Growing Spiritually

Spiritual maturity doesn’t happen by itself. Like growing a garden, there must be preparation, maintenance, pruning and readjustment in order to enjoy the harvest. Listed below are five areas that have helped me toward developing spiritual maturity.

1. The Supremacy of Christ. One of greatest lessons I’ve learned in my walk with God is the principle that Christ is the center of all things. The Christian life begins, continues and is eternally sustained by the person of Christ. If Christ is the center of all of Scripture, and the redeemer of our salvation, then shouldn’t the focus of our spiritual life be Christ instead of a life “attempting to do things for God?”

Therefore, the beginning of any step toward maturity should be to focus on Christ. Our very reason for existence is to manifest the life of Christ that is in us. That begins by learning to rest in Him. Instead of a flurry of Christian activity, the first order of business is allowing Christ to live His life through us. The Scripture says, “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…” (Galatians 2:20)

It’s not about what you can do for God that is important, but it is who you manifest in what you do. It is allowing Christ to live His life through you and “do it all for you.”

2. Be intentional about you maturity. Like anything in life, you will accomplish what you intentionally make an effort to achieve. If your goal is to be the best golfer then you will determine a path that will help you become an accomplished golfer. You will have a set time to practice your sport, and you will have the best clubs you can afford, and you will make sure you work on your weak areas.

In a similar manner, it is important to be intentional about your fellowship with God. By having a predetermined time to read and meditate on the Word and pray, you will take the first step in becoming intentional about your maturity.

3. Set Spiritual goals. You know the old saying, “You hit what you aim for.” Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t become mature by attending church. Being around other believers is important to your growth but solid maturity is realized when you set personal spiritual goals. Initially your goals will be simple ones like reading a chapter in the Bible daily and spending 10 minutes in prayer. Then your goals should increase to reading through the Scripture, or developing a concentrated study on a single book of the Bible. My point? Your growth will be relative to the development of your spiritual goals. After many years of counseling believers, I have come to the conclusion that most believers do not have spiritual goals. For those whose spiritual maturity is limited to going to church, then going to church and listening to good preaching has made many spiritually lazy. Every time I set a new spiritual goal God teaches me something that leads to greater dependence upon Him.

4. Develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. The older I get and the longer I walk with God, the more I am aware of the importance of being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Often our words and attitudes reveal the condition of our heart, and the lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice. We must be sensitive to those things that quench and grieve the Holy Spirit. Why is that important? If the goal of the Christian life is to manifest the life of Christ in our attitude, our speech and in all that we do, then the Holy Spirit is the one that brings out the Christ likeness in us. Our smile, kindness, compassion and love are all empowered by the Holy Spirit. “And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit;” (Ephesians 5:18 ASV)

5. Stay close to passionate people. John Maxwell says, “People keep a poker close to the fire so that they can stir the coals and keep the fire hot.” In a similar manner we must stay close to those who are as passionate about spiritual things as we are. It is always good to hang with fellow saints who will challenge your thinking and will hold your feet to the fire if necessary. The Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron. So one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NAS)

Having a Proper Concept of God

Having a Proper Concept of God

Have you ever wondered why there are so many denominations?  How could committed followers of Christ, who read the same Bible, have so many different belief systems and practices? I believe, for the most part, the difference lies in their concept of God.

The way you view God determines the quality of your relationship with and to Him.  For example, if your view and concept of God is based on your adversarial relationship with your earthly father it will be difficult to receive and understand how much God loves and cherishes you.  If you didn’t feel loved and accepted by your earthly father, then how can you believe you will be loved and accepted by your Heavenly Father?

Even though our past relationship with our earthly father can sometimes affect how we view our Heavenly Father, more often than not our concept of God is usually shaped by our church experience.  That was my case. I felt loved and accepted by my earthly father but my church environment formed most of my belief system and concept of God.

At church I had a steady stream of teaching that emphasized that I was a sinner and I would always be a sinner. No matter what I did, I would always be just an “ole sinner saved by grace.”  From that assumption, I believed that I must prove myself worthy of my salvation by doing the following: 

1. Daily admit that I am just an ole sinner – but I can try to act like a saint, even though I felt like a sinner.

2. I will work for God and do the best I can to try and measure up to what a Christian should be.That smacks of     self-righteousness.

3. The more I do for God the more He would be pleased with me. God’s love is based on my performance.

4. The measure of my spirituality is how committed I am to the local Church.You gotta drink the Kool-Aid

The result of my flawed belief system of God was “Performance Based Christianity.”  I had, unknowingly developed a law- based system of Christianity, all because I had a wrong concept of God. I had gotten my view and concept of God from religion rather than from God’s Word. I don’t blame anyone, it is just what I perceived as necessary to please God.

I think that having a Biblical concept of God is so important to understanding the Christian life that I always begin my Exchanged Life Conference ( with how to develop a proper concept of God. If we have a flawed concept of God then how will ever know how to approach Him, love Him and worship Him?

 In my mind there are two ways of developing a proper concept of God. First we learn the character and nature of God as presented in His many names throughout Scripture.  We learn from His name Jehovah Rapha that He is our healer. God can heal our sickness.  We learn from His name Elohim that he is a God of power and might.  There are many other names throughout Scripture that describe the nature of God. I encourage you to do a study of the names of God; it will be a tremendous blessing.  (See Wednesday devotional on 3/20/13 for a fuller discussion of God’s name)

The second way we develop a proper concept of God is to understand the Cross.  Over the years I have asked hundreds of people this question:  “What does the Cross mean to you?”  Many would immediately answer, “The cross is where Jesus died for my sin.”  Then I would respond with a yes, that is correct but what else does the cross mean to you? Most of the time I would get a blank stare because their knowledge of the cross was limited to one thing, the death of Christ.

I am not trying to minimize the role and importance of Christ’s atoning death for mankind’s sin.  But the atonement is just part of the story of the cross.  The cross is not only the means by which our sin debt is paid, but the cross is where we get our identity and we begin to live.

To illustrate the point, I like to teach that there are two sides to the cross.  The first side of the cross is where Jesus paid my sin debt.  On that side of the cross I passed from death unto life, I became a child of God, and I became someone I have never been before.  Old things are passed away, all things became new. (2 Cor. 5:17, Ephesians 1:4-17).  We all rejoice in the opportunity to be drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit and to declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  However, this wonderful salvation experience does not bring us victorious living.

That’s what the other side of the cross does for us.  The first side of the cross dealt with our sin, the other side of the cross deals with our self-life or flesh.  At salvation our spirit was made alive by the Spirit of the living Christ (Galatians 4:6).  But our soul, (our mind, will and emotions) is still in bondage to our flesh and needs to be delivered.  We have all this old programing and belief system from our old life that hinders us from doing what is right.

Because of the cross three things happened that gives us a proper concept of God.

1. Christ’s indwelling allowed us to become an extension of His very life. (Colossians 3:3-4)

2. God poured His life into us at salvation, and then Christ’s life goes out through us to others. (Colossians 2:6) We become a conduit of His life to a lost world.

3. God’s design is that we manifest His very life. We are not to mimic a life like His, but rather learn to rest in Him and allow His life to flow from our life. (John 17:21-23)


The proper concept of God includes two key ingredients. First, you develop a proper concept of God by learning and knowing His names. His many names define His true character. Through His many names you learn how He works and deals with mankind, how loving and forgiving He is, and how committed He is to His children.

Secondly, you develop a proper concept of God by accepting, by faith, your identity in Christ. You learn that God indwells you and has placed the Holy Spirit within you to teach and lead you into all truth. God is not some far away deity that you can hope to please, but He indwells you so that you may daily walk with Him, have a personal relationship with Him, and that He may cherish and lavish you with His love.



My wife and I enjoy watching true-to-life movies about English kings and queens. The royalty down through the centuries are prime examples of abuse of power, self-indulgence, pride and ultimate vanity. It proves that man, when left to his own resources, will self-destruct.

One of the words that come to my mind when I think of the various kingdoms of the world is the word “Yield”.  Even with absolute power there must be a degree of yielding. The kings of the past who had the most peaceful and prosperous rule displayed an attitude of service and humility.  

It was the custom and the law of the kingdom for the subjects to yield to the authority of the king. To refuse to yield is sure death. But to properly yield to the king turns away his wrath.  Properly yielding brings prosperity and peaceful living in the kingdom. 

Just as properly yielding in an earthly kingdom is important, learning the importance of yielding in the heavenly kingdom is just as important. Having continual inward peace is goal of every believer.  Being at rest during every situation is the ideal of every committed follower of Jesus.

Yielding to our heavenly Father is not a set of religious rules and regulations but more of a Biblical principal which includes learning to rest, surrender and abandon. Matter of fact, most struggles in the Christian life occurs when we lack these spiritual virtues.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden come to me and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.”(Matthew 11:28-29)

One of the key components of yielding is learning to rest.  It’s the idea of casting your burdens and cares upon Jesus so your soul (your mind, will and emotions) can rest.  We can rest when things are falling apart because Jesus the sovereign God is in control. I heard someone say one time, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurred to God?”  That means God is never taken by surprise at the events of our life. He is fully aware of every detail.

Another element of yielding is surrender and abandonment.  As a follower of Christ, we can never be at peace with God or ourselves unless we learn the act of surrender and abandonment.

In my immaturity and naivety as a new believer, I thought the sum total of the Christian life was being born again. That is a first step, but I soon learned that being a committed follower of Jesus sets in motion a war in the heavens for my allegiance.  Since the enemy lost his grip on my soul he began a campaign to gain back the affection and allegiance he lost when I was born again.

So the battle in the Christian life becomes the struggle of surrender and abandonment.  I think that is the reason we have so many struggles in life. We are not willing to abandon and surrender every area of our life to the supremacy of Christ.

I know that is paradoxal but weakness is strength, and surrender is victory. The more of our life we surrender to His control the greater our rest.

The Scripture teaches us that abandonment and surrender is normal to the Christian life.”… do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed (metamorpheo) by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:1-2)

Why is surrender and abandonment such an issue with God?  Fenelon says, “God’s desire is to seek out and destroy the roots of self-love. You, on your own, could never find those hidden roots. God can see the entire path of self-love with your heart. Let him attack self-love at it strongest point.”

Yielding to the King of Glory is all about being suited for Kingdom Life so that He can live His life through us. It is not about performance but about relationship. It’s about laying down the self-life and exchanging our life for His life.

God desires an ongoing love relationship with us. Will you join me in allowing the Holy Spirit to examine our life in order to reveal our self-love so that we may fully yield to the King?

Trusting God is the Goal


Doesn’t it seem logical to think that if you are a faithful follower of Jesus your life will go smoothly, except for a few bumps along the way?  Besides, isn’t a trouble free life directly related to the decisions you make along the way?

The above paragraph sure sounds good, but life is not always logical. The problem is  “life happens” along the way. Yes, it is true our decisions or lack of decisions do affect the quality of our life, but our best laid plans can be short circuited by those unexpected and unforeseen events that surprise us.

So the issue is not will we have circumstances that get us out of our comfort zone, but  rather the issue is how do we respond in the midst of the circumstances?   The greatest element in the midst of a major problem is the development of our perspective rather than the solution of our problem.  The solution is certainly an important aspect but our reaction is the key component to any crisis.

You can observe this principle at work throughout Scripture.  When the disciples were afraid in the midst of the storm at sea, they wondered why Jesus was asleep down below.  Jesus wanted them to have faith that He would take care of them in the storm.  To the disciples the storm was the issue; to Jesus, faith was the issue.

When Jesus was teaching the 5000 that had gathered in the countryside the disciples said, “Let’s send them home so they can get something to eat.”   Then Jesus said, “you feed them.”  The disciples immediately responded, “You want us to spend 200 denarii on bread?”  Again, the disciples missed the point. He wanted them to immediately trust God in the midst of any kind of crisis.  It never dawned on them that Jesus could provide a miraculous solution.

Just like the storm on the sea, this event was to test the disciple’s resolve to trust and depend upon God in every situation.  The same is true with us.  I am convinced that every problem and crisis is a test.  Will we worry and be full of doubt and fear, or will we trust Him to do what we can’t do on our own?

Instead of being full of worry and fear, God desires our immediate response to be, “Father, show me your will in this situation.”  God is active and involved in every aspect of your life, whether you sense it or not. You can either resort to worry or you can chose to believe that God is up to something in your life that will result in a new level of faith.

I like the way Henry Blackaby says it in his “Experiencing God” series; “Go to God and ask Him to help you see His perspective on your situation…When you face confusing circumstances, don’t start blaming God. Don’t just give up following Him. Go to God.  Ask Him to reveal the truth of your circumstances. Ask Him to show you His perspective. Then wait on the Lord.”*

Facing difficulties is really all about the process of teaching you to trust God. It’s about Jesus actively becoming Lord of your life.  That means He becomes the Focus, the Initiator and Director of your life. You will never know the truth of our circumstances until you have heard from God.*

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

*(Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, Lifeway Press,1990)

The Real Purpose of Spiritual Maturity

If you have been a follower of Jesus for a while you have often heard how important it is to grow toward maturity.  The Scripture has plenty to say about spiritual growth and its impact on our fellowship with the Lord.  We grow so that we can have a more intimate relationship with the Father.  We push toward maturity so that we will not fall into temptation.

I could list many benefits that motivate us toward maturity, but I believe there is one paramount reason for spiritual maturity and it has to do with developing enduring strength.  I am not referring to strength for you, even though that is a side benefit, but I am referring to the strength you give to others.

Paul gives us an excellent explanation of the purpose of maturity in Romans 15:1-4.  I like the rendering of this passage in the paraphrase called the Message.

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter and not just do what is most convenient for us.  Strength is for service, not statue. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”  That is what Jesus did, He took on the troubles of the troubled.”

Maturity brings strength and strength brings hope, not only to us but to those around us who are troubled.  Jesus who is our example, took on the troubles of those who had no hope and imparted hope.  Spiritual maturity motivates us to give our life away and by doing so imparting hope.  Show me a person who complains about helping others and I will show you a person who is lacking spiritual maturity.  To say it another way, we are to be imparters of hope.

It has been said that every person continually influences and impacts at least five different people.  That means that at any given time throughout your life, there are five people watching and following what you say and do.  The direction of their life will be impacted by your influence. We won’t always be aware of the identity of those five people because some are watching from the shadows.

So a person who is spiritually mature will display Christ’s strength and strength gives hope. It’s not how much you know but it is “Who” you know. By having an intimate relationship with the Father the resulting maturity causes you to know Christ and then manifest His very life. (Philippians 3:10).

I encourage you to move outside your comfort zone.  Trust your spiritual maturity to impact your world.  You may not realize it, but the living Christ within you is a magnet of hope to those who are troubled. You don’t have to beat people over the head with Scripture to impact their life.  Just walk in maturity and let the living Christ within you draw people to you.  Remember, your maturity brings strength that produces hope.  Be prepared to give your life away.

Spiritually Sidetracked


“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8) 

Watchmen Nee said:

“Satan has a plan against the saints of the Most High. It is to wear them out. What is meant by this phrase, “wear them out”? It has in it the idea of reducing a little this minute, then reducing a little further the next minute.  Reduce a little today, reduce a little tomorrow. Thus wearing out is almost imperceptible; nevertheless, it is a reducing. The wearing down is scarcely an activity of which one is conscious, yet the end result is that there is nothing left.  He will take away your prayer life little by little and cause you to trust God less and less and yourself more and more and more, a little at a time.  He will make you feel somewhat more clever than before.  Step by step, you are misled to rely more on your own gift, and step by step, you heart is enticed away from the Lord. Now, were Satan to strike the children of God with great force at one time, they would know exactly how to visit the enemy since they would immediately recognize his work. He uses the method of gradualism to wear down the people of God.”

I don’t think any sincere believer intends to get spiritually sidetracked.  It never happens suddenly, it a gradual thing. It may be our busyness with life, our dissatisfaction with our local church or a focus on material things.  Whatever the cause, this gradualism spiritually erodes our fellowship with God. Suddenly we discover that our ‘heart for God’ has now turned cool or maybe even cold.

How can we prevent this gradualism from occurring? Peter’s advice is to be “self-controlled and alert”. It is the practice of continually setting your mind on truth. Paul offers good counsel in Colossians 3, “Set your mind on the things above…for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

The principal and exercise of ‘Setting the Mind’ has been especially helpful to me. Setting the mind is an intentional exercise of replacing untruthful thoughts with a Biblical truth. 

There is no better way to set our mind on truth than to make sure we have regular fellowship with the Lord. The Word and Prayer keep the enemy’s gradualism from wearing us down. The Scripture affirms our identity in Christ.  I like what Jack Taylor says about the importance of focusing on who we are in Christ; “Inherent in who we are is our ability to perform it.” 

“…as you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

(Colossians 2:6)