I am not the man today I was 25 years ago and I am thankful for that fact! I am no longer ruled by my temper, full of self-righteousness, quick to judge others, and proud of my puny achievements. I don’t hate those who wrong me, fear those who attack me, or seek to destroy my enemies. I regularly experience the Holy Spirit’s ” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT) Please don’t read this as prideful. Only God could do what is being done in me! And, don’t think I am deceived about having attained goodness by my own efforts!
I am a long, long way from perfect, but I am growing in grace. Temptation stills worms its way into my heart and mind. Too often I allow ungodly thoughts, words, and actions to be my choice but I rejoice in the process described in the Word as being ” transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory!” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV) Praise God I am not who I was and I look forward to who I will be under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit! Religion didn’t do this for me! Immersing myself in church culture and work did not change my heart. The transformation is gradual, the Truth of God replacing the deceptions of evil, the Spirit working to bring understanding, and repentance bringing change. I am unwilling to resign to life and say, “I am what I am.” To do so, would be to get stuck in a rut!
One of the more pathetic sights in this world is a person who has stopped developing emotionally and spiritually. That 45 year old man who is still trying to wear his high school football jacket, who is trying to make what hair he has left look cool, and who is still working to impress ‘chicks,’ is a joke to everyone but himself. Being a teenager is fun, but unless we grow out of that stage we look and act increasingly foolish! Same principle applies to a Christian who refuses to grow in Christ, to develop character, deal with his hang-ups, and move forward. Disciple, if you’re making the same arguments and fighting the same battles today that you fought 20 years ago, I urge you to go to your knees and ask God to rock your world! Engage in a fast, dig into the Scripture, find a spiritual director and; for God’s sake – grow up!
Perhaps all this sounds like too much emphasis on ‘works religion’ and not enough reliance on God’s grace. Let’s be clear. This is not about perfecting one’s self with guilt, psychological tricks, or thumb screws! This is about pursuing God whole-heartedly. Genuine spiritual depth is not about superficially looking better, nor is it about mastery of Scripture trivia! It is about walking with God, being more and more His intimate friend, giving larger and larger chunks of Self over to His mastery. He leads, we follow! To be sure, such intimacy will not just happen to us. He will bring us into situations where we come face to face with some part of ourselves and give us the choice – live to Me or choose to live for Self. By the Power of the Spirit we say, “Yes,” and grow on… to the next challenge point. And so it goes. The Light of Christ shines into the dark places of our lives and we discover the pain of our sinfulness. But, with genuine repentance, we also find the incredible joy of forgiveness and serenity of walking with God. The result is a beautiful holiness that others sense is heart deep, not just a pious affectation that we adopt for certain situations.
Here’s how Paul described the process of spiritual maturation. Ask God to help you to choose this Way and together, let’s make His Name glorious. Take a few moments to soak in his testimony and be challenged by it.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection (read – completeness or maturity) for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. (Simply put – I am growing up!)
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting
the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:8-14, NLT)
He gave me beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise
For the spirit of heaviness,
That we might be trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
That He might be glorified.
Beauty for Ashes
Robert Manzano © 1976, 1979, 1983 Maranatha! Music (Admin. by The Copyright Company)
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