Tag Archives: spiritual growth

The Ministry Of Goodness

The Ministry of Goodness

            I am in tears as I write this because the Lord has taught me something that has changed my perspective on everything and everyone. This simple thing, if you apply it to your relationships, will change the hearts of those around you. It is the ministry of goodness.

What is goodness according to the Bible?

Goodness – The state or quality of being good. Moral excellence; virtue. Kindness, generosity, excellence of quality. The best part of anything.

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

All fruits of the Spirit are expressions of God’s goodness, righteousness and truth.

Ephesians 5:9 for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth,

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            I have a brother that is 18 years younger than I. By the time he was 2, all the other siblings were grown and off to college or the military. My parents were financially secure by then and absolutely spoiled the kid, not giving him the same discipline the other siblings had received. He grew up an entitled and confused child with anger issues and was constantly in trouble.

            By the time my little brother was in his early 30’s he had been in jail or prison 12 out of last 13 years. Everyone, including me, had written him off as screw up and had pretty much given up hope on him ever changing. He was a professed atheist and prison had really messed with his mind.

            The whole family would continually tell him what he needed to do to “get his act together” and we were all quick to point out his mistakes and explain to him why he made them. I would write him in prison to encourage him and let him know I loved him but the conversation would deteriorate if I mentioned God and he would lash out at me with terrible accusations that made me question his sanity.

            Finally, I had given up writing to him in prison because he would write back saying what a fool and a hypocrite I was, bad mouthing God with a language that can only be learned in a super max prison. He read everything he could while in prison to prove that there was not a God just so he would have some ammunition to use in our next conversation. His hatred and accusations toward me and God had hardened my heart towards him. I was done being ridiculed for my faith from a lowlife convict. I’m just being honest, that’s where I was at.

            I had been praying for him over the years and I was at the point where I was going to pray one last time and turn him over to the devil. I saw in 1 Corinthians 5:5 where the apostle Paul delivered such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. I felt like this was my only option and even talked with a few pastors about the situation and they agreed.

            As I was contemplating this and asking God if this was the right thing to do, God spoke to me and said, “Show him My goodness.” A few scriptures immediately came to mind when He said that. In Romans it says that the goodness of God leads men to repentance, and in Exodus when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said “I’ll show you my goodness.”

Romans 2:1-4 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Exodus 33:18-19 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.

            God was showing me that if I wanted my brother to change, to repent from his ways, that ministering goodness was the only thing that would work. My constant judging of him was actually making it worse. I was so conscious of his sins that it made him even more sin conscious of them, perpetuating his wrong behavior. I saw that sin consciousness isn’t just about you being conscious of your own sins, but the sins of others also. In fact, if you are conscious of the sins of others, its a big indicator that you are conscious of your own. But that’s another lesson.

            I decided to listen to God and change my approach. I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved him and believed in him, magnifying all the good qualities in his life, speaking to his potential and not his past. I encouraged him not to give up or be too hard on himself, acknowledging that I too had made some terrible mistakes and that I respected his moral right to believe anything he wished. I apologized for being hard on him and I let him know I was there to love and help him in any way I could.

good3            I didn’t mention God once in that letter, and for the first time in years he responded with sincerity and humility. He acknowledged his own weakness and opened up about some of the struggles he wrestled with. Sure, he used some foul language and made some rash comments that didn’t set well with me, but I didn’t respond to it, I overlooked it. Over the next 19 months, prior to his release, I just continued to love him and be good to him even when he tested it with his accusations, bashing God and badmouthing my faith.

            His pattern of behavior for more than 13 years was: Get released from jail or prison, behave for two to three months, and then do something completely off the wall stupid and go right back to being incarcerated. I am happy to say that the pattern has changed.

            My brother has been out of maximum security prison for ten months now. He has regained his driver’s license that was lost ten years ago. He is working a steady job, he is starting his final semester of welding school and has already been offered a position at a local company with great pay and benefits. He is a different person and it is obvious to the whole family. He is still a professed atheist but that will soon change. He has already started to make the turn. That’s what repentance means, to turn from something, to something or someone else.

            I am thankful for my little brother, and I am thankful that God kept me from giving up on him. I am so grateful that He showed me a better way, a higher way, His way.

1 Timothy 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;

            Preaching the Word means nothing if you don’t live the Word. Instead of telling people about God we should introduce them to Him through our submitted life. The ministry of goodness can be the most powerful evangelistic tool available if sincerely embraced and lived.

Perhaps the most famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi is:

“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

            I think St. Francis had a revelation of what I am talking about. In fact, I am just now catching up with him. Consider the words of Jesus:

Mark 10:18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”

            In this passage even Jesus was acknowledging the fact that all goodness comes from God, the Father. Jesus said, “I only do what I see the Father do.”

John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

            Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus was anointed with the Power of the Spirit the following manifestation was goodness and healing toward all.

Goodness is an expression of love, and God is love. 1 John 4:16

            I have also used the ministry of goodness on my children to correct wrong behavior and quench a spirit of pride and rebellion. I have applied this to other strained relationships in my family and in the church. Without fail I have seen the fruit of peace, restoration, joy and spiritual growth in every relationship.

            God’s way to turn people to Him is a good way. I opens doors of communication, disarming any antagonism and gives you a license to speak into the lives of others and present the Lord to them in reality, not just in word.

Question: Are you living the gospel or merely preaching the gospel?

Question: What ways can you yield to God’s goodness?

Question: Can you describe a sin consciousness?

Question: What relationships in your life could be improved by you being good to them?

Spiritual Gifts are Free, Maturity is Expensive

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         Christians follow others for many reasons. Personality, charisma, doctrine, integrity, social status, perceived success, speaking skills, etc. but the main reason people follow a Christian leader is because of their relationship with the God.

          All great Christian leaders have one thing in common, a genuine intimate relationship with God that is obvious to all. The reason Jesus did what He did was to restore man back to intimacy with God. The message of the Gospel is one of reconciliation and restoration of relationship, the removal of all barriers that stand between God and man. If a Christian is not continually growing in this revelation, walking in, and living out this truth, he/she is not qualified to lead others anywhere.

          A leader’s influence should be used to bring others into a deeper relationship with God. Deep down this is what we all want. This can only be done by example first and teaching second. It is impossible to lead someone to a deeper relationship with God than you have personally experienced. You can’t lead anyone to a place you’ve never been.

          Jesus is the example of leadership that we must follow. We can look at His life and glean many leadership principles that we can live by, but I will only address one main principles that we see Him practice in the gospels. Intimacy with God.

          There are no shortcuts to intimacy, it takes time, discipline, effort and commitment. Intimacy with the Father is the greatest investment you can make in yourself and others.

Gifts are free, but Maturity is expensive.

          Intimacy leads to maturity and intimacy is a result of continuous fellowship. Many Christians follow others because of their “Spiritual Gifting,” not understanding that gifting can easily be manifest without spiritual maturity.

          Our identity is not found in our gifting but in our relationship with the Father. Pastor, Teacher, Prophet is not who I am, it is how I serve. We must find our identity in loving and serving, not gifting.

          The goal of a leader is to reproduce themselves and nothing is reproduced without intimacy. First priority is relationship with the Father. Jesus only did what He saw the Father do. This demands a lifestyle of watching and praying. It’s not always convenient or comfortable but it is always necessary.

          A leader can easily get distracted from spending intimate time with the Lord. A common trap is to replace reading the Bible and studying with being alone with God and communing with Him. The problem is, you can only learn about God from reading the Bible and studying. To truly know Him you must spend time with Him, commune with Him, listen to Him.

          If I read your biography I can learn a lot about you but I can’t honestly say that I know you. I can only know you by spending time with you. It is the same with God. When intimacy becomes a lifestyle, reading and studying takes on a whole new dimension and bears much more fruit. While reading the written word you see them through His divine nature, you look at them with eyes and a heart of love that makes you more sensitive to His spoken word. This is when the scriptures really begin to come alive.

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          The Lord taught me a powerful lesson about who I am and I would like to share it with you.

          I pray often that God would live in me and through me in fullness. That people would see Him in me. I remember some time ago, ministering to a lady on the phone one day and she asked me if I was a Pastor. I said “No, my wife is a pastor, I have been offered ordination and refused it because I am not a Pastor.” The Lord then spoke to me and said, “But I Am a Pastor, and if you deny Me that expression in your life I can’t answer your prayer to live through you in fullness.”

          God was showing me that titles and labels don’t define who I am, He does. I was limiting His expression through my life because my words were stout against Him and I had a limited idea of who I am.

maturty3.jpg          Who you think you are must come second to who He wants to be in you at any given moment. He showed me that He is the embodiment of the fivefold ministry and if I will maintain intimacy with Him and be sensitive to His desires He will be free to move through me and touch lives in a way that I could never do through my own strength and ability.

Ephesians 4:11-16  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith (P)and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

JC

What Defines A Mature Christian?

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Is it possible to be a faithful church attender, serve in the ministry for years, teach others about the gospel, be a leader within your church community, even be a pastor and still be a babe? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. In fact most of the body of Christ, including most church leaders are what the bible calls a “babe.”
The Church has developed some un-biblical ideas about what defines a mature Christian. Because of these twisted beliefs we have fallen into the trap of “thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought,” and have deceived ourselves.
Think about it, young children always think they are more “grown up” than they actually are. Boys compare themselves with other boys to see who is bigger and stronger. Girls compare each other to see who has the most grown up stuff in their purse, who gets their ears pierced first, who gets to wear make-up first, etc. This thought process produces a belief system that makes them think they are more than they are, something they are not, and they carry that into adulthood. It is not a healthy thing. It lacks humility and darkens their perspective about their identity.
It is time for the body of Christ to humble themselves and acknowledge their immaturity. It is the only way to move forward and grow spiritually. If a person thinks they are more mature than they really are, it hinders their spiritual development because they are trying to start from a place that they are not.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
If you are learning a subject such as algebra, you must first have a clear understanding of basic math. You must first lay a solid foundation of the basics or algebra will remain a mystery to you. There are certain rules and laws of math that you must understand clearly before you can advance into algebra. Growing up spiritually is the same way. There are a few things you must understand about yourself before you can grow into a mature believer.
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Spiritual maturity is much like physical maturity, and much like the physical, spiritual maturity can be measured by stages of growth. We see three stages represented in the New Testament. Babes, children, and mature. For this lesson we will look at what causes Christians to remain a babe.

Spiritual Immaturity

Hebrews 5:12-14 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Notice the phrase “unskilled in the word of righteousness.”

Your understanding, awareness, and belief about your righteousness is THE ONLY THING that will cause you to grow beyond being a baby Christian.

The word unskilled here means to be ignorant. It means: without knowledge of, unaware of, unconscious of, oblivious to, incognizant of, unfamiliar with, unacquainted with, uninformed about, unenlightened about, inexperienced with, naïve. You get the picture?
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Being ignorant of our righteousness is one of the greatest tragedies in Christianity. It is the whole point of the Gospel and the foundation for our identity in Christ. Not knowing who we are prevents us from becoming what Christ paid for. If we never realize we are righteous children, we will serve God FOR approval instead of serving God from a place OF approval.

Galatians 4:1-2 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.
Christians are claiming there rightful inheritance of healing, blessing, prosperity, favor, etc. but until they embrace their righteousness and establish their identity as sons they will not grow up enough to receive their inheritance. They will remain under guardians and stewards and remain a servant, a slave, A BABE! The reason they don’t grow up is because the “guardians and stewards” (pastors and leaders) they are under don’t have this revelation themselves so they can’t teach it. This produces a lot of frustration and discouragement in the body of Christ.

The truth is, we will never grow beyond being a babe until we understand and receive a specific revelation concerning our identity, the revelation of righteousness.

We have a tremendous inheritance through Christ, but our inheritance won’t come to us in fullness until we catch this revelation. Because if we don’t see ourselves as righteous we will never grow beyond a babe. We will live a life no different from a slave, because we are, in some ways, still a slave to sin. The revelation of righteousness sets you free from sin and legalism which wars against Christ’s transforming work in you.
Living without a revelation of righteousness is living a life of bondage and slavery to sin. It keeps us from the freedom and intimacy of relationship with our Father. This is why it is such a big deal. You can be zealous and hungry for God and miss the whole point of the Gospel. Listen to Paul’s heart for his fellow Jews.

Romans 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
What is Paul saying here? The Jews are zealous for God but they are ignorant of the fact that righteousness has been provided for them. IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS! Ignorance can get you destroyed. Ignorance can keep you from receiving God’s promises. Ignorance can stunt your spiritual growth and keep you from developing beyond a babe in Christ.
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You have to submit to righteousness! This means that you must set yourself in agreement with what God has said you are IN HIM. Stop talking sin and death and begin speaking life and righteousness. You can’t be free from a sin consciousness and keep it in your language. Submit to the truth that He has given you the FREE GIFT of righteousness.
God sees you sinless! When you begin to believe that righteous and holy is the only way He sees you, then you will begin to see yourself that way too. This opens the door for His grace to flood your life and transform you so that you actually begin to produce righteous and holy fruit. If you try to live righteous and holy in your own strength you have already set yourself up for failure. That is what the Jews were, and still are doing. You can’t make yourself righteous, so agree with God that He has ALREADY made you that way and His grace will empower you live that way.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Christ started the work by giving us the gift of righteousness. Believe what He said is truth and grace is released to perfect the work.
When we begin to believe that we are righteous, we leave no room for the enemy to touch our lives. Being settled in our identity will cause our motives, thoughts, intentions, and even our actions to be pure. Submitting to Righteousness is the key to spiritual maturity and transformation. Righteousness isn’t just who we are in His sight. It is a promise to transform us, by the grace of God, into a person that actually lives a righteous life. We just have to believe what God He has said about us is true.

Why is it so hard for us to believe that we are righteous? Because we know us!

Let the weak say “I am Strong!” (Joel 3:10) Let the Christian that struggles with sin say, “I am Righteous!”
Righteousness is not a lesson you learn and move on to something else. This must be focused on, cultivated, and exercised constantly. Its something you continue to grow into. Develop a hunger and thirst for this revelation and you will be filled with all the fullness of God.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.

Love Opens Your Spiritual Ears

          I think we all know that a “Hard Heart” is what causes us to be “Spiritually Deaf.” So maybe we should find out what causes a hard heart and avoid that condition entirely. Makes sense, right?

A hard heart comes from unbelief.

          Unbelief is the cancer of Christianity. It eats away at us from the inside, causing us to weaken and die spiritually.

          Hardness of heart comes from a misuse of our free will. We refuse to submit our will  to the Father, and it becomes committed, for the time being, to some form of selfishness. We actively choose to disobey or ignore God’s word, thereby departing from God, compromising the relationship, and violating our conscience. If our conscience isn’t clear, our confidence in God s compromised.

Hebrews 3:12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,

          A hard heart will not yield to, or acknowledge the truth. It makes you and your desires the center of the universe instead of God. Understand this:

THE SMALLEST WORLD YOU WILL EVER LIVE IN, IS THE ONE THAT YOU ARE THE CENTER OF.

          In Mark 8 Jesus spoke to His disciples about the characteristics of a hard heart:

Mark 8:17-18 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still[a] hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?

         In these verses, Jesus gives us the symptoms that are descriptive of a hard heart:

(1) unable to perceive, (2) unable to understand, (3) unable to see, (4) unable to hear, and (5) unable to remember. These are all speaking of inabilities in the spiritual realm.

          A hard heart is characterized by an inability to perceive spiritually. And when spiritual things are perceived, a hard heart will keep a person from totally grasping the few things they can perceive. They might see what the Lord is trying to show them, but they can’t get a hold of it in a way that they can apply it to their life.

You can reverse the condition of a hard heart. You have the power to determine what your heart accepts or rejects. You must control your will, and thereby control your actions. It starts with obedience. Obedience is the “love language of God.

John 14:23-24 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.

          It’s not a hearing problem, it’s a love problem! Love can only be known by the action that it prompts.  It is the act of obedience that shows your faith and love for the Father. If you have a problem hearing God’s voice, you probably know the area that you are in disobedience, but if your heart is too hard to be clear, you can pray like the Psalmist:

Psalm 139:23-24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

god-opens-ears          If you are sincere about obeying God, your spiritual ears and eyes will be opened and you will begin to see everything and everyone different, including yourself. Having your spiritual eyes and ears opened is a condition of the heart. When your heart is tender and sincere before the Father, you gladly obey and He uses your heart as a conduit for His life and love to pour forth from.

Proverbs 4:23  Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

JC