The Cost of Spiritual Maturity.

         Christians follow others for many reasons. Personality, charisma, doctrine, integrity, social status, etc. The reason most people follow a Christian leader is because of the relationship with God that is evident in their life. All great Christian leaders have one thing in common, a genuinely intimate relationship with God that is obvious to all.

          The reason God sent Jesus was to restore man to an intimate relationship with Himself. The message of the Gospel is one of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of relationships. It is the removal of all barriers that stand between God and man. Jesus is our peacemaker. If a Christian is not continually growing in this revelation, and living out this truth, he/she is not able to reach their full potential as a leader. 

Ephesians 2:14-18 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

          A leader’s influence should be used to bring others into a deeper relationship with the Father. 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. No matter how good a teacher we may be. we can’t lead anyone to a place we’ve never been. Jesus said of Himself; “I am the way, the truth, and the life… John 14:6

If we don’t know “The Way,” we can’t show the way.

          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 principle that we see Him practice throughout the gospels. The practice of being intimate with the Father.
          There are no shortcuts to intimacy, it costs time, discipline, effort, devotion, and commitment. Above all, it requires a love for Him. Pursuing intimacy with the Father is the greatest indication of our love for God and the greatest investment we can make in ourselves and others. Our faith will only rise to the level of our love for God.

          Jesus paid the price to restore our relationship with the Father. Are we paying the price to nurture and develop that relationship? This is a question we all must answer for ourselves. Intimacy with God is what leads us to maturity. Many Christians follow others because of their “spiritual gifting,” not understanding that gifting can easily be manifest without spiritual maturity.

Spiritual Gifts are Free, Maturity is Expensive

          Our identity is not found in our gifting or our calling, but in our relationship with the Father. Apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher is not who we are, it is how we were created to serve. We must find our identity in our loving relationship with the Father, not our gifting.

          Disciples are made when people willingly follow you, and your living example. If you make disciples apart from intimacy with the Father, what are you reproducing? Do we really need two or more like you?
Our priority should be a growing relationship with the Father. We should be cautious of having followers if there are any other priorities above that.

          A leader can easily get distracted from spending intimate time with the Lord. A common trap is to replace being alone with God and pursuing intimacy in that relationship with the busyness of religious activity.  Another trap is to allow our “quiet time” or “devotion time” with the Lord to become a lifeless activity where we go through the motions and never connect with God on an intimate level. We can read a daily chapter or two, run through our laundry list of prayer requests, and never take time to be quiet and listen to the one we are talking to. I have been guilty of this myself. It is tragic to become lifeless in our devotions to God and call it a relationship.

            We can learn about God from reading and studying the Bible, but to truly know Him, we must spend time with Him, commune with Him, and listen to Him.

          Jesus set our greatest example. He 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.

          If you read my biography, you can learn a lot about me, but you can’t honestly say that you know me. You may “feel like you know me,” but to truly know me, you must spend time with me, ask me questions, and listen to my responses, spend time with me. It is the same with God.

          When intimacy becomes a lifestyle, reading the Bible takes on new dimensions and bears much more fruit in our lives. We begin to view His written word through His divine nature, we see it with an unveiled face and a heart of love that makes us more sensitive to His spoken word. This is when the scriptures begin to come alive for us.

          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, she asked me if I was a Pastor. I said “No, my wife is a pastor,” The Lord then spoke to me in the middle of this phone conversation 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 we are, He does. Many times we limit His expression through our lives because our words and beliefs are not aligned with His heart. It gives us a twisted view of our identity. Intimacy with God not only gives us an understanding of who He is, but it also shapes our beliefs and gives us an understanding of who we are in Him.

          Who we think we are, must come second to who He wants us to be at any given moment. He showed me that He is the embodiment of the five-fold ministry and if we will maintain intimacy with Him and be sensitive to His desires He will be free to move through us and touch lives in ways that we could never do through our 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 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.

          Without intimacy. we will not produce the fruit of who He is in our lives. May we grow in this wonderful relationship until we love as He loves.

          As we seek Him, we will find Him. As we draw close to Him. He draws close to us. As we embrace Him, He will embrace us. We love Him because He first loved us. He proved His love by laying down His life for us. May we lay down our lives for Him. He is worthy

          He is worthy of our attention, our affection, our life, and He is worthy of our death should it be required. He is worthy!

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