This week I got to hang out with some new friends at my former college. I was asked to speak to the RA's on the topic of Spiritual Life Development. Brad from 10 years ago probably would have used an opportunity like that to show everyone his medals and badges. "Here's my 'Read the bible everyday' badge, and over here is my gold star for perfect church attendance." But in the last 10 years or so God has led me on a journey. It has been a journey of discovering what was hidden under the clutter of performance, insecurity, and insignificance. What was hidden there was my true identity as a child of God.
In Genesis 1:26-27 God says he made man in his own image, and John 4:24 says “God is spirit.” With my simplistic explanation, one can surmise that we are spiritual beings. Let me take it another step and say that who we are spiritually is the deepest and truest definition of who we are. So, to talk about spiritual development is really talking about health at the deepest level of who we really are.
I deeply believe that your spiritual development/health has already been bought and paid for by the love and sacrifice of Jesus. I also believe it is being resourced by all of heaven to give you everything you need. Why else would the bible record these words:
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” || Romans 8:31-32
Because we are spiritual beings, and God who created us is Spirit, all spiritual development and health can only come from a relationship with him. Therefore all development and life outside of his heart is pointless. Spiritual pursuits outside of a connection to God’s heart only produce pharisees. This is why Jesus said to the pharisees:
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” || John 5:39
It's like the difference between "Marriage" and "Happily Ever After." I've been married to the most amazing woman for 9 years now. We have our marriage license upstairs. We can go on filing taxes, sharing joint bank accounts, and sharing the same last name. In fact, we can keep doing all these things even if we never speak to each other in a loving way. But "Happily Ever After" is what we really want, so we pursue a heart connection. Sadly, many Christians have chosen simply to get their marriage license with Jesus without ever trying to discover what is on his heart for them.
I believe that the level of a person's spiritual health can be measured in the answer to this one question:
“Am I choosing to live as a child of God, or a slave to something or someone else?”
Galatians 3:26 says, "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." and Galatians 4:6 records, "And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”" But when we choose instead to believe something other than what God says, we are choosing to make an agreement with a lie. An agreement with a lie brings you into slavery and spiritual bondage. When you agree with a lie you give power to something that has no power over you otherwise.
If you agree with your insecurities, you’ll sabotage your relationship with the healthy people in your life (even though God brought them into your life to give you something great). For some reason it is easier to believe that the grass is always greener on our neighbor's side of the fence. We get all bent out of shape because our nose gets rubbed in the fact that our lawn doesn't look so nice. But instead of agreeing with this insecurity, we could choose instead to believe that God sent that person into our lives to show us how to make our grass green too!
In the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) we find a very interesting story. A son literally asks for his share of his inheritance from his father's will before his father has even died. After spending everything, he finds himself feeding pigs for a job. He is so hungry he wishes he could eat the pig food. When he comes to his senses, he finally decides to beg to be a hired servant in his father's house (a large improvement to his current situation). When he is still some distance away from home, he sees his father running towards him, crying. He's so happy to have his son home alive. He restores him and throws a party. Here are some of my takeaways form this story:
- Prodigal actually means “wastefully extravagant”
- The son lived for ambition in life not connection to his father
- Instead of using his inheritance to bring life, he wasted it on empty desires
- Living outside of connection to his father made him desperate enough for slavery
- He had to “come to his senses” to remember he still had a chance to live healthy
- His bad choices and slavery drove him to feel like less than a son
- In his return he was surprised that his father had preserved his rightful identity
- The father showed his own extravagance in the way he restored his son
- God wants to restore extravagance to his sons and daughters
Choosing to believe God’s truth about you brings breakthrough from our bondage agreements. The world is waiting to experience a freedom you need to be walking in. Your connection to your heavenly Father opens you up to his extravagance as he restores your rightful identity.
If you have agreed with lies about your spiritual identity, try this on your own and see what kind of results you get. Write down a lie you’ve agreed with (as many as you can think of). Then cross it out as a prophetic act, and write next to it a message, scripture, or promise from God that he has given that contradicts that lie. Train your mind to choose these truths until what you've written is what you believe. I guarantee you will experience breakthrough, freedom from bondage, and the most exciting spiritual health you've ever known.
Brad moved from Maryland to upstate New York in 2004 for college. He met Erin at school in 2005, and their story began. Eleven years (and three boys) later, they reside in Lima, NY soaking in the village charm and making memories. Brad works at Elim Gospel Church and serves as the Creative Arts Pastor. When they're not in Lima, you may find the family in the Adirondacks having an adventure.