When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. -- Ephesians 3: 14-19 (NLT)
The Apostle Paul's prayer for us regarding spiritual growth. We were not meant to merely embrace salvation and then hunker down until Jesus comes. We were not meant to sit in a pew for an hour and a half per week and somehow try and fit our Christianity into our lives. When we came to Christ the Bible says we were born again -- a new creation. The Bible describes us as spiritual babies, who crave spiritual milk to grow. Growth is not only implied, it is required. Sometimes in the modern church we see that the end result of serving the church through seeker friendly, purpose driven models is a stagnation in spiritual growth. It becomes too easy to make the mistake of thinking our service to the church is our Christianity. We think that because we are heavily involved in ministry that we are spiritually growing. That is not the case. Spiritual growth has to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ -- not our service to His church. Think of it in terms of the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha busied herself with preparations. Mary is our walk -- our relationship with Jesus and Martha is our service to Him. Both are important but as Jesus said to them; Mary has chosen the one thing that is needed. So, let us unpack this prayer today and remind ourselves of how we get to the point of power that Christ died for us to have.
The first point is when Paul begins the prayer
he acknowledges who God is. He is the Father, Creator of everything in heaven
and earth. Spiritual maturity begins with knowing who it is that we serve. This
may sound like a trite point but it is not. We will face many tribulations in
this life and the key in overcoming them always resides in who we serve. Far
too many Christians live powerless lives because they forget who God is. Their
problems become bigger than God. If we are not careful our tendency can be to
look at life through temporal lenses instead of an eternal perspective. In the
temporal, the mighty fighting men of
David asked the men standing near him, "What will be done
for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from
Circumcision was the
covenant between God and
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." -- Daniel 3: 16-18 (NIV)
Maturity is knowing that whatever the carnal consequences might be -- we do not compromise what we believe. Maturity is acknowledging the sovereignty of God in every situation we face. Maturity is understanding the power of the God we serve.
Secondly, it is from His unlimited resources
that He will empower us with inner strength through His Spirit. There is a lot
in this one sentence for us to grasp. First of all, the resources of God are
unlimited! We are the ones who always place the limits on God. We are the ones
who turn to the solutions of the world instead of the God who created the
heavens and the earth. He split the Red Sea in two and felled the walls of
Continuing in the key verses we see that if we are successful in pursuing maturity then Christ will make His home in our hearts as we trust in Him. Two important considerations for us. First of all, Christ desires to make His home in our hearts. For too many of us however, Christ is a visitor, not a resident. Sure we allow Him to stop by every Sunday, maybe a Friday evening prayer service and possibly when everything is going wrong in our life but not a resident. A resident has rights that a visitor does not. A resident dwells. For some of us, we have rooms in our heart that we simply do not allow Jesus into. We allow Him in for the things we want but maybe we withhold that secret sin room from Him. Maybe we do not allow Him in the room that we have our past hidden away in. Possibly we do not allow Him occupancy in that room where we have our career, our finances, or our pride. We let Him in the house but he does not have an all access pass. Spiritual maturity will always be delayed when we hold back from Christ anything in our lives. God is seeking an intimate relationship with us, not a casual fling. God doesn't want to date us beloved -- He expects a full commitment.
And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time." -- 1Kings 8: 61 (NIV)
This verse comes from
Solomon dedicating the
But note that there is a
process involved in this. God never merely tells us what we need to do -- He
shows us how. The process by which Christ makes His home in our hearts is by
our trusting in Him. Now, many may bristle but the reality is that we all hold
things back from God. The fighting men of
Because as the key verses continue to show us -- God wants us to grow roots in His love to keep us strong. Strong roots are what ensure the tree will not topple over during the fierce storm. So the question for us today is -- what are we rooted in? There are a few mistakes we make in where we draw roots down that hinder spiritual growth. The first such mistake is when we set our roots down in the soil of this world. There are too many Christians who do not walk under the power God has for them because their roots are still worldly. Problems arise and instead of seeking God, we can seek our answers in the world. Compounding the problem is a weak church that encourages this and a Christian base that will staunchly defend it. When the body of Christ is spiritually immature, they tend to simply not know better. A giant arises in our life and we instantly think about what carnal solutions we can employ to resolve the problem and slay the beast. What did David use?
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. -- 1Samuel 17: 38-40 (NIV)
King Saul is employing the best carnal solutions he can think of! He figures if this teenage boy is going to fight Goliath -- I better give him my own tunic and best armor possible. David realizes that the weapons do not matter. The armor does not matter. Do you think it was the slingshot and stone the slew Goliath? No beloved -- it was the trust David had in God. It was his faith in who God was. We cannot allow our roots to grow down into the things of this world and expect to walk in the power of God.
Likewise however, we cannot allow our roots to take hold in the religion of man over our relationship with God. We see this occurring more frequently as the mainstream churches are buying into the carnal theories of church growth. The more purpose driven and seeker friendly the church becomes, the less mature Christians we are developing. You cannot water down the Gospel of Jesus Christ and think that people will walk under the true power of God. The church may grow but the people will get lost in the exchange. Martha is important but Mary has chosen the only thing that is needed. The purpose driven agenda is about developing as many Marthas as you can when the church should be about developing as many Marys as they can. We have books telling us how to grow the church when the Bible already tells us how. We have books telling us how to discover our purpose when the Bible already tells us how. We have books telling us how to pray when the Bible already tells us how. We hold leadership seminars to learn from the best secular leaders when God has given us all the leadership principles we need in the Bible. The Word of God is not just a book beloved. It is Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. Too many Christians have their roots down deep in a compromised church instead of in their Lord and Savior. Spiritual maturity is rooted in Christ.