The Lord has put on my heart to write a series of teachings for the mature Christian. By mature, I mean spiritually mature…not number of years mature…although, sometimes it works out that way. I want readers to understand that I in no way underestimate the importance of salvation. What I have found in my personal walk with the Lord is that there are many unsaved people walking about, but what strikes me as an equal tragedy is that there are many saved walking about that don’t understand how to grow or mature spiritually as a Christian. They are believers but not disciples. As one popular, modern-day writer has stated it: they are just “fans”. Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie. If you are familiar with the Barna Group, you’ve seen through their research that there’s a very high percentage of Americans that say that they believe in Jesus Christ, but there are sadly very few active Christians (involved in church or small groups) or Christian people who serve in their communities. The youth of our country are leaving the church in droves! I don’t even want to depress you with those numbers…well O.K. the percentage is 72%! Obviously, their church experience left them unfulfilled in some way, or they were “turned-off” by the experience. What I know is that there is nothing unfulfilling about a spiritual life and there is nothing about Christ Jesus that would turn a person off! You can make the logical progression yourself; I’m not in the business of pointing fingers. The Apostle Paul stated it best when he wrote, “If part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers”.
There are many believers out there but very few true disciples of Christ. Most of us are guilty of all talk and no walk. We have missed the mark on making sure our deeds match our creeds. If you notice Jesus’ statement in the great commission, we are commanded to go and make disciples; he says nothing of going and making believers. For the Scriptures tell us that even demons believe and tremble. So I have taken the initiative to start a series entitled Solid Food. I have been asked to start a discipleship class by several people in the real world (no offense cyber-world!), and I intend to fulfill this gracious invite. What I am going to do is use this blog as a springboard for the more advanced course. I know many of you out there are fully committed, “all-in” disciples of Christ, so I figured I would attract the ones that can appreciate a deeper and closer walk with God. I am going to do the same thing on another blog to build my beginner discipleship class.
What I want to address before beginning this series is defining what it is to be a mature Christian. Being a mature Christian requires reading the Word (not listening to it at church only), prayer (really getting to know God…not just asking Him for blessings), learning how to meditate (listening to God), and living a life of love (love as a verb, not as mere sympathy or empathy). The apostle Paul in his letters intimates in several instances that the readers of his letters are still drinking milk as opposed to eating solid food. In a spiritual sense, this refers to the immature verses the mature Christian. What I’m going to address in this series is not fit for one still drinking milk. Many of the issues, themes, and spiritual principles will absolutely make no sense to a person who does not speak the spiritual language or is not intimate with at least the New Testament. I apologize ahead of time for the necessary structure and parameters that I must put upon this.
Reflecting the origin of the name I write under, I realize that there will be an attrition rate. If you don’t know the story of Gideon, you can read about him and his mission in the Old Testament Book of Judges, chapters 6-8. This is not for everyone and even if only one person decides to take this journey with me…it will be worth the effort. I trust that the Lord will open some eyes, offend others, and completely close others as well. I humbly pray often that His will be done in this and everything that I write in His name. I take this opportunity very seriously. This is not a “feel good”, motivational endeavor; although, the proper ears will derive both motivation and grace. The only reason I am confident is that we all share the same Spirit! I am convinced that the people who should read it will be led to read it; and those whose eyes should not read it will simply move on to something “more their speed” or more to their liking.
I wish I could write more efficiently and keep my posts brief; I know the world moves at light speed and few have the time or inclination to take this adventure with me. But I can only write the way the Lord blesses me to write, so I can’t apologize for the length of the posts. I cringe at the thought of someone trying to “get a beat” on my blog and realize that it isn’t a blog at all; what I am writing is more of a small book. So understand that before you begin with me; I will cover mountains of spiritual issues and to be quite honest…the posts will be short compared to the amount of studying, research and exploration I have done to arrive at this point. What you must realize is that I have taken very complex issues and tried to simplify them for the average reader. I have been told that I have the ability to simplify and convey truths effectively. I hope that is the case.
Below you will find a list of three parameters that I have determined as to where a person should be in their spiritual walk with God to gain the most benefit from the series that will follow:
1.) Knowing the Holy Spirit, not knowing of the Holy Spirit:
It is absolutely crucial to have read, meditated, and spiritually digested the book of John. In this Gospel, Christ Himself teaches of the relationship between the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and where we fit into this relationship. I need not go into detail about this relationship if you are already familiar with it. But suffice it to say, we know through this divine Scripture, that the relationship that we have right here and right now in the church age is centered on the Holy Spirit of God living within us. We can be taught nothing, cannot mature us Christians, or even know how to pray without the gift of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians today have made an intellectual choice to accept the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. However, this is only the beginning and not the end; being born again is a process.
The seed that is planted is the gospel or in a more literal interpretation, it is the “good news”. Intellectually and emotionally accepting the gospel is the seed that is planted. It is the gracious act of deliverance, of seeing that reality is not what it seems, that God has provided a means to have a relationship with Him. If one looks into the Old Testament and reads of the deliverance of the Israelites from the nation of Egypt, you quickly realize that it is only the beginning. And as you read on, you see that the journey has only started for these people. Just because we are delivered does not mean that we are finished. In fact, it took quite a bit of growing, adversity, and hard lessons before the nation was granted permission to enter the Promised Land. Also notice that many did not make it…this is sobering.
In the New Testament you read the Parable of The Sower, and many of the seeds don’t make it…again, sobering! This series is all about the journey, all about going from a seed to a full-grown tree, starting as infant and growing into a powerful person of faith. I am assuming that you have been delivered by believing on the Name of the one and only begotten Son of God. From that point, according to Christ Himself, the relationship continues to grow through the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. Notice in nature that nothing is immediately born; in order to give birth, a seed needs to be planted, there must be a process of gestation, followed by a painful birthing process, and ultimately a new creature is born. And even when the new creature is born, it needs to develop. Is it not plain in the word of God and also in nature that life is all about process? The natural processes on this planet we call Earth are a shadow of divine truth in the spiritual life. God does not do things haphazardly or whimsically; He is very purposeful and creative in conveying the message of His eternal love. It would behoove us to open the eyes of our hearts and to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds so that we may see the simple truths that circulate all about us. In the book of John, Christ tells us that the Father is looking for people to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We cannot even begin to fully understand this verse without the aid of the Holy Spirit.
There is a misconception out there that somehow the Holy Spirit is this unknowable energy that is in all places at all times…a “force” if you will. The Bible clearly states that the Holy Spirit has a will, a heart, a mind, can be grieved, can come and depart, gives gifts, and that “the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”. That does not sound like some unknowable energy or force to me; that sounds like a personality and a force with purpose. Please believe me when I tell you that the Holy Spirit is a knowable personality. This is not a religious doctrine; it is an apparent truth from Genesis to Revelation.
Many know of the Holy Spirit or believe that He exists. That is not quite enough or what Jesus meant when he said, “I will not leave you orphans…I will pray the Father that He send you another comforter (assumes Jesus Himself was the first comforter)…and He will lead you into all truth…and it is good that I go away, because if I didn’t go away, then the Holy Spirit cannot come.” On and on it goes; like I said, if you can’t believe me in this, then you really do need to read (it is more accurately called an experience as opposed to a read) the Book of John. We are called to know Him, not to know of Him! The Holy Spirit is the key to all wisdom and knowledge; without the Spirit, everything simply becomes another religion and studying the Word becomes confusing to the point of madness!
If you are one of those that think the Holy Spirit was only around “back in the day”, then you need to read the Book of Acts. If you still think He was from and was for another time in the past, then you haven’t been paying attention! Even the recent history of the United States records His work in the Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the Azusa Street Revival, and on and on it goes. He is actively at work all around the world, and although the mainstream media won’t report on these type things, a little research will prove my point. I truly believe that soon a major Revival, that we will call the Third Great Awakening, will sweep the Western world, but there is much praying and work that needs to be done to lay the groundwork…this rumbling under my feet of anticipation is one of the reasons for my zeal in writing and teaching. How many testimonies does a person need? The fact is this: you will not need anyone’s testimony once you have met Him! And curiously enough, some have met Him and don’t know who or what it was! Our God is gracious enough to temporarily ignore our ignorance and clumsiness when He first speaks His call into our hearts.
2.) Understanding Spiritual Language:
The Lord Jesus tells us that His sheep know His voice. Back in biblical times, the shepherds would come together and mingle their herds together in one large fenced area. When one shepherd was ready to depart, he would simply call his sheep out of the mixed herd, and all of his sheep would quickly beckon to his call and only his call. Through the time that the sheep had spent with their shepherd, they knew the voice of their shepherd distinctively. What we must understand and accept is that if you don’t recognize His voice, then you are not one of His sheep. This may sound harsh. But the fact of the matter is…I didn’t write it.
The language of the spirit is something that cannot be understood by worldly knowledge, by the intellect, or by philosophical concepts and theories. The Lord tells us that if we are born again then we become a new spiritual person. And just like a newborn baby, we don’t understand human language. Only by spending time with our parents do we children ultimately begin to understand language, and such is the case with a newborn Christian. Only by spending time in the word, in prayer, and in meditation do we begin to understand the language of the spirit. This is foolishness to the world. It says as much in the book of Romans.
Let me give you some examples:
Let’s say you’re on a safari and you get to witness firsthand a cheetah sprinting across the plains…If you try to explain to somebody what a cheetah in full sprint looks like and that person has never seen it for themselves, then they will only get a cloudy picture at best no matter how talented you are at creating the description. And even if you took a photograph of the cheetah running across the plains, the photograph would only crudely represent the full beauty thereof. You see, the only way to truly grasp the beauty of the cheetah is to experience it and see it with your own eyes. Such is the language of the spirit. It is very difficult to try to explain spiritual matters and to communicate spiritual truths without the hearer having had their own personal experience in the spiritual realm and being spoken to by the Spirit.
If you have seen a cheetah running across the plains, and I show you a photograph of that cheetah, then you’ll know exactly what the essence of the experience actually was without having to see it in real-time once again. Words are simply photographs, but they lack the essence that only the spirit can give. That is why reading the Bible without the aid of the Spirit will basically leave the divine beauty absent. As most Christian disciples know, the Holy Spirit can show up at any point and at any time in a person’s life. You may have never read the Bible before in your life, sit down and begin reading, and the Spirit will show up completely unannounced and enlighten your eyes. Yet, there are people who approach the Bible with the preconceived notion that it is nothing more than an ancient text and a flawed, historical account of the history of the Jewish people and the life of Jesus. In this case, one can read it over and over again and completely miss the spiritual truths that await an open heart.
Another example that I can give is the existence of the electron cloud. In every atom, there exist electrons that move at such a high rate of speed that they cannot be measured. In essence and in theory, the electron is in all places at all times – if you could freeze the electron in place so that it could be observed, it loses the meaning of what it actually is. To stop the electron in time and space robs it of its intrinsic nature. In the language of the spirit, the mind can only comprehend a certain amount; and the soul can merely glimpse, as best it can, the spiritual reality. Only through the spirit (human) and by the Spirit (divine) can the truth be uncovered, experienced, and brought into what we often refer to as “knowing that you know that you know”. So you see the difficulty in trying to explain spiritual matters with empty words! It takes not only my best efforts to “photograph” the spiritual truths, but also requires the reader to have the proper experience to translate the photos into life-giving words! If you are accustomed to listening to the Lord, then the words that I write and the words that you read will transcend what the mind can understand. Again, this is foolishness to the world, and if you know of what I speak, then you know of what I speak. If you don’t, then either the Spirit isn’t speaking to you through my testimony or you have not quite passed the milestone of hearing the Spirit of the Lord. This is not an indictment! It is an invitation.
My dear friend, Jesus very rarely comes down and introduces Himself in physical, visual form; very rarely does an angel appear and speak to people; but, believe it or not, the Spirit is actually more real than what you can see and hear! The Spirit brings with Him power, love, and peace. Once a person has tasted what Jesus refers to as “living waters”, that person is forever changed and transported to a new reality that is very much like taking black and white film to Technicolor! I get asked quite often how a person knows if the Spirit is talking to them…my answer is always the same, “Oh…you’ll know!!” When what you can’t physically see becomes more real to you than what you can physically see…then you are on the right track!
3.) How God Speaks versus Religious Doctrine:
God speaks through His servants in past, present, and future. Whether it is Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul, James, John, Thomas Merton, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, A.W. Tozer, you, and me…He is always speaking and He is always at work. Of course He speaks to us through His Holy Spirit, sometimes we cannot hear because our lives are too loud, and it is by nature a “sharing thing”. Some things spoken by the Spirit to me are personal in nature, but He always gives me the opportunity to share even these when the situation arises. It is all about Jesus and the edification of His bride. It is not a “me” thing; it is a “we” thing. The beauty of the Spirit is that you have a built-in B.S. detector! If you are a disciple of Christ, then you recognize Truth when you hear it! We also have a standard: the Scriptures. There is one Spirit, one Baptism (spiritually speaking), one body, one hope, and one God the Father (Ephesians 4). The Scripture always agrees with Truth and Truth always agrees with Scripture. So, if you think I will propose to speak to you outside the parameters of Scripture, then you are mistaken. And you will never hear me start something with “Thus saith the Lord…”!
Sometimes the Lord will teach me a truth that sounds absolutely off the wall, but when I check it against the standard of His recorded Word, I am always relieved and always amazed! I always have to check rhema with logos. The other thing I want to say is this: the Bible tells us that “by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony” the world will be changed by us overcoming the accuser (Satan). I have finally stopped letting the accuser tell me that I should be quiet or listening to him ask, “Who are you to write this?” If you know the story of Gideon, then you know he started as a coward…scared to do something wrong, scared to step out, and scared to offend! After many years and even more prayer, the voice of my Lord is clear as a bell.
Are there really people out there or do you really think that after the Book of Revelation was written that God just stopped speaking? The Bible itself testifies otherwise! We are so locked into our traditions that we can’t see the real truth that God continues to speak to His servants. Paul said plainly that prophets are called to prophesy, and teachers to teach, and preachers to preach…there was never an expiration date placed on His speaking either by Christ Himself or Paul or any other writer in the Bible. Does that hurt your ears? Christian writers like Thomas Merton, Watchman Nee, and even writers of our present day like John Eldridge, Jeff Bridges, Richard Blackaby and Graham Cooke (only to name a few and I hope I don’t offend by not including many others) speak absolute volumes of Holy Spirit inspired works! Some preachers and teachers wouldn’t even think of taking a podium without the guidance of the Holy Spirit! So it is important that one opens their heart and mind to come to grips that there is much to be learned through the Spirit working in contemporary man. In fact, if we close our ears to what the Spirit is saying, are we not the same as the religious Pharisees and Sadducees of Christ’s day? They focused so much on the law and their concept of the Father, they could not see the Son; and likewise, we should not be so focused on our religious concept of the Son that we cannot see His Spirit! See the progression? Remember when Christ told the disciples that if they have seen the Son that they have seen the Father? Is it not the same progression that if we see (spiritually speaking of course)the Holy Spirit, that we are seeing the Son? The Bible says that the only unforgivable sin is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit…why? Think about it.
Here is the deal. If one prays to be led by the Spirit, seeks God diligently with their whole heart, and meditates on Scripture, that person should expect God to begin speaking to them! And the Bible tells us that what is whispered to you in the secret place should be shouted from the rooftops. So I humbly submit to you that I am one of those persons who have sought and continue to seek hard after God. I am one of those persons that pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom. And I am one of those persons who lives and breathes within the pages of Scripture. I will not write anything that has not been communicated to me by the Spirit. Anything less than divine revelation is blasphemy and would surely lead to my utter destruction. My Lord loves me and you enough to spare both of us that situation. But to not share with you what I have learned is even worse in that it would be direct disobedience! If I keep it to myself, then it will grow stagnant anyway; for in order to keep spiritual gifts, they must be given away. Everything in God’s kingdom is like that: love, joy, peace, healing, hope, faith, wisdom, and on and on it goes. These are not my rules; they are His rules.
That being said, you must understand that I can only give you one facet to a multi-faceted gem. I am not in the business of professing to rewrite what has already been written, professing to have an exclusive corner on the market of wisdom, or claim that what I have to offer is “more true” than what you already know. I can simply add to the mix, give you my perspective as dictated by the Spirit, and let you share in my beholding of divine revelation.
Just because an eternal truth has been revealed to me, doesn’t mean that I’m the only one; on the contrary, what I have learned is that the best way to edify is to confirm that others are seeing the same thing! I simply possess the ability to maybe express myself in this medium differently than others because of my unique, personal perspective. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the writers before me that have been led by the Spirit and then touched my life as well as countless others. Christ is the chief cornerstone, and all the men of God that have lived and recorded their testimony throughout time have influenced me in a profound way. In some ways it feels eerily like plagiarism! Their influence is written on my heart from Moses to Isaiah to King David to John to Paul to James to Peter to Origen to Irenaeus to St. Augustine to brother Lawrence to St. Benedict to John Calvin to Martin Luther to John Edwards to D.L. Moody to R.A. Torrey to Merton to C.S. Lewis to Bonhoeffer to O. Hallesby to Watchman Nee to Spurgeon to Billy Graham to Mother Teresa to Richard Foster to Graham Cooke to Platt to Eldridge to Beth Moore to Jerry Bridges to Vern Polythress to even some of you Spirit-filled bloggers out there. This is just a small spattering of the men and women that I owe my allegiance to! And of course, my pastors, my Bible study brothers and sisters, my teachers, and even some of my professors have influenced me in profound ways.
ONE HUGE PROBLEM
One of the main problems with Christian Religion today is that everyone has one facet or interpretation and thinks it is the only facet or interpretation that matters or that theirs matters most. We have many denominations (over 175 in the U.S. alone) because God revealed a truth to them and then they set up shop. I just stated a truth above concerning stagnation; a remix of this would be that if a revelation becomes stagnant or static, it can implode upon itself. God is always moving forward, and that is why His people have always lived in tents! Remember, God never really wanted a temple with walls. Whenever you think you have gone far enough and can put our God in a box, sorrow follows as He is not happy in a box. The New Testament screams, not whispers, of the trappings of division in the body or bride of Christ. But we have ignored Christ’s warnings, Paul’s warnings, and many others’ warnings. One fact that the Spirit has shared with me is that in embracing diversity we can achieve, through His grace, a more complete picture of Truth!
If we think our version, or our interpretation, or our doctrine is correct and “theirs” is incorrect, then we completely lose the divine beauty of what the “body of Christ” should be. Even within one parable, the Spirit can reveal countless truths! Any disciple of Christ knows this to be the case. How many times has the Spirit revealed a profound truth to you from a piece of Scripture that never spoke to you like that before? If we individually can be taught multi-layered truths from one parable, how many more truths could we learn if we could learn to see from another person’s perspective of the same gem we claim to cherish? Shouldn’t we just crave a deeper understanding? Shouldn’t we just praise the Lord when He imparts more wisdom? Does it have to be revealed only to “us” for it to be appreciated? We have to come to terms that we only stop learning when we close our minds with a comfort level that suits our superimposed, limited version of God. When we get to heaven, I can absolutely assure you that there will be no human that will stand up and say, “See! I told you so…just like I thought it would be!” Our God is so much more awesome than that; He would never allow any human to fully comprehend His divine Truth, His divine timing, or His divine glory. So in the meantime, it would be to our benefit to open our minds and our hearts to the very real possibility that we should be open to what others have to say. If we spent more time being changed by others as opposed to always wanting to change them, we would be on a significant path to true enlightenment.
So there it is: if you know or are willing to get to know the Holy Spirit, if you can hear His voice or are willing to learn to hear His voice, and if you can get past religious doctrines and truly want to listen to God speak, you qualify for Solid Food. I hope some of you join me in the upcoming weeks on my adventure of pouring out what has been gestating inside of me for a while now. I am sure I will learn just as much if not more than you as I write this series. That is just the way the Spirit rolls. Please subscribe to my site if you haven’t already, feel free to make as many comments as you like, feel free to ask as many questions as you like, and if you ever want or need Scriptural proofs of my perspective, I am more than willing to do so!
The first installment in the Solid Food Series will be entitled: Abide in Me as I Abide in You. It will address what it means to live in Christ and what it means for Him to live in us…very exciting stuff. I wondered about what this meant for most of my life, and the Spirit finally taught me this unbelievable and practical truth. It blew me away and I know it will blow you away as well! Maybe you have been shown the same truth…I hope some will find this enlightening, but really my earnest hope is that some will say, “Hey! The Spirit told me the same thing!”
Come join me.
Your Brother in Christ,