Last week we laid out the basic steps of progression to full maturity in Christ: 1) Believer, 2) Disciple, 3) Servant, 4) Friend, and 5) Son. These are all addressed in the New Testament, and we will study each one briefly, but enough for it to be clearly seen. This is so we can see where we are in relation to this calling and what our next step is. First, a superficial historical overview can be helpful.
This progression to maturity in Christ was taught in the first century and by “The Early Church Fathers,” who were the direct disciples of the first apostles. It is taught throughout the New Testament, so why is it not discussed or taught very often? Much of the doctrine and traditions adopted by the institutional church after the third century effectively obscured this truth. Now it is like one of those puzzles that you are told looks like something, and you can’t see it at first glance, but once you do, you can’t see anything else. Like all spiritual truth, the Holy Spirit must reveal it to us.
In the third century, this call to run the race for the high calling of God in Christ became blurred as the focus of salvation by individual faith was substituted by faith in the church. Salvation became institutional, and being saved required being a part of the institutional church. To some, this was diluted even further as one was considered the elect of God by merely being born into a “Christian” nation. This was not based on biblical teaching, but developed more from church politics and out of a greater devotion to tradition and dogma than biblical truth. With this, the systematic steps to maturity in Christ were substantially replaced by a progression of hierarchical, earthly government in the institutional church.
As the humanistic spirit of religion gained dominion in the institutional church, it seemed to purposely set up every roadblock possible to Christians, even in obscuring this race every believer is called to run. This kept believers in spiritual immaturity and thereby kept them dependent on the authorities of the institutional church.
During this time, the house of the Lord was worshipped more than the Lord of the house. Even so, great souls in every generation arose with a vision of this high calling, resolving to run this race. As this required such individual initiative and faith, it was usually very threatening to church authorities. Therefore, these men and women were almost always persecuted by the institutional church. The Pharisaical spirit that heaps great burdens on others to keep them from entering the kingdom prevailed. It remains today that the greatest struggle of all who would run this race will come from the same religious spirit, which is the same that resisted Jesus when He walked the earth.
The Reformation was born chiefly by the revelation that faith and salvation had to be personal. This was such a radical thought at the time that it created huge political fault lines as well as challenged religious institutions, giving birth to modern democracy. Because salvation was personal, it gave infinite value to the individual and birthed the radical concept that governments exist to serve the people, not the other way around.
Although these movements quickly solidified into their own institutions, personal salvation redefined personal responsibility and gave birth to what is called “the Protestant work ethic.” This released unprecedented initiative and innovation, profoundly impacted civilization, and released the great “increase of knowledge,” shaping the modern world. The most basic spiritual truth has major impact in the world when released, giving great benefits to all of humanity while also requiring greater responsibility from humanity. What we release in heaven gets released in the earth, and what we bind in heaven gets bound on the earth.
Even with this great conflict between the corporate and the individual, if we are to grow up into Christ as we are called to, we must also find our place in His body and grow in our corporate relationships. Finding the proper balance between these is one of the first steps as we move into sound, biblical discipleship. Here we also learn to balance our responsibilities to this present world with maturing in the Spirit. These are actually an aid to each other and only cause problems when they get out of balance, as we will see.
~ Pastor Rick Joyner
|Pastor Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries and is the Senior Pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church.|