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,
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. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 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? 4 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.
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. It 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?
Leadership Mentoring Development
Not all followers of Christ are qualified to lead and not all potential leaders are qualified to lead now. Being a leader requires two main things, development of Christ-like character and development of leadership skills. Character without leadership skills causes frustration and discontent from the body and with other leaders. Skill swithout character produces animosity and mistrust from the body and other leaders. Both situations can set the leader up for failure and hinders the growth, development and fruitfulness of the body.
Developing both character and skills ensures the leader will become a pillar in the church and not a stumbling block.
Character reflects nature. It is the nature of God being expressed in our lives that is the ultimate goal. This applies to all believers, not just leaders. The character and nature of God is what all leaders are leading others to. You can’t lead another person to a place you have never been. God’s nature must be established in a leader before they are qualified to lead.
Love is God’s Nature
1st John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1st John 4:16 (NKJV) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
1st Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
According to John, love isn’t just the nature of God, love is the embodiment of God. God IS love.
In 1st Corinthians 13 we see how God (love) behaves. These behaviors must be developed and continually strengthened in a leader so that God’s nature can be evident to all. Embracing love (the nature of God) will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
In Matthew 12:33 it tells us that a tree is known by its fruit, so let’s take a closer look at the fruit that should be hanging from the tree of a leader.
1) Love. The opposite of love is not hate, it is selfishness. A leader lays down his life for others, sacrificing self in favor of another. It should never be about you.
2) Joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy not only brings strength to the leader but to those around him. A good leader enjoys what he is doing and others enjoy working with him.
3) Peace. Peacemakers create an atmosphere that promotes healthy relationships with God and others. They avoid unfruitful confrontation and diffuse strife and contentious situations. A leader will find common ground to build on and will magnify the positive, not the negative.
4) Patience. Patience makes room for others to grow in their gifts and calling, providing a safe environment that allows them to make mistakes without the danger of condemnation and shame. Patience doesn’t just see the individual but has a view of what that individual will look like when completely submitted to God.
5) Goodness. Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. Being good to people even when it costs you and doing the right thing even when it is not convenient causes people to turn to God and away from self-centered living.
6) Gentleness. 2nd Timothy 2:24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.
Being mindful of proper etiquette and the emotional state of those you are dealing with, using kind words and expressing genuine concern for the individual creates a platform that you can minister from and gives you the influence to speak effectively into the lives of others.
7) Faithfulness. 1st Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
Leadership is a stewardship from God. Being steadfast, reliable, honorable and consistent speaks volumes about the heart and character of the leader.
8) Meekness. Meekness is not being a pushover, it is the humility of controlled strength. Numbers 12:3 says that Moses was the meekest man in all the earth and yet he was the one used most in the earth at that time. There is a connection between meekness and a vessel that God can use.
9) Self-control. This can’t be accomplished without a healthy prayer life. You don’t have the ability to control yourself without the Fathers help. The more intimate time you spend with God when no one else is looking, the easier self-control will be. A robust prayer life creates constant awareness of God that makes it easy to resist temptation and make right decisions.
Question: As a leader, are you stronger in your character or your skillset?
Question: Do you, or did you have strong leaders to mentor you and help you develop as a leader?
Question: What are you a steward over right now, and what would you like to be a steward over in the future?
Question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank you faithfulness?
Christian Leadership Development Series
Qualifications for Leadership
What is a Christian Leader? Is Christian Leadership different from secular leadership? How are Christian leaders chosen? What inspires people to follow a Christian Leader? These are a few of the question addressed in this series.
There are many great teachings available on Christian leadership. However, in this series we will focus on what I believe to be the essential, must have qualities and skills needed for a successful Christian leader. Leadership is not a position, it is a perspective that dictates how to think, act and make decisions. Applying the lessons in this series will help develop and maintain a proper leadership perspective.
“Leadership Is Not Position, It Is A Perspective.”
The greatest Christian leaders have a plan for disciplined spiritual growth and developing skillsets that enable them to be more effective while mentoring and equipping others for the work of the ministry. Great ministries are built on the shoulders of great leaders. Great leaders are not born, they are developed and committed to the development process.
The New Testament has some established guidelines for choosing leaders and if we don’t have these standards in place first we undermine our entire leadership culture.
I see many churches that hold their leaders to a high standard of character and behavior but they have very low standards when choosing a leader. It is not fair to put a person in a place of leadership that requires strong character when their character has not yet been developed. I see it all the time. A person is chosen for a position of leadership simply because of availability or an obvious gifting, or even worse, people are placed in positions of leadership because of their financial contributions to the ministry with no consideration of character or maturity. It is a recipe for disappointment and disaster.
Here are a few questions to consider before choosing leaders:
If you look at this list and fall under conviction, it’s ok. Maybe this applies to you or a person you have placed in a leadership role and you realize you have missed the mark. Don’t fret. Correction is a part of leadership, receiving it and giving it. We will address these questions in light of scripture in the following lessons and provide a roadmap to develop a strong leadership team.
Qualifications For Leadership
I’m so thankful that God took out the guesswork in qualifying church leaders. The Bible lays out some very specific guidelines for choosing leaders and these guidelines are the foundation for leadership, mentoring, and ministry success. Understand that this is God’s prescribed method of choosing leaders. It is His way of determining who is, and is not qualified to lead. Being mindful of this and honoring this process inspires faith, produces strength, promotes success, prevents problems, and establishes structure and boundaries. If we adopt any other method of vetting leaders we subvert God’s plan and bring a reproach on Christ. I know that may sound harsh, but it is the harsh reality that we are faced with.
Let’s start with qualifications for Deacons and Elders and define their roles in the church. The roles of Deacons and Elders encompass all of the qualified leader positions in the church. All others should be in a position of being groomed and mentored for these offices.
Elders are the spiritual leaders of the church. They serve as pastors, associate pastors and teachers they provide general oversight on organizational, financial, and spiritual matters. Elders can be 5 fold ministry gifts that have matured in their gifting and have proven themselves faithful in ministry, serving under the authority of other leaders. Elders are not limited to 5-fold ministry gifts but should live a life in such submission to Christ that they can readily embody the expression of the 5-fold ministry at any given moment. They understand that Christ is the embodiment of the 5-fold ministry and if Christ chooses to move through them as a Prophet, an Evangelist, or any other gift, they yield to that expression.
Leaders don’t find their identity in the office that they occupy, but in Christ alone. In other words, Pastor, or Teacher in not who I am, it is how I serve. A seasoned Elder will wake up every day and be willing to serve others in whatever capacity God chooses.
An Elder understands that they exist to love and serve others, that their life is not their own and selfishness is never an option.
The biblical requirements of deacons are very similar to that of elders, but there is a clear distinction between the offices. The role of a deacon may include a variety of services and differs from denomination to denomination. In general deacons function as servants, ministering to the body in practical ways. They may serve as a lead usher, oversee the benevolence outreach, lead a home group, or lead the hospitality department.
No matter how they serve, scripture is clear that the office of a deacon is a rewarding and honorable calling in the church and a necessary role for elders to function in their office. The ministry of deacons is vital to the success of the elders, it frees them up to focus on prayer, studying God’s Word, and pastoral care. It is a great example of how one body part depends on the other. Deacons are Elders in training.
Leadership requirements for Elders:
Titus 1:5-9 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
1Timothy 3:1-7 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Leadership requirements for Deacons:
1 Timothy 3:8-13 8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
These scriptures are not overly complicated, in fact they are very straight forward and leave no room for misinterpretation. I believe God made it simple for us so we wouldn’t mess it up. If we deviate from these simple guidelines and place an unqualified elder or deacon in a leadership role we have created a recipe for disaster.
Placing an unqualified leader in one of these roles devalues the office in the eyes of the flock as well as the other leaders. These offices should be held in high esteem and the people in them should be honorable, above reproach, and worthy of respect. This creates structure and boundaries with the body of Christ that are clearly defined and easily understood. It shows people that there is a defined structure of authority that is from God and sends a clear message that the leadership are here for their benefit.
Question: What is one thing you could change right now to make you a more effective leader?
Question: Do you hold your leadership team to a higher standard than what you are living yourself?
Question: How much time do you spend with the Lord in prayer daily?
Question: Do you spend as much time in prayer waiting and listening as you do talking?
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.
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.
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.
What did Jesus mean when He said “Watch and Pray?”
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Just what are we watching for?
I remember going to a store one day and remaining in the car while my friends went in to do some shopping. In the car next to me was this little dog sitting in the driver’s seat staring intently at the door of the store. This little dog would not take his eyes off that door. Every time the automatic doors would slide open the little dog’s ears would perk up. He would stand with his front paws on the steering wheel panting, wide eyed and tail wagging expectantly. Time and time again people would come out of the door that was not his master and the dog would return to his intense watchful position, not disappointed, but with an obvious understanding that one of these times it will be his master, he had only to wait patiently.
As I watched this dog the Lord showed me through this simple illustration that this is what He is talking about when He said “watch.” Eventually the little dog’s master did exit the door. His excitement and enthusiasm came unhinged! I could hear his happy little whines and yelps as he watched his master walk strait to the car. His love and appreciation for his owner was unquestionable.
They could not have been apart for more than 30 minutes, yet the dog greeted his owner like he had been missing him for a month. To this dog, his master was the most precious person on the planet, and could not bear to be apart from him for any length of time. It was so obvious this dog loved his master with everything that was in him.
What would it be like if we saw our Heavenly Father this way? What difference would it make in our lives? How would it affect our relationship with Him? What would it do to our perception of life? How would it affect our joy? Our peace? Our faith?
After seeing this little dog I am convinced that we often take the Lord for granted. That we don’t really relate to Him like He is the creator of the universe, the master of ALL. Our hearts are divided, our minds are distracted and we allow other things matter more than what should matter most.
The Bible says to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all our needs will be met. (Matt 6:33) Yet we continue to approach God with our laundry list of needs and wants like He wasn’t serious when He said that.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is about living a life with a very narrow, focused perspective. To maintain that perspective we must be imitators of Jesus. Jesus said this:
John 5:19-20 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. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.
Jesus ONLY did what He saw. Jesus was able to do what He did because He constantly practiced watching the Father. He truly did “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Could this be a big reason that we don’t see the level of supernatural life that we read about in the book of Acts?
The discipline of watching moves us from being a child/servant to a mature son. It is only the mature sons that can receive an inheritance. (Gal 4:1-2)
The discipline of watching creates an awareness of God that puts all of life in proper perspective. The more we keep our attention and focus on Him, the clearer we become on who He really is and who we really are to Him.
The discipline of watching produces an integrity of heart that makes resisting temptation easy.
The discipline of watching keeps you prepared to face anything that life would dish out to you.
The discipline of watching may be the most important part of prayer. When we practice watching, we know what to pray for and how to pray. We know what to do and how to do it. We position ourselves to be a trusted vessel that the Father can use to flow through.
I look in the mirror and what do I see?
The answer is always illusive to me.
I see all my failures and mistakes that I made,
And then I remember the price Jesus paid.
My sin He has covered and though it seems strange,
He died on the cross for a wondrous exchange.
My sins He did bear when I had naught to give,
He then made me righteous that through Him I’d live.
My struggle to see past the person I’ve been
Is now a good fight that I know I can win.
He’s done all the work, this I perceive,
Now all that is left is for me to believe.
Have you looked back on your life and realized that there were times that you felt closer to God, the anointing was stronger, God seemed to be moving more in your life and you were noticeably more focused on Him? I have experienced this myself and questioned God about it. His answer was simple, yet profound. He said: “At those times you were more aware of Me, more conscious of Me.”
I began to see the importance of maintaining a high level of “God Awareness.” Furthermore, I realized that the responsibility of maintaining that awareness fell to me. With that realization I began to think about what produces and awareness of God and what pulls me out of that awareness.
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The principle is this: “WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD.”
We draw power, influence and identity from the things we are most conscious of. One of the sneakiest tricks of the Devil is to make us, and keep us Sin Conscious. The price for sin has been paid and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from a consciousness of sin. It doesn’t cleanse us from our ability to sin. This is where the Devil tries to get a foothold in our mind. He brings thoughts and memories of past mistakes and uses that to draw our attention to our weakness instead of God’s goodness. If we don’t control this thought process we end up in guilt, condemnation and shame and draw our identity from our ability to sin and not Christ. Our awareness of our weakness becomes greater than our awareness of God. This is why it is so important to continually cultivate our revelation of righteousness.
Righteousness is the foundation of our identity in Christ. As our identity in Christ becomes grounded, our awareness of God increases. If we can keep this truth before our eyes we rob the enemy of many of his tricks to deceive. If he can keep us from realizing who we are, he can keep us from functioning in the power of the Spirit. If he can keep our attention on ourselves, he can keep our attention off of God.
Matthew 6:22 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, (single, clear) your whole body will be full of light.
Again we see that what we look at has a profound effect on our lives. We must be narrowly focused on what we allow ourselves to behold. Our perspective determines the amount of light we have, how bright we shine, and how full of light we really are.
Presence vs. Principle
Another trick the enemy uses is to get us to substitute knowing God, for knowing about God.
1 Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The word “knowledge” in the above verse indicates an intimate knowledge that unites you with the object or person it is talking about. It indicates a personal experience with instead of merely knowing about. There is a HUGE difference.
If you read a biography on the life of any given person, you can acquire a great deal of knowledge about that person, but unless you actually spend time with the person you can’t honestly say that you know them.
As a people, Christians have been duped into believing that knowledge of God’s word is the equivalent of knowing Him personally. We understand the principles and grasp the concepts of faith but we don’t really know God because we don’t spend time with Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, quietly meditating on who He is so that He can expand our hearts and minds to receive the awesome revelation of His eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, being. We can’t begin to wrap our head around who He is by only reading His word. We must also spend time in the light of His presence. Both are needed to mature, and both are needed to effectively live and walk by faith.
We learn the principles of God’s amazing Word and then we try to live by these principles in our own strength. If we will spend as much time with God as we do learning about God our awareness of His abiding presence will produce an effortless walk of faith that keeps us living and abiding in holiness. Instant obedience becomes a natural thing. Resisting temptation to sin becomes effortless.
Think about it, if Jesus Himself was physically with you every minute of every day, walking with you, standing right beside you, would you have a problem resisting sin? Would have a problem obeying His word? You would be so acutely aware of your every action and word that you would only do and say those things that pleased Him. This is how Jesus lived His life. He set the example for us to follow.
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.
John 8:28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.
John 12:49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.
The more time we spend alone with our Heavenly Father, the more awareness of His presence we will walk in throughout our day.
Awareness of God births the character of God, the nature of God, and the faith of God within us. Awareness of His abiding presence makes us more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His leading. Awareness of God helps us to see others how God sees them and therefore opens the door for us to minister Christ to them more effectively.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.