So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23)
If someone draws closer to God through certain practices, we are not to judge as long as they don’t go against scripture. This includes denominational differences. We have to let all things lead to Christ even if we might think of them as senseless. We shouldn’t let the things that make us different draw us apart. God creates many diverse parts to make up the church, the bride of Christ. God uses many ways to touch the hearts of each of His children. Just like God used ceremonial law to keep the focus of His people on Him, He will use multiple ways to draw people from the darkness of sin.
The danger comes when people lose focus on God and develop a reliance on acts. This is where people become legalistic and think that their actions take the place of the faith we are called into. Be careful not to let differences in practice draw believers apart. Keep your opinions between you and God so that your thoughts don’t create division.
If you feel God call you to a certain place, walk with Him. If you have a practice that you feel draws you closer to God and honors Him, draw close to Him as He draws close to you. As long as your practice doesn’t contradict scripture, praise God in what draws your heart to Him. Don’t rely on your practice, let those moments develop your intimacy with God and grow your relationship with Him. The ultimate intimacy with God is found in relationship with Jesus Christ. Let your walk be yours and let your neighbor’s walk belong to them.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews (believers) or to Greeks (unbelievers) or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
As we grow closer to God we not only grow away from the things of this world we also create a distance from other believers who’s walk is different from ours. It might be that God’s timing or direction for them differs from ours. It is important to support those around us while still seeking our own growth in God through His Spirit. There will be times where people will be unable to support your steps and upward calling. That can be to your advantage in many cases. God guides your steps, lights your path, and is the source of your calling. Your first resource for growth in your spiritual walk should always be the Spirit God has sent to dwell in you. The Holy Spirit should always be the source of your conviction and truth. Allowing the Spirit to be your filter as you seek God through His Word and through Spirit driven sermons means you can receive what the Lord has for you specifically. The living Word of God can speak to you a different way each time you seek guidance through its pages. Allowing the Holy Spirit, which dictated every word, to speak to you with scripture means you can get exactly what you need in your time with the Lord.
There are times when we look around and realize that our walk with God has brought us to a place of unique experience with Him. He speaks to us and grows us in ways that are specific to how He made us. There will not always be someone to share that moment with. It is those times we can take our love and gratitude directly to God, our Source. We can use those moments of revelation to worship and praise Him.
Seeking fellow believers to walk with is God’s desire, but we cannot rely on human counsel as our primary source of revelation and growth. People are fallible where God is not. He designed you and seeks to mature you in His way at His pace. Your growth will drive the right people closer to you and some people away from you. Some of the people who were closest to you in your worldly life will be the furthest from you as your spirit matures. Let God bring people into your life that will develop you through His Spirit. Seek God first and let the Spirit be your counsel.
We are each uniquely design as part of the body of Christ (the Church). He created us and now grows us in different ways to strengthen His Church. Allow God to grow gifts in you that you can bring to grow His Kingdom here on earth. Don’t let people pull you from God’s unique design for you. Make God first and let His light shine forth from you to serve Him and His purpose for your life.
It is rare that we are exposed to preaching and writings that focus on the schemes of the deceiver. I agree that the love of God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the most important message by far; but the enemy of God’s love must be acknowledged. Thinking about an entity and his army trying to draw you away from God can be terrifying. As with all things, perspective makes all the difference. It is inevitable that a walk with the Lord will be met with equal opposition. If you don’t feel the opposition of the devil you might be walking in the direction he wants for you. If you don’t feel his opposition you may not pose a threat to his plan to destroy God’s reconciliation with His creation.
The closer you get to God the more the deceiver looks for a way to hinder your progress. You could get discouraged by this, or be prepared and wear his attacks as a badge of honor. You can know ahead of time that the deceiver wants you to fail and use the power you have in your Savior to walk in victory. Better than that, you can use satan’s prideful attempts to trip you to grow!
The deceiver will use earthly desires and pride to tempt you to settle for something far less than what God has for you. When he shoots the flaming arrows of Ephesians 6, use your shield to defend yourself and acknowledge where the devil was trying to hurt you.
Let his attempts to hurt you reveal the weakness he perceives in you. When you are attacked stand secure in what God has promised you and let the deceiver point out the weak points in your armor. If he continues to aim at a certain place, he is just showing you wear your armor might be weak. Let your walk with God strengthen that part of your armor. Most of the time the deceiver will use your pride to draw you away. Not a chest pounding pride but the pride that makes you feel that you can do anything without God, the pride of self-sufficiency or self-focus.
When you feel drawn away or beat down in your walk with the Lord, identify what weakness the deceiver is looking to exploit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that weakness. Ask God to give you His power to grow in that area, closer to His grace and love. After having God’s view of the deceiver’s feeble attempts to hurt you, you will gain experience and get better at seeing the new ways he comes against you. Each new angle gives you another chance to grow closer to God and stronger in His Spirit.
As satan’s pride causes him to battle in vain to win a battle we know He loses in the end, use his pride to destroy yours. As the devil’s pride attacks, yours will fall away when you draw closer to God. Your self-reliance will fall to pieces and God’s indwelling Spirit will shine through in your maturity. Use the devil as a stepping stone. Each new stone lets you raise higher. As long as the hatred of the devil comes against us, we have another way to perceive our weaknesses. Now we can let the Holy Spirit work in us so that we are stronger in battle and closer to our Father.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19)
Asceticism: Self-discipline and personal efforts in understanding Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Worship of Angels: Using their own understanding to focus on perceived messages
Don’t be misled by the confidence that people put into head knowledge and the elaborate stories they can weave together trying to interpret a God that considers the wise of this earth foolish. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20) Don’t let your own passions steer you into the counsel of such people. The deceiver disguises himself as wise counsel and twists the word of God to make crooked the path of those who lose focus on Christ who is the Truth. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
We run a race focused on the finish while Jesus asks us to walk and enjoy the journey with Him. We seek head knowledge and artificial growth which separates us from the body where Christ is the head. Let God be the source of your growth, the way He wants, how He wants, in the time He wants. Find rest in the hands of the Father. His ways are higher than your ways. He sees and understands all. Let Him guide you through the fog where your own understanding will leave you wanting and incomplete. When you resist the urge to run ahead, it will hurt. That is the desire of your flesh screaming. The pain feels unbearable as your spirit grows to rule over your flesh. Hand that pain to God and know that the pain is proof of God working to grow the part of you that will live with Him forever. He is letting the flesh attached to this world die. Lean on Him. His yoke is light and His burden easy. Let Christ grow in you and your self-sufficiency pass away. Less of you and more of Him.
It’s amazing how many parallels can be drawn for the discipline of heath and that of faith. Even non-believers can identify with the struggles of dieting. I was confronted with a comparison I wanted to share that uses this relatable metaphor. We have a choice when dieting: do the easy things that don’t allow our lives or health to change or make changes that come with work and temporary discomfort but lead to amazing changes.
Most people fall off the diet wagon as they struggle to break out of an easy routine. The excuses grow just like their blood pressure and waistline. The easy thing to do is to grab fast food and relax after a long day. It’s easier to avoid the effort of cooking real food. Sure, all of the chemicals in the food leave you feeling satisfied as your body panics and can’t decide what to do with them. The result is disease, sluggishness, and a suffering physical appearance. If by some chance a few changes are made, consistency and patience suffer as the results don’t come fast enough. We should be able to erase decades of damage in a month right? This is a representation of a suffering spiritual life. The easy thing to do is ignore God in order to keep the illusion of control over your life. We grab worldly comforts that sooth us as we fall deeper into the darkness of an unhealthy spirit. We spend free time filling our minds with garbage from TV, internet and social media. With the lack of good things going into our minds it’s no wonder only garbage is available to come out. Then in a moment of desperation in the darkness someone prays for relief but will quickly fall away into self-reliance when the pain is past. They aren’t willing to take the step required for real change. That would involve giving up control and relying on the Creator of the universe.
In contrast we have people who are devoted to their health. They maintain a healthy diet they prepare in advance and have a plan on how their path will proceed. The result is a metabolism that is ready to use the good input to rebuild in the best way. This metabolism causes a hunger that requires for healthy input for continued improvement. The good input creates a good inside where the best output is attained. The result is a healthy heart, more energy and a better external appearance that draws less healthy people to your example. This as a representation of our spiritual life is a hunger for God’s Word that grows with the fruit it produces in your life. The plan to study the Word of God and to let what it says change how you let the Spirit work in your heart is the most important step. As the believer continues to grow in the Word and the Holy Spirit they are changed for the inside as their spiritual health improves. The outward manifestation is obvious to people who continue to be lost in their effortless walk.
We should choose to be spiritually healthy and let that stand as an example to the lost of this world. It’s not a single prayer in desperation (healthy meal) that changes things. It’s a life devoted to God and what He has for us. It requires patience for gradual change to manifest. Just like a month of effort won’t undo years of neglect, don’t shortcut the process of God to grow a spirit inside you that will change your life and motivate those around you to follow your lead and that of your Savior.
When a believer finds the joy and abundance of a life filled with the Holy Spirit, they can’t help but share that with everyone. They have good hearts but that doesn’t always mean the best method. Their passion is beautiful but pushes them beyond what they are called by God to do. I wanted to share a small metaphor to help those filled with the wonderful joy and passion that fills us to overflowing so that we might share, in the right way.
Although each situation varies and should be led by the Holy Spirit acting through the believer, I want to share a thought that requires patience and faith, both of which the Lord gives to any who ask. We must recognize that we are meant to plant the seeds of the Lord. All too many time we try and give a lost soul or a new believer fruit from our orchard. We want them to see the blessings and abundance of God, but they won’t understand. In fact they may be put off by an idea that only the Holy Spirit can fully communicate. We could stand by and load them with the fruits of God, but those fruits will spoil and fail to glorify God the way He desires. We must focus on sowing the seeds of God so that the Holy Spirit can grow an orchard in the hearts of the new believer. The Spirit can grow the fruits that person is designed to grow in and glorify with. The good fruit grown in the spirit will never spoil because it will be located in the orchard of the believer’s heart, that they will know how to care for, and allow the Spirit to multiply that fruit.
The worst thing a believer can do is push past their role and try to grow fruit. God’s provision is always better than ours, so His fruit must be also. We must make sure that our love for those around us spurs us to patience, faith and trust. Not allowing God to work in another’s heart will have the opposite effect and drive them away in fear of the unimaginable and infinite God. Remember back when you were saved. If all of the knowledge and joy found in God would have been poured upon you, it would not have found a place to grow. The Lord looks to grow you in His way and His time. Just the way He designed you.
We have a tendency as fallible human beings to view people through a filter of our own life experience. We see people through our strengths. It’s hard to be vulnerable in a world that looks to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8) Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. It may seem dramatic to call the world the devil, but there is no doubt that the traits that exemplify the earth (selfishness, pride, greed, lust, anger, hate, racism, etc.) are representations of sin and thus the deceiver. It is extremely difficult and vitally important that we show compassion and sympathy for individuals as we focus on the fact that our battle is with the spirit and not the flesh. (Ephesians 6:12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but… against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. God has created all people, some to serve as a guide we imitate, some as a guide to show us what not to do, some as an opportunity to ‘come along side’ and grow with. Every person we encounter is an opportunity to learn and grow in relationship with God in the process of sanctification. We cannot allow our life experience and our expectations (of others and for ourselves) interfere in the opportunity to mature, learn, and teach as God places people in our lives daily. How many people can you think of that you have rejected in judgement? Can you look at that person and see what they have taught you without anger in your heart? Can you develop wisdom (viewpoint of God) and love them for what they have taught you? True maturity comes through perseverance in the submission to Jesus. We must thank God that He brings tests to our lives, sometimes in the form of people, to mature us and draw us closer to Him and His purpose for us in His Kingdom.