What beliefs and doctrines do you need to become spiritually mature? There are four foundational principles to reach full spiritual maturity.
Today I'd like to discuss, as we move out of the Days of Unleavened Bread, a topic that I'd like to evaluate with you in the sermon this afternoon. The title of the sermon is, "Spiritual Maturity." "Spiritual Maturity." We hear people talking about being spiritually mature. So today I'd like to examine the question and evaluate a little bit this afternoon the question of spiritual maturity. By doing so we have to go and ask the question — what is spiritual maturity not? What is it not?
First of all, I think you have to realize that being baptized a long time does not necessarily mean that someone is spiritually mature. Having intimate knowledge of doctrines and beliefs, of doctrines and the knowledge of God's word doesn't necessarily make one spiritually mature. Perhaps some think going to church services every week makes them a longtime member, and that makes them spiritually mature.
How about being old? Maybe that makes somebody spiritually mature. Of course, Elihu said, "Old men aren't always wise," so, therefore, we recognize that it may not always happen to someone who is a little bit older.
How about having gray hair and dressing well? That should make you appear rather impressive and spiritually mature. There are people who appear in our presence as being righteous, as in self-righteous. And so you have people that come across in that way, they sound spiritually mature, but they are tooting their own horn.
Other people have thought, well, being highly placed in the church leadership should certainly mean that you are spiritually mature. Well, some of these things might be partly observed in spiritual maturity, and I think we can say that's a possibility in some of them. They are not the foundational principles upon which we stand. They simply are not the foundational principles upon which we stand or discern what is spiritual maturity.
So today I'd like you to turn with me, if you would to Ephesians 4, and let's begin by looking at the fact that one of the basis of the ministry of the church is to develop people and to work with people in their development of spiritual maturity. Notice what Ephesians 4:11 says:
Ephesians 4:11 — "(And) He (Himself) gave some to be apostles, He gave some prophets, He gave some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
Verse 12 — "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Verse 13 — "till we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Now, nowhere in this particular section in Verses 12 and 13 do we read the words — spiritual maturity. We don't read that word. Why not? Well, because the word is basically not found as a two-word statement — spiritually maturity — anywhere in the New Testament, but you do have parts of it in certain places.
Now the apostle Paul says this over in Colossians 1:28, that he wanted to present every man perfect in Christ. So, therefore we keep seeing this word — perfect — being found in Verses 12 and 13 of Ephesians 4 and Colossians 1:28. So we don't find the term — spiritual maturity anywhere in the New Testament, but we do have words like — spiritual, but not spiritual maturity.
The word is found mostly under the old King James version of perfection. Perfection, and it actually has a far greater meaning than perhaps what some people feel perfection is supposed to be in our modern day. Perfection in the Greek simply means — complete. It means simply — complete. It means also — of full age. You're going to see in a little while when we take you to some scriptures, it means — of full age. It means also — mature. It means — full grown.
Those are all terms that are used in Vines; they're used in Strong's; they're used in Young's; they're used in some of your other lexicons to bring out the meaning of the word — perfect — in the old King James version when we were reading over here in Ephesians 4. That was what this seemed to indicate.
Now there are other aspects of this as well. It means — to be accomplished. It means to be complete. It means to be consummate as in character, that is to have all the characteristics of God in that sense of the word in your being and in your personal life and in your public life. But the original root word from the Greek dictionary means the following: to set out for a definite point, to go to a particular point, that is a definite point. To come to perfection means to reach that particular point as it says in the dictionary, and it means that it's a point that is aimed at. You try to reach a certain point as a limit, and the conclusion of an act is another way of looking at it, and it says also, last of all, to reach a certain level.
These are all words that have to do with the one word that we find actually has to do with the question of spiritual maturity. Not perfection in the sense of — no sin, but it has to do with a person who is complete, mature, full-aged, full-grown, grown up, an ambassador, all these different terms that are found.
So we recognize then if we boil it all down to this one statement — perfect refers to being of full age, or mature, having reached a certain point in character or a level of spiritual growth. So we ask again the question — what is spiritual maturity? How do you identify it? How can we look at it and identify it today? What are the guideposts to see how far down this road you may have come? How can you know? How can you measure? How can we find out?
I think there are some basic principles that we can look at today in the sermon to see if we are, and if we are developing what is known as — spiritual maturity. So I'm going to give you four today. I'm going to give you four basic points. I would like to examine them with you today and show you some principles that perhaps you've not looked at in this way.
Now there may be more. I'm not saying that these are the only four, but I'm going to say — let's begin with these four, and understand those foundational stones that we stand on. What are some basic foundational stones or principles that we stand on? They are simple, and yet sometimes they are the most difficult thing in the world.
And as the sermonette pointed out that salvation is a process that we're saved, we're being saved, and we're going to be saved as Dr. Fouch pointed out, and we see then that all of these things are progressive in their development. And this is where we will go today to evaluate it.
So, let's go to number one. Let's go to number one, and it's a very simple principle, but it is an awesome one when you begin to examine it. Hebrews 11:1. We go to the thing that you stand on. We stand by faith. Faith is that key concept that is first and foremost; it is the thing that sees you through. It's the thing that you believe. It's the thing that you practice. It is that attitude of mind, and it is the works that follow that attitude of mind that tell us here in Hebrews 11:1:
Hebrews 11:1 — "Now faith. . ." What is faith? It is that motivating force. It is that substance, that assurance, that confidence that the individual has in what they believe. They believe what they believe, and they know what they believe because they know what they believe. It's just that deeply enrooted and entrenched in their minds. And so he says here: "Faith or this motivating force, is the assurance or the confidence or ". . .the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen." And we do things because of this faith in the principles that we've read from "the book." "The book" becomes that faithful word that we practice in our lives.
Verse 6 — "For (But) without faith it is impossible to please (Him) God." So therefore we recognize that it is one of the most foundational things. ". . .for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Now, brethren, if you want to boil it down to a simple principle, there is a certain confidence. There is a certain assurance; there is a certain persuasion that you know, and you know that you know. You simply know when you know that you know.
I do believe that many of us in 1993, 94, 95 went back, and we examined our foundational stones, and when we began to realize that what we had proven back in 55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 65 was just as true today as it was back then. We had to tell people, "I ain't going, and I ain't buying!"
That's what we said, and we were willing at that particular moment to recognize that we had something to stand on. We had the word of God and our faith, and we had to step out and do something that we had never done before. We had to say that an apostle had gone heretic, and that was the hardest thing in the world for many people to believe. But it was that faith; it was that belief; it was that solidarity that we had in the word of God that caused us to make those decisions that we had to made.
Many decisions that you have to make in life are based on that faith. Sometimes you don't know where you're going, but you know you've got to go. And we knew, in 1995, that we didn't know where we were going to go, but we had to go, and we did. And that's what we did, and it was because of that confidence in the word of God, that assurance, that persuasion that we knew, and we knew that we knew. And that's why you see the attitude that you found in the Church of God in its early going because of that reason.
Now stop for just a moment and realize there are two kinds of faith. There are two kinds of faith. There is the human faith, and then there is the divine faith, or the faith of Christ. One of the gifts that God gives us according to what He says, or one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is found in the book of Galatians, and it says that it is the fruit of faith. But it is a foundational thing, but let's understand that it starts with human faith toward God. You begin to believe, and that belief begins to roll out in a relationship that goes from human to divine. It goes from this physical faith that won't save you to a faith that is divine from God. It is something that we grow in. Mature individuals have to grow in this. Let me prove that to you by Romans 1:17. Let's go there for just a moment. Romans 1:17. The apostle Paul talks about a principle here that sometimes is not understood, but I think if you understand the principle that he's trying to get across to you, you will understand that you move from human faith to what we call divine faith, or as it's called in many places the faith of Christ, or the faith of God. Romans 1:17, well, let's begin in Verse 16. It blends into the statement.
Romans 1:16 — "(For) I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone that believes, for the Jew first and (also) then for the Greek.
Verse 17 — "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. . ." Now let's understand that this concept from "faith to faith" simply means first and foremost, out of our faith, this human faith, into the faith of Christ in us. It is a progressive growth. It is something that doesn't start from the spiritual aspect, it starts from the human belief, and then as the Spirit of God enters into a human being, it changes gradually into the faith of Christ, and it grows, and it grows, and it grows within the individual.
There's no such thing as instant faith. And so we read here that we grow from faith to faith, and it goes on to talk about how we, as a result of the just shall live by faith, you see that the decisions that are rendered by them have to do with the faith within them. So what he's saying is this concept from "faith to faith," it means out of our faith into the faith of Jesus Christ, or also out of the beginning faith that we have, that Christ gives us, into a deeper faith.
So, spiritual maturity is a quality that has as its number one foundational thing, faith. You stand by faith. Sometimes you don't always see what you have to do. You don't always see exactly how to handle some things, but it's like saying to somebody, like a good soldier of Jesus Christ, you put the old left foot forward, and then you follow it with the right, and then you follow it with the left, and then the right, and you keep walking. And sometimes it's like walking in a fog for a while. But the point is, you keep on walking, and as a result of that, all of a sudden, you begin to find answers to things, sometimes one, three, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty years later. But the point is, it's walking by faith, not by sight, but by faith. And without this particular faith, the Bible says it's impossible to please God.
And sometimes all you have is your faith. Sometimes all you have is your faith. Like we did in 95. All we had was our faith. We knew what we believed, and we knew what we had to do with that, but we didn't know how it was all going to turn out. Now ten years later, it's very nice to see some things have worked out. As we say where I come from, "Nothing's perfect, but it's a whole lot better than it was back in '95 when we didn't know what was going to happen."
But the point is that the fact that it is the number one foundational stone upon which we stand. Now, let's go to Romans 4 for just a moment. This is Romans 4:3.
Romans 4:3 — "For what says the scripture?" He says, "Abraham believed God, Abraham believed God, and it (that faith) was counted unto him for righteousness." Now when you look at the life of Abraham, you recognize that the poor man had some serious difficulties to surmount in his early years, and he had to make decisions in his life that simply forced him to continue to move down this road of faith. And so we recognize that when Abraham was worked with, Abraham developed from this basic infantile faith, this very basic human faith to the faith of Christ within him, and as it says here, ". . .he believed God." He got to the place where — this is it. This is it. There's nothing more. And it was ". . .counted unto him." He was a righteous man because of his faith. Please understand, he looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ; he knew the laws of God; he was repentant in all of those ways, but the point was that Abraham believed God.
Notice Romans 4:21. Notice the way that it describes his faith.
Romans 4:21 — "And being fully persuaded (that) of what He had promised, He was able to also to perform." Being fully persuaded of what God had promised, he knew that God was able to perform it. How did he know that? Because he had over a period of time tested that, and he found God was never wanting. He found God always backed up the promises that He made.
Remember what it says in Titus 1:2. "God cannot lie." "God cannot lie." And so Abraham said, "Because God can't lie," he said, "I step out on this stepping stone of faith."
So we see that he was given the promises in his seventy-fifth year, his faith was tested in his eighty-sixth year; in his ninety-ninth year he had the promise of an heir; in the hundredth year, he had a son. And eighteen years to twenty, whatever number of years later, that faith was tested again. And it was all a process of developing that spiritual maturity, and we see within Abraham a very interesting statement that was made in the book of Genesis 22. When finally he was willing to set in order and give up his son, God said that when He brought Abraham to that place and Abraham obeyed, He said to him, "Now I know. Now I know." Now, didn't He know before? Well, of course He did. He knew all the time what Abraham was doing, but He also recognized that He had to bring Abraham in his faith to the supreme test of giving up his son. And so he went through that process for a number of years, and that faith was developed and built. He went from faith to faith. That's what the apostle Paul is saying here.
So we see in Abraham not an individual who was whining. He wasn't wondering; he wasn't doubting; he had his direction in order. He knew what he had to do, and he was a man of patience and faith. You and I live in a world that if we don't get water out of the tap, or if we can't push the button and get instant coffee, or get whatever we need, I mean, it's — wow — it is a problem. And I've had to realize that this is the way our society is made. You don't have to wait for much of anything. But in Abraham's day, it took a long time for things to happen, and he had to develop patience and faith.
So we see true faith is not suddenly acquired at baptism. The seeds of faith were imparted when you and I were begotten, but they have to grow through time, through life, through choice and experience with the word of God.
I think it's interesting to note that Mark 11:22 in the amplified version, says:
Mark 11:22 — ". . .Have faith in God constantly." So this is what happened to Abraham. He actually worked his way into that particular frame of mind that he was able when it came to his son, God was able to say, "Now I know."
There are people who need signs and miracles in their infantile faith. There are people who are constantly insecure and are babes spiritually. That happened to a man named Gideon. Gideon wanted a sign, and then he asked for a double sign with the fleece. Remember that? And he just simply needed that before he was able to fight with the Midianites. And that happens to us as human beings, so please understand that many times we need that in our early growth because it's part of this faith that has to grow. So Gideon, even though he is mentioned over in Hebrews 11, he had to go through the process, first of all of saying to God, "I need a sign, and oh, please would You show me with the fleece, wet and dry."
And someone says, "Is that wrong?" No, I think it simply shows that it's a part of the growth that needs to take place. We are insecure and babes to begin with, and we have to grow. But for us, faith becomes an all encompassing word. It has to do with our outlook on life. It has to do with the way we look at life and our relationship with God and our strength in the face of trials and our approach to the future.
You talk to very young members of the Church of God and you see that they're brand new in understanding how to deal with some of the problems of life. Yet, you talk to some people after they have been through a number of what we call simply experiences, they have learned how to make those choices. This is a part of this particular growth.
We know, according to Romans 8:28 that ". . .all things work together for a good end." Now the King James's version says, ". . .for good." But we recognize it's a good end. Now the end may the kingdom of God; the end may be down the road a couple of years, but the point is that there is a good end, because the promises of God are — yes, and true, and He doesn't lie. And therefore we know that at sometime in the future, that particular faith will be rewarded.
I think Job had a wonderful frame of mind in certain ways in Job 13:15. Listen to what he said. This is mature faith. I think it shapes our whole outlook on life. Notice how he put it:
Job 13:15 — "Though He slay me, though He slay me, yet will I trust (in) Him." Then of course, he went on to say in that same chapter: ". . .(but) yet I will maintain mine own (ways) righteousness before Him." We recognize he still had a few things to learn. Right?
But I think you must understand that Job was serious about these things, but he also had some lessons to learn. And he finally did over in Job 42:5, when he said, "Now (you know) I've heard of You by the hearing of my ear, and now my eye sees You, or I comprehend, and I repent seeing I am dust and ashes."
But the point is that we see that this mature faith shapes our whole outlook on life, and it makes you realize that this isn't the only life. This isn't the only thing. This particular problem that I'm facing today isn't the end of all things. And sometimes you have to stand up and you have to be counted in that particular belief or that frame of mind.
You and I come to realize with this faith that this is only a training ground. That we're bound to make mistakes, but we're learning from them. I think that most of us in this room can say, "I have made some serious mistakes in my life. I have done some really dumb things." Can we say that? Yes, we can. If you can't say that, well, God help you to see it sometime in the future.
But my point is that I think we're bound to make mistakes, but, you know, are we learning from them? And the answer is I do think God's people do, in most cases learn from them, because they do something else later that's dumb, not the same thing, they seem to have learned from that. I say that about myself. "That was really stupid, Richard." I don't know if you talk to yourself, but Richard talks to himself sometimes. Going to work sometimes, I'll pound on my steering wheel, and say, "That's the dumbest thing you have ever done." No, I don't think so. You're probably going to do something else dumb today when you get on the telephone, you know, but sometimes you do. You talk to yourself and you realize that.
Now, let's go to Matthew 14. You've seen this scripture so many times; I'm not giving you something new here, but I think we're looking at it from a little different perspective as we evaluate Matthew 14:22. Jesus had fed the five thousand men beside women and children, probably twenty thousand people, and in verse 22, the disciples, He told them to get into the ship and go to the other side, and while they did, He went up to the mountain to pray, and He was there alone, and of course the ship began to toss and turn on the sea, and then:
Matthew 14:25 — " And in the fourth watch (of the night) Jesus went unto them walking on the sea.
Verse 26 — "And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, 'It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
Verse 27 — "But straightway Jesus (spake) spoke unto them, saying, 'Be of good cheer, it is I; (be not) don't be afraid.
Verse 28 — "And Peter answered Him and said, 'Lord, if it be (Thou) you, bid me come unto (Thee) you on the water." Now impetuous Peter did something that was positive; he was going to step out; it was a good example of stepping out by faith. But notice what he said:
Verse 29 — "And He said, 'Come.' And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water. . ." Hey, ladies and gentlemen, ". . .he walked on the water. . ." That's what it says. He had that beginning faith that was child-like, and he stepped out, and he walked on the water. Now notice what happened.
Verse 30 — "But when he saw the wind (was) boisterous, he was afraid;" What breaks faith? It is fear. It is fear, and I think it is just a matter — you see here a man who believed, he looked at Christ, he had his eye on him, and then he started toward Him, and he was walking. So we see that in the early beginnings a lot of things can example our lives by faith. I think many of you can say that I had a basic simple, child-like faith, and I saw this happen in healing, I saw God provide this for me when I didn't have the money, etc. etc.. I can tell you examples of our third tithe year when we were not even ministers of Jesus Christ, and we had things happen in that year that you can't explain any other way, the miracles that did occur.
But you notice here ". . . he saw the wind was boisterous, he was afraid. . ." and what happened? He got his eyes off Christ, he got his eyes on the problem, and ". . .he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' "
You know, you can use that example in church. I'll tell you a good example of that. If we had a little child sitting down where Ken is sitting right now, Ken O'Brien, and that little child just put up one fuss, and you had to cart him out, and of course the parents hold on, "Shush, shush, shush," you know, try to keep him quiet, you know, and you do everything you can to quiet this poor little child down, and everybody's beginning to do what? You know, the poor preacher's trying to preach there, and everybody's going, "What's going on over there?" You know, that sort of thing, and then, as you say, "Well, we've got to cart the kid out."
So what happens, you pick the kid up, and "RROOOOAAAARRRR!!" as you're going down the aisle. What happens?
Everybody says, "Oh, yeah, there goes that little rebellious kid, there," you know, and everybody's watching. The poor pastor. He just lost three or four minutes of his sermon right there. He may have lost the whole thing, but the point is, just like that, we get distracted. That's human. That's human, but when you can concentrate on the face of Christ in that sense of the word, and not let the boisterousness of the crying child, spiritually speaking, get in your way, what happens? You continue to walk on water. And a Christian will walk on water. He will; she will.
It is said in the word of God that if you have that faith, you can move mountains. If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, which has to grow. It goes from a little seed to a big tree into which all the birds of heaven light. It says that it's something that grows. And we, as a foundational principle of spiritual maturity need to walk on the waters of faith. It's just that thing that you have to learn. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. And parts of you are learning that, and parts of you in the sense of the word don't learn that, and so it takes time to grow and develop.
Point number two: A spiritually mature person seeks after righteousness. A spiritually mature person seeks after righteousness. Over in Hebrews 5, let's turn there for just a moment, Hebrews 5:11, the apostle Paul talks about this. He uses a little bit different term here, in Hebrews 5, but nevertheless, it's the same principle; it's the same words that are used about maturity here in Hebrews 5:11.
Hebrews 5:11 — Reading into it, he said: "Of whom (speaking of Christ) we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing.
Verse 12 — "For when the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." It means you're a babe; it means that you haven't learned; it means that maybe you've gone backwards. It means maybe that you haven't learned the lessons of faith that need to be learned. You haven't learned how to be discerning of the things that you need to be doing. So it goes on to say:
Verse 13 — "For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Verse 14 — "But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age. . ." The word is mature. The word full age means mature. It's again the same beginning word that we talked about before. ". . . even those who by reason of. . ." . . .habit, or reason of exercise. . ." ". . .or by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Let's understand that only God and those with His spirit can deal with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That tree is still in the garden. That tree is still there. You and I have to deal with not only the tree of life, but we have to deal with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We recognize human good and spiritual evil. We recognize the principle simply says people making their own choice as deciding what they will believe is true and right, we understand that it is part of the philosophy of life that you decide for yourself what you're going to believe. But we have to deal with that tree. We have to sort it that's within us some of our own thinking, and we have to sort it as we have to deal with other human beings.
This church is based on principles of value, and it has been given the ability as an individual and a collective body to judge righteous judgment. This is what "the book" says, and if you want to turn with me to I Corinthians 2 for just a moment, you will see here in I Corinthians 2 that one of the things of God's Spirit is the ability to judge all things. To understand when this tree of the knowledge of good and evil comes at you; when the world dumps on you its knowledge or its approach to life, you have the ability to be like the radar that comes, these things that come at you, with your radar to discern the good and to discern the evil. That is what God has given you.
Notice I Corinthians 2:12, he says:
I Corinthians 2:12 — "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world; but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Verse 13 — "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." And so what we're doing is that we're sorting everything that comes into our mind. You have to read the newspaper; you read magazines; you watch television; you listen to the radio; you hear people talking, and you have to be able to have this radar to decide whether or not it is in accordance with what the word of God said. You have to have that ability. You have to be able to sort those things. That's a part of your growth in Christianity. The mature individual is discerning those things, and he is rejecting the evil and choosing the good. He's having to do that every day of his life.
Now you're making all kinds of choices, what you eat, what you drink, what you wear every day, what route you're going to take to work, whenever you're going to do this or that. You buy your cars; you buy your clothing, whatever you do; you're making choices. You probably make between a hundred and a thousand choices every day as a normal person. But all those are basic things you don't think about too much because it's a part of your basic programming, what's in your mind, and you evaluate everything you're doing. But what we're saying here is that in verse 13, the Holy Spirit is teaching us to have this radar up to evaluate spiritual things.
Verse 14 — "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: (for) because they are foolishness unto him:" Like I said to you several weeks ago, the eighty-one year old lady thought everything was nice about this church until we got to the trinity and keeping God's law and the clean and unclean meat law that we believe in. And then she began to reason with me. Well, she didn't reason with me. She'd already decided what she believed. There was no reasoning, and I explained what we believed, and she just simply rejected it. She never called me back, by the way, even though she said she was going to call me back. I think the reason for that was we decided to part company because I didn't accept what she believed, and she didn't accept what I believed. But as it says here these things " . . . are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned."
Now the second concept that we're talking about here is simply found in the statement a spiritually mature person seeks after righteousness. He is going after it; he is doing everything in his life to evaluate what is coming at him every day in whatever he does. And I mean there are choices that have nothing to do in the sense of the word with specific principles of the Bible, but he's still having to decide some things that have to do with his life, what you put in your mouth, what you drink, what you put in your eyes, what you have come into your ears, all of those things. They're a part of the choices that you make. Notice Verse 15:
Verse 15 — "But he that is spiritual judges all things. . ." . . .he judges all things. Now it's interesting that the Greek word — anakrino — here has to do with the exercising or the discerning of judgment of all things as to their true value. Interesting term, isn't it? It's the exercise of discerning judgment of all things as to their true value.
Now, you know, we put value on certain things, don't we? What you put in your mouth, you put a value on that. You don't put garbage in your mouth. You say, "No, I don't put garbage in my mouth. I don't eat out of a garbage can." Okay, what do you put in your mouth? You have to decide whether you're going to go with food that is processed chemically; you're going to want to go with food that is not processed chemically; you have to make those decisions every day. We hope that we'll make decisions for good things. I mean, we all understand, don't we, that there are some things that are very important. There are four main food groups. One of those is chocolate. I think everybody should know that. I don't know whether you understand that, but I've been trying to explain that to some of my congregation. I asked one of the pastors, I said, "We're coming out to visit your church area." I said, "Do you drink coffee?" Because some men don't drink any coffee.
And he said, "Yes, we do. It's one of the four food groups." And so we laughed, but you know we kid about that.
Because I tell people, "One cup for the left eye, so that I can get up. And one for the right eye, and I'd really like to have a third one for my mouth when I talk to God so, you know, I start to lubricate, but we laugh, and we kid about those things, but nevertheless you recognize that you have to exercise value of things. What is the most important thing I can do with my time? Where do you start with those spiritual values. This is what a Christian does. As he matures, he is able to exercise this discerning judgment as to the true value of things.
So which is more important? To write this letter to a widow, or somebody who's ailing and can't come to church, or sit down and watch the news? I mean, you have to make some judgments at times about things. You have to learn to value.
Verse 16 — "For who has known the mind of the Lord, that He may instruct him . . ." So we recognize that this is one of the things that God gives us, and that is the ability to value and to be able to judge righteous judgment, and he, that is spiritual, discerns all things. You learn how to discern. You learn how to discern attitudes that come over the years. You watch that you go from just the letter of the law of God's word to being able to understand attitudes that people get themselves into. And so those that are spiritual, according to Hebrews 6:1, you don't need to turn there, but Hebrews 6:1 says ". . .going (let us go) on to perfection."
So it shows you that if you're discerning like it says in Hebrews 5:14, the ability to "discern good and evil" and do the righteous thing, it says simply that he goes on to spiritual maturity. It says in the King James — perfection, but it means spiritual maturity.
Now progression takes place because he or she seeks righteousness because they believe in it, and they are like God then. They become like God in their mind where God says. . .it says about God in the book of Psalms 45:7:
Psalms 45:7 — "You love righteousness and hate wickedness. . ." I think going to Chicago and seeing some things in Indiana around Maryville, since I was there back, probably a couple of years ago, and the degeneration into all kinds of pornographic stuff that I saw in the town. I just absolutely, you know, began to see that spirit that has been developing in that town, and I said, "Wow. It has really progressed that they have gone down in a spiral and it's openly seen among people." But you just discern those things. You begin to recognize they're there. Because if you love righteousness, and you hate wickedness, you'll discern those things; you'll pick up on them. You see, that's what you'll do.
Why do we tithe? Why do we keep God's law? Why do we pray? Is it because we have to? Or is it because we've finally come to the place that we want to. Think about it. You have the "have to's," and the "want to's." And you will find that as you move into spiritual maturity, this individual sees and obeys, they see God and they obey God in a more mature way. This is the new covenant relationship that we've been talking about. They don't want to hurt God because they respect and reverence His righteousness, and they want to do that which is right.
I think spiritual maturity has to do with moving from a selfish approach to a God-like approach when it comes to righteousness, instead of everything coming into you, you begin to give it out to someone else. And of course, I think one of the most important things that you see about the spiritually mature person when he seeks after righteousness is that he's not always having to be told or corrected all the time.
You know, little children sometimes you do have to correct them more often. Sometimes they forget very quickly. I think we spiritually do that, but I think what you see is that the mature person has salt within themselves. I do believe as we see from the scriptures the spiritually mature person needs corrections on his course of life from time to time. I think everybody does. That's a part of what we did at the Passover season, but I think he is motivated and stimulated from within. I think that's where you and I see ourselves going.
It says in the book of Matthew 5:6, and you don't need to turn there, it says we are blessed if we ". . .hunger and thirst after righteousness. . ." When you hunger and thirst after righteousness, what is the right thing to do? I believe that this is where we ultimately see the spiritually mature person going. To put it another way, we have pulls of the flesh, and you sometimes come to those pulls, but the spiritually mature person always comes back to righteousness because we believe in it. We always come back to righteousness because we believe in it.
Let's go to Proverbs 24:16 for a moment. Let's notice this particular statement that is found in Proverbs 24:16. Solomon's words here are very simple.
Proverbs 24:16 — "For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again. . ." Remember I said, to put it another way, we have the pulls of the flesh, and we sometimes succumb to them, but we always come back to righteousness because we believe in it.
Notice what it says in another translation. He says, "For (a) the just man falls seven times and rises up (again), but the wicked (are) shall be overthrown by calamity." Into every life a little bit of that will fall. Some people are overthrown by it. Others somehow begin to rise above it, and the Christian will rise above it. He will rise above calamity because of where his faith is and what he believes.
I Corinthians 9:27 — The apostle Paul simply said, "I bruise and I discipline my body and I bring it under control, lest by any means. . . I should be a castaway." And that's where we are as human beings.
Now we see a mature person simply has a certain sense of dissatisfaction with himself. I don't mean totally dissatisfied, but there's a certain dissatisfaction, you strive to be better. You strive to be better. You work at it because that individual does not want to remain in some of those frames of mind or attitudes, or some of those things that he or she is doing. He or she has a quest for righteousness. He/she doesn't always achieve it, but they strive for it. It is that attitude. They're always striving for the mastery. That's what the apostle Paul talked about in I Corinthians 9, "I bruise my body; I strive for that particular type of thing."
Point number three: A spiritually mature person maintains a positive perspective. A spiritually mature person maintains a positive perspective. We read in the book of Galatians 5:22 that the second fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy. It is not a magical quality, not at all, but it does give a positive perspective. It simply gives a positive perspective. If you take the glass; I have one here. If you look at the glass, I could spill out a little bit, but I'd get in trouble with Mr. Phelps. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? You know, you ask the question of an individual. Is this glass half full or half empty? And many times you will find, from their perspective, they'll say, "It's half empty."
Other people say, "It's half full."
Now the reason for that is because you see a perspective people take in life, and there are people who just simply have an ongoing negative perspective of life. They are always complaining about something. They always seem to have something that is irritating them, and they're always spitting out their unhappiness about their situation. And I think you see that. It's a part of the perspective, and what we see in a spiritually mature person is that they have a positive perspective in an ongoing way.
I'm not talking about running around and saying, "Oh, happy, happy, happy," all the time. I'm not saying that. But I'm talking about the fact that their perspective is such. I mean you have some people in life that grumble about everything.
"Nothing's going to turn out right." That's what they tell you. "Nothing's turned out right for me. Nothing's going to turn out right."
And so you try to correct them, and you say, "Well, you know, you need to be more positive."
"Okay, I'm sure nothing's going to turn out right." You know, but I remember that you can't sing songs to a sad heart. You just can't sing them. I remember how many people who were having mental problems that I dealt with over the years, and they just wear you out because they were always in this negative syndrome. And it just wore you down. I can just image what Dr. Fouch would have to face sometimes with some of those negative things that he would have to face in counseling after counseling at times. But I think you realize that it can drain you. Those things can drain you.
But I think you have to say that what you see in this attitude of this spiritually mature person is not that they're the super optimist, but the positive perspective does get better results.
Now I had a boss by the name of Dean Wilson. He was what I'd describe as the super optimist. He died in February, I think, many of you know that. His problem was his glass was always full. It was never half full, or half empty; it was always full. It was disgusting how positive he was. I used to tell him, "This is disgusting, how you can be like that."
I remember one time, we had a wonderful three-day "America Listen" campaign, twenty-five hundred people came, and you know, we filled the auditorium, the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, and then we decided to have a Bible study the following Friday night, and so Dean was sitting with us talking, and all he could talk about was how many people were going to show up. And we set it up in the bottom of the Jubilee Auditorium for eight hundred people. Set it for seven-thirty.
Seven-fifteen, there was nobody there except us chickens, and then at seven-twenty, nobody came, and at seven-twenty-five, nobody came. And I looked over at him and he got that kind of look in his eye, like, "What's happening here?"
Seven-thirty, nobody showed. So we waited until about ten minutes to eight, and we all went out and we had a good belt of something, you know, to get us through the thing. We laughed about it, but we all went out and we had a drink together, and Dean started to change his mind, right then.
He said, "Well, maybe they came just to see a personality, and maybe they weren't interested in the truth of God." And you began to see his whole mind change to be able to handle why not even one person came from that three days. And it was amazing.
And I still said to him afterward, "I don't know how you do it." But he built, in a sense of the word, in the Canadian work, into the men that worked with him, that positive perspective.
I remember the first time I saw it, was the time that he said to me, we were having a time working in the office there, and he said, "Richard, I think I'm getting a cold."
And I said, "Yea." I mean, why should the boss tell you that?
And he said, "Let's go down and have a glazed donut and a cup of coffee, because I'm getting this cold."
And I'm saying, "What?"
And he said, "Yes, that's the way I get rid of my colds. I go down and I get glazed donuts and coffee, and I eat my way through it."
And I'm saying, "This is really dumb. I can't believe this." Because, what do you do?
I know what I do: I have to stop eating the heavy foods, and I go to drinking orange juice, and Mr. Armstrong used to say, "You've got to fast," you know, to get rid of that, and oh, that was the worst thing to do. This man ate his way through a cold, and I told him that this is not fair. This is also disgusting, and I will not listen to it. But he had that positive perspective, and if he put his mind to certain things it would be done, and the church there in Canada grew tremendously because he had that positive perspective.
I think one of the great things about that was the fact that it showed that there are fantastic results that do occur when someone takes a positive approach. Not necessarily the super optimist like Dean was, but they took a positive perspective.
You know the Proverbs say this: "Cast out the scorner and strife will cease."
You know, one time I had a deacon in my first church in Canada, and we had about seven guys, and we were always having problems, and we always had these upsets going on, and irritations and not fighting, but just wranglings going on all the time. He finally moved to Vancouver. And you know what? The rest of the guys were at peace for the rest of the time I was there. And I finally figured out, that was the problem. We had to get him somewhere where he could be rained on. And Vancouver has fifty-two inches a rain a year, so that would kind of calm him down.
But it was amazing, that you — "cast out the scorner, and the strife ceases." So there's an attitude that comes, ladies and gentlemen. There's an attitude that comes.
Let's go to Philippians 4:4 for just a moment. The apostle Paul talks about this. I find it a priceless statement that is made here in the book of Philippians 4:4. He talks about — rejoicing in the Lord — let your gentleness be known to all men. In Verse 5. Don't be anxious. In Verse 6 — for anything.
Philippians 4:7 — "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Verse 8 — "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, (whatsoever things) are lovely, (whatsoever things) are of good report; if there be any virtue, (and) if there be any praise, think on these things." What is it? It's a positive perspective. And he said:
Verse 9 — "Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." I learned from Dean Wilson that that positive perspective got a whole lot more. You got a whole lot more flies with honey than you did with vinegar, you know. That was just the way that it is, and so, you know, he was teaching that concept. But not everybody could buy into that.
Now it didn't work every last time. It did find itself having problems. I can tell you that not every time it did work, but the point was that it was on a positive side if it did produce good results. It's kind of like, you know, there are people that you have to deal with and they just simply don't get it. We hear people say, "Cheer up, things could get worse."
And the guy said, "So I did, and sure enough, things got worse."
You know, and I say to the guy, "You're coming at it the wrong way, here." But the point I'm making is there is this positive perspective in a spiritually mature person. Revelation 12:10 says the following — you don't need to turn there: "Satan is the accuser of the brethren." Wallowing in cynicism is his main thing. He always loves the thing that is bad, evil, etc. etc.
Now, let's go over to the book of Job for just a moment and compare God's attitude and Satan's attitude toward Job. This is over in Job 1:6 of the book of Job. We'll just read a few verses here in the remaining time that we have. We're getting down to the last part of the sermon.
Job 1:6 — "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
Verse 7 — "And the Lord said unto Satan, ('From where do you come?') Where'd you come from? (So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.) And he said, 'Well, I've been going to and fro in the earth, from walking up and down in it.'
Verse 8 — "And the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job. . ." Now does God lie? No. Is God putting forth a lot of bologna? I don't think so because He said: "Have you seen My servant Job that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect. . ." and again notice this word — this word has to do with "again" this inoffensive and what I describe as positive, sound, Christian, in the sense of the word of what we would think of today. ". . .have you seen him, he's a perfect and an upright man, one who fears God and (eschews) hates evil?"
And now, what should have been said? "Well, that's wonderful. I'm glad to hear that. Isn't that great?"
Verse 9 — But the devil said, ". . .Does Job fear God for nothing?" You see again, he's always got that hook; he's always got that cynicism, and there's nothing positive, there's nothing positive about it. As the little girl said to me when she was sitting on the banister of her porch one time, and she was having problems with the demon world; she heard them say as she was falling off the banister to the ground, "Oh, goody. You're going to get hurt." "Oh, goody, you're going to get hurt."
Now to me that is the evilest of evil that they would say that. But the point is, this is where the difference between this spirit that is found in the world that we have to deal with and that which we have to have, is it like the one that God said, "Have you seen Job, my servant? He is a perfect and upright man who fears God and hates evil." Let's go to Job 2:1:
Job 2:1 — "(Again) And there was a day again when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.
Verse 2 — "And the Lord said unto Satan, ('From where do you come?') 'Where are you coming from?' And he said the same thing, you know, 'From (going) roaming to and fro on the earth.
Verse 3 — ". . .Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth. . ." Same statement. ". . .perfect and an upright man, one that fears God and (eschews) hates evil. . ." Notice the last part of the verse — ". . .and still he holds fast his integrity, although you move me against him, to destroy him without cause." Job was not being punished for something that he was doing wrong. He was given over to be allowed to be worked over to prove in this particular test that God has a human being who can, who can do these things, and will do these things even though Satan would come along to try to remove this individual. And so we see, we see, the difference.
I never forgot the time back about twenty-five years ago that I had a meeting with some IBM people, International Business Machines, and I remember sitting with them and talking. And I remember their comments about other coworkers and people that they worked with, and they talked about those individuals, like, "Oh, yeah, John, he really does a great job in this area. And Mary does a great job over here; and Sally does a great job over here, and when they talked about their coworkers, they talked in a very positive way about them in the company. And I thought it was interesting that I sometimes look in the Church of God, and I listen to some of the conversations, and some of them are just the exact opposite.
And I ask the question, "Why is that so?" And I ask the question simply because of fact that I don't think that's where we should be. I don't think we should be dwelling on a person's weaknesses. I think we should be dwelling simply on the positive things of the church and of the government of God, but I see people operate from that negative perspective. And it's so sad because it's not necessary.
Spiritually mature people will have a positive perspective, and they will inspire it in others. They will inspire it in others.
Point number four, last point: A spiritually mature person grows from idealism to reality without losing their ideals. A spiritually mature person grows from idealism to reality without losing their ideals. It tells us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:2, I'd like you to turn there with me because it sets the stage for what I want to say in this last point. II Peter 1:2.
II Peter 1:2 — "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord." This word — knowledge — here comes from the Greek word — epignosis — which means kind of an overview. It is a broad based understanding. It's not just a piece of knowledge, but it is overall ability to get the whole picture. It is an overview or a perspective. It's like an individual getting the broader picture than seeing just simply this little small one.
I remember on the old broadcast years ago, when Ted was talking about this guy that was drunk, and he got his head down to this tree, and he was going around in circles and his head was looking right at the trunk, and he was going around and around and around, and the man finally looked up, and he said, "Lost in an impenetrable forest." And I thought that was priceless because that's exactly what happened. He was looking right here instead of having what Peter says you have to have and that is an overview. You have to have a broad perspective, and that broad perspective allows you to be able to do some things that are necessary. One of those is to be able to come to reality, come to reality.
You know, David understood this when he dealt with Saul. When Saul would throw the spear at him. When Saul would do things he had to escape out of his sight, many a time. And I thought one of the priceless times of David was when it said that David had to remove himself out of Saul's sight, and it said: "David behaved himself wisely with Saul."
Why did he behave himself wisely? Because he knew that the day was coming when Saul would no longer there, and his perspective was — "Okay, I'm going to be able to just simply watch very closely this whole and not allow myself to get caught up in the fact that he tried to kill me."
But the greatest example of that was when he was in the cave with his men, and Saul went in to "cover his feet." You know the story. I think it's a priceless story. It's found in I Samuel 24. Let's turn over there just for a moment because what you see here in I Samuel 24 is the fact that Saul found himself in a most compromising position while he was using the bathroom. That's actually what was going on. And the realization was that David had him right in his hands, and David did something that he was really, when he didn't think about it, he was thinking here, remember the man that was caught in the impenetrable force, he got himself in here, and so he reached down while Saul was in a difficult place. I mean he could have killed Saul, and he just cut off a little bit of Saul's garment.
And the point was that it smote him because of the fact that he realized that that simply wasn't the thing to do. And so we read over in I Samuel 24 that he should not raise his hand to God's anointed because of the fact that someday something would happen. But notice I Samuel 24:12. Through all of the struggles that David had, it says —
I Samuel 24:12 — "The Lord judge between me and (thee) you." After he came out of he cave and David came out after him, he said, " and the Lord avenge me of you (thee): but mine hand shall not be upon (thee) you.
Verse 13 — "As the proverb of the ancients (says), 'Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.' But my hand shall not be (against) on you.
Verse 14 — "(After) whom is the king of Israel (come out) coming out after? Whom do you pursue? After a dead (dog) man, after a flea.
Verse 15 — Notice what it says in Verse 15 — "The Lord therefore be judge, and judge between (me and you) you and me, and see, and plead my (case) cause, and deliver me out of your hand." And Saul was so moved by that particular situation that he backed off in what he wanted to do to David.
But the point was that David understood this when he dealt with Saul. His values and ideals were tested. He made some mistakes, but he came to realities and he never overthrew his ideals. That's where you and I ultimately have to go because we grow from experiences and setbacks, and David did, too, but David knew that someday God was going to take out Saul, and he wasn't the one that needed to do it. That's the point. And he got a bigger perspective. He began to see the reality of cutting that little piece of his garment off as being completely wrong.
Sometimes, brethren, our cherished concepts get turned upside down. Sometimes that happens. Christ says, "Don't abort." But grow into new concepts, or grow into new realties.
Job taught us some very important lessons. He had life down to a pet formula. Obey God and be blessed or prosper. Disobey and be cursed. It doesn't always work that way. Sometimes the unrighteous can be the most prosperous individual; some of the worst sinners in the world can be the most prosperous.
If you have enough faith, you should be healed. Not always so. Sometimes the trying of that faith works patience and a far greater reward. But learning from and realizing that growth involves some pretty big surprises and sometimes some disappointments. I see that happening again and again and again. And a spiritually mature person simply has to realize there're going to be some surprises, and there're going to be some disappointments. And even Abraham had to come to the place that he had to be willing to sacrifice his son, and God said, "Now I know."
Let's go over to Psalms 73 to close the sermon today. Psalms 73. It's a beautiful psalm. Mr. Eddington talked a great deal about Psalm 73. I don't want to touch the area that he touched on. I just simply want to take you back to the concept of learning from and realizing that growth involves some pretty big surprises, and sometimes some disappointments.
Finally when you get everything in its proper perspective as Asaph did, he came to some pretty good understandings and reality. He put everything in its proper perspective.
Psalms 73:1 — Talks about how good — God was good to Israel, everyone that is of a clean heart.
Verse 2 — ". . .my feet were (almost) gone: my steps had well (nigh) slipped." Why?
Verse 3 — "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Sometimes like Job, he didn't have it down correctly. Sometimes, like us, we don't always have it down correctly. And he begins to talk about how they continued to have all kinds of things. They got what they wanted. They abused people. They mishandled people, and drop down to Verse 13 — He says —
Verse 13 — "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, (and) I washed my hands in innocency.
Verse 14 — "(For) all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
Verse 15 — "If I say, I will speak thus: behold, I should offend against the generation of (thy) your children.
Verse 16 — "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
Verse 17 — "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I did understand their end." Sometimes you've got to realize that the great equalizer is not now. The kingdom of God is the great equalizer. You have to come to the place that sometimes you realize that the kingdom of God will become the great equalizer when it comes to dealing with people.
Verse 18 — "Surely you did set them in slippery places: You cast them down into destruction.
Verse 19 — "(Oh) how they are brought to desolation, as a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors." The day will come when God's going to set it all right. He doesn't always set it all right in this life, and sometimes we suffer for righteousness sake. And some men in Hebrews 11 had to die, so also that may happen at the time of the end.
Dropping down in Verse 21 —
Verse 21 — "Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
Verse 22 — "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as beast before You.
Verse 23 — "Nevertheless I am continually with You. You have held me by my right hand.
Verse 24 — "You shall guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." So Asaph, you see the change of mind starting from Verse 1 all the way through until you get to the fact that he went into the sanctuary of God.
I think we have to get everything in its proper perspective as you look at the concept that we talked about and the very simple matter is that you have to move from idealism to reality without losing your ideals.
True spiritual maturity is growing in faith. True spiritual maturity is seeking after righteousness. True spiritual maturity is a right perspective, or a right attitude, and last of all, true spirituality is growing from idealism to reality. These are all foundational principles that we gave today, stepping stones to the kingdom of God.
True spiritual maturity shows vision, wisdom, understanding and a proper sense of direction. Hopefully these four foundational stones will help you evaluate where you are going as we move from Unleavened Bread to Pentecost.