Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Path To Christian Spiritual Growth Requires God's Purpose and Vision

Image result for mountain climbers on a mountain
Matthew 28:16-20 "But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”


The path to spiritual growth includes the important "p" of purpose. God's purpose is defined as God's designated destination. Just as Jesus had the disciples meet Him at the designate mountain in Galilee in Matthew 28, God has a designated destination for every Christ-follower. If the Christian can understand God's purpose for their life as revealed in God's Word - the Bible - the path to spiritual growth will proceed. Today we want to explore further on this important subject by noting the relationship between God's purpose and vision. 

Distinguishing purpose and vision

When it comes to God's purposes in the path to spiritual growth, such purposes will incorporate the ability to discern His vision for my life. A vision is a distinct impression of God's preferred future as gleaned from His word. I read the Bible, meditate on it, pray on it, live it out and discover the overall direction which my life is to take. Vision and purpose are closely related. Vision speaks of the drive, the impulse that is being used of God to pull me in the direction He has laid out for me, while purpose is that designated designation I'm aware of at the present time. 

God's purposes will involve a spiritual battle to keep hold of them

As we pursue the spiritual path of growth in Jesus Christ, we mustn't forget the spiritual battle that ever wages against the Christ-follower. Jesus told His followers in Matthew 28:10 to "not be afraid". Why would Jesus remind them of such things? Because fear, trouble and discouragement will dog us as we strive to grow in our faith. As a matter of fact, while the disciples where on their way to meet up with Jesus to receive greater insights, a parallel plotting against them was underway in Matthew 28:11-15

"Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day."

The news of Jesus' resurrection was no doubt the most important truth delivered in the Bible. There was excitement. Fervor. Zeal. God's purpose for His people was being made manifest in the lives of His people. The path of spiritual growth is rooted in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:7-10; Colossians 1:27). But mark this: it is one thing to receive new-found illumination from God, it's quite another matter to walk it out and to retain it. 

So was there any affect on any of Jesus' followers that developed from the spiritual battles? We know that those who gathered at the mountain to behold Jesus were among those 500 witnesses that saw Jesus all at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). But then we read of others in Matthew 28:17 "When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful." The underlined verb in verse 17 refers to "hesitating or wavering". There is only one other place where this verb is found in the entire New Testament, the familiar scene of Peter walking on the water. Notice Matthew 14:31, where Jesus says to Peter: "Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Was the nature of this doubt the type that led to final and decisive unbelief? Not in Peter's case. The presence of overwhelming circumstances challenged what He was seeing. His faith flickered as a flame in the wind, however, the flame was not extinguished. Jesus took hold of Peter, pulled him up and brought him into the boat. 

Whenever we see the witnesses present at Jesus' post-resurrection appearance, what are we to make of those that "doubted"? Did they defect? Did they walk away? I would draw similar conclusions about the people in Matthew 28:17 as with what we just observed about Peter and his flickering faith in Matthew 14. Noted commentator Matthew Henry confirms this conclusion:

"But some doubted, some of those that were then present. Note, Even among those that worship there are some that doubt. The faith of those that are sincere, may yet be very weak and wavering. They doubted, they hung in suspense, as the scales of a balance, when it is hard to say which preponderates. These doubts were afterward removed, and their faith drew up to a full assurance, and it tended much to the honor of Christ, that the disciples doubted before they believed."

Henry then concludes:

"for they first questioned, and proved all things, and then held fast that which was true, and which they found to be so."

God's purpose in our path to spiritual growth must be a conviction if we are to make progress

As we close out today's post, God's purpose was defined as being: "God's designated destination". His purpose in the Christian life cannot remain a preference - instead, it must become a conviction. The only way for a preference to become a conviction is when we are faced with the prospect of what we claim we believe as not being true. The disciples were tested. There was already some alternative explanation spun out by the enemies of the Christian faith. Yet, God's people came to that mountain desiring to see their risen Lord and came away with the type of faith that could not be shaken. This purpose set them on a path to spiritual growth that would set the stage for the emergence of the early church. 

Coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, the early Christians had a God-given purpose to grow spiritually in Christ. Christians today have these same exact conditions and components. Whenever we grab hold of God's purpose in the path of spiritual growth, nothing will be able to stop the forward momentum.

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