Saturday, October 21, 2017

Storing Up Treasures in Heaven

Our Real Treasures Come from the Investments that We Make for Eternity

All people have treasures that they have acquired in this life. Some of those treasures are worth a lot while other treasures are only worth something to the one that has acquired them. What kind of treasures have you acquired here on earth? Well, your treasures may be varied, from gold, cars, houses, boats, money, etc. to something that only you would cherish.  In fact, there are many different types of treasures that we can acquire in our lifetime.

But, we also live in a world where many of the material things that we acquire are not only fleeting, but disposable. Indeed, nothing seems to be forever, and most things such as refrigerators, cars, couches, washers and dryers and small appliances will not even last for twenty years. In other words, we live in a disposable society. So, even with all the treasures you may acquire and all the money that you may make while on your earthly journey, your treasures can disappear in an instant. Indeed, most people find that they will experience some loss, at some time or another, of at least one or two of the things they have acquired during their life journey. Others may lose all their material wealth and have to start all over again. The fact is, though, that all the material things in this life are fleeting. They certainly will not last throughout eternity, because we can’t take our earthly treasures with us when we die. Furthermore, many people will lose their earthly wealth even before they die, because no matter how much a person tries to accumulate, rarely does life go the way that they planned for it to go.

There are so many things that can happen to our accumulated wealth. Many people face such things as stolen vehicles, homes that are flooded from hurricanes and storms, buildings that fall down from earthquakes and tornadoes, or they accidentally just lose something they prized. In addition, many people also face the loss of personal items from theft. All these unexpected situations, losses, and many other difficulties that are faced within the process of accumulating wealth makes our Lord’s admonition to not store up treasures on earth or to not put our trust in this earth’s wealth become very significant or meaningful to us. Moreover, Christ as told us that we cannot serve two masters. Specifically, “… You cannot serve God and wealth.” – (Luke 16: 13. NASB).

In addition to the normal acquisition of wealth, we have all heard of those who hoard wealth and of those individuals who can’t seem to get enough money to satisfy themselves. But, no matter how much money or treasures that people accumulate, material wealth is only temporary. For, someday we will all die and when we do we certainly can’t take our money or possessions with us into the next life. We know this because we can't take our wealth and put it in the grave and then expect it to go where our souls go. Furthermore, Jesus Christ gave us the perfect example of not being able to take our earthly possessions with us as stated within a parable that He told about what happens to the one whose life is based upon greed and hoarding. Indeed, Christ’s parable enlightens us about the true treasures of life.

The Parable

In the book of Luke, it is recorded that while Jesus was out in a crowd, i.e., surrounded by people, “Someone in the crowd said to Him (Jesus), ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’… Then He (Jesus) said to them (the crowd), ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’ And He told them this parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. And He began to reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.’”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? ‘So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and not rich toward God.’ And He (Jesus) said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  -- (Luke 12: 13-23, 34. NASB).

We learn from this parable that whatever you focus upon is where your heart is. Whatever you focus on becomes your treasure. However, only God is worthy of your focus. Only God is worthy of your heart! Moreover, no one can serve two masters at the same time. For, only one will have your true attention and your heart. So, who will you serve? Will you serve God or your desire to acquire earthly treasure?

Does Happiness Come from Earthly Treasures?

How many times have people thought to themselves: if only I could just have a better job and more money, if only I could have a bigger house, if only I could have designer clothing, if only I could have a boat and vacation home, if only I could have that really expensive car, or if only I could travel around the world and buy whatever I want, then I would be happy. But these types of material things or treasures here on earth will not make us happy. In fact, many wealthy people who have acquired these treasures or the things that they want are in reality extremely unhappy. That is because they have not found what really makes a person happy. Do you know what will finally make you happy?

The answer to that question is Jesus Christ. It is the love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, that makes humans happy. For, it is only through God’s love and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive peace, joy, and happiness forever. The Christian’s true treasure is Salvation. Salvation is the treasure that we can take with us to Heaven. However, Christians can store up even more treasures in Heaven by sharing the Gospel message and by living for the Lord.

The material things or the wealth that we store up here on earth are not transferrable to Heaven. Moreover, these earthly treasures cannot truly make us happy here on earth, because they only bring temporary moments of happiness. In fact, our hearts know that earthly treasures cannot bring us true peace and happiness. Moreover, earthy treasures and material wealth can only give us momentary happiness and a false sense of security.  But still we think that by acquiring material wealth we will somehow get that sense of peace, happiness and security. In reality, we were created to live for God who is the provider of all happiness, joy and security. God is the only One who can give us peace, joy and security which will last for eternity.

Material wealth is not lasting; it is temporary. Only what God enables us to do for others will last both now and throughout eternity. In other words, only what we do for the Kingdom of God is lasting. This means that when we give of our time and resources: to become an Active Relational Christian Mentor, to disciple another Christian, to share the Gospel message with a non-Christian, to visit the lonely, to visit those in prison, or to help those in need, we are actually storing up treasures in Heaven. For Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” – (Matthew 6: 19-21. NASB).

Everything material on this earth is fleeting. Only what we do for Christ and others will last. Therefore, Christians need to shift their thoughts from self-centered thinking to “other-thinking”. What is “other-thinking”? Well, it is when we think about what we can do to help another human in some manner or another. It is when we share the Good News with someone who has never heard of Christ or Salvation. It is when we share a talent, gift, or some specific information that can empower another person to be all that they can be for God, themselves, their family, and their friends. “Other-thinking” is loving your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Becoming a World-Class Christian

What is a world-class Christian? It is a Christian who focuses on Christ and on living for Him as they follow His commandments to share the Gospel message with others. But, in order to become a world-class Christian, we have to first become an “other-thinker.” The Apostle Paul explained “other-thinking” best when he said, “I don’t think about what would be good for me, but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved.”  -- (I Corinthians 10: 33. GWT). How often do you think about someone else’s salvation? How often do you think about sharing the Gospel with another person? For unless you are not only thinking about sharing the Gospel, but are also actually doing so, you are not storing up treasures in Heaven. In fact, by not sharing the Gospel, by not mentoring or helping other people who are in need, by not visiting those who are sick and in prison, and by not living out daily your salvation for others to see, you are wasting your opportunity to acquire heavenly treasures and you certainly are not allowing Christ’s light to shine through you.

A Christian’s Mission

Once we give our lives to Christ and are re-born as a new person who sees the world through Christ’s eyes, we can then see clearly and understand through God’s Word that we have been given a mission. Actually, born-again Christians have been given the greatest commission of all. Indeed, that mission gives all true Christians the chance to participate in the most wonderful and significant cause in the world. That cause is to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His free gift of Salvation to the entire world. But first we have to not only be reborn into a new person, but we have to then change our self-centered way of thinking. In fact, it is actually by changing our self-absorbed way of thinking into “other-thinking” that we can become world-class Christians who think first of others.

The Apostle Paul wrote to many of the Christian church congregations that he and the other Apostles had helped to establish by sharing the Good News of Christ and teaching the new Christians about living for Christ and others. His writings to the Corinthians have been divided into the two books of I and II Corinthians within the Newer Testament. It is in these books and from Paul’s teaching that we learn that we are to quit thinking like children and start thinking as mature people. For, Paul said, “My friends, stop thinking like children. Think like mature people.” – (I Corinthians 14: 20 CEV).

When we think like children we become self-absorbed. As Christians who think like children, we only learn the introductory facts and facets of Christianity, thus failing to grow and mature as people of faith. So, Paul was saying in the above verse that Christians must focus on maturing in their faith and focus on their Christian actions toward others. Part of that maturing process is to change our selfish way of thinking to “other-thinking.” In other words, as Christians we are to no longer think the way that the selfish world thinks, but we are to start thinking as God would have us think. For, God thinks about love and about helping His children grow and mature in their faith. So, Christians should also be thinking about loving others, helping others, and about sharing the most important message that anyone can hear. It is the message of Salvation through the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

Although Christians still have many of the same needs as non-Christians in that we need a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs, we should also be focusing on doing what God wants us to do as we live our earthly life. Paul explains it this way: “I don’t think about what would be good for me but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved.– (I Corinthians 10:33 GWT).

The Apostle Paul wrote that “‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. … Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining the spiritual thoughts with the spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.– (I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 12-14. NASB).

As Christians, i.e., as children of God, we often do not know what God wants us to do. However, we can actually know what He wants to do in and through us. For, we have been given the Holy Spirit who indwells each born-again Christian. Therefore, we can listen to the Holy Spirit, who is privy to all the thoughts and directions of God. The Holy Spirit will show us the intimacy, power, freedom, peace, and spiritual blessings that we can receive from following and obeying the Lord. Moreover, when we seek the Lord, the indwelling Holy Spirit will enlighten us on God’s purpose and plan for our life through the Word of God and through Christ who is speaking into our life.

We do not ever have to doubt what God has in store for us, if we just ask, pray, read the Word, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings in our life. It is by walking with God in a daily relationship with Him that we can discover what He wants us to do for the kingdom of God and discover the principles that we are to live by. In other words, we do not have to be afraid of what tomorrow will bring, even when we suddenly have lost our job, our money, or our ability to maintain a life-style that we have previously had. For, God has something better in store for us, if we will just work at storing up treasures in Heaven. Indeed, God will never forsake His children, but unfortunately, His children have often forsaken Him. They have failed to store up ever-lasting treasures in Heaven.

Heavenly Treasures

What kind of Heavenly treasures can Christians receive. Well, they are treasures that will last an eternity. Furthermore, they are treasures that cannot be stolen, burned, flooded, or covered up by earthquakes. They are treasures that have to do with love, caring, kindness, sharing, and the Salvation of others. In fact, the Bible speaks of these treasures as crowns. For, Christians will receive crowns in heaven for the things that we have done for God and for others while here on earth. But, before a person can receive any treasure or crown, he/she must first be born-again. Indeed, Jesus said, “… Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” — (John 3:3. NASB). But with our re-birth or Salvation comes great opportunities to store up heavenly treasures. The following is a list of just a few of the treasures that Christians can lay up in Heaven for their eternity with God.

The Crown of Life

In the book of James, we learn that faith without works is dead faith. In fact, James puts it this way: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”  -- (James 2: 26. NASB). A Christian can say that they have faith and believe in Christ as their Savior, but if they do nothing to work to show the world that Christ is their Savior, their faith is dead. Indeed, it may not be easy work to tell the world or those individuals around us that Christ offers Salvation to all who would believe on Him as the living risen Son of God, but it is something that every Christian is supposed to do. Moreover, for those who work for the Kingdom of God even though they are persecuted, there will be a treasured crown awaiting them in Heaven. For the Apostle James says: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  -- (James 1: 12). This Crown of Life is a heavenly treasure or crown for the believer who finds strength to overcome temptation and who endures trials for the love of God. (See also Romans 5: 3-5).

The Wreath Imperishable

The next treasure that a Christian can lay up in Heaven is The Wreath Imperishable. We read about this treasure/crown in both I Corinthians and in the book of Hebrews. In I Corinthians Paul explains this wreath in terms that the Greeks and Romans would have understood in their day. Because the athletic games were so important to them, Paul used the Greek games to illustrate the spiritual race of the believer. The Greeks knew that in the early Greek games, one must have been born of Greek parents in order to receive a perishable wreath (usually made out of flowers and greenery) for winning just one of the games. But, Paul told the Christians that believers will receive an imperishable wreath or crown for serving the Lord.

Only born-again believers can serve the Lord. The Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.’ Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  -- (I Corinthians 9: 24, 25. NASB). However, in order to accomplish much for the Lord and receive an imperishable wreath, we must continue training in our Christian life just as an athlete would continue to train for a race. So, like an athlete who trains for games, Christians must train by studying the Word, meditating on the Word, and praying. Furthermore, we must continue to pursue and obey the Lord daily and moment by moment. The only way to accomplish things for the Lord and to serve the Lord is to embrace the Lord’s purpose for our individual lives and by doing so dedicate our lives to carrying out His purpose.

Later the author of the book of Hebrews continued this idea of running the race for the Lord when he stated: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses, surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  -- (Hebrews 12: 1. NASB). For, all Christians have a race to run for the Lord. But we cannot succeed in this journey or race unless we give up the passions of this world and focus instead on eternal treasures and living for the Lord while we are living on this earth. To get the imperishable wreath we must focus on loving others as we love ourselves, spreading the Gospel message, and helping others whenever we can. Furthermore, we must focus on obeying the Lord, studying God’s Word and staying in communication with the Lord through prayer in order to stay fit for the race and then winning this imperishable wreath.

The Crown of Exultation

The third treasure that we can look forward to laying up in Heaven is the Crown of Exultation. This is the soul winner’s crown. The greatest work a Christian will be privileged to do for the Lord is to bring others to the knowledge of Christ so that person can ask Christ to be their personal Savior. The result of our leading someone to Christ brings Christ great joy or exultation. For, Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that your joy may be made full.”  -- (John 15: 8-11. NASB).

The Salvation of even one soul is a cause for joy in Heaven, and our willingness to share the Gospel message so that a person makes a decision for Christ brings Christ great joy. For, “those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of Heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  -- (Daniel 12: 3. NASB).

Like Christ’s disciples, Christians today must do something to share the Gospel message for the harvest is ready. Jesus put it this way: “… Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages (i.e., treasures) and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”  -- (John 4: 35, 36. NASB). In other words, the soul winner will not rejoice alone, for all of Heaven will rejoice with him when he receives the Crown of Exultation.

The Crown of Righteousness

The Crown of Righteousness is another of the treasures that a Christian can receive. This Crown is not to be confused with the righteousness of God which a gift given to us by God when we are born again. The Crown of Righteousness is instead a reward to be earned by the saved. If the believer looks forward to and lovingly anticipates the second coming of Christ, it will affect his/her whole life. This love for Christ and looking for Christ’s return will lead the believer to remain steadfast in their faith. In encouraging Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote to him and among other things said, “But you be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the Crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  -- (II Timothy 4: 5-8. NASB).

What does it mean to love the appearing of Christ? Well, it means that Christians must not detour in our journey for the Lord. We must not look back, but instead finish the course with our eyes fixed on Jesus. Within our journey we are to keep the faith and never betray any of the commandments of Christ; looking with a heart of love toward Jesus’ second coming. In staying focused on Christ and in fighting the spiritual battles that come against us and Christ, one may receive the Crown of Righteousness. But, staying the course and keeping focused entirely on Jesus Christ is not always easy. For example, we read in the Bible that when a young man said that he wanted to follow Christ, he suddenly stated, “‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-by to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” – (Luke 9: 61, 62. NASB).

Those may seem like harsh words, but once a person has committed to Christ as their Savior, they must focus on living for Him and then fulfill their purpose in life for Him. Christians cannot give part of our lives to the past and to worldly pursuits and still live for the Lord. Indeed, the Lord wants us to be so devoted in our love of Him and in our service to the kingdom of God, that we will not allow anything or anyone to keep us from obeying Him and fulfilling our ministry and purpose for the Lord. (See Acts 20: 24-31). Do you love the Lord so much that you are willing to fulfill your purpose and ministry for the Lord? If you don’t know what your ministry is, think about and look into the ministry of Active Relational Christian Mentoring.

The Crown of Glory

The last treasure that I will mention today is the Crown of Glory. This reward or treasure is for the faithful and obedient God-called pastors, deacons, and elders. The Apostle Peter explains this crown within the book of I Peter. He says, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”  -- (I Peter 5: 1-4. NASB).

Although pastors or those that shepherd God’s people such as deacons and elders are specifically listed as those who can receive the Crown of Glory, every born-again Christian may share in the Crown of Glory by: praying for the pastor, deacon, or elder; encouraging the pastor, deacon, or elder in the work of the Lord; giving tithes and offerings (see Malachi 3: 10); and giving freely of your time to the service of the Lord. For, God delights in our desire to please Him and to serve Him. By exhibiting eager obedience to God’s instructions and by fulfilling our purpose for the kingdom of God, we are showing God just how much we love Him and His gift of Salvation. We are also storing up treasures in Heaven.

In Summary

If you haven’t thought about storing up treasures in Heaven, it is time to start thinking about doing so now. Why? Well, we only have so many days allotted to us here on earth. We only have so many days to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ before its time for us to go home to be with God. Each of us who are true born-again Christians should be fulfilling our purpose here on earth which has many facets. Our purpose is to glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our purpose is to also share the Gospel message with as many people as we can. In addition, our purpose is to help other Christians in their times of need. We are to also help non-Christians understand who Jesus Christ is, so that they can someday perhaps make a decision for Christ. But if we think that our purpose in life is only to store up treasures here on earth, we are going to be very mistaken, disappointed and surprised when our time is over here on earth.

How many people have you shared the gift of Salvation or the Gospel message with? How many people have you helped in some loving and kind manner while not wanting anything for yourself in return? How often have you engaged in a ministry of servanthood that can further the kingdom of God? Think about these questions. Then, pray that God opens the door for you to help others. You can step forward to share what you know about Christ with someone who may not have ever heard the name of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that be thrilling? Active Relational Christian Mentoring is just one of the many servanthood ministries that you can engage in to help others, while it also gives you many opportunities to store up treasures in Heaven. Mentoring often opens the door to share the Gospel message. Of course, there are many other Christian ministries you can choose to engage in, but whichever one you choose, start today! For, time is running out for all of us to do the work that Christ has asked us to do.

If you choose to look into Active Relational Christian Mentoring, you might want to read the book entitled: The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring; Women Mentoring Women with Christ at the Center. The author of this book is Vicky Lynn Thomas and the book can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Christian Faith Publishing Co., iTunes, and Google Play. This book will give both the individual woman and even church groups information about mentoring which can then help lead them into establishing mentoring relationships for the Lord. You can do it! You can Mentor for the Lord.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Sin of Silence

The power to proclaim the greatest news in heaven or on earth was not given to the angels. It was given to redeemed men … Every Christian is to be a witness; every follower of Christ is to preach the Gospel.”  -- (p. 68. Billy Graham in Quotes, c. 2011.

Sadly, I have recently learned that ninety percent of Christians have never shared the Gospel message with anyone. Why are Christians not telling others about the most wonderful gift, transformation, and forgiveness that can be obtained in this life? Why are Christians so afraid to tell someone about Christ, but will not hesitate, in the least, to tell another person their opinion on politics, on movies, or on their ideas about any other subject that is brought into conversation? Could it be that we don’t have our priorities established? Could it be that Christians feel that they have been given a ticket to heaven, but are now willing to let others find their own way? If that is the case, how sad for those authentic Christians who are supposed to be living their life for God and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. For, they will one-day have to answer to Christ when they get to Heaven. I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want to have to tell the Lord that I failed to obey Him when He told us to go and tell the world about Him and the gift of Salvation.

In fact, Christ gave every Christian a commission before He went back to Heaven. Christ told us through His personal direction to the Apostles to “Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the very close and the consummation of the age.”  -- (Matthew28:19-20. AMP). So, what part of that commission do Christians not understand? Oh, we understand, but many Christians are lazy, self-centered, and fearful, instead of being overcomers who love their neighbors and even strangers as themselves. For, if we loved others as we love ourselves, we would want everyone to come to know Christ as their Savior.  We would not let fear, self-centeredness, and possible laziness come between us and our sharing Christ with others. But many Christians are committing the “sin of silence”, which is the sin of not telling others about Christ.

Christians Have Three Main Objectives within their Earthly Journey

There are basically three main objectives that Christians have been given in living for God. The first objective is to glorify God each and every day. The second is to tell non-Christians about Jesus Christ and the gift of Salvation. And the third objective is to help other people, both Christians and non-Christians, who may need our help in some way or another.

Believe it or not, all three of these objectives are actually intertwined. For, we can glorify God in many ways, including by following His commandments, by living for Him, and by sharing His Word with others, to just name a few of the many ways wherein we can glorify God. But it is the glorification of God by honoring His commandments, by sharing His Word and by living daily for Him that should lead Christians right into the fulfillment of the second objective, which is to tell non-Christians about Christ and the gift of Salvation, so that the un-saved can hear the Gospel message and can make a decision for Christ when the Holy Spirit tugs at their heart and calls them to Christ.

Finally, the third objective, which is to help other people who are need, is also to be woven or intertwined within the other two objectives. This third objective is actually godly servanthood through different services or ministries. One such ministry is that of Active Relational Christian Mentoring. There are, however, other personal Christian works or ministries that will also tie directly into the first two objectives of glorifying God and sharing the message of Salvation. But no matter which ministry that a Christian is called to engage in, we are helping others, and at the same time we are shining the light of Christ upon them. It is during our ministry or our servanthood that we will be given golden opportunities to speak up and tell someone, who does not know Christ, about the Good News of Salvation. But if we do not speak up while we engage in godly servanthood, we are committing the sin of silence.

The world can often tell that there is a difference between worldly people and people who live for Christ. The non-saved individuals should be able to see that Christians have a special light shining out from them. It is Christ’s light, which resides in us. With Salvation Christians have the ability to shine Christ’s light upon someone who needs to understand that God and His Son will always be there for them. Certainly, it is our Christ-light that enables another person to see that there is something special about the life of the one who has given their heart to Christ.

Ultimately then, it is through our godly love for another that the lost person can come to see and understand the love of God given through His Son for them. For, it is through a Christian’s godly servanthood of love and the shining of their true Christ-light upon them that a lost person can be see that there is something more they need. When this occurs, they can then be introduced to the Gospel message. Remember, that our Christian actions along with the verbalization of the God’s Truth can slowly open a heart to hearing the Gospel message of Salvation. God is then glorified when honor Him by sharing of the Gospel message.

We Were Created to Glorify God and were created for God’s Pleasure

Let’s take a moment to look a little closer at the first objective or purpose of all Christians; which is to glorify God. The Bible tells us that, “God has planted [his people] like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.”  -- (Isaiah 61:3. LB). Later, David, in one of His prayers or psalms says: “All nations whom You have made shall come and fall down before You, O Lord; and they shall glorify Your Name.  For You are great and work wonders! You alone are God.”  -- (Psalm 86: 9-10. AMP). These are only a couple of verses in the Bible that talk about our responsibility to glorify God. There are many more verses about glorifying the Lord. We are also told that eventually “… all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.”  -- (Numbers 14:21. NASB).

God’s Word also tells us that God created us for His pleasure. We know this because we can again read in the Bible about what God had in mind when He created us. In fact, one of the most profound verses about being created for God’s pleasure is within the last book of the Bible where we are told that, “You, God, created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”  -- Revelation 4: 11. NLT). In addition, we can read in the Psalms that “God takes pleasure in those who honor Him; in those who trust in His constant love.” – (Psalm 147: 11. TEV). Moreover, “the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”  -- (Psalm 149: 4. NASB).

Indeed, I believe that God smiles down upon those people who truly love Him, truly trust in Him, and who are willing to obey Him without reservation. I believe that God also smiles upon those who remember to praise Him for all the blessings that He bestows upon them. In other words, we are to continually praise God and thank Him for Who He is and for all the blessings that we receive, no matter how small a blessing. For the psalmist said, “Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.” – (Psalm 67: 5. NASB). We can also be assured that God takes pleasure in the people He created, for within the book of Psalms we are told specifically that God “… has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise for all His godly ones; Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord”.  -- (Psalm 148: 14. NASB). But who are God’s people?

Originally, God created all of mankind to be His people. But, early on, starting with Adam and Eve, mankind in general rejected God. Many people even went so far as to worship false gods, denigrating the One and Only True God. So, God chose a specific group of people, i.e., the Israelites, who are known as the Jewish people, to be His representatives to the world. For, it was through a man named Abraham, who on His own recognized the One and Only True God, that God chose to make Himself known.

Through Abraham’s seed the nations of the world would be blessed. In fact, it was through His grandson Jacob, whom God later chose to rename Israel, that the Israelite people multiplied and became a nation. First, though, they lived in a foreign nation for hundreds of years and were then eventually forced into slavery. But, God heard their cries and sent a man named Moses to rescue the people. In doing so, these people were not only shown the power and glory of God, but they were given many blessings as well. Even so, they could not seem to live up to God’s holy standards. They could not live up to the holy standards of Truth and morality even when given specific laws to follow. But, in being the loving, kind God that He is, God heard their cries and chose to save them. He not only rescued them, but God, through the Israelites, decided to give all other peoples on the face of the earth a way to know Him too, which included an offer to spend eternity with Him. So, what did God do? Well, God sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to tell the Israelites of God’s Truth, mercy and grace.

Unfortunately, the Israelites did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, so they crucified Him. But, Jesus Christ died for all our sins. However, it didn’t end there, for Christ arose from the grave and conquered eternal death for all, i.e., for all those who will believe on Jesus Christ as the living Son of God. For, no one who believes on Christ as the risen living Son of God will have to face eternal death and damnation. This is the Gospel message and the message of Salvation! The Jewish people who believed in Christ soon spread the Gospel message far and wide. They did not keep silent! Moreover, God also offered all Gentiles eternal life too, if they believed on Christ as the risen and living Son of God. In fact, anyone who repents of their sins and asks Christ in their heart can be saved.

But, the Bible also tells us that even before Abraham recognized the One and Only God and even before Adam and Eve fell from the Garden of Eden, that God had made plans to save His people from eternal death and damnation. Even back in the Garden of Eden, God knew what Adam and Eve would do, so He had already decided that He would send His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for our, i.e., mankind’s sins so that on believing on Christ as the risen and living Son of God, a person could be saved. God would not only give us mercy from eternal death or destruction, but He would give us grace as well. Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that “Because of His love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ He would make us His childrenthis was His pleasure and purpose.”  -- (Ephesians 1: 5. TEV).  Then, as believing children, who have given their life to Jesus Christ and who now attempt to live for Christ daily by living for God and expressing their love of others, we are now His eternal children. 

As believing and saved children we have a major purpose in life, which is to tell people everywhere of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are not to be silent, but are to tell other people of the Gospel message every chance we get. Indeed, one of the easiest ways to tell others about Christ is to develop Active Relational Christian Mentoring relationships. For, as God’s children, we can honor, glorify, and pleasure God by doing what He has asked us to do.

As God’s children, we are to “Obey God gladly.– (Psalm 100:2. LB). In fact, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”  -- (John 14: 15. TEV). One of those commandments is to love others as we love ourselves and in so doing to share the Gospel message with everyone we encounter. Furthermore, in the book of James, we are told that “We please God by what we do and not only by what we believe.”  -- (James 2: 24. CEV). With just these two scriptures it easy to see that obedience brings God pleasure, honor and glory. Furthermore, it is through our obedience that more and more people will come to know Christ as their Savior. So, why are Christians not sharing the Gospel message with other people? Why are born-again Christians committing the sin of silence?

What sets Christians Apart from the Rest of Humanity?

As His children, God wants us to not only worship Him and glorify Him, but we are to be passionate in and about our worship of Him. In other words, we are to be committed in our worship of Him. We are to dedicate our life to not only living for God and His Son, but our objective or goal should be to share Christ with others. We are not to be silent.

But, what does it mean to be passionate and committed in our worship of God? Well, it means that whatever we do in life, we are to keep our focus on God. We are make every activity that we engage in to somehow become an act of worship of the Lord. In other words, we are to “Praise God from sunrise to sunset.”  -- (Psalm 113: 3. LB). And whatever activity or job that we are engaged in, we are to transform that activity or job into an act of worship which will then praise, honor, glorify, and pleasure God. This act of praise and worship of God should set Christians apart from the rest of humanity.

The Apostle Paul explained to us that “… whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  -- (I Corinthians 10: 31. NIV). In other words, we are to be representatives and ambassadors for Christ every day of our lives so that God gets all the glory. This attitude and our daily actions are so important to the Christian life that the Apostle Paul gave this same admonition in another way when he again told the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.– (Colossians 3:23. NIV). So, our personal work, our personal servanthood, and our personal living including our godly servanthood that includes such things as Christian mentoring should be accomplished or lived out daily with a heart that wants the Lord to receive all the glory.

Christians are set apart from the rest of humanity by the love that they have for each other and by the love they have for God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are set apart from the rest of humanity by our desire to love others as we love ourselves. We are set apart from the rest of humanity by focusing on love rather than focusing on evil. Yes, Christians can still make mistakes and unfortunately some may succumb to doing something that is not approved by God. Yes, we can succumb to devil’s implantation of negative and hateful thoughts, which we can then act upon. However, if we do something wrong, we can truly repent and be forgiven. But, if we focus on living for God each moment of our lives, there is less chance of succumbing to such negative or sinful things. For, on the whole, Christians who truly are “born-again” and who focus on living their life daily for the Lord, do not commit evil, hateful, non-caring, thoughtless acts that can hurt other people. In fact, authentic Christians truly focus on obedience to God, on worship of God, on servanthood toward God and others, and on loving others as they love themselves. Indeed, part of loving others, means having a desire to help others or be there for another person when they need our help, and we can do this through godly servanthood. Part of that godly servanthood is to tell others about Christ.  

Any time that we glorify, honor, live for, and worship God, we are giving God pleasure. God’s pleasure comes from seeing our daily worship of Him in so many different ways. How wonderful it is to be able to worship God in even the smallest of activities. Unfortunately, there are times when we all fail miserably in our worship of the Lord. That is because we allow our personal selfishness to interfere in our worship of the Lord. If only we could take each ordinary day, whether we are eating or sleeping, going to work, helping a friend, mentoring, or sharing the Gospel message, and use our life as a way of honoring and glorifying God. If only we could focus on giving God pleasure by sharing the Gospel message with others. The godly servanthood of Active Relational Christian Mentoring, not only helps others, but it can also be a way of sharing the Gospel message with another. This type of servanthood along with many other types of servanthood or ministries, glorifies and honors God. And if we share the Gospel message with others we are not committing the sin of silence.

Giving God Pleasure through the Sharing of the Gospel Message

Whether it is sharing the Gospel through Active Relational Christian Mentoring, or simply sharing the Gospel when talking to a stranger, Christians have been endowed with the ability to present the Gospel message to others who need to know Christ as their Savior. In fact, as previously mentioned, the second objective or purpose in being a Christian, or child of God’s, is to glorify God through the sharing of the Gospel message.

Obviously, pleasing God should be our first purpose in life, but we need to figure out how we can please God daily. It is through reading the Word of God that we can discover what pleases God. For, it is in reading the Bible that we discover that God is pleased with us when we love Him completely and supremely, when we trust him faithfully, when we obey Him wholeheartedly, and when we praise Him continually throughout the day and within our prayers. Did you know that “God has shaped each person in turn; now he watches everything we do.”?  -- (Psalm 33: 15. The Message). So, it is up to us to bring God pleasure and to please Him with our actions and our heart as He watches everything that we do.

Helping Other People in Need and Sharing the Gospel Message

Have you shared the Gospel message of Salvation with anyone? Is anyone going to Heaven because you stepped up to the plate and gave your all as you told them about Christ? Some of us will be able to say that we have been the catalyst in someone listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in their heart. In other words, we can say that we have shared the truth about Christ. That is all that we are expected to do. Then it is up to the Holy Spirit to draw that person to Christ. We do not save anyone, but we have been commissioned with sharing of the Good News with other people.

You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”  -- (I Peter 2: 9-10 The Message).

Sometimes, it takes several times of “sharing” the Gospel message before a person really pays attention to the Holy Spirit’s call. In fact, William Fay in his book, Share Jesus Without Fear, says that it takes an average of just over seven times of someone hearing the Gospel message before that person finally acknowledges the Holy Spirit’s calling. Remember, as a Christian, we are to explain the Gospel message as many times as the Holy Spirit asks us to do so. It is then up to the person who hears the Gospel message as to whether he/she will acknowledge the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, ‘A man’s heart determines his speech.” – (Matthew 12: 34: LB). Christ's words also apply to a Christian’s willingness to go out on a limb and share the Gospel message. Our heart determines our love, and our love for Christ determines whether or not we will be willing to share His love with others. How much do you love the Lord? How long are you willing to keep silent and not obey Christ’s command to share the Gospel? If you are afraid of sharing the Gospel message with someone, stop and pray to God. Ask Him to help you get over your fear, and also ask God to fill your heart with love for the other person so that love will overcome any fear. For God, “… does not want anyone to be lost, but He wants all people to change their hearts and lives.”  -- (II Peter 3: 9. NCV).

Finally, the Apostle Paul said within the book that he wrote to the Colossians to “Make the most of your chances to tell others the Good News. Be wise in all your contacts with them.”  -- (Colossians 4: 5. LB). Certainly, Wisdom, comes from the Lord. So, ask for wisdom and God will give you what you need to share the Good News. Then, listen to the Holy Spirit within you, and you will easily be able to share the Gospel with others.

I hope someone is going to heaven because you took the time to share the Gospel message or Good News with them. What a glorious time it will be when you get to Heaven and meet other people that are there because you took the time to tell them about Christ. God loves you. He wants you to glorify, honor, and pleasure Him. God wants you to share the Gospel message with others so they, too, can become one of His Children and be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Finally, it is the servanthood of helping others that shows God the heart of love that you have toward others. So, start developing Christian relationships with other people who may need your help. Be there for someone and be willing to be that shoulder they can cry on, that person who can give needed information, or that one who can see with her heart what God would have her do. Perhaps, it is just listening to another woman as she tells you of all the things that she is going through that will give you an opening to tell her about Christ. Perhaps, however, it is simply your invitation to this woman to come to church with you that could end up making all the difference in her life. But whatever you do, engage in conversation. Develop a simple relationship and then be open to Active Relational Christian Mentoring. Determine to no longer remain silent! No longer commit the sin of silence.

If you need to know more about developing godly relationships and Christian mentoring, read the book by Vicky Lynn Thomas entitled: Active Relational Christian Mentoring: Women Mentoring Women With Christ at the Center. The book can be obtained through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, iTunes, Google Play and Christian Faith Publishing.

God Bless You!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Growing and Maturing Spiritually Leads to Christ-likeness and Servanthood

"Satan doesn't need for us to fall into gross sin in order to defeat us; a large does of laziness will do the trick just as well. Put Christ first in your life, and then commit every hour of the day to Him."
- Billy Graham in Quotes, c. 2011

Committing our days to Christ and living for Him is the only way to acquire spiritual growth and maturity. But this is a hard concept and an even more time consuming process that many Christians are not willing to try to understand, let alone engage in. However, every true born-again Christian should desire to grow and mature spiritually. Indeed, every Christian should at some point think upon the following question.

Do you want to acquire spiritual growth and maturity? Most Christians will answer “yes” to that question. For, what true Christian doesn’t want to grow closer to the Lord and learn from God’s Word. Moreover, as followers of Christ, Christians should want to know what God expects from His children. Unfortunately, our life-styles and our attitude toward spiritual growth and maturity often cause us to present a subtle difference in our attitude toward that question or to even give a negative answer to that question.

You may not be able to imagine any true authentic Christian saying, “no, I don’t want to grow spiritually or mature spiritually”. But wanting to grow and mature spiritually is totally different from actually pursuing that growth. Why is that the case? Well, for one thing, all humans and even Christians, are constantly fighting against our fleshly desires and the temptations of this world in which we live. Things like television, busywork and our responsibilities in life tend to keep even Christians from reading the Word of God and from finding out what God expects and wants for us. Moreover, trying to find the time to pray and communicate with God becomes harder and harder to do within our busy lives unless we set aside the time to communicate with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

In the Christian mentoring of others, it is especially important that the mentor pursues growing spiritually and endeavors to develop spiritual maturity. It is important, because without some growth and maturity a Christian cannot be prepared to answer a mentee’s questions. Nor, can the mentor set a good and godly example of Christ-like living and behavior for the mentee or a non-Christian, if the Christian or the Christian mentor has not grown and matured in knowledge of and obedience to the Lord. That is why every Christian, whether mentoring or not, should desire to endeavor to become more like Christ as she lives her earthly life in preparation for her heavenly life.

 Although we were all created to become more and more like Christ each and every day, and although with our Salvation we truly desire to become more and more like Christ, true born-again Christians still have to fight against their fallen nature in order to strive to become more like Christ. In other words, Christians have to constantly fight against the time traps of this life and the selfish desires and the temptations we face daily, which can lead to only wanting to do what we want to do. Certainly, we have to fight against all those selfish things in order to even begin the process of becoming more spiritually mature. But we are not alone in our fight against apathy and temptations. For, God is there with us to give us strength and determination if we will just turn to Him. Moreover, we are not alone in process of developing spiritual growth and maturity, for God is constantly with us, and He even sent His Only Son to show us the way. Furthermore, God has had good plans for each of us; plans He made for us even before we were born. (See Jeremiah 29:11).

God Created Us to Become Like Christ

God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity, He restored. We see the original and the intended shape of our lives there in Him.” – (Romans 8: 29. The Message).

In fact, the record of our creation is found within the book of Genesis. It is there in Genesis that we read about God deciding to make man and then deciding on what man would look like. For we read,

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness.
– (Genesis 1: 26 NCV)

God decided to create caring and loving human beings with the potential to express His characteristics. In other words, we all have the potential to be wonderful caring human beings who can glorify and honor God. We were created in the image and likeness of God in that we were given the potential to develop the wonderful characteristics of goodness, kindness, empathy etc. Unfortunately, because of Adam and Eve’s mistake and sinfulness, we no longer are able to project these wonderful characteristics automatically. Now we have to struggle to become the type of human that God wants us to be. We have to learn how to glorify and honor God in many different ways as we struggle for holiness.

From the moment that God created Adam and Eve, God’s plan has been to make us like His Son. This doesn’t mean that God wants us to become gods. Rather, God wants us to become godly in all our actions and attitudes. He wants us to be kind, caring, loving humans who think about others before we think about ourselves. With our Salvation, God also wants us to take on the values, attitudes and characteristics of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is how we become godly. But first, we must learn what those values, attitudes and characteristics of Christ are and then learn how they were reflected in Christ’s life while He was here on earth, before we can emulate and reflect Christ-likeness within our life so others can see Christ in us.

Before we accepted Christ as our Savior, we all were sinners who were generally thoughtless and selfish, and in many cases, we did not desire to acquire the values by which to live honorably and godly. We were totally unrighteous no matter how good we thought that we were. But when a person believes on Christ as the living Son of God and then asks Christ to come into their heart, there is born a new person with a new desire created within them. The Apostle Paul explained this godly transformation into a new person when He told the Ephesians that with Salvation we are to “Take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately produces His character in you.”  -- (Ephesians 4: 22. The Message). So, how does this new life happen?

Well, after Salvation, Christ then sends His Holy Spirit to dwell within each “Saved” person. For, it is the Holy Spirit Who will create Christ’s character within each one of His born-again children. The Holy Spirit works on our hearts and our conscience to create loving, caring, righteous oriented individuals who take on the characteristics, attitude, and values of Christ. For, “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.”  -- (II Corinthians 3: 18 NLT). In fact, the Holy Spirit nudges us to do the right things and to respond in the character of Christ through His “gentle whisper” to our heart. (see I Kings 19: 12 NIV).

Christ-likeness and godliness is not produced, though, by just imitating Christ’s actions. Our attitude and desire to become more like Christ must grow in our heart. It has to be real. Indeed, we must remember that God knows our heart, and He knows when we are play acting or putting on a performance for those around us, rather than truly living for Christ. In fact, if you have truly been Saved you will know that you know that you know that you are Saved, “For this is the secret: Christ lives in you– (Colossians 1:27. NLT). In other words, true Christ-likeness then comes from the inhabitation of Christ within your heart and soul. In fact, for the born-again Christian, “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.”  -- (Philippians 2: 13. NLT).

Spiritual Growth and Maturity

When you come to Christ in belief that He is the living Son of God, and when you ask Christ to cleanse you from all your sins and ask Him to come into your heart, your Salvation is not based upon any personal efforts or achievements that you have made. In other words, there is nothing that you can do to achieve your own Salvation. Christ is the One Who gives you His Salvation. Moreover, personal Salvation comes about as a result of understanding that you are a sinner, and you are unrighteous before a Holy God. It also comes about through the mercy and grace given to you by God, who sent His Only Son to die for you and me and then to conquer death for your and my sins by rising from the grave. This means that Salvation only comes about through your heart-felt belief in the risen Christ and from your desire to change your life by living for Christ rather than for yourself.

Spiritual growth and maturity, though, is not an instant thing when we are Saved. Although we might wish it to happen immediately, spiritual maturity doesn’t automatically occur when a person is Saved. Rather spiritual growth and maturity is the gradual and progressive development of your heart and soul into becoming more Christ-like, which has to be sought after and pursued. Moreover, this pursuit of spiritual maturity will take the rest of each person’s life, as it something that each Saved individual has to pursue all their lives. In fact, it is a constant life-long process of seeking godly knowledge, wisdom, and truth while living in obedience to God.

Becoming More Christ-like

To acquire spiritual growth and maturity one has to be dedicated to the long and even sometimes slow process of spiritual growth and maturity, which is the overall process of becoming more and more Christ-like. We know this because we can read in the Scriptures what the Apostle Paul says about acquiring Christ-likeness. He told the Ephesians that “[This process of becoming Christ-like] will continue until we are united by our faith, and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like Him.”  -- (Ephesians 4: 13. CEV). So, becoming Christ-like means that we not only need to study the Word of God, live the Word of God, and be obedient to the instructions and admonitions of Christ, but that we have to grow our faith in Christ; all the while striving to become more and more like Christ.

Ultimately, though, each person’s rate of spiritual growth and maturity has everything to do with their own desire to spiritually grow and mature for the Lord. In other words, while your effort has nothing to do with your personal Salvation, i.e. you cannot work your way into Salvation, however, your personal effort has a great deal to do with your personal growth and maturity in Christ. For, effort is required in order to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s direction and work in your life. In fact, in the New Testament we are told at least eight times to “make every effort” in our spiritual growth to develop our faith and become more like Jesus, i.e., to become more Christ-like.

Making Every Effort to ...

Here are just a few of the statements that Jesus’ Apostles made in regard to our making every effort to become more like Jesus Christ:

The Apostle Paul told Timothy to “Make every effort to give yourself to God as the kind of person He will accept. Be a worker who is not ashamed and who uses the true teaching in the right way.”  -- (II Timothy 2: 15 NCV). But how do we know what “true teaching in the right way” is? Well, we must read and study the Bible to learn about God’s true teaching. Then we must meditate on the Word of God diligently, so that we will know how we are to act and how we can be obedient to God’s truth.

Additionally, the author of the book of Hebrews tells us that we are to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  -- (Hebrews 12:14. NIV). But what exactly is holiness? Well, again, to understand what God considers to be holiness, we have to read His Word, the Holy Bible, and meditate on the Holy Word. Then we have to apply God’s Word directly to our daily lives. This means that spiritual growth and maturity is a process, just like the process of going to school and then graduating years later with a degree. But if we don’t seek out and meditate on God’s Word, we are no better than those students who just do the bare minimum to get by in school. They have little to show for their time spent in school and cannot even tell someone who the first president of the United States was, let alone name any president before Obama.  So, just like those people who just get by in school, Christians who do not study the Word of God and learn to listen to the directions of the Holy Spirit or learn how to emulate Christ-likeness are just existing. They certainly will not be prepared to mentor other Christians or non-Christians, because they will not have acquired the characteristics, attitude, and values of Christ.

The Apostle Peter also explains to us just how important it is to acquire the characteristics, attitudes, values and knowledge of Christ. For Peter, too, said that Christians are to, “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. – (II Peter 1: 5-7. NIV). So, besides growing our faith, true authentic Christians are to work at acquiring goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. This may take years for a person to be able to say that they have acquired those seven characteristics of Christ.

But, besides choosing to let go of our old ways of acting and besides changing the way that we think, in order to develop spiritual growth and maturity, we must also acquire the nine characteristics and attributes of Christ’s by developing some godly habits. What are these attributes and habits that all Christians should want to develop? Well, they are of Christ, and they are essentially called the fruit of the Spirit. As I have mentioned before, Christ’s Holy Spirit lives within each born-again Christian. Indeed, Christ loves us so much that He gave us His Holy Spirit who indwells each new born-again Christian. Christ did this because He wants us to mature in our Christ-likeness. So, He gave us the Holy Spirit who endeavors daily to help us to achieve Christ’s characteristics and attitudes.

What are these characteristics and attitudes? Well, they are given to us by the Holy Spirit. For, the Word of God tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another– (Galatians 5: 22-26. NASB). Notice that there is some overlapping of the first seven characteristics or attributes that the Apostle Peter lists as part of Christ-likeness and the nine characteristics and attributes of Christ’s that the Apostle Paul enumerates as given to us by the fruit of the Spirit.

There are nine characteristics or attributes of Christ-likeness are given to us through the fruit of the Spirit. But, there are also seven characteristics or attributes of Christ-likeness that the Apostle Peter enumerates; some of which are different from the other nine of the Spirit. However, there are only three of these characteristics or attributes that are part of both lists. Those three characteristics found on both lists are Love, Goodness, and Self-control. I would say, then, that striving for those three and acquiring them is very important to the acquisition of the rest.

Striving for Christ-likeness through the pursuit of growth and maturity

Once we are Saved, the Holy Spirit’s goal is to produce Christ-likeness within us. For, it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to be dependent totally upon God. But it is only by listening to the Holy Spirit and with our complete commitment to dependence upon God that we can acquire Christ’s wonderful love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, without these nine characteristics of Christ’s we cannot become spiritually mature. But in order to acquire those nine characteristics of Christ’s, we must also acquire biblical and godly knowledge through reading and meditating on the Word of God. We also must develop perseverance or determination in the pursuit of growth and maturity and in our faith in Christ. Finally, we can only acquire godliness if we learn how to show brotherly kindness and love to others. For Christ said that we are to love others as we love ourselves.

True spiritual growth and maturity leads into serving others. For, it is with our Salvation, along with our spiritual growth and maturity, and the acquisition of the characteristics of Christ, that we can then become Christians who will build up and encourage others through Spirit-led ministries such as Active Relational Christian Mentoring.  But first, we have to fulfill Christ’s admonition to us which is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – (Galatians 5: 14. NASB). For, it is only in loving our neighbor as our self that we can step up to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  -- (Galatians 6: 2. NASB).

Steps to Spiritual Growth and Maturity

There are so many things that we can learn from the Bible, i.e. God’s Word, about obedience, growth, maturity, truth, knowledge, and wisdom. But, there is one other thing that I will mention that helps us develop greater spiritual growth and maturity and that is our complete faith and reliance upon God and His Son as we go through the trials and tribulations that this earth has for us. As I have mentioned many times before, we live in a fallen world. The consequences of living in a fallen world, though, are many from such things as sickness, tragedies, evil intentions, temptations, wars, and diseases, and including the manipulations of our fellow man. The result is that we may be faced with trials that we did not expect or that we would rather not go through. However, it is in the handling of each of this trials that we can personally grow and mature in not only our faith in God, but in our Christ-likeness as well.

The Psalmist explains why we have to go through some of the trials that we encounter in our life journey, when he writes, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs, You have caused men to ride over our heads, we went through the fire and through water, but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”  -- (Psalm 66: 10-12. NKJV.). Every time we keep our faith and our trust in the Lord, we will be purified as silver is purified. It is through these trials that we are developing more and more of the characteristics of Christ when we completely trust in God and lean upon the development of Christ-likeness.

The Apostle Paul told his mentee, Timothy, to “Run away from infantile indulgences. Run after mature righteousness -faith, love, peace – joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before the Lord.”  -- (II Timothy 2: 22. MSG).  As we live this life we are to grow and become even more righteous in spite of the things that we have to face in this life. In fact, we can face all trials through honest and serious prayer, because Christ brings our prayers before God, and He hears our every need. It is through faith and prayer that we can overcome whatever negative situation that we are in, because we know that God is there for us. God may not take away our trial, but He will always be there for us, if we will just turn to Him in prayer and communication.

It is also through our own personal trials and tribulations that we can be there for others when they go through something similar. In fact, those that never seem to have any problems cannot develop the compassion and love that is needed when it comes to helping others endure their trials. If we never had a trial, we would never know the all-encompassing love that God has for His children. For it is through trials and our faith in God that we begin to understand the love that God has for us. It is also through our trials that we can show our love and understanding to another who faces a similar situation.

So, what does this all mean for you?

Well, it means that as true born-again Christians it is our responsibility to pursue the process of growing and maturing spiritually every day of our lives. Yes, we must work at growing spiritually just as we work at our job or work at taking care of our family. To grow spiritually we also have to make the time to read God’s Word and to meditate upon His Word so that we will know how we are to live for God.  Moreover, we have to learn to communicate with God daily through prayer in Christ’s name.

Growing and Maturing Through Servanthood

Part of growing and maturing spiritually is found in our willingness to be servants for the kingdom of God. We grow ever more mature when we become servants and we do for others in the name of God and when we do for the Lord by sharing the Gospel message. For,

When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented with authority – quoting from the very Word of God – He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart.”  -- Billy Graham.

Just doing nothing but living our own sheltered lives, however, will not develop spiritual growth and maturity. In other words, we cannot become hermits who are just waiting for Christ to return and take us to heaven. Rather, we must tell others about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and commit to servanthood that will help others become all they can be for the Lord, themselves, their family, their friends, and acquaintances. It is a daily process that is required in order to become more spiritually mature.

Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) is a wonderful way to be of service to those around us who may just need a mentoring friend. But, to engage in servanthood and to be a Christian mentor, you need daily develop your spiritual maturity by making a commitment to read God’s Word and to pray to God for the strength and knowledge that you will need to help another. For, no matter how knowledgeable you are in your particular field, whether it be math, science, motherhood, your hobbies, or your career, you will need God’s knowledge given through the Holy Spirit and your understanding of the Bible in order to share with others.

I have a little book entitled Promises and Prayers for Friends which is a compilation of Bible verses and quotations from different people on various topics such as Spiritual Growth, Strength, Talents, Testimony, etc. It was copyrighted by Family Christian Press in 2005. I found the following quotation in it that I am including here, because it is succinct and to the point on acquiring spiritual maturity.

The path to spiritual maturity unfolds day by day. Each day offers the opportunity to worship God, to ignore God, or to rebel against God. When we worship Him with our prayers, our words, our thoughts, and our actions, we are blessed by the richness of our relationship with the Father. But if we ignore God all together or intentionally rebel against His commandments, we rob ourselves of His blessings.
Today offers yet another opportunity for spiritual growth. If you choose, you can seize that opportunity by obeying God’s Word, by seeking His will, and by walking with His Son.”  -- anonymous.

I will now end with a statement from Corrie ten Boom who survived the Holocaust. She wrote: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit; join a church where the members believe the Bible and know the Lord; seek the fellowship of other Christians; learn and be nourished by God’s Word and His many promises. Conversion is not the end of your journey – it is only the beginning.”  -- Corrie ten Boom

May you enjoy your life journey as you grow in spiritual maturity and the desire to be of service to others. May God bless all your mentoring endeavors!

May I also suggest reading the God inspired book, The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring to find out even more about the benefits and blessings of pursuing spiritual maturity and of sharing your knowledge, wisdom, gifts, and talents with your mentees.