Being Led by God Part 3
On Tuesday evening I was driving home from a Session meeting at The Hill, and was listening to a talk show on the radio.
A caller phoned in and made the comment, “compare the statements of these two individuals. One says ‘We will kill for our cause”, the other says ‘We will die for our cause’. They are not saying the same thing!
In the garden of Gethsemane Peter takes out his sword and is saying, “I will kill for you Jesus.” Fortunately his swordsmanship was poor and all he did was cut off the guard’s ear.
But Jesus heals the man; He heals his enemy and effectively says, “I will die for you.”
We have been looking at the process for Christians to make Godly decisions.
Maybe it needs to be asked, “How important is it for you that your decisions are according to what God wants?”
To make Godly decisions isn’t natural for us, is it? Applying a model like we spoke of last week, where the whole focus is on the will of God, seems unnatural and we need to grow into it.
When we read through Scripture, we find a person’s spiritual development is compared to the natural development of a person from birth to maturity.
The righter of Hebrews moans at the readers, “You should have been on solid food already but you are still on milk.”
The developmental path
For ordinary sinful people like you and me, there is a time in life when we are removed from God.
In Ephesians Paul calls it “dead in our sins”.
Before Jesus comes into our lives, we were dead men walking.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus said to him, “You need to be born again”.
John 6 tells us that the Holy Spirit starts to call our name, and the day comes when we respond to God’s grace.
There is the chasm caused by our sin, and when we surrender to Jesus, we step across the chasm; we receive the gift Jesus bought for us 2000 years ago, our sins are forgiven and we pass from death to life. In the spiritual sense, we are born as spiritual babies into the kingdom of God.
If you are going to be a child of God, you have no option but to go through this birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit”
You cannot start out as a spiritually mature Christian.
We all start here.
The fun part is, “You know what babies do.” They eat, they sleep, they create a lot of mess for others to clean up and they cry. Ask any parents of a new born baby and you will be reminded, babies can exhaust you.
But babies also fill your heart with love and hope and joy like virtually nothing else on earth.
By design, babies are resilient to the blunders of parents, and babies grow.
Eventually babies become toddlers and then free roaming children. They have tons of energy and just love to play. The down side of course is the number of breakages when children are children. In the right environment, children are carefree.
And then we enter the teenage years when you wander if you ever knew this child at all. Teenagers are constantly trying to work out who they are and where they fit into society. They are constantly testing the boundaries to see where they fit in. Teenagers are even unsure what type of person they will become.
In reality, adolescence is the long bridge children walk across to adulthood.
Adolescence is the 7 year gap between being a child and being an adult.
Pauls said, “11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13)
Many teenagers have the physical strength of a full grown adult. Teenagers’ bodies change into the adult version, but the thing which separates the men from the boys is not something physical.
What separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls, is the way in which they make choices in life.
And I think the same is true of Christians. Hebrews says mature Christians have constantly subjected themselves to training in righteousness and so are able to choose between good and evil. They are able to make Godly decisions which produce crops that feed others, not just thorns and weeds.
As Baby Christians, all we care about is having our sins cleaned away and being fed. All baby Christians want to hear is that “God will provide”, “God will never leave you hungry”, and “God has taken away your stinky mess.”
Paul said to the Corinthians, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly.”
The message of salvation is true, but the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.”
It seems like some Christians never leave the crib to grow up in their faith.
Time alone does not mean that every Christian matures, Christians need to let God fill their lives and form their value systems.
In the church, just like with real children, there is a very high infant mortality rate.
Jesus alludes to this in the parable of the soils. Some seeds fall on rocky soil, they shoot up and die.
But for some percentage of Christians, we do grow a little and become spiritual children.
Like children, we are extremely happy in our new life and all we want to do is play.
We love our freedom in Christ and we want to run around, giggle and laugh. We love our new Christian family and we want to do fun things all the time.
But as Christian children we are still very self-centred, and the focus of every thing we do is to be happy.
A survey done a few years ago showed that the morals and behaviour of Christians were no different to non-believers. And the reason is that so many Christians are stuck as spiritual children where if it makes me happy, I will do it anyway.
Last week we looked at a four filter way of making decisions. But for spiritual children only one criterion matters, “WILL I BE HAPPY DOING THIS”.
For those who make it through spiritual childhood, they enter a phase of spiritual adolescence and the biggest questions on our minds are, “Who am I and how do I fit in, where do I belong in the Church?”
One time Jesus’ disciples were acting like a typical bunch of teenagers. They were walking down the road arguing, and the whole argument went about, “Who will be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom?”
For teenage Christians, it’s all about being accepted, being liked, finding your place. It about having the best seats at the table, about being seen with the right people.
When Jesus was anointed, Joseph said, “Does He know what kind of woman is touching Him?” People always complained that Jesus was spending time with sinners, prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors. They couldn’t understand how He could risk His reputation spending time with such people.
This process is a perfectly natural spiritual development for any person.
Friends, next to being born again, crossing over from death to life, the transition from spiritual adolescence to spiritual maturity is the greatest chasm in Christian development.
For the first three seasons of my Christian life, my Christianity is centred and focused on me. My survival, my happiness, my identity
Even though I encountered salvation over here, for these three stages I am still the lord of my own life and the object of my own existence.
I am on the throne of my own life instead of Jesus.
My wellbeing remains the goal of every decision I take. Will I be looked after, will I be happy and will I be accepted become the 3 questions I ask in decision making.
There is a huge chasm over here called sin, and Jesus died to build a bridge that we can cross from death to life.
But there is another huge chasm over here, and to cross it we need to die to self.
Salvation is over here, but Lordship is over here.
In Romans Paul calls this being a carnal Christian, this over here is being a spiritual Christian.
If you listen to someone over here, they are celebrating. “I have been saved. I have been redeemed. I have been set free from my sin”.
They may even say, “I will kill for Jesus”.
While we receive Jesus as saviour over here, it seems to me though that accepting Jesus as your Lord is over here.
People over here seem to live beyond themselves. You will hear them saying stuff like, “My life is not my own, I belong to Jesus.” “Even if it costs me my life, I’ll do what Jesus wants”. They would probably even say, “I will die for Jesus”.
Spiritual development is a journey which culminates at the point of maturity. 1 Corinthians 13 defines that point as “love”. The epitome of being in the image of God is to love, and love is giving yourself completely for someone else.
Jesus is the ultimate expression of spiritual maturity.
Because Jesus loves, He gave up the comfort of heaven, He gave up the awesomeness of being God, and came to earth to lead a humiliating life, to suffer and die.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus faced the greatest decision in all of history. Waiting in Jerusalem were thousands of Jews who would take up arms and follow Him to war against 400 Roman soldiers. Victory was right there.
The alternative was not as pretty. The alternative was that Jesus would be dragged in front of the Sanhedrin and Herod and Pilate to be sentenced to death.
The alternative for Jesus meant that His disciples would not be the war heroes they dreamt of being, but instead would have to run and hide like cowards and criminals.
The maturity of Jesus led Him in His decision making process, and He chose to die.
Jesus said, “Not my will be done but Your will be done”.
Jesus said, “I will die for you.”
Friends, we are all on a journey from birth to maturity in Jesus.
My prayer for each of us is that it will be said of us as it was said of Jesus, that “You have grown in wisdom and stature, before man and before God”.