Newsletter for May 2008
As a child growing up, I'm guessing that more than once you may have heard your parents say something like, "Eat your vegetables and drink your milk so you can grow up big and strong." I know my wife and I did the same thing for our son, although getting him to eat cooked carrots was a major challenge.
Likewise, when children go to school we tell them to do their best, study hard, and get a good education. We do this because we want the best for our kids. God is no different. The moment we accept Jesus as Savior, we are born again as a child of God. As our eternal Father He only wants the best for us. He even gives us instructions relative to our spiritual growth.
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1:12-13)
Since we were not citizens of the Kingdom of God until after we were born again, we don't fully understand how to live in that Kingdom. Therefore, if we are going to be pleasing unto our Father and adequately serve Him, we must be taught what Kingdom living is all about.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15)
Here we see God plainly telling us that He expects us to grow up and mature spiritually.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (1 Peter 2:2)
In these two verses we see one method of spiritual growth. We are to meditate on His word as though it were spiritual food. The more we feast, the more we are built up, or, the more we grow.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. (Hebrews 5:12-6:3)
This is an interesting example of people who have actually regressed in their growth and need someone to help them get back to a previous level of maturity. God also is explaining that if we stay focused on meditating His word, we will begin to dine on "spiritual meat," and that the continual use of His word of righteousness will sharpen our "spiritual senses."
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. (1 Corinthians 14:4)
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, (Jude 1:20)
Along with using God's word, we grow, or are edified and built up spiritually, as we pray in the Spirit. Praying in this fashion enables the Holy Spirit to become more intimately involved with our spirit to help us as we mature. After all, growing includes learning and being taught; and Jesus did say that the Holy Spirit would teach us (John 14:26).
Having all of these instructions on how to grow and the methods by which we will grow, someone might come along and ask, "Pastor Jim, I clearly see what you're saying and I agree that this spiritual development is needed. But what exactly am I growing up to be?"
That is an excellent question! So many times we hear preachers tell us that we are supposed to grow in God, but all too often we don't know the goal of this growth. Since God's word gives us the instruction to grow and the methods by which we can grow, then it stands to reason that we should be able to find something in scripture that paints the image of what we are to become.
And the child (Jesus) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40)
Who (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Colossians 1:15)
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? (John 14:9)
Here we see Jesus growing and maturing to the point that He becomes the perfect representation of the Father to everyone. Now let's see how this relates to us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith… (Hebrews 12:2)
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
God is showing us from His word that no matter who we are, the ultimate goal of our spiritual development is to be like Jesus. Some might think, "This is impossible! Nobody can become like Jesus!" But think again what scripture reveals: Jesus wasn't the Father, but He was like the Father; as we look unto Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, what He will "author" and "finish" in us IS His same image. We retain our individuality, but we are conformed to the image of Christ. This is all a part of God's good pleasure that He is working in us to produce.
The next question someone may ask is, "Pastor Jim, I can't argue with the Bible; I get what you're saying that God wants us to be like Jesus. But as we conform to the image of Christ, what kind of things will happen…what will be the end result? Well, if you thought becoming like Jesus was a challenging concept, the end result of this change may be even more challenging. Here is a sampling of scripture to give us an idea OF what it means to become like Jesus…
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
We will love and forgive unconditionally. No mater what "they" have said or done, we will love and forgive with no strings attached, which means we will love and forgive even if "they" never apologize.
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:11-12)
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. (John 7:16)
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16)
We will stop allowing the teachings and religious traditions of denominations and man govern our beliefs. Instead, we will meditate on all scripture and allow the line-upon-line standards of God's word establish our doctrine.
And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:24)
And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them: (Matthew 15:30)
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:12)
I am fully aware many people teach that doing the works of Jesus was restricted to the Apostles of the New Testament; in fact, I used to be convinced such teaching was true. But the more I adopted Jesus' standard of, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me, I realized that doing the works of Jesus is not dependant on being a New Testament Apostle. Doing His works is a matter of fully believing what God has said in His word and growing into the image of Christ; the more we believe and conform to that image, the more of His works we will do.
The reason we are not seeing more people won to Jesus and a full-blown revival sweep our cities, states, nation and the world is because most Christians are not becoming like Jesus. Generally, they are changed into the image of their church, their pastor, or their denomination. Examining the life of Jesus we see that He demonstrated the Father and multitudes were drawn to Him.
Having this pattern of the life of Jesus to follow, it is irrefutable that the more we demonstrate Christ, the more the multitudes will be drawn to us so we can point them unto Jesus. What is it going to take for this to happen? We must grow spiritually as I shared earlier in this letter.
Yes, it is going to take lots of our "personal time" to accomplish this change. Yes, we all have busy lives and don't see how we can give the time needed for this glorious transformation. Yet, don't forget that Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen." Restated for this teaching: Every Christian is called to conform to the image of Christ so that the fullness of Christ and the Father will be demonstrated to the world; but God can only use a few in this manner because most do not truly see the value of self-sacrifice in order to fully represent Jesus.
Am I setting myself up as one who has met this goal? Absolutely not…but I am growing in that direction. This is something we can all do. Lay aside every teaching which has told you these things are impossible or that God just sovereignly chooses who to use. Each of us has the potential to mature into the image of Jesus. I say, let's pay the price to grow and then witness the fires of revival sweep our land!
Your co-laborer in Him,