Six dangers to your spiritual life (part 6 of 6)

Danger 6: Comfort. Ahhh comfort! What could possibly be wrong with comfort!? Click here for part 5

Are you going to a specific church simply because that is where you are comfortable? Now, it is evidently natural for us to expect our place of worship to be comfortable as well. But what if comfort is our prime motivation for staying in or leaving the place we are? One could feel comfortable because that is where he or she was raised (see part 5). But there are many other possible reasons for this comfort: “My friends go to this church”, “this is a White people church”, “…a Black church”, “…a Hispanic church”, “…an Asian church”, “They do not bother me here…”, etc. are all possible reasons for that comfort. Oh, and how about “I am a Baptist…”, “I am a Seventh-day Adventist”, “I am a Catholic”…and my favorite of all…”We are a non-denominational church” (never mind that they do have a name, which sometime is even fancier than the others!)?

The fact of the matter is that comfort may come at a very significant price! Because, as God puts it in 1 Thessalonians Himself, we should “test all things”, otherwise, we may hold to that which is bad…and that is pretty bad!

1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21 – Despise not prophesyings. Test all things; hold fast to that which is good.
We are to test everything. And the most important thing we can and should test is what we are being taught. Our teaching does not end when our pastor closes his sermon. NO! Our teaching ends after “we” have personally tested, or examined what we have been taught to the point of concluding whether it was good! And granted, that could take some time. But when was the last time you examined your pastor’s teaching? That the act of testing is mentioned here in the immediate context of prophecies speaks volume of its importance when it comes to what we are taught. Comfort should not undermine our ability to test everything.

There are many traps laid before those who seek to grow spiritually. This series highlighted only six of them. But those six are very subtle. And in many of them, our very churches are deeply involved in their effectiveness. The secret is knowledge, unfiltered knowledge. We need to be taught accurately, and it is actually up to us – and not so much the churches – to make sure that this happens. 

2 Timothy 2:15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
There is a reason God gave us His Spirit. Thanks to it, no matter the trap the adversary may lay before us, we have the ability to live up to God’s expectation, as He expresses it in 2 Timothy 2:15. Take control of your spiritual growth, and be what God called you to be. 

Six dangers to your spiritual life (part 5 of 6)

Danger 5:     I have been going to the same church all my life because that is where I was raisedClick here for part 4.

There often comes a point in time when we do not question things anymore. And although in some subjects that could be good (perhaps because of well-founded convictions), in some others it could be downright dangerous. Why are we going to a particular church, for example, is a question we should always be ready to answer. And simply because that is where we were raised, or simply because that is where we were first introduced to Christ is “never” a right answer! Matter of fact, one of these could be the very reason why we are no longer learning anything new.

But God is clear on the fact that sometimes, we need different teachers at different times in our lives.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 – What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

There is a planting, and there is a watering. And although these could be performed in the same environment (i.e. same people or church), 1 Corinthians clearly shows that this does not need to be the case. In part 1 of this series, we saw that the lack of knowledge – the knowledge of God’s will and intent for our lives – is the deadly enemy of men. It is the lack of knowledge that destroys man. Knowledge, on the contrary, preserves life. God’s children should always be after that life-preserving knowledge.

What we need to remind ourselves of constantly is who we really are. Putting constantly in remembrance who we are will eventually cause us to behave like who we really are. So who are we? God’s children, of course. But keeping the context of spiritual growth in mind, God describes us in a very revealing way.

1 Corinthians 3:9 – For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Our belonging is to God. Those who help us grow are co-workers as they work for the same purpose, whether they know each other or not. But as God’s field, as His building, it is God’s privilege to appoint each of His workers at the right time and the right place. What we need to do is to recognize this fact.

God is ultimately the reason why one grows in that life-preserving knowledge. But God may use different agents to teach us what we need when we need it, if only we will allow Him to do so. If we choose to stay in the same church simply for habitual reasons, then we may close doors of knowledge that God would have so freely opened to us.

Six dangers to your spiritual life (part 4 of 6)

Danger 4:     I am not learning anything new in my ChurchClick here for part 3.

Now, clearly there are a lot of things worth repeating over and over. The reason being, as Paul states it in Philippians, that it is “safe” for us to be reminded of those things, because of dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh (yep, those are his words!).

Philippians 3:1,2 – Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.
This said, have you ever felt that there is much more to the Word of God than what you are being taught? Have you ever felt that you are hearing the same things over and over again, not because it is safe, but because that’s really all your pastor, preacher, reverend, bishop, etc. seems to know? Yet that individual will preach that same thing as if it is the “whole” truth of God, or at least as if it is the “only” truth that should really matter to us now. He or she will present it weeks after weeks, albeit in slightly different packages to make those teachings look like different messages while they are essentially the same.

You may even say to yourself: “The truth is the truth; there can’t possibly be anything wrong with me hearing it over and over again…”. But as this article will show, one should “never” ignore the feeling described above. As children of God, not only do we want the truth taught to us, but we want the “whole” truth! Just look at how God puts it Himself.

Ephesians 3: 14, 17-19 – For this reason I kneel before the Father…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
God wants us to be filled with His fullness. He wants us to really “grasp” the love of Christ. He wants us to know! But how is this possible if we are hearing nothing but the same old – often elementary – record? How is this possible if we are not challenged to really dig and search the Word of God? True church leaders strive to bring God’s people to the place Paul is describing in Ephesians 3.

Now, how about this…

1 Corinthians 3: 1,2 – 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…

Hebrews 5:12,13 – For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
God’s children who feel the way described in this article should strive to reach the next level in spiritual food…moving from milk to solid food. Unfortunately, our church could very well be the reason we are not having that solid food!

So, just how much of a danger is this one really? Ok, we may understand that it is obviously better to grow than to stay an infant. But is there a “real” danger for feeding on milk only? The answer is an emphatic YES! Look at Hebrews 5:14.

Hebrews 5: 14 – But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Look, it is the constant feeding on solid food that causes us to eventually make the difference between good and evil! Those who feed on milk simply lack in this ability! It must not be obvious to discern good and evil if God states that spiritual maturity is what is needed for it. Clearly there is more to the difference between good and evil than meets the eyes. How can one afford to lack in this ability?

We can learn to differentiate between good and evil. And God tells us how! Hearing the same things is not the problem in itself. In many cases it is actually beneficial. But what we hear over and over does matter! And often, if we hear the same things over and over – assuming the teacher is even teaching them correctly – it is regarding the elementary things of the Word of God, which God wants us to grow from! There are congregations that are spiritually stagnant, and dare we say, congregations that are regressing spiritually! God wants us to know Him. And if we are honest with Him, we understand from His Word that to know Him requires love, dedication and study (proverbs 2:3-5). Regardless of where our church may stand spiritually, we have the ability to grow as God intends. But it starts with us acknowledging potential problems  with what we are being taught if such problems appear to exist. Our belonging and allegiance is to God and to Christ. Let’s not be content with hearing the same elementary things. Instead, lets endeavor to grow!

Six dangers to your spiritual life (part 3 of 6)

Danger 3:     I can pray on my own. Click here for part 2.

Those who leave churches do not all quit on God Himself. However some do resort to live their spiritual lives on their own from that point on. Reasons for it vary. Just knowing that abuses do occur in church circles is one of them. Another is simply the belief that there is really no need to be part of a group in order to develop an intimate relationship with God. And indeed, this decision – to develop our spiritual life alone – is becoming increasingly popular. And given the state of churches in these days, one can certainly understand why.
What, therefore, could be possibly dangerous here, since this decision is a clear proclamation of a strong desire to protect ones’ relationship with God? The danger is that by making such a decision, one could be quitting on the body of Christ itself, of which they are actually a member.

1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-18 – For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ…For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

1 Corinthians 12:19, 20 – …But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
While we can easily accept that giving up on God should not be an option, it can be very difficult to see resorting to live our spiritual lives on our own as anything even remotely dangerous. Yet, it is clear from the passage above that God never designed us to be on our own. We are part of one and the same body, and whether we acknowledge it or not, the truth is that we are part of that body and we need each other. The implication of this truth is that as members we are supposed to – on one hand – supply certain things to other members for their proper functioning, and – on the other – receive other things from other members for our proper functioning.  Just look at how God describes how interlinked we are with each other…

1 Corinthians 12:26, 27 – And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Imagine breaking one of your little toes…can you imagine the pain? Not only does the whole body feel the pain, but the whole body suffers in its functioning because it needs that toe to be at its best so that the body can walk or run as it is supposed to. That is how important that little toe is.  That is your importance in the body!
No matter where you are, the body needs you to function properly; it needs your energy, your spiritual talents, your love for God and your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. And likewise, you need the body to function effectively! When we resort to be on our own, we effectively forfeit our role in the body of Christ, by shutting down both the opportunities to give to its other members and the opportunities to receive from them.

Is the suggestion made here not to leave your church group, no matter the circumstances? NO. We may well have very compelling reasons for taking such decision. However, it is critical not confuse our church group (if we are part of one) for the body of Christ. The church group is not the body of Christ, but its members are some of our fellow members in the body Christ.  If leaving, we should ask God to put us in a position or place where we can still receive and still give, and perhaps even more so than we have ever had. The same holds true for one who has never been affiliated to a church group.

It may sound praiseworthy, but living your spiritual life on your own, in your little corner, is a real danger to the very spiritual life you are trying to nurture.  You are a member of the body, and that body needs you, that is a fact! Quit on your church if you have good reasons to, but do not quit on Christ. Rise to your place within the body, seek every opportunity to give, and look for ways to receive. And the very spiritual life you are trying to nurture will blossom to levels you can only dream of.

Six dangers to your spiritual life (Part 2 of 6)

Danger 2: Forget the Church…I have been hurt too many times! Click here for part 1.

Ask anyone who has had a negative experience with churches and you are bound to hear words such as deception, betrayal, abuse, and mind control, just to name a few. Negative experiences with churches are generally “very, very” painful. You want the full spectrum of pain suffering? Yes, churches have you covered nowadays! Spiritual, emotional, financial, physical…check! These pains are among the most destructive and the most difficult to overcome. But why are churches today so adept at inflicting such pains? Paul in the passage below exposed fully the spiritual reality and aspirations leading to such experiences.

Acts 20:29 – I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
The apostle Paul was warning the “true” church leaders about false teachers who will penetrate the church and cause chaos and destruction among the children of God. Those false teachers are called “savage wolves” in order to highlight the degree of destruction they will cause, and the ruthless cruelty with which they will carry their tasks.
But look, Paul does not even stop there. In verse 30 He tells that some among the very leaders he was speaking to will destroy people’s lives in order to achieve selfish gains. He is speaking of people who start well, but end up working for the devil. Everyone wanting to have their own little flock! Just look at the number of churches today, and it seems like Paul was quite right on this one!

Acts 20:30 – Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
Many so-called church leaders today are exactly those “savage wolves” who do not spare members of their congregations, by deceiving, betraying and abusing them in every kind of way possible. Many so-called church leaders willfully and knowingly distort the truth of God for personal gains, at the detriment and hurt of God’s children. But where does the danger to our spiritual lives really lie? The danger is in our reactions to those experiences! Savage wolves will continue to be around. And precisely, it is this fact that makes our responses all the more important.

“I want nothing to do with churches anymore!” is something you may expect to hear from those who do break free from such abuses. And anyone would certainly understand why. However, the danger is that among those individuals, some end up actually quitting on God Himself, rather than quitting only on those who have hurt them. Yes, there are savage wolves around. But God still protect His Children.  Ask God, and ask again! He will deliver you.

Psalms 34:7 – The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
In the context addressed in this article, God will deliver you by placing you where His true servants are, those that He entrusts to serve His people. Those servants are the ones, who, every single day, only seek to please God rather than fulfill their own selfish egos and desires.

Quitting on God as a result of your sufferings is where the real danger is. God is the same today and forever. Quit on them, but do not quit on God. He will deliver you even from the mouth of those savage wolves. Do not let those wolves rob you of the plans God has for you, of your spiritual growth and your spiritual rewards.