Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spiritual Maturation: Part 1

Mankind was created to always be learning and advancing. We are a people of education. We study. We learn. We go to school, attend colleges and universities. Higher learning is encouraged and respected. We learn how to use intricate electronic gadgets, study manuals in order to play games and listen to instructional audio in order to speak new languages. We go to seminars and attend training sessions for jobs in order to properly representative corporations. Learning is never questioned for it is just part of life. What baffles me as a Christian however is that when it comes to Christianity, this desire to learn and expand our abilities seems to play a greatly insignificant role, at best. We’re told that if we recite a simple prayer and attend church services, we’re pretty much good to go. Perhaps one could attend Sunday School and volunteer now and then in order to “advance” in our Christianity. This troubles me greatly. It is time for the Body of Christ to realize that they can’t just “wing it” and wait for the sweet by and by. Our purpose is found in the here and now. We are in need of spiritual maturation.

Whenever I share about my love for the Word and how I desire to study It in depth, I usually receive responses along these lines. “Well, that’s good for you.” “I’m just not ‘wired’ like that.” “I just don’t get into studying the Bible.” “I simply don’t have that kind of time.” “I don’t understand It, so I just don’t do much with It.” My personal favorite? "My pastor is a fantastic teacher of the Bible!"

I’m no scholar, no intellectual student of theology. I am simply spiritually made alive and awakened when I spend time in the Word. I literally receive fresh and new revelation from It when I place myself in the position for It to do so. God will honor our efforts and interest in seeking Him. If we know that John 1:14 tells us that Jesus Christ was “the Word that became flesh that dwelt among us” and Revelation 19:13 states that “His name is called the Word of God”, it seems only fitting to me that I had better spend time in the Word because It and Jesus, The Christ are one in the same. Studying The Word means I am studying Him – His nature, His attributes, His thoughts, His ways. Just as Jesus Christ revealed God to men, The Word continues to do the same today.

Without question, every Believer desires to hear the words, “well done, good and faithful servant” when they meet God face to face. But what is being done in the here and now to fulfill a life that would deem such a response from Him? Why has the Body of Christ been duped into believing that attending services and reading a chapter of the Bible a day is all that we’re called to do? Do we ever mature into the deeper things of the LORD? Do we ever dedicate more time and interest into knowing the innumerable facets of God? Do we delve into a deeper realm of revelation where we expect The Word to come alive and literally change our life? Is it even necessary?

2 Timothy chapter 2, verse 15 states that we are to “study to show [ourselves] approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV). Another version states it like this, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (NASB)

Let’s take a closer look at this charge given to us by Paul, shall we? (This will be a perfect example of what I encourage others to do when sitting down to look deeper into The Word. Our casual topical opinions are often so errant because one must know the original context and word definitions in order to rightly understand what the verse is really saying.)

The original Greek word for “study” is “spoudazo”, meaning to endeavor, do diligence, be diligent, labor, to exert one's self. I’ll stop right here for a moment and ask you, do you labor and exert yourself to know The Word? A quick glance at one simple word definition of the original text clearly explains that reading a devotion a day is not what this is implying. Moving on to “approved”. What does it even mean to be approved by God? Can one ever really be approved in God’s sight? The Greek is “dokimos”, meaning found acceptable, tried, pleasing. So how does one find himself acceptable and pleasing to God? He diligently labors in The Word. He studies. He learns. He matures spiritually. He is a workman. What is this workman that Paul references? Workman is “ergates”, simply meaning a laborer. Rightly dividing is “orthotomeo”, to cut straight, to proceed on straight paths, to hold a straight course, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly. So we must be a laborer, a worker that strives to know The Word and handle It correctly.

So, in summary, what can we gather from this one verse regarding how we should approach and address The Word of God?

We must diligently labor and exert ourselves in order to be acceptable and pleasing to God as a laborer who is not ashamed, but is found handling the Word of God correctly.

This, my friend is so much more than occasional Bible reading or reading some authors opinions on a certain topic or verse. I ask you with as much passion and interest as I could ever imply, do you realize that you are capable of learning the deep truths of The Word of God for yourself? Do you see that with the Holy Spirit as your Guide and Christ as your teacher, there are no limitations to how far you can go into The Word? Revelation awaits you! I’m not necessarily against gleaning from others but you are not to solely rely on other men for your knowledge. There is absolutely nothing like knowing that what you know is what the LORD personally revealed to you! A thousand books, years of Bible studies, a lifetime of sermons could never even come close to touching what just one personal revelation from God has done for my spiritual maturity! Place your life under the lordship of Jesus, The Christ, the One and only Head of the Body (See Ephesians 1:22).


Anonymous said...

YES, YES, YES.... A thousand times YES. I am responsible for my awareness of God, Who Christ is and my relationship to both. I live to dig into the Word, express His nature to all who are open and hungry.[not to express my fleshly nature, I am to be dead anyway and my opinion does not count only God's opinion counts]
Thanks Joel...

Jason said...

Tough truth but truth nonetheless. If we're not progressing in our walk with God, we're choosing to remain spiritual babies. I decided years ago that I could no longer allow pastors and "leaders" to feed me. The time came for me to feed myself and it literally changed everything.

Your elaboration of the 2 Timothy verse is excellent - it makes it clear as day for all who will hear its message.

Joel Spencer said...

Kay: How can one put into words how the Word of God transforms you when you take the time to dive right in? One must experience to truly understand.

Jason: You're right, it is tough when anyone tells us something that causes us to confront our immaturity. The good thing is, it is not my opinion or recommendation, it is God's Word.

I have no other option but to charge others to take a good hard look at their spiritual growth.

NINA said...

This is a good blog. And it is so true. We must learn to have a personal understanding as well as an intimate relationship with God without the middleman. We never know when the middle man won't be available or if that middle man strays off and goes to "the left" with their understanding. Our personal relationship is our personal protection from being led astray by false doctrine.Without personal knowledge and wisdom that is only gained through studying the Word of God and relationship with God we are vulnerable to those who are simply hustlers of the Word. When we do this we are no different than people who seek out designer bags on the street that have no true knowledge of the design or the value of the bag. We take the salesmen for their word and believe we have the real thing as we walk proudly around with a counterfeit bag that has no value. There is only one way to assure that you have a designer bag and that is to go directly to the source. The store that designed that bag. This is how you get to know the bag, how it's made,as well as the value, and eventually you can spot the real thing a mile a way. Relationship!As you can see, I am a fan of designer bags. (smile)

Joel Spencer said...

Nina: Your analogy, as hilarious as it is, is a perfect description of what I am saying here.

Especially when you stated, and I summarize, "once you have experienced the REAL THING, counterfeits are obvious and seen to be the horrible knock-offs that they are".

Until one personally walks intimately with the LORD, they will continue to settle for imitations and lesser levels of relationship with the LORD.

Thanks for once again sharing your insight.

Shannon said...

Joel, I read your blogs often and wonder if you would, without holding back your true opinion, tell me how you feel about pastoral leadership as it is understood within the organized church. I attend church, rely on my pastor and trust him to guide me wisely. Would you say that this is error?

Joel Spencer said...

Shannon: (Takes deep breath) Well, I read your question last night and have already compiled many thoughts and Scriptures on this matter. It will likely turn into an article that will end up on here eventually.

In very brief summary, the "position" of a pastor as we've come to know it is simply not biblical whatsoever. They are set on spiritual and natural pedestals that are not healthy... to the Body or to them. The entire Kingdom of God was set up to have one Head and that is Christ - period. There are no "levels" or offices to be held. One Body, One Head.

I will dive into this soon in much more detail and divulge all that I compile. Feel free to email me directly if you have any more questions.

rave.n said...

John 10:10 is an encouraging verse about how we're to have abundant life but the verse immediately preceding it is interesting as well.

During a recent word study comparison of the verse grabbed hold on me.

NLT says "Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved..."

KJV says "I am the door by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved..."

The Holy Spirit quicken in me a desire to know what was meant by "gate" and "door". In Greek it means portal or entrance.

The rest of the same verse reads "They will come and go freely and will find good pastures (NLT)" or "and shall go in and out and find pasture (KJV)".

That word pasture in Greek means food or feeding.

Anyway my point is trying to be is that Jesus is revealing himself in a new way to me as THE source food and everything food gives us.

Food = Life + Energy + Strength

And HE is the ENTRANCE, not a church service, a bible study group, a televangelist. Those may all be valid ways to help us understand but they should also focus on helping us accept that God wants us to come to Him freely for food. And that teachers and leaders need not escort us, we can move freely.

It's not that we cut people off or don't listen to teaching. However it does turn discussion into a much richer experience when we can share what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us as well.

That was a ramble but yeah....

Joel Spencer said...

Raven: Gates and doors... cool stuff. The part that you stated, "He is the entrance" almost gives me goosebumps. There is nothing I can do to get in - I can't give enough, serve enough, love enough, etc. I must go to Him.

When people look to us, may we simply point to Christ standing at the gate.