chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 3

chURchBAN myths

Has anyone ever told you that if you were really spiritually mature, then you wouldn't struggle with temptations? Or that you would have the prosperity and wealth that God always gives His true followers? This week's message concludes a three-week series on myths that, unfortunately, too many people believe concerning spiritual maturity. The truth is surprisingly different.

Todd WagnerJan 21, 2001

Lord, I am so grateful we don't have to act like we have our act together, and we don't have to wonder if everything isn't just perfect if you're going to be ticked off at us, mad at us, reject us. In fact, your love is so great that because we are so imperfect, because more than our microphones squeal in annoying ways, but our lives often screech and squeal and give tremendous feedback, that you loved us, and you covered that up, and you dealt with it.

I am so desperate for my friends who are here today and friends of those friends to be reminded of that love again. I need to be reminded of your love so that I would be more transformed by it, more renewed by it. We don't want to just go through a service today, Father, that checks the box of religious activity. We want to meet you. If you're there, we want to know you more. We want our hearts to be changed by that so we can be effective for you and your glory. We pray this in Christ's name, amen.

Part of the way we want to encourage you as you get to know the Lord is to help you consider truth and for each of us to go back to truth where it lies. A man a long time ago said, "The most dangerous lie is a truth that's misunderstood." So we've been having some fun for the last couple of weeks and conclude today this idea of myths that mangle the message.

We're calling them chURchBAN myths, like the urban myths. Myths that live in churches that cause people to think certain things about God that frankly aren't true, certain things about spiritual maturity, either in how you get it or what it looks like. Then we're going to begin next week with a little series that carries us out with, "Now that we know what the myths are, what's the reality? What does a fully devoted follower of Christ look like?"

You need to know we are shameless in our efforts to help you. No matter how opposed you are right now to the person of Jesus Christ and his role in our life, our hope is that you, like us, would at some point yield yourself to him and say, "I know who you are. I know who I am. I know how you bridge that gap. Now, I want to be a fully devoted follower of Christ in you. What's that look like?"

So we're going to visit about that beginning next week. We'll walk through the things we're going to help grade ourselves by and check how we're doing. We'll talk about more of that in just a moment.

There are a lot of myths that are out there (urban myths). Some of them, as I've said, are often closely tied with the church. It wasn't just two or three years ago that a man sat in my office. It was about March of the year 1998. He called and made an appointment with me. He asked if he could spend some time with me because there was something very serious he wanted to tell me.

He said, "Todd, I want to let you know this is the year." I said, "Okay. The year for…?" He said, "No. This is the year, 1998." I said to him, "Well, the year for what?" He said, "The year the Lord is going to come back, 1998. I know that because a friend of mine has a friend who was driving on I-35 between Dallas and Waco. He said he was driving by, and he passed a guy who was hitchhiking on the side of the road.

He passed by that gentleman, but he felt like he needed to go back and help him. That's what Christ would've done. So he circled back, went and picked the guy up, and as they sat, he was engaged by the way he talked, the way he communicated, and the power with which he spoke. Eventually, the guy started talking about spiritual things. The conversation turned.

The man said, 'I appreciate your grace to me. I've come to give you a gift. I want to let you know the Lord is coming. He's coming very soon. Be ready.' He turned around, and his passenger was gone. It startled him. He now realizes that was a gift, that God had given him an angel who would communicate to him about the return of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Have you ever heard that story before? It is repeated often. It's often told in this part of the country about people who pick up folks between Dallas and Waco. It surfaced recently in Austin, where there's a little tag in the story about how the man then picked up the phone and called the police. The police said, "Normally, we would tell you you're crazy, but this is the fifth call we've received this month about that vanishing hitchhiker."

What you need to know about that story is not that we have a problem with the fact that Christians would expect that God, if he wanted to, could reveal himself to us in specific and clear and meaningful ways. The Scriptures do talk about the fact that at times, angels doappear to us unaware. If God wanted us to know something, he could clearly tell us in that way. The problem with that story is it is an urban legend. It's a myth.

It's been around since the 1800s. It started not with cars traveling between Dallas and Waco, but it started being horseback riders and then carriages of people traveling between St. Joseph, Missouri, and heading west. In fact, this myth has appeared in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Korea, and most recently in Australia and New Zealand. It is the most widely told of all urban myths that are out there today. In fact, the guy who is a worldwide authority on urban legends and myths has titled one of his books, The Vanishing Hitchhiker.

This is the most often repeated story amongst Christian circles. It's used as an illustration by guys sometimes from pulpits in an authoritative, real, applicable way. Could God do that? Certainly, but if you broker your influence in that way, it's always a friend of a friend. When you trace it back, you can't find it.

I sat with this guy in my office, and I love him enough. I'd heard the story years earlier. Not about 1998 but pick your favorite date. I said, "What are you going to do January 1, 1999?" He said, "I don't have to deal with that." Since then, you need to know that guy has worshiped with us here, so he did have to deal with that.

Make sure as a steward as the mysteries of gospels of God and truth, that you don't take a truth, don't take a story that may be true, that at best is unproven, and put it up there with your name and with your authority and your endorsement to the level that the gospel is. Then when that story is discredited, then the gospel can just as easily be discredited from you as a false witness. There are some spiritual myths. Let's just tick off the first nine, and we'll cover the last three today.

1._ Spiritual growth is just a matter of time._ Once you trust Jesus as your Savior, you're going to grow. It's a myth. The biblical truth is growing old is not the same as growing up.

2._ Spiritual maturity is reserved only for those special folks, like the salaried people._ Now Jay Reinke can get spiritually mature because we're paying him. Right? You've heard the old joke, right? I get paid to be good; y'all are good for nothing. It's a myth that the spiritually mature are folks who are only salaried or seminary students or some super-saint who sells all they have and moves to Africa and prays for 10 hours a day. No, the biblical truth is that full devotion is normal and expected of every follower of Christ.

3._ Spiritual maturity can be gained quickly if you find the magic product._ It's a silver bullet, that if you just get it, you go to the right seminar, the right retreat, read the right book, memorize the right book, go through the right Equipping class at Watermark, then you've made it. It's a myth that if you go through this discipleship program, you're automatically there and it's a place you can arrive to instantly with some magic pill or product. No. The biblical truth is spiritual maturity takes time and effort.

4._ Your wanting to be godly is all God wants._ No, the biblical truth is there's a world of difference between doers and the deluded. The Scripture says, "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat." Everybody craves spiritual provision and enlightenment and truth. Everybody who believes there's a God wants to be rightly related to him and then grow in devotion to him, but it's not true that all God wants is you saying, "That'd be awesome." Wanting is half the battle.

He said, "Don't delude yourself that just because in your heart you go, 'That'd be great,' that God is pleased with that desire." Act on that desire. The best thing to do, one guy said, with your dreams is to wake up and do something about them.

5._ Spiritual maturity is measured by what you know._ No, the biblical truth is spiritual maturity is more than memorized creeds and convictions. It also involves conduct and character. Should you learn? You bet. We're going to start next week and one of the weeks following talking about the importance of biblical truth and knowledge in your life. But it's a myth that if you do well at some Bible trivia game, if you double down on Double Jeopardy or the Final Jeopardy question when it has to do with the Bible and you nail it consistently that it makes you spiritually mature. The biblical truth is that it's more than memorized creeds, convictions, and statements.

6._ Spiritually mature persons are always busy with spiritual activities and full of spiritual talk._ That's a myth. The biblical truth is that spiritually mature persons have a heart that is aware of its need for a gracious Savior, and they respond to that Savior with willing surrender. We've talked about these in the weeks past.

7._ Spiritually mature persons are consumed with time-honored traditions, forms of worship, and religious rites, practices, and professions._ The biblical truth is that spiritually mature persons are consumed with worshiping the Father in spirit and truth and don't get hung up with certain styles of music or certain forms of worship. They are hung up on the unchangeable person of God as he's revealed himself and the absolute importance of worshiping him with integrity and not just going through the motions.

8._ Spiritually mature persons don't mingle with those who are not like them._ The biblical truth is that spiritually mature persons find it impossible to not seek those who are far from God. We talked about this extensively last week. You're not mature because you have nothing to do with those who are not like you.

The biblical truth is if you're like God, you cannot help but love and engage with lost people. That doesn't mean that you like them. It means that you love them, and you get in their world, and it's messy. Jesus was a friend of sinners. That, as we said last week, means he spoke the truth in love. He was willing to care, which means at times confronting. He wasn't a companion of sinners. He was a friend of sinners.

9._ Spiritually mature people have no life._ "In comes the Son, out goes the fun."That's a myth. The biblical truth is that spiritually mature people know life. In comes the Son, out goes the lie that life is experienced somewhere else. It feeds well into where we're going, but we start today. Here are the spiritual myths we're going to tear through (10, 11, and 12). It's a myth, a chURchBAN myth, a myth that is believed that is out there that is destroying people.

10._ Spiritually mature folks are not seriously tempted by sordid things._ What's that mean? Let me tell you why that's a myth that sometimes discourages folks. Some of us out there who really love the Lord, who really want to walk with him, think, "If I loved Christ, would that thought have just come through my mind? Would that look as attractive to me as it really does, and will I feel as drawn to that in my flesh as I clearly do?"

I can remember when I first trusted Christ as a high school student. I really did. I think I made a genuine decision. I crossed that line of unbelief to belief. I made that faith transaction where I said, "Lord, it's no longer about anything I could ever do. It's no longer about hoping you're not there so it doesn't matter what I do. I know you exist. I've done the work as best I can in a 16-year-old mind and evaluated the claims of Christ and the veracity of your Scriptures and historicity of the resurrection. I believe it's true. I believe if there wasn't a Savior there's no way I could ever be rightly related to you."

I remember it wasn't long after that that some of the same feelings in my flesh came back up that had been there before in terms of a draw towards certain activities or certain thought patterns. I go, "I must not love Christ or I wouldn't be still seriously tempted by that." The very first Scripture I was taught is 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

So I go, "Wow. I must not have been fully energized by the Spirit. I must have not really come to Christ because if I came to Christ, I wouldn't think about her in that way. I wouldn't want to respond to frustration in that way. But I did, so I must not be a believer. It didn't take," so I'd go deeper. Often folks who are confronted with this spiritual myth go and look for a second blessing of some sort.

People will tell them, "That's fine if you've trusted in Jesus and acknowledge you're a sinner in need of a Savior, but now separate and subsequent to your faith in Jesus Christ, you need a second blessing. You need a filling that will come from now the baptism not of Christ, but of the Holy Spirit."

They will introduce all kinds of heresy and error that are separate from a belief in Christ which involves the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "You need something else, and that second blessing is what will help you to mortify the flesh and never be seriously tempted or given to temptation again." It is a myth that spiritually mature people are not still seriously tempted by sordid things.

You need to know that your pastor this week had some things come across his mind's eye that if they showed up here this morning you would run for the hills. If you knew about me what I know about me, you wouldn't be sitting here. But if I knew about you what you know about you, we wouldn't have let you in. So we're even.

Listen to this verse. Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." We'll give Jesus, who is referred to as the High Priest, the spiritually mature person, an A. We'll say yes. Was he seriously tempted by sordid things? Yes. It's a myth to believe that he wasn't.

In fact, it's a myth we often believe that discourages us because we think, "No wonder he was so good. He never was struggling with the things I struggled with. He never knew what it was to have loins burn in lust. He never knew what it was to be truly frustrated by uncontrollable anger. He never dealt with somebody like I married. All right, he was single, but at least he got to die when he was 33. He never had to be 35 and single. He doesn't know what it's like to be lonely. He was never tempted like I am to compromise." That is a lie from the pit of hell.

I'd tell my single friends a whole lot, "I know you think that Jesus can't relate to your loneliness. I know you can't relate to the fact he made you a sexual being yet somehow has called you to discipline your body and to not indulge physically in the area of sex. Maybe you can say, 'I'll wait 33 years like him, but if it doesn't come by then, I'm cashing in.' I know you think he can't relate."

I tell folks all the time, "The Scripture says Jesus has been tempted in every way, even as you and I were." All right, so he wasn't single when he was 36, but I can tell you he understood what it was like to have his flesh pulled strongly in a direction and the need to appropriate the grace, the Spirit, and the power of God to walk in righteousness even as you are, even when you're 55 or 15 or 27 or 35. He knows what it's like to be tempted."

I tell my friends all the time who are single, "I tell you what I want you to do. I want you to go into the desert for 40 day and 40 nights and not have food or water. At the end of that 40 days and 40 nights, you tell me what you'd rather have: a date or a Big Mac. You tell me what pull in your flesh is greater. Probably, you'll go for the Ozarka as opposed to the naked woman."

He knows what it's like to be tempted. Satan brought him at that point of his greatest vulnerability and said, "You love God, right? If God cared about you, he wouldn't put you out here for 40 days in the desert and not provide for you that way. The fact is God's not there. You're living some lie. You're living in some dream world. You need to indulge yourself. Take care of yourself. Turn these stones into bread."

He was tempted. Let me tell you something. He was tempted, I think, genuinely and seriously in a way that we'll never be tempted. That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? It's one thing to think to myself, "Why would God have made me such a sexual being, married or single, if I wasn't to indulge that in my own fancy, in my own desire, in my own way?" Well, there's a reason, and there is a provision for us to not just turn in every time our flesh says turn in.

He understands what it is to have the flesh strongly pulling you in a direction, that the appetites of the flesh are real, and they're alive. They're not even wrong. Do you understand that? To have a sexual appetite is not a problem. To have a physical appetite is not a problem. But to meet a God-given desire in a God-forbidden way is always a problem. To believe that if you loved Christ you wouldn't have a real serious temptation to be tempted by meeting a God-given desire in a God-forbidden way is absolute heresy.

Spiritually mature people are seriously tempted by sordid things. It happens all the time. In fact, it's the folks who fail who believe they're not truly tempted because they'll continue to walk by and put themselves before incredibly dangerous situations. Eventually, I'm going to tell you what's going to happen if you associate yourself in those kinds of circles. You're going to mess up. You're going to fall. You're going to eventually find out the reality is not that you're spiritual and can resist that but that you've been foolish.

I think I've said this before in talking about this. In Proverbs 5, it talks about the fact that those who walk by the adulterer's house and those who spend time near her are eventually going to fall. This is what it says in Proverbs 5:7. "Now then, my sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your vigor to others…"

As I read this one time, I wrote this in my Bible. "If you're a wildebeest hanging around lions, you're not tough. You're next." I'm amazed at some people who watch stuff and do some things and hang out in certain areas, and they go, "Look how mature I am that I can be around this and not fall in. I'm going to go, "You're not tough. You're next." It's a myth that spiritually mature people are not tempted by sordid things.

Here's the biblical truth. The biblical truth is that spiritually mature people never stop struggling to live by faith instead of consciously surrendering to their flesh every time it rears its ugly head. I can tell you that your pastor had some seriously sordid thoughts comes through his mind this week, but I can tell you by the mercies and grace of God, your pastor this week, died to his flesh and walked in righteousness.

I want to let you know that I'm sure I wasn't tempted the way Christ was in the desert, but I experienced some serious temptation this week. Just in my mind's eye, if nowhere else. Temptation to be lazy in my marriage. Temptation to be angry at other folks. Temptation to indulge the lusts of my flesh. I can also tell you, by the grace and mercy of God, I never stopped struggling to live by faith instead of indulging my flesh every time it cried out for attention and demanded that I was its servant.

Spiritually mature people struggle with great things. They struggle with their heart. They struggle with their attitude. They struggle with their tongue. They struggle with their self-justifications and rationalizations. They struggled the way God had told them to struggle. They struggled by abiding in the Spirit and going to his Word and meditating and telling friends, "You have to pray for me." I tell some friends that little saying a lot.

Ladies, you may not connect with this as much, I've been told, but for guys there are times where the issue of sexual temptation is pretty real and pretty much ever-present. You can help us. Frankly, that's one of the reasons that in 1 Timothy it talks about women when they go to church to think about the way they dress. Guys, I think we need to think about the way we dress as well. But ladies, when you come to church, I will ask you, do you spend more time getting your heart ready so you can worship God or getting your body ready so others can worship you?

Now, I'd ask you the same question. I had a woman I was sharing this with one time, and she said, "Todd, you'd lust after me if I wore a spacesuit." "Well, you know. You have a point there." So if you're wearing a spacesuit and we're still lusting after you, clearly, it's not your issue. It's ours. But there are sometimes I have to think a little bit more about the way our society says it's okay to dress that way. You have to ask yourself, "Is it really? Is that loving? Am I doing this to encourage my Christian brothers and even my sisters or am I doing it this way for me?" It's just something to think about.

With my buddies, I sometimes tell them, "It hasn't been a bad week." Sometimes it's the whole sexual temptation thing (not to be hung up on that), whether it's anger for you, whether it's a chemical dependency, whether it's a tone problem, whether it's an indifference to your wife, whether it's just a sin of omission that you aren't going to be obedient to God's call in your life to dig in the Scriptures. Whatever it is, there are times it doesn't seem as real or as alive. We know it's still there, but we're not quite as tempted by it.

Then there are other times when I feel like that's all that happens. Every time I repent of a thought and every time I take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ, another thought is there. I call those times "high tide." To the guys who are closest to me, I say, "It is high tide." I know the water level is always there, but sometimes it seems to be creeping up further on shore. So I say, "I'll need you to pray for me because I don't want to do anything that would ever dishonor the name of my Lord or hurt my family or hurt my friends. Pray for me."

Martin Luther said, "You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." What Martin Luther is saying is he was seriously tempted by sordid things. You need to know there are days that I don't walk around just doing this. But in my mind, I'm doing that.

If I did that when I was walking down the street, people would go, "What in the world is with that guy?" But if you could see what I'm doing in my heart, I'm going, "My goodness gracious. Jeez. Golly." You wouldn't believe the times that those things fly into my mind. It almost cracks me up. I sometimes step back and go, "Lord, what is this? Would you stop already? That's so perverse, I don't even get excited by it, but it's there, and it sounds attractive. What's going on?" I say to my friends, "Pray for me." So it's always there, but sometimes it's high tide.

This is what Paul shared. Look at Romans 6. This is his way of saying spiritually mature people wrestle with great things. Paul, in Romans 5, had just got through talking about how Jesus Christ provides for us our righteousness so we can be completely forgiven and restored to God. It is a total grace thing. What people do when they hear that, and Paul knows it, is they go, "If it's a total grace thing, it doesn't matter what you do, right?" What Paul's about to do in Romans 6 is answer this question.

He's saying, "We are freed by Christ from sin. We are not freed by Christ so we can sin as much as we want and it doesn't matter." That's what he's going to address right here. Here's his point. He says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" In other words, because Jesus is the provision for sinners, and he dies for all your sins past, present and future, it doesn't mean you have a blank check, that you can sin as much as you want and the more you sin, the greater Christ's claim will be as an author of grace.

Paul says, "You don't get it. He did not die that we might be able to sin as much as we want. He died that we might be freed from sin and its consequences." So he says in verse 2, "May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

Right there he's saying, "When you were baptized by faith into Christ…" Not so much talking about water baptism here, although certainly this is what water baptism is a picture of. When you, by faith, believed in Jesus and were identified with him, which is literally what the word baptism means, that means you identified with his death. That is why baptism by immersion is the picture we like because it's a picture of going down and underneath. You're buried and then raised again to a new life. He continues.

"For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death…" In other words, if you die "…certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection…" If you died with Christ, you can be raised to live a new life with Christ. If you've been identified with Jesus, who was crucified, dead, and buried and resurrected on the third day, then you have that ability. Now listen to verse 6. This is where we want to get.

"…knowing this, that our old self [the old man who is gone if you're in Christ] was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." This is, by the way, the spiritual life. We'll take weeks on this some time. But answering this spiritual truth, let me give you something here very quickly.

That idea that because you were in Christ and you by faith have died with him… Paul is speaking here not so much about an experience as about a fact. This is a fact in the heavenlies. This is a fact in God's reality. It is also, though, a fact, that you'd still live on this earth, and it is also still a fact that your flesh is not eradicated. Your flesh still lives. The difference is that now, you are no longer a slave to your flesh.

You have said, "I have another Lord. The Lord now is not my heart, not my head, not my appetite, not my feelings. My Lord is King Jesus, and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me." The Bible does not have a program to conform or to reform your flesh. This is the Bible's program for your flesh. It needs to be crucified and murdered because it is fallen and wicked, just like mine. Your body, your flesh, will always have an appetite for that which is not of the Spirit.

Don't be surprised when your flesh is pulled away from the throne. Don't be surprised when your flesh longs after unspiritual things. That's basically what it is now bent to serve. But those who have by faith come into a relationship with God, who acknowledges the bent of their flesh towards evil and have asked for God's mercy and grace to be appropriated to that, though we are rebels in deserving judgment that God has given us grace and mercy, he has made us his King. He gives us, by identifying with Christ, the freedom to be free, and now to, by faith, live as Christ would live.

Here's his analogy. Dead men are not tempted to indulge the lust of their flesh because their flesh is dead. An alcoholic who is dead does not long for a drink. You can put a bottle of Jack Daniel's in one hand and Jim Beam in the other, and you can put a Budweiser under his lips, and he's not going to go for it. His flesh is dead. He says a little bit later in Romans 6, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin…"

By faith, it's a decision you make, and you appropriate by your will as your Spirit, which God has placed inside of you has an appetite now for something else. Your flesh always has an appetite for sordid things, but the Spirit of God, which is in me… This is what was different when I was 15 or 16 years old when I trusted Christ. I noticed that I still thought the same way about women. I still wanted to react the same way in frustration and anger.

But now, there was something else in me that longed to honor God. There was something else in me which longed for righteousness and which longed to please him, knowing that decision to walk in righteousness would never make me satisfactory in God's eyes, but that would honor him and show that I'm his boy, and show that I'm his son being conformed to his image. A different appetite was placed in me. My appetite for sin is just as alive in my flesh as it was then, but my appetite for Christ increasingly surpasses it. That's the spiritual life.

I have to take a moment a tell you that I had a dog for almost 14 years who I loved dearly. His name was Caleb. Caleb and I had a great friendship. This is the picture I want to give to you. Let's just say we didn't have a great friendship, and for 13 years he heard my voice. He heard, "Stop. Sit. Stay," from me. He heard, "Good dog. Bad dog," from me consistently.

That was a one-man dog. If I had beat him, and I had been wicked to him, and I had starved him, and I had kicked him, and then all of sudden someone saw that, and they came, and they said, "How much is that dog worth to you?" I said, "That dog isn't worth anything but a good kick every now and then." They said, "We're going to redeem him." I said, "No, you're not. That dog's worth more than you can ever pay." They say, "How much do you think he's worth?"

"I don't know. You'd never pay $5 million for that scurvy old 13-year-old dog."

"How about if I give you $10 million?"

"Give me the $10 million."

The dog is now yours after 13 years of listening to my voice, being a one-man dog. If the next day, Caleb is at your house, and I'm walking down the street, whose dog is he by right and by law? He's yours. He is free from the abuse. He is free from my voice, which called him to destruction consistently.

What's that dog going to feel like when I walk down the street, and I whistle at him and say, "Boy, get over here." He's heard that voice for 13 years. He's had nothing but a knowledge that if he doesn't listen to this voice, he's going to be trouble. So what do you think he's going to feel compelled to do in his flesh when I call him to come?

I'll tell you what he's going to feel. He's going to feel an urge. Everything in him is going to say, "I'd better run. I have to go. That's my master." Even, in fact, if this faint voice of this new master opens the door to their house and says, "No, Caleb. Stay. It's okay. You don't have to go anymore." What's going to seem more alive and more real to him?

On day one, I guarantee it's going to be my voice. For 13 years, that's all his flesh knew. That's why Caleb is a child in that sense, in that new relationship and that master calls him to be inside for a while. Then he starts to let him outside as he learns the new master's voice and the new master's way. He puts him in a fenced-in yard.

That's why later he chains him to a stake in the front yard. That's why he says, "You need to run with other dogs that I have loved that know you're my dog, so when you hear that other guy's voice, they can bark at you and say, 'No, stay.' You need to grow until you know my voice." Some of you all have never spent time with your new Master. You made a decision that he's your new Master, but then you've gone back, and all you do is listen to the old voice. That's why he says, "Come. I want to know you. I want to give you provision."

That word right there in verse 6 where it says, "…might be done away with…" is not the idea of eradicated. It's only this. In fact, it's a bad translation. It should say, "It might be made powerless," or, "It might be rendered useless or ineffective in your life." That's all it's saying. "…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might [no longer rule us], so that we would no longer be slaves to sin…" That is Paul's argument.

Catch this. It is a myth that spiritually mature people are no longer tempted. It is not a myth that spiritually mature people consistently and increasingly avoid that temptation and run to the Father and abide in the power of his Spirit and walk in the light and refrain from sin. That's not a myth.

You can live righteously by faith in Christ. None of us will ever completely walk in perfect righteousness. That's why he continues to allow us to confess our sins, but it's a myth that you won't be tempted if you love Jesus. Does that encourage some of you? It ought to.

Some of you go, "Phew! I can quit walking the aisle every week. Maybe I do love God." But if you love him, then spend time with him. If you're smart, don't hang out in the front yard when that old master walks by. That's foolish. You're not brave. You're not smart. You're not a stud. You're next. Get in fellowship. Get discipled. Get to know his voice.

11._ Spiritually mature people will experience nothing but health, wealth, and prosperity._ If you love God, the evidence that he loves you, that he's going to give you nothing but what you want (health, wealth and prosperity). It's another myth that's often associated with this idea that when you experience the second blessing in that movement, God will give you all your wildest dreams.

It is a myth that spiritually mature people never get sick, that spiritually mature people can show how much God loves them by their excess wealth as evidence of their blessing on their life. If you're gifted and you're talented, you're going to make money. That's okay. You ought to be a good steward of that money. Who am I to judge the servant of another? All of us have to figure out what we do with what God blesses us with.

Let's not kid ourselves that we can just stockpile it as evidence that we're devoted followers of Christ so we don't have to worry about what we do with it because in some places (believe me, preachers do this) preachers say, "You can send me all the money in the world, and I'm going to build this house and live where ever I want to live and do whatever I want to do with the money I have as evidence that this is what you too can experience if you just love God."

Godly people get sick. Godly people don't always have material blessing. Godly people sometimes are greatly persecuted. In fact, at the very end of the book of Job, God had Job offer a sacrifice for three people: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three names you probably don't ever want to remember in case you're thinking through naming your kid stuff.

In there, he says, "I want you to offer a sacrifice for those three men who misrepresented me to you, Job. Those men who insisted that suffering always is a result of my retribution, who said to you, 'Because you're not healthy and no longer wealthy and because there is not this prosperity in your life, there is evil in your life.' They misrepresented me, and that is a sin. So you offer a sacrifice for them."

Offering false counsel through a friend is a sin, and Job was told by God to offer that sacrifice because the biblical truth says this. The biblical truth is not that you'll be healthy, wealthy, and wise. The biblical truth is that spiritually mature people experience a peace that passes understanding, no matter what the circumstance is, who can say, "It is well. It is well with my soul, though sorrows like sea billows roll"?

Spiritually mature people are folks who are "…anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [their] requests be made known to God." God, please stop those sea billows from rolling. But more than stopping those sea billows from rolling, will you just be with me? The Scripture says if you do that, " …the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I love the story that a woman tells of her child one night. She heard the storm rolling in. She knew her child was awfully scared, so she went into her child's bed and said, "Are you okay?" The child looked at the mom and said, "Mom, will you stay with me until the storms pass." She said as she laid there with her child, she thought, "What a wonderful request. Why don't I ask that more often of you? My child didn't say, 'Mom, go chase away the thunder from the skies.' My child just wanted to be with me, no matter what the storm outside was like."

So as she considered that, she said, "Lord, may I be more consistently like that? Not just asking you to chase away the clouds and the thunder and the lightning, which clearly you can do, but more than that, to say, 'Will you just be with me?' For that's enough." Spiritually mature people have a peace that passes understanding. They are not full of health, wealth, and prosperity.

Jesus says, "The peace I give to you is not like the world gives, which is always conditioned upon circumstance. The peace I give to you is a different kind of peace. A peace that is above and beyond the circumstance." A classic example of this is in Habakkuk. At the very end of this very tragic book, he says this.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places."

That's the miracle that a spiritually mature person experiences. There's one more. One more I want to give you, and it's simply this.

12._ Spiritual maturity is nobody's business but your own._ One guy said, "The greatest heresy in the world today in the church of Jesus Christ is the 'Just me and Jesus' heresy." I want to acknowledge that institutionalized religion should have repulsed many of you. Institutionalized religion, what man has done to the church, is obscene, so a lot of folks have pulled back, and they've said, "I don't want anything to do with formal religion anymore. If there's a God, it's just me and him. I can worship as much at home as I can if I go there."

That is a lie for you to believe that spiritual maturity is nobody's business but your own. What you don't want to do is to have what is called the problem of the pendulum. If the pendulum swung over here of institutionalized religion and organized religion (if I can say that) and denominational worship away from where God wants it, the thing to do is not swing way over here and say, "Well, I'm not going to have to do with the body of Christ."

No, what you want to do is get back to the biblical truth. The biblical truth is not that you need organized religion as has been perverted by man. It's not that you don't need anybody else and you can do it by yourself. The biblical truth is that spiritual maturity is personal, but it's never private. It is personal. It's a very personal thing, but it's never private.

There's no such thing as a Lady Clairol Christian where no one really knows for sure. There's no such thing as a person who can say, "I just worship God and I love God." Look at what the Scripture says.It says, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar…" In other words, if you say you love God but want nothing to do with other people as you pursue God, you're kidding yourself that you love God.

The biblical truth is spiritual maturity is personal, but it is never private. Proverbs 18:1: "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom." You can't do it on your own. If you want to be a godly man or woman, you can't do it on your own. You need all the means of grace God has given you. He has given you his Word, he has given you prayers, he's given you the other disciplines, and he has given you the body.

You need a pack of dogs that knows the Master's voice that will bark at you when you start to run after that old master who says, "It's okay." Hebrews 10:24-25 is a verse we built our entire community group structure on. "…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

Hebrews 3:13: "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." It is a myth that you and Jesus alone are enough. Jesus has said, "Part of loving me is taking that which I offer to you, which is the family of Christ."

Let me tell you why I'm going through this. This explains why now for the next number of weeks we're going to talk to you about what we believe, as shepherds of the flock of God among us, a spiritually mature person looks like. What is a fully devoted follower of Christ? One of the things we purpose to do in this body, this Watermark Community Church, from the very beginning, is to measure our success one way, and that is by our ability to be and make disciples.

We do not judge our success by the number of folks who will attend, by the amount of money that is given. We believe a successful church can be measured only in the form of changed lives, and that includes your pastors. If my life is not more like Christ as a result of one year of fellowshipping with you, worshiping with you, exhorting each other in the Scriptures, then something is wrong with our body.

I used to get offended when people said, "Todd, you've grown so much. You've changed so much." I'd go, "Was I some jerk five years ago?" Now, I've started going, "Thank you. I hope you say that in five years. I hope you say that in five months. I hope you say that in five minutes as a result of this conversation, that I'm a different person because of our time together."

What we're going to do in the next week, everybody who's a member who realizes about the problem with the pendulum who says, "I'm not going to stay away from the body of Christ. I'm going to find a biblical community that's not just me and Jesus. I'm going to get into the biblical truth. It might be a personal deal, but it's not private, and I need a body," everybody who has come forward in obedience like that is going to get in the mail something that every January we're going to do as a body, and that is to evaluate how we're doing.

It's going to look something like this. We believe there are six C's. You're going to hear a lot of them. The first one is converted; that everybody who's a member here has made that decision to be converted. That's a changed life. Since you've come to Christ, and your life has been changed, and you now have a new Master, then you will get an increasing amount of growth in these next five C's. Here's one you'll get.

Are you more confident? In the past year, how would you evaluate your growth as it relates to your ability to understand and articulate biblical truth and doctrine? Are you more confused than you were a year ago? Has there been no growth? Are you increasing in your ability to understand biblical truth but no real personal and intentional plan to grow? Did it just happen by your corporate fellowship? Or did it happen because of intentional personal study along with your corporate fellowship? Or are you growing significantly, that last one said, in understanding biblical truth?

For every one of the five C's (committed, confident, connected, contributing, and creative), you'll have a chance to self-evaluate so we can see how we're doing, and we can talk to you about it. It's a myth that how you're doing shouldn't matter to us. It has to matter to us because as shepherds, we're going to be held accountable for how the flock of God among us is cared for.

If you wish that somebody would care about your life and your walk with Christ, come. If you want shepherds who themselves are growing in these five C's and are humbling themselves before the things we call you to humble yourselves before, come. I'm growing, and I hope I'm a different pastor in six months and six years than I am today. We want you to be a different pastor yourself six months from now than you are today. Let's pray.

Father, I pray that you would shatter these myths in our lives, these myths that mangle the message. I pray that you would allow us to walk in godliness, in truth, and I pray that truth would set us free. I thank you for those of us who have humbled ourselves before your Word and have believed that it's better for us to not do it on our own. In fact, if we do isolate ourselves, we're seeking our own desires.

I thank you for the system you've given us to evaluate ourselves, to consider, "Are we becoming more like you want us to be, which is normal for a believer, which is fully devoted followers of Christ. Are we growing in volume in these things?" We thank you, Father, that there will be a day when you will roll back the clouds and Christ will return, and with that one command we will be called into your presence, and then we will experience experientially what is true today in fact. That is that we will then be free from sin.

But now, as we are not free from the temptation on our flesh, may we surround ourselves with the fellowship of the faith, that we might spur one another on to love and good deeds, that we might encourage one another day after day, as long as it's still called today so that none of us we'll be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

I pray for my friends and visitors who are here today who have been repulsed by organized religion. I pray that today they'll be drawn back to the biblical truth, that they're authentic people who love Jesus Christ who struggle to be like him, who deal with temptation in a biblical way, who confess their sins when they commit them, who yield to one another in all humility.

I pray for my friends who love Christ who are here with me, that they would thoughtfully think through this last year, "How have I done? How am I conforming to the image of your Son?" so that we might grow together this next year? We thank you for your grace and mercy which is so evident in our love for one another. I thank you for my friends who share this time with me each week. In Christ's name, amen.

Have a great week.

About 'chURchBAN myths'

We hear urban myths all the time. Thanks to the internet, they've become almost impossible to ignore. But how often do we stop to consider the myths regarding faith, the Christian life, the Bible and God that may have crept into today's thinking? Myths that are plainly exposed in God's Word. In this 3-part series, Todd Wagner examines twelve aspects of unbiblical thinking that impact everything from the way we worship to the way we interact with others, believers and unbelievers alike. We challenge you to consider the "chURchBAN myths" you may have bought into without even realizing it!