, the sense that each new day was a new chapter, which held a new discovery, a new experience, something worth looking forward to.
As all things temporal must, the season of our childhood passes. We are children for a blink of an eye, then comes the part time job, then the full time job, marriage, mortgages, car loans, pension plans and family doctors. A child cannot remain a child forever. One cannot be forever young, forever carefree, forever absent of responsibility or maturity. If one remains in a constant state of infancy, eventually the parents grow worried, concerned, perturbed, and seek help realizing something is very wrong. The child that should have grown hasn’t grown, he is not maturing at the same rate and speed as the others are, and this is a reason for concern for most parents.
Discipleship is necessary but if its time passes, and the disciple does not become skilled, if he is not well on his way to mastering his skill, it is all in vain, an exercise in futility. We are Disciples of Christ, because our desire is to one day be like Him. The desire of every true believer is to one day be like His master. We are daily formed, daily molded, daily chiseled, and daily matured, allowing the nature of Christ to take hold, to shine in us and through us.
This present life requires growth, whether physical or spiritual. It is necessary, mandatory, and a natural law. If growth and progress are not found, if we become bogged down in a state of static existence, wherein we are not moving forward in our faith, we can no longer hope to ascend to the greater things of God. Only by spiritual growth are we entrusted with greater responsibility, greater power, greater revelation, and greater intimacy. A spiritually mature man or woman realizes the true value of their relationship with God, and they nurture it, they protect it, being watchful not to allow any stumbling blocks to stand in the way.
A spiritually mature soul has gone beyond the first principles of the oracles of God. They have laid the foundation, and now they are building the temple. One must learn the first principles, first, but always strive go grow beyond the first principles of the oracles of God. One cannot bypass the first principles, and hope to gain instant understanding of the deeper mysteries of God. As the old adage states, first things, always come first.
In many instances we can view our spiritual growth as a ladder. One cannot climb to the top of the ladder, unless he has started out on the bottom rung. Each rung of the ladder has its own relevance, its own importance, because with each step we take we ascend higher to our desired goal. Many souls climb the first few rungs, and then settle comfortably, thinking there are no more rungs to the ladder. Three feet off the grown, and some already believe they’ve ascended to the highest highs of God’s wisdom, knowledge and glory.
By adopting the mindset that we have already attained, when we have not attained, that we have already achieved when we have not achieved, we grow complacent, stagnant, indifferent, and great only in our own minds. When such a mindset worms its way into a heart, it quickly becomes unreachable, for one who already believes he knows all there is to know, can no longer be taught.
It becomes a chain reaction of events, that lead up to the sin of pride springing up in the heart, and we become blinded by our own self proclaimed genius, no longer willing to take direction even if that direction happens to come directly from the Word of God.
Though many ought to be teachers by now, their own self-destructive tendencies and the pride they allowed to take root in their hearts make them need milk once more rather than solid food, and makes it necessary for them to reacquaint themselves with the basic principles, and first oracles of God.
A spiritual walk has its own natural progression. Spiritual growth comes about naturally when we humble ourselves and strive to grow in God. It is the Father’s good pleasure to see us grow and mature, to see constancy in our spiritual journey. In order to attain what He has for us, we must become what He desires us to be.
A Christian who has remained in a state of spiritual infancy, is not troubled by the sin in his life. He has as yet not come to realize the dangers of sin, just as a baby has not realized the dangers of touching a hot stove, or sticking its fingers in the wall socket. There are certain things we perceive only when we are older, just as there are spiritual matters we perceive only when we have matured spiritually.
One lacking spiritual maturity is readily adamant in defending his doctrine, or theology, even if it contradicts the Scripture. Pride does not allow him to see the truth, and so he presses on in his ignorance attempting to bring others to his way of thinking.
The telltale signs of an immature Christian are plentiful and easy to detect if one knows what they are looking for.
The life of an immature Christian is a life of defeats, absent of peace, absent of balance, and absent of joy. An immature Christian cannot overcome, for he trusts in his own strength. He has as yet, not surrendered himself in his entirety to the will of God, and inevitably suffers the consequences of disobedience.
Romans 7:20, “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”

One, who is spiritually immature, does not possess the fruit of the Spirit. He is a barren tree, producing no fruit. The spiritually immature soul is always aided, and learning from others, never coming to the knowledge of truth on his own. There are always crutches, security blankets, surrogates, for he is unable to consume solid food.
Another telltale sign of an immature Christian is that he is always suspicious. An immature Christian is always in pursuit of his own self-interests. He is in constant search of vainglory and chooses not to see the good or the nobility in others. His desire is only for himself, his own honor and his own praise.
The life of an immature Christian is also formalistic and hypocritical. Rather than serve God, he uses God, as though He were some benevolent genie ready to grant every wish and desire of the heart. His interest is not in establishing a relationship, or intimacy with the heavenly Father, but to profit from the acquaintance, feigning worship only inasmuch as it will aid him in achieving his desired result.
What I find interesting is that in his epistle to the Hebrews Paul’s first warning was concerning dangers of neglect, his second warning concerning the dangers of unbelief, and his third and final warning concerning the danger of not maturing. Once the have passed the first two hurdles in their spiritual journey, many souls succumb to the third, remaining in a state of spiritual infancy whereby they are unable to enter into the blessings of God. It is not enough to give earnest heed to the things we have heard, nor is it enough to believe, we must also grow in God, mature spiritually that we may ascend from being mere babes in Christ, to being soldiers for Christ.
To know the nature of Christ, both physical and spiritual is considered a first principle, a truth, which we learn in the beginning of our walk with Him. To know him as our great High Priest, perpetually merciful and faithful, is a deeper truth we come to know only as we grow in God.
There are many believers who are satisfied with the fact that they have received forgiveness of sins, that their conduct is somewhat better than those of the world, and that they have access to the eternal. What more could a soul want? Is this not enough? When we adopt the mentality that we can be satisfied in the knowledge we already retain, that we have traveled far enough wherein we can afford to take a break, to slumber a little, to rest of our weariness, we run the risk of losing everything.
To me, the book of Hebrews is a cautionary tale; a warning to all who have spiritual ears to hear, that we ought not grow lazy, slothful, indifferent, or satisfied, that we ought not neglect so great a salvation. Ever onward should be our battle cry, and as faithful servants we ought not allow anything to keep us from growing in Christ.
Only by growing in knowledge and understanding can we perceive the beauty that is the deeper mystery of God. Only then can we begin to understand the full work of Christ’s blood not only on earth, but that it opened the doorway to heaven, to the eternal, wherein we can dwell in the holy place, in constant fellowship with Him.
It is lamentable that having so much accumulated knowledge in our present generation, concerning all that encompasses the Word, spirituality, theology, doctrine, the work of the Holy Spirit, and anything having to do with God, we still remain so ignorant concerning the greater things of God. It’s not a lack of materials we suffer from, nor is it the lack of the Word, for it is plentiful, it is lack of true desire and purpose to know the fullness of He who redeemed us from darkness and death.
Yes, by now we ought to be teachers, we ought to be ambassadors, we ought to have the ability and desire to passionately tell others of the saving grace that is found in Christ Jesus. It is the duty of every believer to become a teacher, a confessor, a light, a testimony, to be salt, an emissary of Christ here on earth. When the love of Christ fills a heart, it does so to overflowing. It is tragic that so rarely do we see the overflow in the lives of believers, that so many are content with the status quo, and so few desire more of God in their lives.
It saddens God to see so many of His children dependent, waiting to be fed, and so few feeding others. It is a state of sickly infancy, of spiritual immaturity, and it is not beneficial to anyone. Most often this condition is allowed to perpetuate itself due to the false beliefs so many have concerning salvation, considering it only a selfish means of security, covering their bases just in case. They never grow to know God in the intimate way He desires to be known, they never pursue or desire spiritual gifts, because all they really wanted was to know they were getting into heaven. They raised their hand, said the sinner’s prayer, and for far too many, this is sufficient, it is enough, no more labor or sacrifice needed. If our only reason for coming to God, was to escape eternal punishment, if love does not overflow in our hearts, and we feel no empathy for those who are lost in the world, we are still babes in Christ, in need of being taught again, the first principles of the oracles of God.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

11 comments:

amy said...

This is so good brother Mike. Thank you!

As a young person I remember thinking that spiritual maturity would mean I would be above and beyond my weaknesses, that I would have such confidence and faith that nothing would shake me, and that I would love everyone. Because I was impressed by observing that in believers I considered mature. However, I have come to discover that it is not the absence of weakness or struggle or even getting to a place of not being affected by it or shaken that makes one grow and mature. It is faith and obedience despite that. James points out that Elijah was a man just like us, yet he got so discouraged he laid down to die. But when the angel strengthened and enabled him, he obeyed and got up and kept on. Job and David poured horrible feelings and thoughts out of themselves before God. When I get to know mature believers more personally and intimately and listen and watch what goes on behind the scenes of what looked to me like unshakeable faith and effortless love, I realize that what I saw and admired was Jesus in them, not some super spiritual person they had become, and only they knew how much doubt or discouragement or ugliness they struggled with privately before the Lord. But their life was hidden in Him, and His life is what came forth. It is only in our weakness that the Lord is able to show Himself strong. Our flesh never grows up. Our old nature never changes. It is only Jesus in us, the hope of glory, and His life that is growing in us. All we can do is abide in Him and yield to Him, obeying Him, and the growth will happen.

r.leigh said...

Thank-you once again for true words, straight from the heart of our Father! Having been raised in a church that taught emphatically we no longer relate to God or receive from God in supernatural ways, but only exclusively from the Bible, I was trained to NOT want more. But the knawing hunger would not leave my heart, thanks to His faithful persistence in drawing us closer to Himself. Unfortunately, I went from that group of believers to those who did believe in the supernatural gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit but only as a means to an end--that end being personal prosperity and self-centered comfort and joy. Again, thanks to His persistence and faithfulness, He drew me away, brought me apart. In my blindness I thought all was lost--every close friend, relationships with my own extended family, everything that had propped me up in my spiritual weakness. How dark those times can seem, how desolate, until some despair even of life or of following Him. But He is so faithful, so everlastingly persistent, so consumed with love for His little ones--He does not want to lose even one of us to the darkness. He showed me one particularly difficult day, when I was feeling overwhelmed by darkness and desolation and abandoned by Him (such a lie from the pit of hell!), that the darkness was in one sense a place of blessing. I had been doing some research for my garden and came across a fact that astounded me--plants need the darkness to grow, and without the necessary amounts of darkness they weaken and die. He brings us into times of testing, times of difficulty, or more often uses difficult times that are of our own making, to grow us and mature us into all that we are supposed to be. It is part of what makes the propsperity doctrine so odious--believers are taught to keep themselves in a place of constant superficiality, seeking only the places of ease, until they wither and die and are overcome by the enemy. How grateful we should be when He takes us through difficult, trying, painful times! It is something I am learning day by day, and I am so grateful for your ministry and for all the believers who comment on your postings--I had given up on finding true believers in this country. But here we are, sustained by His faithfulness and mercy and drawn together by the working of His Holy Spirit! Praise and glory to Him, now and forevermore! May He bless and protect you as you are out of the country, and supernaturally empower you to complete the tasks He has for you in His kingdom.

Mrs. Pugh said...

Ouch. I was feeling pretty confident right up to the paragraph about being suspicious. Blame it on an abusive childhood, or whatever you like... but I am. I pray God that I'm not one trying to promote myself, but if I'm honest I have to admit I don't always trust the intent of others. Hmmm, perhaps I haven't surrendered all after all.
Thank you again Mr. Boldea, for your insight that makes me inspect my own state.

Mrs. Pugh

Andrew said...

Greetings Michael in Jesus Name,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about spiritual maturity and its importance in the lives of the saints.

The pages of scripture are littered with teachings about spiritual maturity and the necessity for us to grow up into Him who is the head. Being a follower of Christ is such a high calling and most of us like the idea of becoming an overcomer and the subsequent rewards that follow, but few are willing to pay the price to obtain such a great salvation.

I have been listening to a narration of Paul Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress recently and there is one character in the story that epitomizes the 21st century believer in America. His name is Mr. By-ends and he is what could be called a fair-weather Christian. He only wants to be a Christian when it "walks in golden slippers in the sunshine and with applause", but not when "its is in rags and held in contempt."

Jesus said that in this life you will have tribulation and that it is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of God. Furthermore, Paul says to the Philippians that we are called not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him. Most evangelist today fail to mention this part when they are plucking unripe fruit and begging people to "make a decison for Christ" and to ask "Jesus into their hearts."

No one preaches the cross anymore and consequently, this is the reason why so many fail to become mature sons and daughters of God in this generation. It is
also probably why Jesus prophesied about this present generation by saying, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" The condition of the American church today reminds me of the parable of the sower and the seed that fell among thorns. Luke 8:14 reads, "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures,
and they do not mature." It seems that many start the race well (ie. "Many are called..."), but only a few actually mature and grow up into Him who is the head,
enduring until the end and are saved (ie. "..,but few are chosen").

To the sleepy bride:

"The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." (Romans 13:11)

"To this you were called, because Christ sufferred for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:21)

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (Hebrews 10:36)

Saints of the Most High God, let us not be those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who believe and are saved. If thou has run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?

Michael, keep admonishing us to grow up in our salvation and to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and all the saints,

Brother Andrew

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michaeal for writing this blog. Your words seem to be just what I need to hear at exactly the right time! Prayers and blessings to you and your family. Have a safe trip.

Christine

Elm Street Chapel said...

Amen Michael.
This is what the Holy Spirit of God is saying these days. This is the book that tastes sweet in the mouth bitter in the belly. The reality of being called and chosen is in speaking the truth in this time, not in condoning childish and foolish practices. Not rehashing yesterday’s manna for those who do not like lumps in their baby food. But in speaking the truth in love, strong meat for those who can and will eat. Jesus spoke in proverbs to sort out the wheat from the chaff: the hearing but not understanding hard hearted, from those to who it is given to have ears to hear. But understanding is given to those who treasure it above the pleasures for this world, above pride, above their own flesh, their own comfort.

The understanding of the pearl of great price comes to mind. Those who do not understand what is necessary to make a perfect pearl of great price could barely comprehend the parable. A pearl of great price is the result of a salt water oyster in the right location, perfect internal and external conditions for the pearl to form, to grow layer upon layer, here a little there a little, to a substantial size, perfect in color and symmetry, all a byproduct of a tiny grain of foreign matter unnatural to the host. Then by pure divine revelation, a man discovers this pearl, not expecting to find it where he does. A man who understands the rarity, the value and the opportunity sells all he has to own such a treasure, such a find. This is what is offered to man. The opportunity to be restored to fellowship with the God of all that is, the God of creation, the offer of eternal life.

Without applying do diligence, knocking, seeking, growing, loving truth, having a right heart, dying to ourselves, having faith, being transformed, we will never be in the right place, at the right time. There are thousands reasons for failure, but God brings us to Himself, by grace, if we believe.

Time to be full of the Spirit is quickly coming to an end. Only what you bring into the tribulation will you have available to you. If you have to buy, it will be to late to have ears to hear.
L,J,P&HG
Dave

Jason Cox said...

Wow.... I completely relate to the whole message. I have had to regain salvation in the past due to the lukewarm response to the Lord I gave initially as a child.

There is no doubt in my mind due to my experience with Western "church" that I was in complete stale waters on a daily basis. Going to "church" based on expectations because friends expected us too was about the extent of every Sunday. Otherwise I heard the same message every time. I never grew into a place of maturity in order to experience the meat of God's Kingdom. After 20 years in one congregation, the light had been lit. I seen the problem. The problem lied within my realm of influence, lukewarm people. No wonder why I was hungry and could not be fed. After my departure and seeking the Lord for my own salvation, I experienced growth. I don't believe Jesus calls us to follow men as many do in congregations/denominations but on the contrary He calls us unto Himself only. When that revelation hit me I was so relieved of my need to comply to the law of the worldy church.

Michael, your message is of great value and an important need among this generation of "church goers". May the Lord work this message into the hearts of those who dare lay their eyes on such a blessing.

That last paragraph is really the slugger of the text at whole. Very well said!

joyce said...

Cultivating a relationship with Christ takes time, energy and purposeful determination on our part. It is a commitment to explore and "find" the deeper things of God. It can be difficult with all the other stuff crowding our daily lives and competing with what should be our top priority in this life. Its a battle with the flesh and the taking up of the cross daily as you had taught in an earlier blog. It is interesting that the bible says if we seek Him He will be found by us (2nd Chronicles 15:2 and 28:9). I find this an interesting choice of words and i believe it means if we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us because He is ever present. Its the seeking we have to do...daily.

For me I'm discoverign a lot and loving it...though right now i see darkly but its all clearing up and the veil (that resulted from listening and drinking from polluted pools for years) is lifting off.

In His Grace,
joyce

Sam said...

Amen

a seed sower said...

OH my goodness Bro Michael, how the comments of the saints here must thrill your soul, what a blessing they are, and you of course also. The Lord is using all those who will submit themselves to be used of Him for His Glory. Truly to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. The hungry soul, seeks the truth of God, wether it feels good to the flesh or fits their agenda or not.
God bless you all saints and thank you all for sharing your hearts and the Word and God bless you Bro Michael

Anonymous said...

I just have to share this! After reading the post from brother Andrew and the section about 'If thou has run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?'...

A couple years ago I had learned to roller blade. I would go out for a couple hours at a time, several times a week. Pretty soon I was doing very well and had reached the point of doing 20 - 30 miles each time I went out. 10 miles became just a warm-up! Before I learned to roller blade, I had tried jogging... I hated it!! It hurt my insides and I just couldn't stand it, had no strength to go very far.

Then one day after roller blading I met a friend who was a runner. I decided to put on my sneakers and go a short distance with her so we would have time to visit. I was fully expecting to have a terrible time physically but was absolutely amazed at the ease of of! I was astounded!! and told my friend of my past experiences with trying to jog or run. She said... "It's because you have 'built up your endurance'... !!! Troubled times do indeed build our endurance and when the time comes to 'run the race with endurance' we will find ourselves running with ease!

Bless you all... Mary