It’s the Lord’s will for each of us to reach perfection—or spiritual maturity. To that end, He has provided many resources for us. This divine objective is vital because a local church is no better than the people who make up that congregation. In fact, the church is the people, right? It follows then that in order for the local church—or the body of Christ at large—to mature, individual believers must move forward in their relationship with the Lord.
Whenever we are confronted with a challenge, we first must understand the problem before we can come up with the answer. This truth certainly applies to our spiritual growth. I want you to know—we must understand—that there are some mysteries to the way we are wired as Christians that we need to grasp before we can effectively move forward spiritually.
In this newsletter, I will address three problem areas that every Christian needs to conquer, if he is to mature to the person God has ordained him to be. Though these areas are more pronounced for some Christians than they are for others, no one is exempt from them. Moreover, these problem areas are not debatable, as to their reality. They are based on the Word of God. Its Author is our Creator. Surely, He knows how we are put together, since He is our Maker, and He says these are problem areas for Christians.
The first problem has to do with the internal war that exists between our flesh and our spirit. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). What this verse tells us is that our flesh and the Holy Spirit diametrically oppose each other. In other words, when the Holy Spirit leads us to go left, our flesh reacts by pulling us to the right. This is what makes it tough for us to do what pleases the Lord.
What’s interesting about this verse is that Paul addressed it to the churches of Galatia. In other words, it was written to the Christians. What I am saying to you is that this internal struggle exists within believers—yes, born again believers. So in our efforts to grow to spiritual maturity, this dynamic will raise its ugly head. There is nothing wrong with you; it’s just the way you are wired as a Christian. The consequences of ignoring this reality can be dire.
The second problem area speaks to our limited insight. I know we are new creations and Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, but here is what the Bible says about us as well: “ There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Wow! This is powerful. How can it be that things which have disastrous consequences can seem right to us? It is because the only thing we can see is what’s before us. The more distant the final outcome is, the more difficult it is for us to grasp the ultimate consequences of our actions. Consider the recent Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Experts say he bilked investors out of over $50 billion. Many of his victims were experienced investors. He presented them a means of making lots of money, and they fell for it. It all seemed right, but the end of the scheme was disaster. As Christians, we too have this insight problem.
The third problem area is that we can be a Christian and be carnal at the same time. Though we have become new creations in Christ, we don’t forget how to walk in the flesh, nor do we lose our liberty to do so. Isn’t that strange? That even though we are born again, we can still curse if we want to; we can still view pornography on the internet, if we want to; we can still drink, if we want to. To the church at Corinth, Paul the apostle was inspired to write these words: “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
The question is, how do we properly address these problem areas? Let’s take the first one I presented above. Though it’s true that we have this war going on within us, the Bible says to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). That means we must make a choice. We can’t be passive and just hope we do the right thing. Let’s remember that the flesh and the Spirit diametrically oppose each other. Hence, we can never please both of them at the same time. What the Bible is telling us through this verse is that we must choose to obey the Spirit. When we do, we will also succeed in not fulfilling the desires of our flesh.
Note the phrase, “the lust of the flesh.” Some of these desires will always be with us, but God has empowered our lives so that we don’t have to obey those desires.
To address the second problem area, because of our inability to see things the way they are, we must never depend solely on our own understanding. Instead, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6), the Bible says. Even for things that we think we completely understand how to properly address, we should seek God’s counsel on the matter. I’m not talking about just telling Him what our plans are and then going about our business. Many Christians have done precisely this, and have found themselves in bondage or compromising situations because of it.
But I’m talking about seriously seeking God’s face, learning His will on the matter, and even making course corrections if needed before proceeding. For the spiritually mature, this is their standard mode of operation. Once we have learned to do this as a habit, we will make better choices in life, and we will have made great strides to being someone whom God can entrust to do greater things for the Kingdom.
Finally, to deal with carnality, the answer is plain and simple; we must put to death the works of the flesh. These fleshly behaviors fall into two general groups. One involves the things we know that are wrong but we keep doing them because we feel as though we can’t live without holding onto them. The other group involves fleshly habits we know are wrong, we don’t like doing them, but we feel as though we are powerless in stopping them.
As Christians, we have two choices, regarding the works of the flesh. Each choice has consequences: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). The latter part of this verse tells us that God has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to defeat the enemy of carnality.
The problem areas that we have briefly looked at above are more far-reaching than many Christians realize. Our failure to address them will prevent us from operating in our divinely appointed place. You see, the enemy can more easily exploit our weaknesses in the flesh when we are not committed to spiritual maturity. Also, if we compromise our spiritual growth, it will negatively impact our willingness to serve God. Thirdly, our spiritual immaturity hinders God’s ability to use us as He wants to. So, remember: walk in the Spirit so you won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh; never lean to your own understanding, but acknowledge God in all things; and through the Holy Spirit, put to death the deeds of your flesh.
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