(Note: if you haven’t read Part 1, please do so first! SPIRITUAL ASCENDANCY: PART 1 [MONDAY MANNA 11])
Last issue we wrote about the fact of God’s loving command that “we are to grow up into all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4.15).” In that context (i.e. the proper use of the verse in that location), one way we do that is by “speaking the truth in love,” and not hiding the truth in dysfunction which many timid Christians see modeled by others due to the influence of the New Age Movement (NAM).
So, then, some get saved and grow up and some get ‘saved and stuck.’ A.W. Tozer, the great prophet-teacher who died in 1961, wrote extensively of this spiritual discipline.
In response to the last issue, a dear brother wrote and asked us, “What do you believe to be ‘God’s goal’ in this writing? Do you think he is talking about salvation or do you believe it to be achieving God’s plan for your life?”
We’d answer by saying yes and yes to the second question, not an ‘either-or’ but a ‘both-and’. Achieving God’s goal is being mature at every stage of your walk with Him, as we’ll see vividly in a minute. Jesus’ goal here in the writing, I believe, is to exhort us on to this maturity.
An immature follower of the Lamb of God is an embarrassment to the kingdom of God, and causes violent spiritual reactions with Jesus. Just consider our Savior’s words to Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-22:
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
This admonishment (shaping the will with warning) is lovingly given, but our proper response to His patronage and care for us is demanded by the King of Kings. Be zealous (strong emotion, will power, etc), repent (stop what you’re now doing), overcome.
Your flesh’s temptations, the devil’s temptations, the mediocre culture of others who are conformed to this world, this present age. Don’t practice stonewalling in any way. Sounds a lot like our culture in the affluent West these days, no?
In the end, He doesn’t say “Oh, alright, I know it’s tough in the cushy West. Overcoming is not taught much, it’s not a big deal. Just come on in and have a great time now.”
No. Never. Ever.
He commands His faithful to walk worthy. Or He’ll vomit you out of is mouth. Not only graphic in detail, but a terrifying thought. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
For all too long many of us have treated the Ancient of Days like a casual observer who requires little. Not so. We need to ask His Spirit for complete help. Oh, Lord of grace, keep us standing firm, resisting the devil, and pressing on so we may hear well done and see You in all Your splendor..
Let’s play back Jesus’ words here in another dramatic way, if I may take a liberty here:
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone refuses or is too distracted to hear My voice and does not open the door, I will not come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who does not overcome, I will not grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
This is a clear clarion call of renewed fellowship for any Christian, along with serious warning.
So, it follows that being an overcomer is not just a good idea, it’s a matter of eternal life and death. At least that’s how many of us read this and many other passages like it.
Actually, our work is to trust, His work is to work this out in us as we cooperate with our daily works (Eph. 2.8-10). As Paul said, it’s striving according to the power that mightily works in us:
For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. Col. 1:29
The Hebrew concept of maturity is expressed best in the NT by the Greek word teleios, meaning having reached its end, i.e. complete, perfect, and rendered complete (2X), mature (4X), more perfect (1X), perfect (12X).
The word picture is sort of like an apple in May that looks ready to eat (mature for its age), but it’s 100% ready for consumption (‘sinlessly’ perfect) in October.
The great Gospel news is that we can be mature at every turn in life from day 1 of our salvation. God will not put any more on us then we can bear, as we take heed and stand firm (1 Cor. 10.12-13). His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5.3).
Just look at the thief on the cross, who I believe was fully mature for his spiritual age (a few hours in the Lord perhaps) by evangelizing his peer, then died. We’re persuaded he’ll hear ‘well done good and faithful slave!’ Can’t wait to meet him in heaven, along with one of my other favorite characters, the ex-blind man in John 9.
The Corinthians had the same problem as the Laodicean’s: immaturity for their age. Paul took them on at almost every turn in his letters, they being natural, fleshly, nonspiritual, ‘mere’ men of flesh:
1 Cor. 2:6-8, 14, 3:1-3 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature (teleios); a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised….
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
It’s interesting to note that Paul’s rebuke and strong admonishment here since they were being natural, fleshly, nonspiritual, ‘mere’ men. They were practicing a party spirit, factions, their “denominations.” Obviously, then, immaturity rests therefore with those who stand apart from each other in disunity and call themselves by different names. May God have mercy on us who do such things. And may we take courage and right these wrongs, being in one accord (Acts Chapters 2, 4, 15). I’ve never heard a message on the context of this rebuke coming from any teacher in a particular denomination…in the east or west.
Paul obviously thought himself to be spiritually superior to His church plant here.
This is the plain fact.
He asked them to be like him, as he followed the Savior. There probably were those who were mature in Corinth (and also in Laodicea), but in the Eastern and collective societies, one finds their primary identify within the group, not individually. Also see Paul’s comments to Titus concerning the Cretans in Titus 1.12: always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.
Certainly not the Religion of Niceness (RON).
It has been said that the steps to spiritual downfall of groups during the ages have always followed this cycle: (1) Revelation; (2) Inspiration; (3) Evangelization; (4) Organization; (5) Education; and (6) Stagnation, with this generally happening in less than one generation.
Are we in stage (6) now in the West? Is this why our Chinese brothers are praying for us today and plan to come to us to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20)?
Is this why Christian leaders in Russian often refuse to allow their best and brightest to come and train in our Bible schools in America? What do they know that those of us in the West do not?
Brethren, I firmly believe those of us in America, and many in other affluent areas in the world, live in a culture like Laodicea. Even like Sardis…
We need to test ourselves to see if we’re in the faith (2 Cor. 13.5), and if we’re really, really overcoming. If we’re more like those in Laodicea than Philippi, seek Him and other mature ones for deliverance and guidance for life.
The New Age Movement (NAM) has invaded deeply. Be on the lookout for it in your life and those around you. Seek the Spirit wholeheartedly. Expose this scheme of the devil, and rebuke those who refuse to obey the loving command of walking in maturity from day 1 of our salvation.
We leave you here with a word about ‘holy ambition’ from our dear departed brother T. Austin Sparks, who was quoted in Part 1. Other than the error of mentioning being continuously ‘broken,’ vs whole and healed as we are in Christ, this is excellent:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? (Ps. 24:3)
It is not wrong to have ambition, to have aspiration, but it is wrong to have it actuated by personal interest and motive. That has to go through the crucible of the cross and be burnt out. Here is the paradox, the problem, the difficulty of a true Christian life: to be broken, emptied, humbled, reduced to nothing, and yet at the same time to have a fiery ambition. How reconcile these two things? I find it in Paul. With the exception of the Lord Jesus Himself, no man was more mastered by the spirit of ascendency and dominion — shall we call it ambition, aspiration? — than he was, and no man was more selfless in it all.
How he suffered at the hands of those who owed everything to him instrumentally! There is no personal thing here. He is the man who can write, “Love… seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly — giveth itself no airs”. All that is ascendency; not just geographical location, but spiritual ascendency.
Oh, let us ask the Lord to put in us a passionate ambition for His glory, and that we may be kept purified by the cross so that our glory does not force its way in. That will need a lot of the grace of God.
Love, true love, is the most holy thing, and it is in the realm of love that the enemy is always trying to get something compromising, something wrong. We have said ambition is not a wrong thing. It is a divinely implanted thing. God made man to have dominion. Perhaps ambition is the wrong word; aspiration is a more spiritual word — the desire, the sensing of destiny, that you were made to rise, made to attain.
You were not made a worm groveling on the earth: you were made with legs; which means that you were made to get somewhere. Interpreted spiritually and morally, God made us to rise, to reach, to attain. That mighty instinct is found in the apostle — “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on…” (Phil. 3:12). Here it is at work, that kind of thing. Aspiration is a holy thing…
Aspiration is a holy thing. Is it not just there that all the iniquity is found? — the self-element, the possessive, the acquisitive, the assertive, the domineering, the effort to gain dominion. Then dominion becomes domination, and it has gone wrong: the very spirit of it has gone. Meekness has become pride, the glory of God has become instead our glory…
We live in a world, in a creation, like that, and the prince of this world has got things in his hands; there is no doubt about it. If you live in his world, he has you in his hands. Step across from the kingdom of God’s Son to the kingdom of the enemy and you know you touch death…
Corinthians, you are all divided up against one another, suspecting one another, preferring, choosing; and what is your state? You are in a state of chaos and defeat. Your need is higher ground. As believers, you have to get off this ground of mankind. If you and I, as the Lord’s people who bear His Name, come down on to human ground with one another, we forsake the power and glory and working of that Name.
We say Amen to brother Spark’s wisdom here..
Everyone is ascending to something… either to Jesus Christ the Lord God or actually descending spiritually, even under the guise of ascendency. The ‘Christian TV’ and many church buildings are full of these sorts.
Next time in Part 3 we’ll talk in detail of how this wonderful maturity at every stage in life can be a wonderful encouragement as we strive with the Spirit’s help to enter into the narrow gate of eternal life! It has set many captives free, including many in our circles. Me too!
You may read Part 3 by clicking here.
You may read more of brother Sparks on spiritual ascendency here.
Every grace today, beloved….
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org