THE PATH TO EVERLASTING JOY (Part 2: God’s Miraculous Purpose and Power of Joy)

“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10)

The Bible has said that God will give us the desires of our heart. However, it is a promise contingent upon one thing:

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”  (Psalm 37:4-5)

The promise requires that we first “delight” ourselves in Him.

How to “delight ourselves in the Lord” might seem confusing until we find out what the word translated “delight” actually means.

The Hebrew word that is translated “delight” actually means “to be soft or pliable”.

In other words, the Scripture here is telling us that if we will allow ourselves to be “soft” or “pliable” in the hands of the Lord then He will give us the “desires” or “requests” of our heart.

That is why the next verse says,Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

The present “request” of our heart is to regain access to the joy of the Lord that resides in our spirit. The place to begin is to allow ourselves to be “soft and pliable” in the hands of God.

In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, we read of the potter and the clay.

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.”  (Jer. 18:1-2)

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”  (Jer. 18:3-4)

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”  (Jer. 18:5-6)

The Bible says that as the clay is in the hands of the potter, so are we in the hands of the Lord.

If the clay is hard and resistant to the potter’s will, then it is difficult for the potter to make it into the vessel that he wants.

However, if the clay is soft and pliable then the potter can mold it into the vessel of his desire.

How can we be soft and pliable in the hands of God? By submitting our will to His will and not resisting Him.

This is done by knowing His will for our lives and desiring or requesting the same things for ourselves that God wants.

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:”  (1John 5:14)

“And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”  (1John 5:15)

The only way we can know what His will is for our lives is to read it.

It is called “The New Testament”.

And the only way that we can know God’s direction for our lives is to hear the still small Voice of the One who authored The New Testament.

One of the things that we read in The New Testament is that it is God’s will that our joy be full.

“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”  (1John 1:4)

Our joy is full when His joy is fully manifested in our lives and not hidden deep in our spirit.

Why is it so important to God that His children walk in the fullness of His joy?

His joy gives us strength.

“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  (Neh. 8:10)

Without His joy we have no spiritual strength.

Joy results in dedication to the Lord.

“And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,” (Ezra 6:16)

The Old Testament House of God, the Temple, was symbolic of the New Testament spiritual house of God.

“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”  (Heb. 3:6)

With the joy of the Lord we dedicate our house, our bodies, to the Lord and when we walk in fullness of joy it empowers us to walk in that dedication.

The manifested joy of the Lord glorifies God and encourages others to do the same.

Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”  (1Ch. 29:9)

The joy of the Lord delivers souls.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”  (Psalm 126:5-6)

When our joy is full it causes us to want to sow the Gospel seed in others, to reap and bring a harvest of souls into His kingdom so that they may also have the joy of the Lord.

“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”  (1Cor. 3:6)

The joy of the Lord brings victory over the enemy.

“And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.”  (Psalm 27:6)

These are the reasons why Satan wants to steal your joy and these are the reasons why we should be willing to do whatever is necessary to restore our access to the manifested joy of the Lord and walk in it.

The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isa. 29:19)

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”  (Psalm 51:12)

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

THE PATH TO EVERLASTING JOY (Part 1: The Joy of the Lord)

“Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isa. 51:11)

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11)

Over two thousand years ago the angel announced that God was going to bring great joy to all people through the birth of His Son Jesus Christ. Everyone since then who has accepted Christ into their hearts knows that this promise has been kept.

However, we seldom see this joy in the believer’s life on a daily basis. That genuine joy that was experienced upon salvation often gives way to something less. Many times what we think of as joy today is a cheap imitation of the real thing.

We use words like “humorous” or “funny” when things happen that make us laugh or give us a smile. However, when the “funny things” are over and forgotten the feelings also go away because they too are only temporary.

We use words like “happy” or “glad” to express the way we feel concerning a particular situation but these feelings also fade away.

And then there is real “joy”. Although often misused, the mere word makes us think of something deep and abiding, not lighthearted and temporary. Something once had but now longed for.

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”  (Psalm 16:11)

This is especially true when we think of the Biblical type of joy that the Bible says only God can create. This is the “fullness of joy” that every true believer experiences when they first step into the presence of God upon salvation.

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1Peter 1:8)

The word “glory” in this particular Scripture literally means “honor”.

In these two verses alone we see that this joy from God is a joy which words cannot describe (joy unspeakable), that fills us to the overflowing (fullness of joy), and that receives honor (full of glory).

 Sadly to say, not many Christians today receive honor for their joy. On the contrary, Christians are often characterized as stern, grim faced individuals whose worship is like a funeral and whose lives are filled with “woe is me”.

The once indescribable joy that filled our lives to the point where others beheld it and honored God has now faded to a distant memory.

Exactly why did the joy wane when our faith in God continued? How do we retrieve it back? And more importantly, how do we keep it?

In this teaching we will see what the Bible teaches about the joy of the Lord, how we can walk daily in it, and why the devil wants to steal it from us.

To walk daily in real joy will cause us to dwell in the pleasures that are at God’s right hand and live our lives far above the worldly situations that Satan would use to rob our peace and steal our joy.

The world needs to see that there is a way of escape from the evil that is present today. They need to behold the joy of the Lord in us and be drawn unto Him.

“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:” (Gal. 1:4)

“Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”  (Isa. 51:11)

The Bible teaches that there are psychological and physiological feelings that imitate spiritual attributes.

For example, there is worldly sorrow and there is godly sorrow.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  (2Cor. 7:10)

Godly sorrow is being sorry that we have done wrong and offended a Holy God. Worldly sorrow is being sorry that our schemes did not succeed or that we got caught.

One leads to forgiveness and life while the other leads to death.

There is a worldly type of peace that anyone can have when things seem to be working out and everything is going well in their lives.

Then there is the type of peace that only comes when we know that we have a right relationship with God and He is divinely in control no matter what the circumstance.

One is fleeting and only lasts until trouble comes while the other is produced by God’s Spirit and flows in us like an unstoppable river.

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:”  (Isaiah 48:18)

There is a worldly love for things and others that endures only until whomever or whatever we supposedly “love” becomes a disappointment. Then there is the love that comes from God, birthed in us by the Holy Spirit, which never fails.

 “Charity (Christ-like love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…”  (1Cor. 13:4-8)

For every godly attribute or fruit of the Spirit there is a cheap worldly imitation.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  (Gal. 5:22-23)

“(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth…)” (Eph. 5:9)

So it is with the joy of the Lord. Happiness is just a temporary imitation of the unending joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

 When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are forgiven and cleansed from all sin. Our sins had separated us from God, but now God has made us to be the righteousness of God in Christ and we have entered into His presence.

Not only does God forgive us and make us righteous, but He sends the Holy Spirit to live inside of us and empower us to become the children of God.

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  (Rom. 8:9)

When the Holy Spirit comes, not only does He bring His power to change us and enable us to do the will of God, but He also manifests His fruit so that others might behold Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)

The Holy Spirit has said that He would never leave us nor forsake us. (Heb. 13:15) He is always within us.

The Holy Spirit never changes. He has not diminished. His power and fruit is still the same and ever present. His peace and joy is always inside.

That same joy we experienced when we were born again and first stepped into His presence has never left. It still flows in us like a river.

However we do not experience it because we lose access to it.

How do we lose access to the joy, peace, and faith that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit? How do we regain access so that this fruit is manifested in our lives on a daily basis?

The first step is to not settle for the imitation, but to crave the genuine article.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  (Psalm 37:4)

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY (Part 4: Qualities of Spiritual Maturity)

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

We have seen in the previous post 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)

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)

In conclusion, 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)

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY (Part 3: Traits of Spiritual Immaturity)

“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)

In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read the story that Jesus told of the “prodigal son”.

We read of the sins and transgressions of the younger son, of his repentance, of his return to his father, and of his father’s forgiveness.

We also read of his older brother’s response.

“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.

“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.

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY (Part 2: The Hidden Truth of the Prodigal Son)

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

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)

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY (Part 1: Spiritual Growth)

“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”.

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY (Introduction)

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

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”  (1John 3:2)

The Bible tells us that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and invite Him into our hearts, several things happen concerning the relationship between us and God.

First, the Bible tells us that we are saved.

“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)

We are saved from sin. The Bible tells us that sin shall not have dominion over us any longer. (Rom. 6:14)

We are saved from the enemy of our soul, the devil. Jesus says that He gives us power over all the power of the enemy. (Luke 10:19)

We are saved from eternal damnation and punishment:

“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)

The Bible also tells us that we have become “born again”. One translation translates it as being “born from above”.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)

Nicodemus, the man Jesus was speaking to, couldn’t understand how a person could be born a second time. Jesus explained that it is a spiritual birth.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:5)

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  (John 3:6)

In the same way that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and miraculously conceived in her a physical seed that was to become the only begotten Son of God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us and He conceives the spiritual seed of our new nature so that we become an adopted son of God.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”  (1Peter 1:23)

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”  (Rom. 8:15)

However, as it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. We are not “born again” as a mature spiritual son of God, but we are born as an infant. And although this is the place from which we must begin if we are to enter the kingdom of God, this is not the condition to remain in if we are to inherit the kingdom of God.

“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matt. 18:3)

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

In the next few blog posts we are going to do an in-depth examination of spiritual growth: what it is and how to achieve it. We are going to see what God determines to be the signs of spiritual maturity and the signs of spiritual childishness.

Unlike physical growth which is inevitable, it is our choice whether we decide to grow spiritually or not. However, if we determine to do whatever is necessary to become a mature child of God:

“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”  (Matt. 25:21)

 

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices