I have realized through the years of following Jesus that it is easy to believe things that are not biblically accurate. I was reminded this past week about two beliefs related to our relationship with Jesus that are not consistent with the Scripture. Let me challenge you with one negative and one positive insight.
The Bible teaches that God makes the maturing of his followers his top priority. We are reminded that our spiritual maturity is God’s will for our lives. We touched on this last week. Our personal commitment to spiritual growth is a huge challenge for those of us that know Jesus. We face so many different distractions. But I want to share two myths about spiritual growth which will hinder your maturity.
The first is a reality check. Let me word it this way, “Everyone is not going to enjoy the same level of rewards in heaven.” Now before you jump to conclusions hear me out. The myth goes something like this, “Since I am saved by grace the way I live matters little and will not impact my eternal state.” First, I am not referring to salvation; because salvation is a work of God by grace a person’s position in Jesus is secure. The rewards that we receive in heaven however are determined by our post salvation works for Jesus! “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15) Paul reminds us that our life choices do make a difference. One translation of the phrase “but only as through fire” refers to the person who has squandered the opportunities to serve Jesus during their life. The result is they enter heaven naked only taking with them the smell of the smoke. Jesus was a lot more stern in the parable of the talents referring to the one who did nothing, “ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant!” (Matthew 25:26) The point for the genuine follower of Jesus is you only have this life to serve Jesus! Let me add a side note. God has uniquely gifted you to do the work that He has appointed for your life. You are not in competition with anyone else. The New Testament admonition is to faithfulness, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21)
The second insight is that spiritual growth is not linear. I am speaking of growing at the same rate each day. If we were to graph our spiritual growth on an X-Y access with X representing time and Y representing spiritual growth the resulting graph would not be a straight line with a constant rate of growth. No, it would be a zig-zag line of ups and downs. The main reason for this is us, we are imperfect. I do not have the time to unpack this, but I know you get the point. The characterization of our lives should reflect growth over time. It we are to add a trend line that averages out the high and lows, it should reflect growth. We should also see less wild swings with the zag being short in duration. The mark of maturity in your life is not the absence of sin, but the length of time it takes you to acknowledge it and get back on track. So, if you are going through a tough patch, be encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s words, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14)
And I need to close with one important reminder. It is a reminder to not give up, you will get there. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) God is working through the zigs and the zags to mature you. Let us do our part in the process!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson