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Have you ever wondered if there was some special trick to spiritual maturity, or ever thought that it might only be for those in "professional ministry"? It's tempting to think that spiritual growth will just happen automatically for the Christian or that it is enough simply to desire to grow spiritually, but the Bible makes it clear that this is not the case. In this message, we examine a few myths about Christian maturity and the Bible's response to them.
chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 3
chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 2
chURchBAN Myths - Lies About Spiritual Maturity, part 1
It is our prayer, and as we come now together, we would ask that you would help us where ever we're at to move closer to you. We thank you for the grace that's at work in all of our lives, the fact that you've used today, this morning. You've used friendship. You've used song. Now, we pray you'd use this time through creative communication with multimedia and also through the spoken word and your Scriptures certainty, to open the eyes of our heart. We want to taste and see the Lord is good, and we want that taste to transform us, Father, that your love might be perfected in us for your glory and our good, we pray. Amen.
We have been spending some time, these last number of months going through the gospel of Mark, and today we make a shift. We're at a great place to take a little rest from looking at the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospel that was written by Mark. We want to do something different. It's the beginning of the year. So we're going to take this next number of weeks, which may turn into a couple of months, and focus on what we think a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like.
We've obviously been doing that the last six months as we've been watching Christ and watching the way he reacts when he's popular, when he's not, when he's confronted, when he's around folks who are very far from God, when he's around the men who have left everything to follow him. We've learned from him how we ourselves might then live in all those circumstances. Our purposes as a body is to call all folks, where ever you're at, to be fully devoted followers of Christ, which begs the question…What does a fully devoted follower of Christ look like?
That's what we're going to take some time now to look at in a topical, fanatic way as opposed to an exegetical way (if you can swallow that word this morning). We're going to take a look at the five C's. It's the things that we in our Discovery class go through when we tell you we want to create fully devoted followers of Christ. We ourselves want to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. What's that mean? What's that look like? We give you five C's.
The first one is committed. We break that out to committed to God, his Word, his purposes, and people. All of these things, and you'll hear me say this often in the next 10 or so weeks, are not destinations. You never get to a place where you have arrived. In fact, what they are, are things that grow in volume. I am more committed today to God's Word than I was six months ago, then I was a year ago. We want that to be true of everybody who's here.
That might mean some of you are growing in your familiarity with him. The word disciple, by the way, does not imply you're a believer. Do you know that? Disciple means learner. There are some of you who are here this morning who have not been around a group like this in maybe your entire life. We hope so.
We hope there are some who have been here for six months but still haven't crossed that line of faith, but you're being a learner, and you're growing in your commitment to God, his Word, his purposes, and people. There's going to be a day when you come into a faith relationship with him, but that's not the end. You have to grow from there. That's committed.
Secondly, confident. We'll talk about this one week or a couple of weeks. Confident with handling God's Word and what doctrinal truth is and what we believe as men and women who love this book. Being confident not just with the Scriptures but confident in the application of those Scriptures to our life and the way that it transforms our relationships and marriages and friendships and the way we can talk about the Lord and the way we can facilitate people in their search for truth.
The third C you'll hear us spend some time with is connected, that we would be integrated and built into each other's lives, and we would be a part of what we call a redemptive or redeemed (transformed) biblical community. What God wanted for all of us, what we created us to experience, so we might know an expression of his love and care for us, specifically, through other followers of Christ. We should be committed, confident, connected, but…
Fourthly, we should be contributing people. Folks who contribute with their gifts. The Scripture says, "Each of you have received, as followers of Christ, a special gift. You should employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multiple gifts that God gives us." So we talk about how you contribute personally. Every person matters.
When you're not growing and you're not serving, there's a hole here that we miss. Contributing then with our life, but also with the things that God has given us and the resources as we together team up and combine our resources that we might create an opportunity, a place, and materials and systems that folks can meet Jesus and come to know him.
Lastly, creative. That fifth C. We think a fully devoted follower of Christ ought to be like the one who he was called to be like. If Jesus is anything, he is creative. He created the world we live in. He is the beginning and end of all creation, the Scripture says. So because we're made in his image, part of what we ought to be is creative folks ourselves. We're going to talk about those five things extensively and help you understand what it is that we are purposefully about and bringing about in our lives and in yours.
We want to acknowledge the way some folks imagine what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like, or the way some people think you will get to being a fully devoted follower of Christ is not the biblical model. There are some myths that are out there about spiritual maturity, and there are myths that are out there about how you become a spiritual person.
Urban myths are rather popular today. What we're going to look at this week and next week before we start this series on what they do look like is we're going to start by saying, "Don't mistake the path to maturity or the place that maturity is with these things. We're going to call them chURban myths.
Urban myths are out there. They're all over. I want to read you this thing that I'm forced sometimes to send out to some folks who love me enough to have me on their mail list. This is what it says.
"1. Big companies don't do business via chain letters. Bill Gates is not giving you $1,000, and Disney is not giving you a free vacation. There is no baby food company issuing class-action checks, and MTV will not give you backstage passes if you forward something to the most people. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on 'just in case it's true.' Furthermore, just because someone said in a message, four generations back, that 'we checked it out and it's legit,' does not actually make it true.
There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are passionately bent on believing the kidney-theft ring stories, please see…" There's a link there that talks about urban legends. There's a quote from that site. "'The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories. None have.' That's 'none' as in 'zero.' Not even your friend's cousin.
Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if they do, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at [this website]." It's attached right there. "Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on.
No little boy has died from being pricked by a hypodermic needle that he got pricked by while he was playing in a McDonald's playground somewhere. Similarly, no adult has died as a result of being pricked by some AIDS-infected syringe by looking for change in a payphone or trying to get a seat in some dark movie theatre.
NASA scientists with a ballistic computer have not accidentally discovered Joshua's missing day. There is not a super computer in Belgium nicknamed 'The Beast' being used to gather information and data on everybody for the Antichrist to use when he rules us.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair has not filed a petition with the FCC to outlaw Christian broadcasting, so there's not need to sign the counter petition.
Craig Shepherd (or Sherwood, or Sherman, et cetera) in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is no longer a 'little boy' either.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a real organization doing fine work, but they have had to establish a special toll free hotline in response to the large number of Internet hoaxes using their good name and reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do.
Women are suffering in Afghanistan and the PBS and the NEA funding are still vulnerable to attack but forwarding an e-mail won't help their cause in the least. If you want to help, contact your local legislative representative, or get in touch with Amnesty International or the Red Cross.
P.S. We all know 500 ways to drive your roommates crazy, irritate coworkers, gross out bathroom staff, stall neighbors, and creep out people on an elevator. We also know exactly how many engineers, college students, Usenet posters, and people from each and every world ethnicity it takes to change a light bulb." Those of you who are wired know what I'm talking about.
There's a site we'll make available to you on our website this week. It's called www.truthorfiction.com. It exposes the urban legends and myths that are out there. See if you've seen these. We as followers of Christ are sometimes the quickest to get this and go, "Oh, I have to forward this thing. Madalyn Murray O'Hair wants to get rid of Christian broadcasting." It never happened.
How about this? Have you heard this one? A 19-century whaler who was swallowed by a whale and was recovered alive, thus finally proving the account of Jonah. Procter and Gamble's CEO is a Satanist. Charles Darwin repented of evolution and embraced Christianity on his deathbed. Vice President Al Gore in a speech said his favorite Bible verse was what? John 16:3. Did you get that email? Do you know what John 16:3 says? "These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me."
So Christians all across this country forwarded emails that were slanderous and misrepresentative and untrue about a man hoping to further some other candidate's cause. This is not a political statement. It's a statement about people who are giving and are stewards of the gospel of truth. When we make fun of somebody because they don't know God's Word, so they say 16:3 instead of 3:16 when they didn't do that, it makes it hard for people to hear us when they do share something that is true.
How many of you have forwarded an email or got an email that said Attorney General Janet Reno said that anyone who believes the Bible is then a dangerous cultist? How many of y'all have prayed for the West African missionary who's on death row in West Africa because he was involved in a traffic accident in which a Muslim teen was killed. It's not true.
How many of you heard the story of the University of Southern California professor who dared God to reveal himself by letting a piece of chalk drop to the floor unbroken, only to run screaming from the room when just that happened or any other variation of that rumor that happened? Here's the issue.
If we broker in myth, when we say to somebody, "Listen to me. This is the truth that'll change your life," it's difficult for people to know what we say now is true. We have a responsibility with our faith to study to see if it is so, and we have a responsibility with other information that we pass off as individuals who want our yes to be yes and our to be no, and to speak not as a false witness as one of the 10 to make sure what we pass on as truth is truth.
As tragic as some of these urban myths are, there are some chURchBAN myths that are out there about how you become a fully devoted follower of Christ or what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like. There are some folks who think it can happen rather spontaneously. There are people who will tell you if you just do certain things, buy certain products, show up certain places, that can happen to you. In fact, we were watching TV the other day, and you wouldn't believe what we saw. Check it out.
Brad Taylor: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Christian Shopping Network. Thanks for joining us today. Remember, the Christian Shopping Network provides you with everything you need to live the perfect Christian life or at least look like you do. I'm your host, Brad Taylor, and this is my co-host, Susie Armstrong, and we are so glad you could join us today. Thanks for coming.
Susie Armstrong: I can't think of a better way to start of the new year than showing you our new products we've discovered for better Christian living. In fact, we have so many products to show you, I think we should get started right now.
Brad: Let's do it.
Susie: We all know that one of the most important aspects of being a fully devoted follower of Christ is being committed, right?
Susie: But sometimes we know that is just not possible…
Brad: That's true.
Susie: …with kids and the carpools and work. Who has the time? But with a Pontius Palm Pilate, you don't have to. You can look committed without lifting a finger. This gadget is amazing. It will create an effective and exciting list of activities any dedicated and committed Christian would be proud to do, and it's so easy to use. You simply press the daily calendar…
Brad: Oh, wow.
Susie: …and it brings up your to-do list.
Brad: Look at that. All right.
Susie: It's that amazing?
Brad: How are we doing?
Susie: Here we go. Bible study at 8:00. Personal prayer at 1:00 p.m. We know that's important. Community Group at 7:00. But the even more amazing thing about this is it will automatically check off your activities as if you've actually done them?
Brad: Wow. Wow.
Susie: Can you say fully devoted follower of Christ? Well, with a Pontius Palm Pilate, you will be, or just look like you are.
Brad: Oh, wow. Okay.
Susie: Isn't that amazing?
Brad: That is amazing.
Susie: Great item.
Brad: All right. This next great product is a Competent Christian Calendar. Okay? It's a flip calendar. It's for the more busy man in your life, Susie.
Brad: Okay? What man would not want to be as competent as God calls him to be? Well, you may not be competent at all, but with this calendar, you will certainly look the part.
Brad: I'll tell you what, Susie. The best thing about this is it's so easy to use. Here, I have a deal here for you. Ask me any question at all.
Susie: Okay. Any question?
Brad: Just hit me with it.
Susie: Related to religion?
Brad: Yeah. There you go. Hit me.
Susie: Okay. Tell me where sin originates?
Brad Taylor: No problem. Flip this dude open. Here we go. Well, Susie, "Salvation is the mortification of somatic symptoms by the divine numen which results in regeneration or vivification."
Susie: Wow. That's amazing.
Brad: It's not bad, is it?
Brad: That's the thing about this product, Susie. You will amaze your friends, your family, your neighbors, everybody, your coworkers because you will have this grasp of the Christian lingo that you never had before. Whether you're at work or at the gym or at home, you'll be able to walk confidentially and talk about the Bible and share your faith with words so big, you won't even have a clue what you're saying.
Another thing about this product is that you'll be able to take Scripture and use it in ways where people will have no idea what you're saying at all, but they'll be none the wiser. Hit me again. Ask me another question. Give me a deep one this time.
Susie: Okay. Tell me how it's possible that Christ and God and the Holy Spirit are all one and the same.
Brad: No problem. All right. We open this thing up. We go to the second page. Well, Susie, "The Cappadocian Fathers of the Council confirmed the hypostatic union in that we should neither divide the person nor confound nature as opposed to the monophysitism of Apollinarianism.
Susie: Wow. I didn't expect that answer, did I?
Brad: No you didn't, and the thing about it is it's an answer. It may not be the right answer, but you don't know that.
Brad: Okay? This calendar is good for people because you may not be a Bible scholar, but you will certainly look the part and sound the part.
Susie: That's amazing. The wonderful thing is, these two exciting products can be yours for just a low, low price of $19.95.
Brad: Wow. That's surprising. I did not know that. You know?
Susie: We have your next product coming at you.
Brad: All right. This one, Susie is the One-Minute Christian. This is for the busy Christian in your life. Like commitment, getting connected is very, very difficult. It's one of the most difficult challenges we face.
Susie: So hard.
Brad: The thing is, how do we get connected with people, have conversation, get quality time with people without spending all this needless time having actual conversation? With the One‑Minute Christian, you don't need to.
Susie: That's right, Brad. With the One-Minute Christian, you can have quality conversations with others in just minutes a day. It will teach you how to balance your checkbook, organize your office, and create a laundry list in just about…
Brad: Oh, wow. Okay.
Susie: Yeah. All the while, I hold a meaningful conversation in just five minutes or less.
Brad: Five minutes is the top for me.
Susie: Yeah. It's great. Gone with those lengthy Bible studies and all that upfront work required to actually understand what you're studying. It's amazing, Brad, because I am using this product, and I may not be listening to you, but I certainly look like I am.
Brad: You fooled me. I'll tell you what.
Susie Armstrong: That's right. The other amazing thing is we have a special offer for you. If you order the One-Minute Christian today, we will throw in a new money manager software program free of charge. Let me get that out of your way.
Brad: Wow. Folks, that's right. You heard her right. If you order the One-Minute Christian now, we will throw in, free of charge, Slicken, the budgeting software that works like this. If you give 2 percent contribution to your church in tithing, it will make it look like 10 percent.
Brad: Wow, right?
Brad: That's what counts. Appearance. So, the way Slicken works is it takes all the worry and time out of prayer for tithing. Okay?
Brad: What you do is you give a minimum of 1 percent of your income to the church, and what this software does is it effectively and creatively (I might add) doubles, triples, and quadruples the appearance of your tithe to the church.
Susie: Wow. That is amazing.
Brad: Pretty amazing. The other thing about this folks is if you get these two products right now, guess what that price is going to be, folks.
Brad: That's right. It'll be $19.95 for these two products.
Susie: That is amazing, Brad, but we all know that creativity is what it's all about. It's about creativity in doing our finances, and creativity in figuring out what is unique and special about us and using it to serve the Lord. That's why I'd like to offer you this new and exciting product called "The Cookie Cutter Way to Creative Christian Living." Brad has it here right now.
Brad: It's a beautiful book. It really is.
Susie: It is so easy to use. It takes all the headache and hassle out of finding your unique gifts and helps you to become virtually indistinguishable from anybody else.
Brad: Wow. That's my goal.
Susie: The even more amazing thing about this, Brad, is it's only $19.95. "The Cookie Cutter Way to Creative Christian Living"is as easy as one, two, three.
Brad: Wow. There's another very easy thing here, and that's buying any of these products.
Susie: That's right. Get your credit cards ready because our operators are standing by. I'm Susie Armstrong.
Brad: And I'm Brad Taylor. We're out of time right now, folks, but thanks for tuning into the Christian Shopping Network, where we provide you with everything you need to live the perfect Christian life, or at least look like you do. We have to go now. Thanks for your time. God bless.
Susie: God Bless.
[End of Video]
How good is it to laugh in church? Isn't that great? You talk about creativity. You talk about people using their gifts. You just saw a glimpse of what we hope to do and let you do in your way. You may not be gifted in that way in writing, in acting, in filming, in producing, in editing, but there's something that you're capable of doing. We'll talk some more about that.
Myths are out there. We laugh at that one. We know, clearly, no one has the Christian Shopping Network and sells five products that are going to help you not really be a fully devoted follower of Christ but at least appear like you are. But there are myths that are alive that are dangerous and destructive. That's what we want to look at today.
Before we just do that, we'll start it up by just saying this. Why are we so passionate about calling you to that? Where do we get that impetus? Where do we get that charge? What right do we have to come alongside of you in love and say, "This is what God intends for you"? Let me just walk you through some Scripture.
Let me show you this what Paul prayed for. This what Paul modeled. In Ephesians 3, you're going to find Paul's prayer in verses 14 through 19. He says, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…" Writing to some friends of his at the church at Ephesus.
"…from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
That's the way Paul prayed for folks who he was ministering to. It was his prayer. It wasn't just his prayer; it was his command a little bit later in this same book. He talked about how God has given some, in their giftedness, to serve in certain offices which he lists there. Verse 12 says, "…for the equipping of the saints…" This is why they're there. "…to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."
It was his prayer. It was his command, and it's what he modeled. You go over there to Colossians 1:28. "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." That's what Paul said was his life purpose. He prayed for that in individuals. He called them to that. He talks about how God gave us things, and that he himself modeled it.
Lastly, Paul himself wrote this is what God ordained. This is God's purpose in calling you into relationship with himself. Listen to what it says in Romans 8. "For whom He foreknew [meaning God] , He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He [Jesus] might be the first-born among many brethren."
We talked about this every week almost as we studied through Mark. What Christ was for us in the gospel of Mark, in the gospels of Matthew and Luke and John, what Christ was for us while he was here on this earth as he humbled himself and as he became a man like we were, tempted in every way as we were, lived by faith as we're called to do, never denying his deity or stopping to be God, but not grasping and holding on selfishly to his ability to employ his nature (his deity) for his own usefulness and benefit.
He walked as a man, and he walked perfectly and faithfully as a man. What he intended to do through allowing sinful people to be reconciled to God is to allow those men and women to begin to be restored to God and to walk with God by faith, even as he did, so that he would be the first of many who walked with God.
It's God's purpose that every single follower of Christ would become fully devoted. There are some myths that are out there that we need to shatter this morning. We'll take five this week and five next week. Here's the first one we'll take a look at. We'll call them, as I said, chURchBAN myths.
1._ Spiritual growth is just a matter of time once you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior._ In other words, if you'll just sit back and hold tight, once you cross that line of faith, it's going to happen automatically. You are going to slowly, through some osmosis or through some sit and soak eventually become more committed, more confident, more connected, more contributing in the use of your gifts and more creative in your employment of the gift that God has given you. It'll just happen as a course of time.
The problem with that is, you and I all know individuals who have been in churches for a long time, some who have been there their entire lives, who are no more committed to a godly and righteous life today than maybe some folks who just trusted him a week ago. No more confident in the way they work through interpersonal difficulties than maybe some people who don't know the Lord, and that's not the way it should be.
It is a myth that spiritual growth or spiritual maturity or full devotion will increase and happen naturally once you truly come into a relationship with God. It doesn't happen just as a course of time. Here's the biblical truth. Growing old is not the same as growing up. There have been some folks, undoubtedly, in this room who have made that profession of faith, and maybe an authentic one, five months ago, one year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, who have grown older as a person whose name is written in the Book of Life but hasn't really grown up.
You still stumble when someone talks about the Scripture or asks you to share in a clear and concise way what it means to follow Christ, or how they follow Christ. You're still as intimidated today to pray with somebody, to pray for somebody, to initiate a relationship with somebody, to share your faith with somebody, to speak boldly about the absolutes which the Scriptures graciously but powerfully reveal in a world that says there's no such thing as that which is absolute. You're just as easily persuaded away from conviction today as you were back then. You're older, but you're no more mature. Look at what the writer to Hebrews said.
"Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food."
What he's coming at right there is the problem that exists in so many folks' lives. You're an adult now, and it's time for you to be able to take a full diet, a full course in the meatier things of truth that are going to allow you to grow, but you still need milk. There's something that's really wrong there. Growing up is not the same as growing old.
Listen to what it says in the second chapter of the book that was written for young followers of truth. It begins with eight conditional statements before you get to one that says, "Then you'll become this more mature person." Proverbs 2.
"My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will…" Then. Not just as a course of time but as a matter of your intention. "…then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God."
It doesn't say, "My son, if you learn to recite religious things, my son if you post my commandments on your wall, my son, if you make yourself attentive to KCBI…" It doesn't say, "My son, if you're inclined to browse through Christian books, then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and then you will discover the knowledge of God."
No, it says, "It's going to take some effort. It's going to take some work. It's not going to happen naturally as a course of time." Some of you who think, "I've been a follower of Christ for a long time. I ought to be more mature," are right about half of it. You ought to be more mature. There ought to be a difference from one Christmas to the next, around your family's table if they see you maturing as an individual who knows the living God, whose purpose is to transform you and to conform you into the likeness of his son.
The myth this world has bought, this chURchBAN myth, is if you just go to a religious institution and a religious service and a religious place, if you just go somewhere and do your part by building some house for Habitat every six months, by making sure you get your envelope in with a good size chunk of money in it, then you're growing.
I'll tell you something. It's killing people. It's causing the name of Christ to be scorned because we propagate an urban legend, and we tell people it's truth. The biblical truth is that growing up is not the same as growing old. A man who has had a great impact on my life, as he has many, a gentleman by the name of Howard Hendricks, would ask me this question at times. He said, "Todd, does God want you to be a godly man?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Do you want to be a godly man?" "Yeah."
He said, "Are you a godly man?" Whether I was trying to just be humble or whether I was being honest about my life, I go, "No. Not really." He said, "The reason is because you answered the second question wrong. In other words, you know God wants you to be a godly man, so if you want to be a godly man, you know God is not going to call you to something and want that for you, and then you want it and not experience it. The reason you answered no to number three is because you answered number two incorrectly."
You're thinking it's just going to happen naturally. It's not going to happen naturally. It's going to happen when you avail yourself to all the means of grace God has given you. It's a myth that if you just sit here at Watermark week after week, or if you just show up and in kind of a nominal way at a 1024 or 128, or if you're part of a 410 that just naturally, you'll slowly increase in competency, commitment, creativity, connectedness, and contributing. No. Here's another chURchBAN myth.
2._ Spiritual maternity is reserved only for the special, like the seminary student, the super-saint, and the salaried._ That's not true. The biblical truth is this. Full devotion is normal for every true follower of Christ. For every true believer, the biblical truth is what's normal is to take up your cross and follow him. That's what Jesus says is the rule, not the exception.
But we've made the exception the rule, and we've said, "No, you have to be on staff somewhere to really grow, or you have to go to seminary." It's a great place to learn about truth, but I don't think a call to vocational ministry equals even a call to seminary. Certainly, I beg of many students who I've met down there, please don't think graduating from seminary is a call to vocational ministry. You don't have to go to seminary to grow. You don't have to be one of these super-saints.
The idea is out there, it's propagated even by a lot of autobiographies that are written about great men and women of old, that if you're not willing to pray 10 hours a day, move to a jungle, and plan to die as a martyr, you may as well not do anything. That's just not true. I had a friend tell me that he had been given the advice recently that if they don't pay you, they won't respect you at a church.
I said, "You could not be more mistaken. That might be a myth which is held onto by some staffs and some leadership and some places, but you need to know that is the very antithesis of what this church was founded for. The whole purpose of being salaried to this church is to serve everyone so they might be all that God designed them to be.
It's not up to us to be super-saints. It's up to us to be individuals who serve and use the time that the body graciously makes available to us through their sacrificial giving and support of this ministry that they see God at work in to allow us to set up strategic things which will allow them to serve God, to put in place tools that they can use to be effective the way God wants them to be used.
We couldn't respect you more. We couldn't count on you more. We couldn't need you more. You don't need to be salaried, you certainly don't need a seminary student, and you don't need to pray 10 hours a day, move to the jungle, and purpose to die as a martyr to be a person who's spiritual mature. You need to avail yourself to him.
Look at what the Scripture says. We read it earlier. Colossians 1:28. "We proclaim him, admonishing every seminary student, and teaching every salaried person with all wisdom that every super-saint might be complete in Christ." Right? Of course not. Every man, and that is the class of people, the Homo sapiens. Every Homo sapien, everyone in mankind who is a follower of Christ, the Lord wants to see grow.
One of the faithful folks in this body, Brett Johnston, was asked to go speak at the chapel here in town. He was talking to these kids. His whole message was based on this idea. He took this one myth and wanted to shatter it. He talked about how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and he gave a number of examples.
He started with David, an ordinary shepherd boy but who was available to God. Not some super‑saint, not of some great heritage, all he was was a faithful young man who God used. He went on to talk about some others. He talked about Ben Carson. You guys have heard Ben Carson's story. The chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital grew up in a home where his mom was illiterate. He was illiterate until he was in third grade.
His mom said, "I have to believe there's something more in this life for my boy. I believe you create everybody to be something significant for you and to use the gifts that you've built into them as one is made in your image to do something significant for you." She prayed and prayed and prayed, and she told her son, "I'm praying for you to be more than I am." She begged him to begin to read.
He read one book a month, and one book a week, and then finally one book a day. When he was in eighth grade, he was at the top of his class. He found a book on frogs and began to be attracted to biology, graduated with honors from his high school. Went to Yale, graduated with honors. Went to Michigan University Medical School and graduated from there and goes to Johns Hopkins, where today he's coming up with innovative new surgeries to help children. Just an ordinary kid who took what God gave him and applied himself to it.
He told that story how Ben Carson's mom was right, that he wants to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The Scriptures says, "The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the earth looking for those whose hearts are completely his that he might strongly support them." Brett talked about men and women that said, "God, here I am. Send me. What do you want from me?" God used them in great ways. Sometimes in jungles. Sometimes they did die a martyr's life.
Then he told a story about another faithful member of this body. She just happens to be 8 years old. She was praying for her grandmother, who had some issues with her health, was in the hospital, was scared. She was a 60-year-old Jewish woman who her son and others had prayed for and loved and reached out to.
She sat there one day talking to her mom and dad about her grandmother. She went upstairs to her room, this ordinary girl God used to do an extraordinary thing. She wrote a note on one side. She said, "God loves you and wants you to trust Jesus Christ." On the other side, she wrote, "God is in control." She put in an envelope and asked her mom and dad if she could take it to her grandmother.
She took it to her grandmother. Her grandmother, who was fretting about what this was. She had spent 60 years walking with God through her faith, and yet she was full of fear and disappointment. She read that note from this little 8-year-old child, this extraordinary little ordinary girl, and God used that to unlock her grandmother's heart. She came to one of our services, got connected with some people, and who, at 60-some-odd years of age, came into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.
It's normal for God to use everybody for his glory. He wants to use that grandmother now for his glory, but it's not going to happen if she's not going to grow now. If she lived to be 85, she's not going to be 25 years mature, and she's not going to be 20 years mature when she's 28 if she doesn't stay on that path or if she buys the myth that is only for church staff, only for seminary students, and only for people who are willing to pray 10 hours a day, move to a jungle and die a martyr's life. It's a myth that will destroy us. Let me give you another myth, another chURchBAN myth, if you will.
3._ Spiritual maturity can be gained quickly if you find the magic product._ I was thinking about how to phrase this initially, and I was going to phrase it this way: the monster of spiritual immaturity can be killed with a magic silver bullet. I was going to state it that way, but then I was going to write the biblical truth that immaturity, though, is not an imaginary problem like a werewolf. It's very real, not like this idea we have from our childhood horror stories that are werewolves that are imaginary beasts that can be killed with this magic bullet.
It probably sometimes drips over into our spiritual life. There are people who will tell you that spiritual maturity can be gained quickly if you just find the magic product. There's a ministry called Renew Ministries, which is not on the Christian Shopping Network, which to my knowledge doesn't exist. But Renew Ministries does. Renew ministries offers continuous-play tapes for $19.95 apiece. You don't have to rewind them because it's just a continuous-play tape.
It promises freedom from doubt, fear, failure, fear of death, guilt, grief, depression, temper, pride, lust, temptation, pornography, procrastination, unforgiveness, rejection, drugs, alcohol, smoking, anger, rebellion, anxiety, panic, judging, homosexuality, and scars of child abuse and molestation. Other Renew tapes promise to speak into being prosperity, weight loss, peace, healing, self-esteem, salvation, marital harmony, surrender to God, acceptance of God's love, and a closer walk with God.
According to Renew, Bible-based subliminal messages hit controlling spirits where they live and command them to leave in Jesus' name. Then the void is filled with the Word of God. It's all so easy, it's all so effortless. You can absorb the Scriptures without even paying attention to it. Sound familiar? We laughed at it. It's a myth that is being sold to folks every day where they tell you that fervent prayer, diligent holiness, earnest devotion, careful study, and conscientious meditation are all rendered unnecessary by this approach.
That's tragic. The biblical truth is that spiritual maturity takes time and effort. This is what it says in Philippians 2. Paul talks about how Jesus Christ, who was the perfect man (fully God), was given the name above all names by God, and how he was exalted. In other words, he was given his full reward. He lived in a way that you and I cannot, and that's why he made provision for our sin.
Because he lived as a faithful son, a faithful servant of the living God, he was given the greatest thing that anybody can be given. He was exalted to the place where every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess. Paul says in verse 12, "So then…" Given what is a stake, given the opportunity of reward from the Creator. "…my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…" Watch this. "…work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
Which is to imply you are going to be in process and you grow to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. You fulfill God's command on your life. That those he foreknew, he predestined, those he predestined, he called. Those he called, he justified. And those he justified, he glorified. He will glorify, but right now, he wants us to be in the process of being what's called sanctified which is conformed to the image of his Son to be an ever-increasing, fully devoted follower of Christ.
It's not going to happen by some magic silver bullet. There is not one seminar, not one 128, not one 1024, not one sermon that's going to do it. It's a myth. There's not one Lucado book, one Swindoll book, one classic of the faith that's going to change you. But if you stay on that steady diet of the means of grace which God has offered you, which we are a part of being God's instrument to provide for you, you're going to grow, and you're going to be healthy.
How many of y'all remember that meal that your mom gave you your third grade year from January through December? Can you name off all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners your mom faithfully cooked? How about your fifth-grade year? You can't remember them, can you? You sat at that table, and you ate, and you were nourished, and you grew. There's not one magic meal, but if you miss a meal, it's going to affect your health, it's going to affect your nutritional strength, it's going to affect your growth.
So there's a reason to read books. There's a reason to gather with the saints. There's a reason to equip yourself, but none of them are the last meal. There's a reason to spend time alone with the Lord daily, but it's not your last meal. There's no silver bullet. There's no magic retreat. There's no magic message. There is a means of grace.
He says, "Work out your salvation." Please don't mistake that for, "Work for your salvation." Salvation is always a gift, the gift that God gives you and the gift that God gave me, a man who could never earn it and please a holy God. "Todd, work out, though, having received this gift. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling because there's much at stake that's here. Your eternal reward." Salvation is a gift, but I will be judged based on how I respond to that gift.
The Scriptures very quickly make it clear that the judgment is not one about whether or not I stay in relationship with the Lord or stay in fellowship with him for eternity in heaven. But it does have much to do, the Scriptures make it clear, about what he allows me to receive from him as a King that loves to honor his faithful sons, faithful daughters, faithful servants.
Can I tell you very quickly what I think I'm going to do with those crowns? I'm not going to wear them around heaven, if I get one, and bump into you and see how many you have and laugh at you under my breath if I have more or walk away discouraged at how many you have and the few that I have. I think we're going to join the sacred throne. I think we're going to hail the powers of Jesus' name, and I think we're going to lay them at his feet.
If that's the last act I get to worship to God who now I will see and know fully as I have been known, I'm going to want to lay every crown I have at his feet. I'm going to wish I had one more crown to give him, because he's worth everything. When we know him for who he is and what he's done and faith is erased, and sight now informs us, and we know fully who he is and he's revealed himself, I tremble that I won't have enough to give my King. Never to please him, but to offer him love at that moment.
Do you realize I'm moving to eternity with him? From that moment forward, it's all about him providing for me what he, in his love, has promised. My last act of worship is going to be my ability to give back to him what he has allowed me to earn by faith, as I've served him for these short years he's given us.
I don't want to miss that chance to worship. You have to work it out. Don't work for it. You'll never be able to tout that bill, pay that bill. I know I won't. He says you won't, but he says, "Go with it. Become mature. Don't look for the magic product." That takes us to number four.
4.Your wanting to be godly is all God wants from you. No, it's much more than that. God doesn't just want you to want to be godly. It doesn't say, "God, thy want be done in my life." It says, "Thy will be done." Look what it says in James. I'll give it to you in two different translations. The biblical truth is it is a world of difference between doers and the deluded. James says it this way.
"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." In the NIV, it says it this way. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." God doesn't just want you to want to be a godly man or woman. He wants you to respond to that one and be moved forward into an activity and a relationship with him where you can bear the fruit that he promises those who surrender their life to him.
Part of our core here, every single one of us have said that we want to be fully devoted followers of Christ. We've all made that commitment to one another and to the Lord. But it's not enough that we sign some membership covenant that says, "I want that." We have to move forward in that one. As I was thinking about different ways to communicate this to you, I was going to write them this way: the difference between wanting to and willing to is the difference between buying a size 2 dress and being able to wear it.
Guys, I know you're thinking, "Why does he want to wear a size 2 dress?" All my analogies are always for the men. Between wanting to bench press 450 pounds and being able to do it. So I went with the women thing and what women want. Wouldn't it be great to fit in that dress? There's a difference between wanting to and being willing to do what you need to do.
We can't all fit in size 2 dresses. God made our bodies all differently, but every single one of us can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It's not enough for us to sit out here and go, "I want to know you. I want to know you more." He wants us to move in that one. It's a myth that we can comfort ourselves just knowing that as we lie in bed at night, having truly become sons of God whose Spirit indwells in them who, therefore, gives us appetites to pursue what God loves and to hate what God hates.
So we lie in bed at night. We go, "As I lay here tonight, I really didn't want to lose my temper the way I did. I really don't want to continue to fall in sexual immorality like I did again this weekend on that day. God, I don't want that." Well, good, but are you willing? It's a myth that all God wants is for you to want to be like him. That's a part of it, but it isn't the whole truth. The truth, as we said, is there is a world of difference between the deluded and the doers. Last chURchBAN myth for today that's killing us.
5._ Spiritual maturity is measured by what you know._ How many of us know folks who have written books who have had significant, impressive, powerfully used ministries who have abandoned the faith, walked away, or made decisions that showed that their life had been rather frail for a long time?
I taught through a relationship series one time on marriage. I took, at the time, six or seven books on fatherhood and, specifically, Song of Solomon and marriage. Some of the most popular books of the day. All seven or eight of those books, which I would still recommend that you read, every single one of those men had left their family and had destroyed their relationship with their covenant partner. Every one of those men who talked about how to be a great dad had abandoned their covenant commitment to the mother of those children.
Spiritual maturity is not measured by what you know. It's important to grow. It's important to know, but if we stop right there, we're setting ourselves up for all kinds of problems. Knowledge is not wisdom. I'm going to read you this little thing I pulled a long time ago from a secular source that every now and then I go back and read. Bear with me.
"There is an old and simple truth so commonplace as to be frequently ignored but so vital that it should never be so. It is the truth that knowledge alone will not save us. There are unlimited examples of this, some of which we mention merely to indicate the inexhaustibility of those that we do not mention. A man may know how to take nourishment, but if he doesn't he will starve. A man may know how to breathe, but if he doesn't, he will smother.
These simplest of illustrations are basic to life itself and in principle to most of our troubles. For it is probable that there's not one among us who does not know better than he sometimes does. It is probable, for example, that there are a few doctors who live as well as they are capable of telling their patients how to live. It is probable there are a few teachers who can expound what to do better than they sometimes make a practice of doing.
It is probable that there are a few private or public advisors who can tell the world how to get out of its difficulties better than they can keep their own affairs out of difficulties. It is probable that no people, no generation ever found themselves in serious trouble without some knowledge, some intuition, some warning voice, as to the consequence to the course they were pursuing. Of course, there are times when men do perish for lack of knowledge. But more often it isn't what we don't know that gets us into trouble but what we do know and ignore.
There are many seemly smart people who seem to know all the answers, but smartness, so-called, may be of the kind that is akin to wisdom, or it may be the merely brilliant stupidity of those who think that knowing the answers gives them immunity from the rules of life and from the consequences of their own doing." Listen to these couple of sentences.
"But merely knowing the answers won't save anyone. It has been scripturally recorded and long since accepted that where there is no vision, the people perish, but where there is vision, and it is disregarded that people perish also, and there with greater condemnation, what good is vision? What good is all the experience of mankind, all the Word of God and all the record of the ages, if knowing it all, we leave it out of our living? What this world needs is not merely more men who know the answers, but also more men who have the good sense to practice what they know."
That is a great six paragraphs on one verse, and it is the biblical truth. John exhorted us this way. "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." We have been blessed with great information here. We have good knowledge. Most of us have two, three, four, five, six bibles. Do you know the man who has a Bible and doesn't read it has no advantage over the person who doesn't have one?
How are you doing? How are you doing with what you have? It's not often enough considered that man, that Todd, needs to be reminded more often than I need to be instructed. I have enough information about Jesus Christ, his love and provision for me, that it ought to change me forever. My problem is not one of knowledge. It is a problem of the will.
Spiritual maturity is not measured by your ability to turn quickly to a book of the Bible when I said, "Let's turn to Haggai," this week. It's not measured by your ability to recite some Bible memory verses. It's not measured by your ability to recite impressive truths about creeds and church history. There's nothing wrong with those things. They're a piece of growing. But don't let knowledge puff you up. Don't buy the myth that because you're informed about what it takes to be a fully devoted follower of Christ, you are. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for how I needed, personally, today to be reminded of your truth. I thank you for how we get the chance to gather, to sing songs that have truth in them, that we might be reminded of that again, even if it's not new, as we go over this simple truth. I'm reminded, and I need to be reminded much more than I need to be instructed.
Father, I thank you that you've allowed us, in your grace, to have another chance this day to get with the program, to shatter these urban myths which sometimes give us a false sense of comfort or even at times a false sense of concern. I can never be who you want me to be because I'm not going to go to a jungle. I thank you that these urban myths, this chURchBAN myths, have been at least today exposed by your Word.
Now, we have to decide what we're going to believe. Is the myth going to continue to rule us that we're who you want and that the way we're going to get to be who you want us to be is the way we've always believed? Or are we going to respond to truth? I pray that this year would be different. I pray we would respond the way you want us to respond as people of faith who take the knowledge we have and are informed by it and live according to understanding and wisdom.
We are people not with a vision who ignore it but people who are with a vision and who pursue it with reckless abandon. We know, Father, that what you want is holiness, what you want is brokenness, what you want us to be is conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that in song, and we make it our prayer.
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!