A Mentor’s Guide for Continual Spiritual Growth #4

 

A Mentor’s Guide for Continual Spiritual Growth #4

 Continual spiritual growth is an eternal journey.  Some folks teach that in the instant we see Jesus we will be instantly mature based on a verse of scripture that reads:

 1 John 3:2 (MSG)

What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him—and in seeing him, become like him.

 This is often interpreted to mean instant perfection.  There are other ideas, other opinions.  One is that we continue from where we left off on our spiritual growth journey (Dallas Willard, Preparing for Heaven) in becoming the person God made us to be.  We can be sure of this, there is no one and done when it comes to being a follower of Jesus.

 We have been examining a mentor's guide for continual spiritual growth.  We have learned that there is no “one and done.” What started us out on this journey is our awareness that an area in our life was out of control.  We discovered that something was controlling us instead of us being in control with the acknowledgment that we can’t change. No matter how hard we try, we keep falling back into our old messes.  Our first principle for continual spiritual growth is the “You Can’t Do It.”  To change you need a power that you lack.  God has the power you need.

 To access that power, a right relationship with God needs to be established.  God has provided a way for you to be reconciled to Him.  God incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, which the scripture refers to as the Son of God.  The Gospel reveals Jesus became the way to God.  When you acknowledge that your relationship with God is estranged.  When you believe that Jesus, through His death upon the cross, makes it possible for you to draw near to the One Jesus called Father.  When you commit to forsaking dysfunctional ways of living and instead follow Jesus, learning to live has the scriptures guide, that when you ask the Father, in His compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and great love, makes things right between you and He.  Now you have access to the power you need to change.  Have you established a right relationship with God through your faith in what Jesus has done for you?  Sincerely acknowledge, believe, commit, and ask, the incredible changes will begin.  If that’s your decision today, let me know, I want to encourage you in your new beginning

 Not all our hang-ups, dysfunctions, and habits, attachments, or addictions are resolved when we first believe.  The messes we made often take time, intention, effort, and the power of God to clean up.  Our whole way of thinking must be transformed, a whole new way of living must be adopted.  There will be battles between your desire to do life the way you’ve always done it, and doing life the new way, under God’s guidance.  The pull of the old way is strong. The way to win the battle between selfishness and Christ-centeredness is by bending the knee.  Bending the knee is our second principle for continual spiritual growth.  We must learn to sacrifice anything unworthy of the Gospel of Christ and choose to do the will of the One who has saved us from our dead-end way of living. When you bend the knee you are saying no to the old desires and yes to God.  You are submitting to God just as Jesus did when he said, “Not my will but yours” (Luke 22:42).

 There is often a battle between being stiffed kneed, “doing it my way,” and bending the knee, “doing it God’s way.”  We’ve learned that we are to bring our stiff-kneed problem to God.  We acknowledge the problem, confessing the problem to God and a trusted spiritual friend. Repenting means changing your behavior.  Repentance may require you to get rid of the cultural idols in your life.  An idol is anything more important to you than your obedience to God.  Repentance may require that you make amends with the people you have hurt, the ones you failed to love, making restitution, asking to be forgiven. To overcome you need to repent, ridding yourselves of the old ways, idols, possibly friends, places, that tempt you to disregard God’s way.  Overcoming repentance involves making amends to those we have hurt.  By doing so we open up doors for righteous relationships which is our third principle of continual spiritual growth.  

 You are doing the things necessary for continual spiritual growth,  whenever you are faced with a challenge, a problem, a difficulty you realize that “You Can’t Do It,” so you seek God’s power.  You’re depending on God.  You are “Bending the Knee,” in every area of your life; submitting your will to God, following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  You have “Opened the Doors For Righteous Relationships,” casting out cultural idols and asking those you hurt to forgive you.  Good things are happening in your life.  You are growing, becoming more like Jesus who saved you.  You are seeing the messes you’ve made getting cleaned up.  You feel like a whole new person, you’re experiencing victory, you’re living the life of an overcomer.  Truly you are a disciple of Jesus. There is one more principle for continual spiritual growth that you must put to work.  The fourth principle for continual spiritual growth is “Give It Away.”

In all your struggles to be an overcomer, you have gained valuable experience.  You have earned a platform from which you can help others. The person delivered from something is the best person to help others get free.  When I got to work with Mike Edwards in the Los Angeles Mission I noticed that the best chaplains, the folks working with the men and women in the recovery program, were those who had been through recovery themselves.  They knew when someone was faking it, trying to pull the wool over the eyes (whatever that means), they knew the temptation, the pitfalls, the challenges of getting out of self-manufactured hells.  They were the best cheerleaders, the best guides, the best correction officers, the most capable lovers at the time. When God has delivered you, you have the skills to help others. To continue to experience victory, to continue growing spiritually now it's time to become an encourager of others.  Call it big brothering or sistering, call it disciple-making, call it mentoring, call it teaching, call it coaching, call it being a friend, but whatever you call it, use what you have learned to help others.

 I have learned more in my attempts to teach others than when I was being taught.  When God sets you up to be a teacher, He provides everything necessary to get the job done right.  Helping another person out isn’t some sort of formal process, it isn’t going to classes, it's natural, you accomplish being a difference-maker in the ordinary events of the day.  Your experience, what you’ve gone through can help someone else and help yourself stay on the path of continual spiritual growth.

 Galatians 6:1 (NCV) & 6:2 (MSG)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too…. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law.

 When you are helping others to grow, there is accountability that helps you grow.  The folks you help respect and appreciate the work you are putting into them.  You don’t want to disappoint them.  So you keep on doing your best, relying on God’s power to keep you functioning as a role model. 

Consider the storms you’ve gone through.  The Goliath problems you’ve faced.  The odds stacked up against you.  The helplessness you endured.  Swinging on the end of your rope and losing your grip:  Unable to change, unable to escape, unable to win.  Remember the prison you were in, the trap you were caught in, feeling despised and rejected, alone, scared, feeling despair.  You’re not there now, are you?  No, God has been at work, and you’ve been partnering with God, doing all you could, and trusted Him to do what you couldn’t.  You’re on the other side now. 

2 Corinthians 1:4 (NCV)

He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.

 Your terrible experiences have been transformed into power to help others who are dealing with the same things you have dealt with.  Give what you have away.  Become that encourager, that coach, that spiritual friend, who supports, who comforts, who has the wisdom of having been there.  In doing so you are going to continue to grow spiritually.  

 “You Can’t Do it,” “Bend the Knee,” “Open the Doors for Righteous Relationships,” “Give It Away.”  These are the mentor’s guides for continual spiritual growth.

 There is one more thing we need to consider.  We call it relapse.  There is always the temptation to fall back into the old ways, you may have heard of someone “falling off the wagon,” or in spiritual jargon, “backsliding.”  Relapse is losing the ground you have gained; it's reverting to old patterns of behaviors.  Here is an ugly truth: relapse happens.  That relapse does occur is not an excuse to accept it, neither is it an excuse to give in to that rotten corrupt sinful behavior, nor a reason to brush it off as no big deal. If you do stray from the path of continual spiritual growth there is a way back.  Let’s go to the scripture.

 Revelation 2:4-5 (MSG)

"But you walked away from your first love—why? What's going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you've fallen? A Lucifer fall!

"Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste…

 Recognize what you have done, recognize why you did it, what was the situation that caused the temptation to flourish.  Once you name your inner demon it’s much easier to cast out of your life.  (That’s not to suggest that you have a demon, most likely not, if you did, you wouldn’t be reading this at all.)  This way you can eliminate the catalyst out of your environment.  Recognize the triggering event and then repent. Repenting takes desire, effort, and time. You have to create new neuropathways by starving the old paths that led to the relapse and feed new paths through repetition that led to a more productive way to live (Romans 12:2). Repentance of course requires acknowledgment, the desire and decision to change (Romans 7:24), confession to God and a trusted spiritual friend (1 John 1:9 James 5:16; Proverbs 28:13), maybe an accountability group dealing with the same issue, prayers for deliverance (Psalm 40:13), and the hard work creating new habits of bending the knee. 

 When you come back to God with a sincere heart, proven by your deeds of repentance there is a promise in scripture that will encourage you:

 Zechariah 1:3 (NIV)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you,'

 Don’t let the guilt, the embarrassment of relapse, of a backslide; keep you from getting back on the right path.  You can get right back on the path to continual spiritual growth if your repentance is real.  Give yourself time to recover, spend time with your support group, those trusted spiritual friends.  Take time to rebuild trust, not only with others but also with yourself.  Remember relapse happens but it is not a requirement.  The temptation may be strong, you won’t be able to resist in your power, you can’t do it, but God can make a way for you.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV)

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Don’t give up, don’t give in, and keep on keeping on. 

Philippians 3:12-15 (NCV)

I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should think this way, too.

 Keep reaching for the prize of living your life to the full, grow deep, grow up, grow fruit. Just remember: “You Can’t Do It,” you must “bend the knee,” you must “Open the Doors for Righteous Relationships,” and you must “Give it Away.”

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