Mentor’s Guide for Continual Spiritual Growth #3

 

Mentor’s Guide for Continual Spiritual Growth #3

 Spiritual growth is not a one-and-done deal.  We are seeking out principles that will help us to continually grow, to continually be transformed so that we see life as Jesus sees life.  We’ve focused on our habits, attachments, and addictions, the attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that create stumbling blocks in our quest for transformation into the person God created us to be.

 When we discover an area in our lives that is out of not in sync with the life of righteousness that God has called us to we want to change, to remove that stumbling block.  We try but we find that we are stuck in a behavior that we realize is negatively impacting our lives.  Principle number one for continual spiritual growth is: That You Can’t Do It!”  Regardless of all self-help teachings, you must come to realize that you lack the power to change.  The Holy Spirit has revealed to us that to change we need the power of God.  The only way to access this power of God is to bend the knee.  Bending the knee is our second spiritual principle for spiritual growth.

 Bending the knee means we acknowledge God’s right to rule over us, bending the knee means we are willingly submitting to God’s authority becoming His slave.  A great spiritual paradox of the Christian life is that it is only by being a slave to God that we are truly free.  You bend the knee by acknowledging that your life is out of control, that you are falling short of your dreams and desires, that you are a sinner, missing the mark of God’s high calling for humanity.  You bend the knee by believing that Jesus has made it possible for you to get in sync with God, to reconcile your estranged relationship with God, to make you right with your Creator.  You bend the knee by submitting your life to His authority so that you learn how to live set free.  You bend the knee in asking God to accept your faith.  Have you bent your knee? Are you bending your knee? 

 In the previous two lessons, you learned how to get in sync with God.  You learned that to deal with a problem you need His help.  You’ve submitted your will to God’s will.  You have confessed both the fault and the need; not only to yourself, and to God, but also a trusted spiritual friend.   You’ve asked God to empower you to change.  You are activating that power.  Oh sometimes it’s one step forward, but instead of following the forward movement with two steps back, it’s only a half-step back and you keep on keeping on in hope of deliverance. Relapse is a constant enemy.  But relapse is not a necessity.  You are stronger emotionally and spiritually, now the Holy Spirit is going to empower you to start cleaning up your mess (Romans 8:26-27).  In this teaching we are going to examine our relationships and when necessary make them right.  A mentor’s secret to continual spiritual growth is “Open the Door For Righteous Relationships” (Romans 12:18).

 Often our out-of-control behavior creates personal injury, not only to ourselves but also to others.  God is giving you the power to change.  With that power, you need to look at relationships that have been a stumbling block to you and look at the relationships with others that because of your behavior have been deterred, damaged, or destroyed your connection with the people you failed to love.

 First, we consider relationships that have to go. When it comes to your spiritual life having any relationship that takes precedents over your relationship with God is an idol.  When it comes to refusing to bow down to idols we need to consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego  (Daniel 3:1-30).  The culture set up an idol, a 90-foot tall statue, and said to the people, this is your god, bow down and worship.  Well, Shad, Mac, and Abe had a right relationship with God and refused to bow down to the dictates of the culture.  So the king gave them an ultimatum, you either bow or we throw you alive into the furnace.  Shad, Mac, and Abe said “do your worse; we will not bow to your idol.” 

 Daniel 3:16-18 (MSG)

"Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."

 I have often wondered what happened to those guys.  Anyway, the culture sets up all kinds of idols and we incur a personal injury when we bow down to them.  The things that our culture idolizes all revolve around pleasure, fame, and power. We enter into a wrong relationship with these idols when they become more important to us than our right relationship with God.     

 An idol promises great things.  Anything that consumes your thoughts, actions, and resources to the extent that you are pulled away from God is an idol (Exodus 20:3-5). “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.” (Tim Keller) Wrong relationships with things have got to go. 

 Colossians 3:5 (NLT)

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world

 To go idol hunting ask yourself these five questions:

 Where Do I Spend My Time?

Where Do I Spend My Money?

Where Do I Get My Joy?

What’s Always On My Mind?

What do I depend on to get through the day?

 Confession, repentance, and accountability access the power of the Holy Spirit to deal with idols, to put an idol to death, to get free from it.  Throw out your idols.  You are empowered to do so. (1 John 5:5)

 We also need to consider relationships we have damaged (Matthew 5:23-24).  Often when we have been in the grips of some insanity we’ve hurt others, our relationships have suffered.  Relationships that we would once have considered good, no longer are.  It may be that the people you hurt don’t want you around anymore. Actions have consequences.  You’ve bent the knee, getting right with God, you’ve torn down your idols, now it’s time to do all you can to get relationships right.

 Everything rises and falls on relationships.  When your relationships are vibrant, healthy mutually beneficial, life is good.  When you have allowed yourself to get out of control you damage and destroy those relationships.  To grow spiritually you will need to humble yourself, apologize, and ask to be forgiven.

 Make a list of those who have been hurt by the way you behaved.  Make a list of what you did that hurt them.  Be very concrete. Sometimes that list may be long.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Don’t make light of the pain you’ve caused others.  You may conclude that you are only 1% at fault, doesn’t matter.  Confess it to yourself, confess it to God, ask for God’s forgiveness, and that confession is always accompanied by repentance.  Jesus said:

 Matthew 3:8 (NLT)

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.

 An action that proves you have repented is apologizing and asking forgiveness from the one that you hurt.  This can be terrifying but powerfully liberating for you and maybe even the other person. That apology will include bring up the event or events, taking the responsibility for your action, and making amends.  Amends means you try to make it right. 

 Matthew 5:23-25 (MSG)

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

 "Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him.

There are some things that you can never give back, some you can never take back, some things you can never make right.  Some debts can never be repaid. But all can be apologized for. You need to ask to be forgiven from the person you hurt.   Don’t ever expect to be forgiven, your repentance, your amends, your request to be forgiven may not mean a thing to the person you injured, the hurt went too deep.  If you are not forgiven take solace in knowing that you did what was required for continued spiritual growth.  Also don’t expect that if you are forgiven that things go right back to where they were. Trust has been betrayed and it takes time, sometimes a long time to restore trust.  I have heard an offender forgiven say to the offended party “Don’t you trust me?”  The hard answer is no. People need time, lots of time, to experience the new you, to build a right relationship with you.

 The severity of the harm you caused determines whether or not you make your amends in person, or through a letter.  Don’t leave a voice mail, don’t text an apology.  You do not want to traumatize your victim.   You do not want to cause more harm with an apology and request for forgiveness. Because you have bent the knee and are seeking to mend the error of your ways, you have access to the Holy Spirit who will give you the wisdom to discern what you should do.  I do suggest that you talk over your decisions with a spiritual friend because the tendency is to weasel out of making amends is strong.  Apologies to any weasels out there. The scripture gives us great guidance:

 Luke 6:31 (MSG)

"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!

To be right with God, we must be right with people (1 John 4:21).  Go to that person you hurt, make amends, make an apology, ask to be forgiven.  When you ask don’t expect to receive forgiveness, some wounds are very hard to heal and some cannot be healed (1 Peter 3:13-17).  Still ask, this is the way to be set free.  Principle number 3:  “Open the Door For Righteous Relationships.” This is the path for continual spiritual growth.  This is how you become all you are created to be. 

 Romans 13:8 (NCV)

Do not owe people anything, except always owe love to each other, because the person who loves others has obeyed all the law.

 A mentor revealing his or her secrets to continual spiritual growth will give you these three principles:  You Can’t Do It.  Bend The Knee.  Open the Door For Righteous Relationships.  Next time principle #4.

 


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