On Spiritual Growth: Thoughts for 2011 – Part 1 of 2

A reading from God’s word, in the Gospel According to Matthew:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:1–11 ESV)

The word of God is capable of continually exposing our human faults. It’s interesting how we continue to struggle with these things even though we may be in Christ and in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit. If we are in Christ our eternal destination is secure but there remains the reality of constantly exposing, working through and dealing with our flaws, faults, and sinful habits. Even so, we continually turn to things that will not satisfy. We too often choose the temporal satisfaction over the greater actions of holiness. Christ shows us in this passage that, though we are sinful, we must constantly seek after God. We should desire the great things of God! Our spiritual growth is an active process! We are called to constantly evaluate our lives, or repent, and seek the great things of God rather than the temporary feast of stones and snakes that this world has to offer.

Take, for instance, the Christmas tree which remains in your living room (unless you are extremely proactive regarding the removal of Christmas decorations. I, myself, am not so proactive) and the (possibly fictional) peach, apple or other fruit-bearing in your backyard. One is temporary and one is meant to give fruit and prosperity for all time. While the Christmas tree is attractive and looks appealing, it’s only temporary. In fact, the tree is either fake or dead. According to David in Psalm 1, those who seek after the Lord are a living vibrant tree. This relates to our passage in Matthew’s gospel as we talk about spiritual growth because our spiritual growth is an active process.

Abiding in Christ is not a temporary relationship, it’s an eternal one. We cannot believe the lie that once we have accepted Christ then we have done all that we should do. Scripture time and time again testifies to our need to guard our hearts from sin and seek after holiness, and this this message from Jesus illustrates this well. As the Psalmist says our delight is to be found in God’s word (Psalm 1.2), and the product of that delight is true growth. This is what Christ means when he commands us to ask, seek and knock in Matthew 7.7. These are active, not passive, verbs. We are the ones who are to do these things and this is the process of spiritual growth, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Word, in the life of the believer. Spiritual growth is an active process! Are you acting? Are you seeking and knocking? Prayer, fasting and growing in the knowledge of the Lord are the actions of a believer! However, we so often forsake spiritual actions for temporal activities. My question is: Are you seeking in the stillness of prayer that which you are trying to accomplish in the commotion of life? Are you asking of the Lord that which you are trying to attain through your own effort? And are you knocking on the door of contemporary self-help and man-made programs or knocking on the door of the church built on the word of God? We should desire and seek the greater things of God.

Christ commands us to not throw that which is holy to unholy things. How does this command relate to the spiritual life of the believer? Are you casting your spiritual pearls before things that will trample your soul? Once again, our spiritual growth is an active process; we must choose not to cast that which is holy into places where it might be trampled upon. We are holy because of Christ, set apart for his good work (Eph. 2.8-10). Do not cast yourself upon things that are unholy and will likely turn to attack you and your soul this year. Actively seek after the greater things of God this year of 2011.

– Coleman

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