LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS: The Second Coming of Christ

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  (John 14:2-3)

“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” (Matt. 25:6)

Our salvation, our hope, our faith is based upon the fact that we believe the Redeemer of all mankind, the Savior of the world, our suffering Messiah has already come and gave His life a ransom for all.

The belief that Jesus Christ lived, died, was buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven is the very core of our being “born again” and without which we are eternally lost.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

By raising Jesus from the dead, God not only confirmed that every word Jesus said about Himself is true, but that every word He spoke concerning all things is true.

If we believe that Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God came the first time, then we must believe His promise that He is coming back again.

“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

The only question that remains is which return are we anticipating? The return of a Bridegroom or that of a Conqueror?

“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.” (Matt. 24:1)

“And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matt. 24:2)

“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3)

As Jesus and His disciples passed by the temple, they pointed out to Him its grandeur, but Jesus replied by saying that all the stones of the temple would be cast down.

They responded by asking Jesus three questions.

The first question was, “when shall these things be?” referring to the destruction of the temple.

Jesus went on to prophesy of events they would see happen in their generation and that there would be “wars and rumors of wars,” but “…the end is not yet.” (Matt. 24:6)

History tells us that after the Crucifixion of Jesus in circa 30 A.D., there were rebellions and wars amongst the Roman Empire until finally in circa 70 A.D. the Roman army took over Jerusalem and destroyed Herod’s Temple, even tearing apart every stone to retrieve the gold between them, thus fulfilling the prophetic answer to “when shall these things be?”

The second question was, “ what shall be the sign of thy coming?”

Jesus prophetic answer to this question was a long description of a time period filled with nations and kingdoms rising up against each other. He described famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes which He called the “beginning of sorrows.”

He told of a time of false prophets, persecutions, and betrayal. He spoke of afflictions, deceptions, and that “iniquity would abound.” He said that because of these things many believer’s love would “wax cold,” however; Jesus also said:

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13)

He then gave the greatest sign that answers the second question the disciples asked, “what shall be the sign of thy coming?”

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14)

This long description that depicts an age of wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, and persecutions aptly describes the time since the destruction of the temple until now, culminating to our time in which iniquity abounds and the “love of many” has “waxed cold.”

This day and age that we are now living in has seen the rise of unlimited internet access and satellite communications. Now like never before has the gospel through these mediums reached every corner of the earth and been “preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.”

We are seeing the fulfillment of Jesus prophetic answer to this second question, “what shall be the sign of thy coming?”

We are the generation that is in anticipation of the return of the Bridegroom.

Next- LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS: The Apocalypse

Available for $2.99 at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices

Available for $2.99 at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices

Advertisements

LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS: Perilous Times

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”  (2Tim. 3:1-5)

These Scriptures describe the condition of society just before the coming of Christ. The Bible is filled with prophesies that pertain to the coming of Christ.

As a matter of fact, the Spirit of God through David declared that the entire Bible was actually given by God for the sole purpose of directing men to Christ and His coming.

“Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” (Psalm 40:6)

“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,” (Psalm 40:7)

Jesus Christ is such the complete fulfillment of Scripture, that the Bible even calls Him the Word.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

It is God’s desire that in every Bible story, in every account of the tabernacle, in every jot and tittle of the Mosaic Law, in every Biblical record of the history of Israel, and in every prophecy, we would see Jesus, His fulfillment, and His coming.

If one were to categorize these prophecies of His coming, it would be evident that there are three distinct and different descriptions.

There are the prophecies pertaining to His coming as the suffering Messiah, our Redeemer.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Next there are the prophesies of His coming as the Bridegroom who goes away to prepare a place, but then returns for His Church, the Bride.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3)

“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” (Matt. 25:6)

Finally, there are the prophesies of His coming as the conquering King of Kings and the Lord of Lords at the end of the world.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” (Rev. 19:11)

“And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” (Rev. 19:13)

“And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Rev. 19:14)

“And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev. 19:16)

Most of the Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus did not understand these three comings. They were hoping and looking for the conquering hero to rid them of the Roman Empire, so they missed the coming of the suffering Redeemer, the Lamb of God.

Then there were those during the time of the early Church, who because of false teaching that had entered in, said that the resurrection was past.

They preached that the Bridegroom had already come for His Bride, thereby causing their followers to lose faith and believe they had missed the marriage supper of the Lamb.

“Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” (2Tim. 2:18)

It is important that we as believers know the times that we are living in so that we will have faith concerning His return and not be caught unaware when Jesus comes back.

Some are quick to say, “I’ve heard of Jesus coming my whole life but He hasn’t come yet, so I don’t even think about that.”

However the Bible says:

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 24:44)

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Heb. 9:28)

Next- LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS: The Second Coming of Christ

Available for $2.99 at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices

Available for $2.99 at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices

SPIRITUAL MATURITY: To be Led by the Spirit

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  (Psalm 32:8)

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  (Rom. 8:14)

God wants us to grow up in Christ to a point where the circumstances around us are not directing our decisions nor are they having to drive us to prayer crying for God to intervene.

God wants to direct us with his eye, but the only way that can happen is if we are looking at Him instead of looking at circumstances.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read of the time that Peter walked on the water:

“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” (Matt. 14:28)

“And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” (Matt. 14:29)

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” (Matt. 14:30)

As long as Peter was looking at Jesus, he walked on the water. It wasn’t until he turned his eyes to look at the wind and waves (his circumstances) that he began to sink.

Just as someone can direct us to the right or left by glancing in that direction if we are looking at their face, God wants to direct us if we are looking at Him.

Whether we are reading the Bible, in prayer, in worship, or even in our daily routine, the mature Christian is always looking to Jesus.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)

Walking in the son-ship of Jesus Christ, walking in spiritual maturity, is setting your heart to walk as Jesus walked:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5)

To be like Christ is not in the amount or degree of religious activity, but in love for your fellow man.

To be like Christ is to not be moved by adversity or circumstance, but to know the love of the Father and trust in him.

To be like Christ is to deny self, to be humble, and say “Thy will not mine be done.”

To be like Christ is to be a mature son led by the Holy Spirit.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14)

Next- LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

SPIRITUAL MATURITY: Characteristics of Successful Spiritual Growth

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”  (Eph. 4:14-15)

In the previous post we have seen what God considers to be spiritual immaturity, to be a babe in Christ. But what does God consider to be spiritual maturity, to “grow up in Him”? (Eph. 4:15)

The first step to spiritual maturity is what we have already learned from the story of the “prodigal son”, which is to make a decision that we are no longer going to entertain unrighteous thoughts toward others.

It does matter to God when we talk about someone behind their back. It matters to God when we criticize someone’s appearance or actions whether verbally or in our heart. It matters to God when we harbor anger, or resentment, or unforgiveness no matter how justified we feel in doing so.

When we ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal these hidden sins so that we may repent, we have begun to mature in the spirit. We may stumble in our attitude toward others, but when we do if we repent and determine to do better with God’s help, then we will begin to pass from “glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord”.

We also grow spiritually when we make a commitment to understand the Word of God for ourselves, not just to believe what others may tell us:

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Eph. 4:14)

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, but that we must ask in faith. We need to realize that our Bible reading is not just a daily exercise, but an opportunity to hear from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Whether reading or listening, it takes the Holy Spirit to show us what the true meaning of God’s Word is so that we do not fall prey to error.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)

“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6)

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1John 2:27)

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are signs of spiritual maturity and will build you into a mature (finished) house of God filled with every spiritual blessing:

“Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:” (Prov. 24:3)

“And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov. 24:4)

Any type of deceit or untruth is a sign of spiritual immaturity, but he who is spiritually mature determines to be truthful within and without.

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Eph. 4:15)

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;” (Eph. 6:14)

This does not only mean truth between you and others, but also truth between you and God. In other words, not coming to God and making excuses about what you have done or why you did it, not trying to convince God that you are something you are not, but coming to God and totally opening your heart to Him in honesty and truth so that He might search your innermost being and help you in your time of weakness.

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:8)

“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Cor. 12:9)

Finally, the Christian who has begun to mature in his spiritual walk has come to a place in his life where he is not ruled by circumstances.

The Bible tells us, and experience shows us, that babies are ruled by their circumstances and needs.

“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:” (Gal. 4:3)

If a baby is hungry, needs changing, or wants something, he cries. If he is tickled, he laughs. If he is rocked or cuddled, he falls asleep.

As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.

When we are babes in Christ, our prayer life is filled with constantly asking God for the things we need or want, much like a baby crying. The things happening around us and to us consume our thoughts and efforts.

We seem to jump from emergency to emergency, constantly asking God for His help or deliverance without much communication or communion with Him in between.

But just as most children begin to grow and trust that their parents love them and will take care of them, God wants his spiritual children to grow and trust in the love of their Heavenly Father.

“Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (Matt. 6:8)

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matt. 6:31)

“(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matt. 6:32)

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,” (Rom. 8:38)

“Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:39)

The Bible says:

Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” (Psalm 32:9)

When we first become Christians, our Heavenly Father will allow circumstances to come into our lives that will drive us to prayer so we may learn that God hears and answers our prayers.

In the same way that the bit and bridle direct the horse, these circumstances direct us to put our trust in God. But as we grow and see God supply our need and answer our prayers, He does not want us to be driven by these things any longer.

He has a better way and a higher calling.

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  (Psalm 32:8)

Next- SPIRITUAL MATURITY: To be Led by the Spirit

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

SPIRITUAL MATURITY: Characteristics of Failure to Grow in the Spirit

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.”  (1Cor. 3:1)

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  (1Cor. 3:3)

“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.” (Luke 15:25)“And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.” (Luke 15:26)

“And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.” (Luke 15:27)

“And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.” (Luke 15:28)

“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:” (Luke 15:29)

“But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:30)

“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)

The elder son’s spiritual immaturity was revealed by his words.

“And he was angry, and would not go in… thou never gavest me a kid… But as soon as this thy son (Greek word hwee-os’ for mature son) was come… And he (the father) said unto him, Son (Greek word tek-non for little child) thou art ever with me…” (Luke 15:28-31)

Throughout the time that the younger son demanded his inheritance, wasted it with riotous living, joined himself to the heathen, and ended up in the pig sty, the original Greek Scriptures used the word hwee-os’ for mature son in reference to him.

No matter what mistakes the younger son had made, the father never changed his opinion of him. The father always considered him to be the same son that was worthy to receive his inheritance.

The only time the word for son changes to tek-non, meaning a little child, is when the father speaks to the elder son in the 31st verse of Luke.

It was not the outward sin, the transgression, the stumbling that revealed spiritual immaturity, but it was the hidden condition of the heart revealed by the jealous and hateful words of the elder son that caused the father to refer to him as a “little child”.

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (1Cor. 3:1)

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1Cor. 3:2)

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Cor. 3:3)

Envy, strife, and division are what God considers when determining if we are a “babe in Christ”.

ENVY: “…thou never gavest me a kid…”

STRIFE: “…And he was angry…”

DIVISION: “…would not go in…”

“But as soon as this thy son was come…” The elder, supposedly more mature son, wouldn’t even call him “brother”, but referred to him as “thy son”.

Often we as Christians think that if we can ever get to the place in our life where we never stumble, never transgress, and never sin, then we have become like Jesus and are a mature son of God.

However, the Bible says:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8)

As long as we are in this body of flesh we will always be susceptible to temptation, failure, and sin. To think otherwise is a dangerous place to be as a Christian.

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1Cor. 10:12)

Knowing this, the devil takes advantage of our misplaced hope of perfection, and by emphasizing our repeated stumbling in our Christian walk, tries to make us believe that we are a failure and will never be a mature son of God.

Even as the prodigal son said, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants.” However, because of his mercy and compassion, the father always saw him as the mature son in spite of his failure and did not hesitate to restore him to his full place of authority.

On the other hand, it was the elder son that appeared to be faithful by staying at home and managing the affairs of the household who the father referred to as childish, immature, and irresponsible when once the secret condition of his heart toward his brother was revealed.

The older son boasted of his faithfulness and righteousness and complained that the father was not being fair:

“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:” (Luke 15:29)

Many times Christians who have served the Lord for a period of time become prideful concerning the changes they have made in their lifestyle, especially when they see others who seem to fall short of the mark.

Sometimes without realizing it, we compare our lives and accomplishments with those of others. We see others who we feel need to improve and we look down upon them, or we see those who seem to have obtained or been given more in their Christian walk and we envy them. We forget the admonition from the Word of God:

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2Cor. 10:12)

We as Christians have to be careful not to allow our Christian practices (church attendance, Bible reading, time in prayer, ministry, etc.) to become benchmarks or points of accomplishments that we use to prove our spiritual maturity.

The only benchmarks that God looks at to determine spiritual maturity or immaturity are the unbridled feelings we harbor in our hearts toward others.

We could be the Pastor of a congregation or the head of a ministry, have attended Bible School, given tremendous sermons, and done mighty works for God, but if we harbor in our heart judgment and criticism, if we are envious and jealous, if we murmur and complain, if we gossip and backbite, then in God’s eyes we are a babe in Christ and spiritually immature.

The father told the older son:

“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)

The elder son had received his inheritance. He had everything that the father had to give. He could have killed the fatted calf and made merry with his friends any time he chose. He could have set his heart on being with the father and enjoying all that the father had given him, instead of filling his heart with jealousy and ill will toward his brother.

He could have made the decision to be as the father, to put away feelings of hurt and betrayal, and simply love his brother and hope for his return.

He could have chosen to be the hwee-os’, the mature son of the father, instead of refusing to grow up spiritually and remaining the tek-non, the little child.

Next- SPIRITUAL MATURITY: Characteristics of Successful Spiritual Growth

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

SPIRITUAL MATURITY: The Prodigal

“And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.”  (Luke 15:11-13)

In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a rich man that has two sons. One of the sons asks for his inheritance, takes it, and squanders it, but his father forgives him. On the surface it seems like the simple story of a life wasted, repentance, and forgiveness.

However, to fully understand the lesson that Jesus was teaching that day we need to understand it the same way that the early Church did. This is done by knowing the original Greek words that were used in writing the New Testament and translated into the words “son” or “sons” in the King James Version.

The story in Luke begins:

“And he said, A certain man had two sons:” (Luke 15:11)

Here the Greek word translated “sons” is the word pronounced hwee-os’. It means a son that has come to the age of maturity or responsibility. The Bible always uses the word hwee-os’ in the New Testament when referring to Jesus as the Son of God.

Even in the Old Testament, the prophetic Scriptures concerning Christ refer to Him as the one with responsibility or control.

“A Psalm of David. The LORD (Heb. word for Jehovah) said unto my Lord (Heb. word meaning “divine controller”), Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

Jesus is always the mature son. Jesus is always in control.

The story continues in Luke:

“And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.” (Luke 15:12)

Here the word for “younger” actually indicates a son who might be in the age range of a teenager to a young adult, whereas the word for “elder” used later in the story to describe the other son indicates a senior or someone far along into manhood. This is important to know in understanding the deeper meaning of the story.

It is also important to notice something else in the Scripture that is often overlooked by many. The Bible says that “he divided unto them his living.”

We often emphasize the young man demanding his inheritance when in reality the father not only gave the younger son his inheritance, but at the same time he also gave the elder son his inheritance.

In these two verses of Scripture we begin to see the parallel between the two sons of the rich man and the believers in Christ.

They were both sons who were of the age of responsibility. We become “responsible” when we hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They both received their inheritance, although each of them chose very different paths concerning that inheritance. We receive our spiritual inheritance when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and then it is our choice as to what we do with it.

And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” (Luke 15:13)

Here the Bible says, “And not many days after…” showing us that for a short period of time both sons were managing their inheritance with their father. But soon the younger son took his portion, left, and acted irresponsibly by wasting it.

The story goes on to tell us that the younger son, having spent all, joined himself with the heathen of the land and ended up feeding swine.

When he found himself desiring to eat the very swill that he was feeding the swine, he repented of his sins and rose up from the pig sty to return to his father.

The younger son said:

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,” (Luke 15:18)

“And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Luke 15:19)

The young son arose and went home to his father, and again we see the parallel to the Christian.

Instead of finding a father ready to judge and condemn him for his actions and decisions, he found that his father had been waiting for his return all along and was ready to rejoice at his homecoming.

“But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:” (Luke 15:22)

“And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:” (Luke 15:23)

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:24)

The Bible tells us that just like the father in the story, our Heavenly Father is not as concerned about our bad judgments and transgressions as He is about our repentance and restoration.

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” (Prov. 24:16)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)

Up to this point in the story we see the wonderful message of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, but as we continue we begin to see the deeper message of spiritual maturity.

“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.” (Luke 15:25)

“And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.” (Luke 15:26)

“And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.” (Luke 15:27)

“And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.” (Luke 15:28)

“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:” (Luke 15:29)

“But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:30)

“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)

The first step to becoming a spiritually mature son of God is in recognizing and acknowledging the current spiritual condition we are in.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Prov. 28:13)

The elder son’s spiritual maturity was revealed by his words.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”  (Luke 6:45)

Next- SPIRITUAL MATURITY: Characteristics of Spiritual Infancy

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

SPIRITUAL MATURITY: Spiritual Growth

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  (1Cor. 13:11)

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”  (Eph. 4:15)

“Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” (1Cor. 14:20)

Before we can see what spiritual growth is, we first have to see what it is not.

Spiritual growth is not determined by how long we have been a Christian. Although length of time is necessary and fundamental in physical growth, it has nothing to do with growing spiritually.

It is entirely possible for an individual to remain spiritually immature their entire Christian life. Growing spiritually is a choice.

Spiritual growth is not determined by our faithfulness in church attendance, Bible reading, or Scripture memorization. Although all of these things can aid in our spiritual growth, they cannot be substituted for it.

Your spiritual growth has nothing to do with a particular Church affiliation or Denomination.

The method by which you were baptized, the day you choose to attend services, or the manner in which you worship are all personal choices that you must make based upon your knowledge of the Word of God and your conscience toward Him, but unless you are continuing in a manner contrary to God’s Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they do not affect your spiritual growth.

How does one grow spiritually? How does a Christian pass from spiritual childhood, to adolescence, to maturity in the Spirit?

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2Peter 3:18)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2Cor. 3:18)

The answer to spiritual growth is KNOWLEDGE, CHOICE, GRACE, and CHANGE as by the SPIRIT OF THE LORD.

The Bible says:

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” (1Peter 1:15)

“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1Peter 1:16)

The Bible also says:

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:” (Heb. 12:14)

Holiness and spiritual growth are parallel. Holiness and spiritual maturity are virtually one and the same.

It is not so much an achievement as it is a lifestyle and a goal.

The word “holiness” in the Greek literally means “sanctification of the heart and life”, in other words, to “sanctify” or “set apart” your heart and life to God.

The word “holy” in the Greek means “physically pure” or “morally blameless”, so we might say that to strive to grow spiritually and become spiritually mature is to set apart our hearts and lives to be physically pure and morally blameless to God.

What seems like an impossible task, the Bible calls “our reasonable service”.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1)

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom. 12:2)

To do this on our own is indeed an impossible task. But that is why Jesus came, to give us a new birth, that the Holy Spirit might come and live inside of us and empower us to become holy.

This is done first by knowledge: the “renewing of your mind”.

The Holy Spirit reveals to us through the Word of God and by His convicting power the things which we need to change in our lives so that we may grow and become holy (set apart) unto God. In other words, what is “right” and what is “wrong” about our lives.

Next, God provides you with a choice: Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely…” (Rev. 22:17), “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…” (Joshua 24:15).

God will always give you the freedom of choice. That is why Jesus came to break the bondage of the sin nature (Rom. 6:14). Now we are free to choose whether to do right or wrong, whether to grow and mature or to remain spiritually childish.

If we make the choice to change and grow, then God will give us the grace to do it.

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Cor. 12:9)

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” (2Cor. 9:8)

Once we make the choice to lay aside the weights and sin, God gives us grace and strength through the Holy Spirit to effect the needed changes, until we realize that once again we have grown a little more into the image of Christ.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” (Heb. 12:1)

It does not happen overnight. Spiritual maturity is a growth, a step-by-step process.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2Cor. 3:18)

But it first begins with knowledge: by understanding where we are now in our spiritual growth and what we need to change.

Most often we do not realize what stage of our spiritual life we are in: whether infancy, childhood, adolescence, or maturity.

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” (Prov. 21:2)

That is why it takes the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to reveal our hearts unto us.

One of the best examples of this is the story of “the prodigal son”.

Next- SPIRITUAL MATURITY: The Prodigal

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad

Available now for $2.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, Lulu.com for the PC and other e-readers, and the iBookstore on iTunes for the iPad