Going the Distance with Spiritual Maturity (Part 1)

I found out Amazon books won’t yield much if you type “Spiritual Maturity” into the search bar.  I guess it’s not a winning book title—probably as bad as How to Grow Up by Eating Greens, Getting Rest, and Washing behind Your Ears.

Anyway, the suggestions Amazon gave me were practice oriented, or how-to—none of it bad stuff, just, well…unsatisfying.  Yes, spiritual maturity needs healthy disciplines.  But it also thrives on lessons of various sorts taught by no less than God Himself.

Consider Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God identified Himself with them.  He didn’t refer to Himself as “the God of the Universe,” who rules over the galaxies, but as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Ex. 3:6).  This was how He wished for the ancients to begin to know Him.

Why did He do this?  Why intertwine His identity with these three small earthly men?  Because in each one of their lives there exists a vital revelation of how God worked in them.  Together all three form a composite picture of divine work in total.  It suggests a “map” for how God seeks to work in us.  Their lives in summation are essentially the story of your life.

With Abraham, God mightily operated to teach the lessons of faith and trust.  In Isaac’s life He demonstrated grace.  In Jacob’s life He displayed His divine work of transformation.  When referring to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” we are virtually saying, “the God who calls a person into faith, establishes him in grace, and works to change him from within.”  Actually, this threefold operation is the work of God in every typical believer in Christ.

Abraham as Object Lesson

First of all, take Abraham.  Paul says in Romans 4:12, we “walk in the same steps of the faith which our father Abraham had.” His individual experience contains, at least in principle, the faith template for us all.

The First Step–Getting Out

As an initial step, God told Abraham to “Get out of your country and from your family and from your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1).  So, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out” (Heb. 11:9).  Where Christians are concerned, this has everything to do with departing our past Christless life and its entrapments.  Faith moves forward, believing that better things lie ahead in God’s plan.

Another Step–Believing More than You Can See

God also told Abraham, “I will bless you…and you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2), yet Abraham wasn’t living in a blessed palace, but a tent (Heb. 11:9).  His humble estate reminds us that there is often tension between faith and what we see, the now and the not yet.  This is all part of learning to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

A Further Step–It’s Not About Your Strength

At another key point, God promised Abraham a child, although the man was nearly 100 years old.  Romans 4:19 says to Abraham’s credit that “He did not consider his own body.”   That’s an extremely important lesson to learn–how not to spoil the joy of God’s promises by looking at what you can or can’t do.  God will do it.  You need to relax.

Finishing the Walk–All for God

Eventually, the pinnacle of Abrahamic faith rolled around–the final exam, so to speak.  God told him to sacrifice his son.  In this case, Abraham wasn’t asked to sacrifice beer or R-rated movies.  He was commanded to place a good, God-given blessing on the altar.  And he did it.  The knife was falling on Isaac when God halted the whole thing.  Thus Abraham’s willingness to give all was the seal on a lifetime of learning.  Ours will be no less dramatic.

These are the steps of the faith Abraham had.  Rest assured that whatever is going on in your life has to do with learning faith in a very similar way.  Of course the details are different.  The underlying principles, though, are amazingly similar.  No growing man or woman of God skips this class.  The schema of spiritual maturity places it right up front with the expectation of lifetime learning.

Challenging?   You better believe it.

But then again, we wouldn’t be happy with anything less.  None of us got involved with Jesus Christ for lollipops and naps.  We expected to be seriously involved with God.

You won’t be disappointed.



Photo credit:
© Miroslav Vajdić for openphoto.net


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