Memphis Belle

True Spirituality
Excerpts from the Way of Agape
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Three Traits Of A Spiritual Person

Now what are these three traits that should characterize the person who is truly religious in the purest sense of that word?--truly spiritual, a true Christian? OK, let's look at verse 26 and 27 for the answer, and we'll close with these verses. "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his own heart. This man's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

If you're truly religious, you're a true Christian, a spiritual person, #1, you'll control your tongue. This re-enforces what James has already said. The true test of a person's religion is not his ability to speak his mind, but to hold his tongue. And that is why the psalmist said in Psalm 39:1, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin. I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." We as Christians may pride ourselves in the fact that we don't steal from others or attack other people or commit immoral acts, but you may bring a pain worse than a blow to the body by wounding the heart of someone with your words. You can steal their good name and their reputation. Because that too is sin. And gossip and slander and backbiting are sins that are extremely widespread in the church today and we must seek to control our tongue. If you're a godly person you'll have self-control over what you say.

Number 2, a truly spiritual person will care about others, verse 27. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, you visit orphans and widows in their trouble." This phrase "to visit" suggests the idea of "caring for" or "looking after." It's the idea of not just seeing someone in need, but acting on it and doing something for them. Remember Jesus said, if you gave a drink to a stranger, or invited them into your home, or clothed them or visited them when they were sick or prison, it was doing it for him. And he said "I will assure you that when you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you are doing it for me."

Number 3. And third and lastly, a truly spiritual person "will keep themselves unspotted from the world." A truly spiritual person will keep themselves unspotted from the world. Now, this is interesting--"Keep themselves unspotted from the world." Have you ever had an outfit on and you did not want to spill anything on it? And doesn't it seem that you always spill? You know, if I go out in jeans and a T-shirt, I don't spill anything. But if I'm in a nice suit and I have to go to a meeting and maybe give a little talk, I always spill on myself. Immediately it happens, a big stain somewhere, and you're really self-conscious, and I'll cover myself in napkins, I'll put 'em in my collar, all down and all over my lap, because I'm usually late and I'm eating in my car as I'm driving. But inevitably, that one little gap in the napkins, microscopic gap, the big glob from the burrito will find its way through and--BOOM!--it goes on your pants. You try to keep yourself unspotted, it takes an effort. Children have an amazing ability to acquire all of the filth they come into contact with through a day, don't they? There's all sorts of amazing stains. You have to make a conscious effort to keep clean and stay clean. Doesn't it seem like whenever you wash your car, you know you go through that mud puddle, or all of a sudden it drizzles when it wasn't supposed to rain. It's just the way it is. You have to make an effort. OK, God says, "Keep yourself unspotted from the world."

Now you might ask the question, "Now wait a second. I thought God would take care of us in that way. I mean, doesn't the Scripture say that we are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time? I'm kept by God." True. But I am also supposed to keep myself pure, 1 Timothy 5:22. I am also supposed to keep myself in the love of God, Jude 1:21. I'm also supposed to keep myself from idols, 1 John 5:21. And as the text before me says, I'm to keep myself unspotted from the world. Is this a contradiction? No. It just simply shows there's God's part, and there's my part. God will keep me, but the question is, do I want to be kept? Have you ever tried to hold hands with someone who does not want to hold hands? Maybe there's that beautiful girl, and you're feeling comfortable enough now, and you grab her hand, and it's like you're holding a dead fish. She doesn't pull away, but it's just, 'I'm not really into this' is what she's saying. Or have you ever tried to hold the hand of a child that wants to get away? It's not really holding hands, it's like holding their wrist, right? 'Cause they're pulling--'No, No!' You see, God wants to hold hands with you, in the sense that he holds your hand and you hold his, two people walking together. You join to each other willingly. You move at the same pace. You're not dragging him or pulling him back, he's not pulling you along against your will. You're moving with him. You're watching the Lord, you're keeping pace with the Lord, your holding his hand. You are keeping hold of him and he's keeping hold of you. God will keep you. Do you want to be kept? God is looking for cooperation.

"Keep yourself unspotted from the world." Well, how do we get spotted or soiled by this world in the first place? First it begins with friendship with the world, that we'll look a little bit later in James, where he says "friendship with the world is enmity with God, and whoever will be this world's friend is God's enemy." Which leads to #2, a love for this world, where we're told over in 1 John 2, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world." So, it's the love for the world that will then result in being conformed to this world. Romans 12:2, "Be no conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Lot, of the book of Genesis, is the classic example of this. Remember how he ended up in Sodom and Gomorrah? And when the angels came to deliver him, they had to practically drag him out of the city? How did it all start? First, Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, the Bible says, where he could keep a good view of it. And the next thing you knew he moved into Sodom, and before long, Sodom moved into him. And he lost his testimony and ultimately his own family. And when judgment fell on Sodom, Lot lost everything. But it was Abraham, the separated believer, the friend of God, who had a greater ministry to the people than Lot did--the friend of the world."

What have we learned? First of all, we've learned that true spirituality is measured primarily not by what we say but by what we do. A truly godly person will come humbly to his Word, recognizing the great need for him and its truths. They'll reach out to those that are hurting. They'll keep themselves unspotted from this world. In short, they'll be doers of his Word, not just hearers. Let's pray:

Lord, help us to be spiritual people. Help us to be godly people. Help us to heed the admonition given to us here in James, that we would be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Lord, we ask that you would help us to come with an openness and a meekness to your Word, not with a heart filled with bitterness and anger, but one that is filled with openness and receptivity to what you would say. And then Lord, when we see our reflection in your mirror, when you show us ourselves as we are, and we see things that need to be acted on, help us not to be like the forgetful hearer that walks away. But help us to be the man or woman that acts on what we see, and does something about it. Help us Lord to keep ourselves unspotted from this world. Help us to care about others. Help us, Lord, to control our words. We commit ourselves to you now, in Jesus name, Amen."

End

[I would like to advertise two very good handbooks on Christian growth, both put out by The Word For Today. The first is Practical Christian Living by Wayne Taylor. "This book is sort of a "how to" book: How to be superbly functional, fruitful Christians. Only God can tell us how, and through the Apostle Paul in Romans chapters 12 and 13, He does just that. Practical Christian Living is a commentary on these marvelous words." I quote a tiny section of Pastor Taylor's handbook to give you a taste of what he offers:

" METAMORPHOSIS BY THE SPIRIT "

In Matthew chapter 17, the transfiguration of Jesus is recorded: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." Jesus was transfigured temporarily into the form we will see when He comes again in His glorified state. His appearance was brilliant and dazzling, His face gleamed and glistened like the sun, and even His clothes shone out like a flood lamp with white light from within. Jesus was veiled in human flesh when He came as a man, but for a few moments, His inner glory was allowed to shine forth. "Transfigured" is the same word translated "transformed" in Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." The transfiguration of Jesus portrays how we are transformed by letting His light dispel the darkness in our minds and moods, then shine out into our behavior: how we conduct our lives, and how we live our lives towards others. The Lord wants to transform carnality and selfishness, and give us new hearts. We won't start glowing in the dark or have a halo, but we will be changed on the inside so that outwardly we can shine forth His love, truth, and purity.

Metamorphosis

How can we make sure that we're not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds? In Greek, "transformed" is metamorphoo, from which we get "metamorphosis" meaning "a complete change of form." A classic example of metamorphosis is the growth and development of a frog. When frog eggs hatch, the little fish-like creatures with long tails called tadpoles appear. Tadpoles must live in the water, but later they metamorphose into frogs, which can live in the water and on land. How does this change take place? Their thyroid gland produces hormones that control this process. Tadpoles need iodine to stimulate the growth of their thyroid, which secretes the chemical that allows them to turn into frogs. Without food containing iodine, the tadpole will keep growing, but he will never become a frog. Isn't that sad? He just becomes a huge tadpole! On the other hand, if the tadpole lives on food rich in iodine, he will change into a frog much quicker.

The Living And Powerful Word of God

In our lives, the Holy Spirit is the One who uses the living water of Christ and the food of God's Word to transform us. If we're on a starvation diet in terms of taking in [and applying] the Scripture, we will remain immature spiritually, and our minds will be directed by our own thoughts and ways, which are not God's ways. "For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). God's Word is able to cut away the things that are immature and hurtful to our spiritual walks. So, if we allow the Holy Spirit to minister God's Word to us by bathing our thoughts with the promises and commands of Scripture, we're going to be changed much more rapidly and much more fully. Have you ever wondered why some people grow as Christians, much faster than others? They really take off, becoming stronger in their faith and used by the Lord. Then there are those who become Christians, but years later they haven't changed a bit. They still have the same old struggles and they're not really progressing much. I've observed this phenomenon for years, and I've concluded that it boils down to which people get into God's Word and let God's Word "get into" them. It makes all the difference when we cleanse our minds with the "washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26)

... Christianity is not just going to meetings once a week, it's an everyday relationship--an exciting, active involvement. That is why Paul pleads with us in Romans 12:1,2 saying, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

In this book, Pastor Wayne Taylor takes us through a study of Romans 12 & 13 showing us what practical Christian Living is all about.
WAYNE TAYLOR is the senior pastor of Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, Washington. He is also the featured speaker on the radio program Consider Jesus. Wayne is a stimulating and practical teacher who relates Biblical truths to the needs of today. Along with Practical Christian Living, Wayne is the author of He Dwelt Among Us: A Devotional through the Gospel of John, and The Civil War Within. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Cathy, and their four children."

To order this book, send your request with a check for $3.50 made out to The Word For Today, and mail it to The Word For Today, P.O. Box 8000, Costa Mesa, CA 92628 or you can phone your order in by calling 1-800-272-WORD (9673). As you can see, this short pocket book is an incredible resource for you and your congregation.

Another pocket book within the scope of this Christian Growth sermon by Greg Laurie is Building Godly Character by Ray Bentley. Pastor Ray Bentley of Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, California takes us through a study in the life of David to show how God builds His character in our individual lives. This pocket book is the same price, and mailing address, at The Word For Today.

A Message For Pastors And All Who Would Teach God's Word

In Practical Christian Living Wayne Taylor brings out an important point, and I see a similar complimentary point mirrored in John Wesley's instruction for lay pastors in a biography about him. So please take to heart the brief excerpts from Mr. Taylor's book and the brief quote of John Wesley.

"Teaching--Explaining Truth"

Verse 7[of Romans 12] : "...he who teaches, in teaching..." Teaching is explaining the truth. Someone who is gifted by God to take the Scripture and expound, clarify, and make it alive to its hearers. Jesus did this with the Old Testament. In Matthew 5:27,28, Jesus said, "You have heard that is was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Jesus is clarifying that when God gave us this Old Testament commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," He meant far more than just having an affair with a married person...In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says "all Scripture is profitable." So, if you feel that you are called to be a spiritual teacher in the body, you must also have a great desire to study all of the Bible. This is how it became clear to me that God wanted me to teach His Word. Suddenly, I had a ravenous appetite to study the Bible. I couldn't get enough of it--I would study for hours and hours a day. After a while, the Lord led me to share with others what I had learned. Paul also told Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). It's just like a skilled surgeon who expertly uses a scalpel. If I'm going to be operated on, I really don't want someone who doesn't know which organ is which. The Lord wants teachers to know His Word before they minister His truth by explaining it to the body." Now in the brief excerpts preceding this one, we saw how Wayne Taylor also had an excellent grasp of the science of metamorphosis in the frog. He gained this by study of secular science as well. Next I'm going to quote John Wesley in his advice to lay pastors, and show how this all fits into being an effective teacher of the Word. "At Leeds in 1766 Wesley was careful to impress upon his preachers the necessity of possessing a book-shelved mind, and entered in the minutes, "Read the most useful books...Steadily spend all the morning in this employ, or at least five hours in twenty-four...'But I have no taste for reading.' 'Contact a taste for it by use or return to your trade.' John was trying to make certain there were to be no preachers the feet of whose minds paced across their sermons with a leaden step..." John Wesley studied the Word of God as ravenously as Pastor Taylor says a teacher of the Word should, and added another dimension to that requirement. And it is a dimension many successful pastors employ. A successful teacher of God's Word has to make it come alive, as Pastor Taylor did in describing being transformed, and linking it to a clear understanding of what metamorphosis is all about in the world of science. Pastor Dave Moore of Moore On Life ministries combines the same rich knowledge of Scripture with verifiably sound principles of secular psychology in his superb sermon cassette series about marriage, titled Love For A Lifetime (available online at: http://www.mooreonlife.com ). To effectively teach the Word, you must be thoroughly in the Word, and have an effective knowledge of the relevancy of the Word to the world around us. That takes a combination of lots of Bible study as well as outside reading as John Wesley called for. I hope I have made clear an important principle of ministry and pastoring. Calvary Chapel pastors all seemed to have mastered these principles, and enjoy some of the most successful ministries this world has seen since George Mueller and John Wesley's revivals. This site, in promoting spiritual unity within and hopefully throughout the body of Christ does use some Calvary Chapel sermons, because they effectively teach the Word of God. I just thought I'd let you in on a little secret of how they came to be so effective at it. John Wesley in his day was no different. Neither was George Mueller. There's something to be learned here. Be sure to order the rest of those superb sermon cassettes covering the Epistle of James from Harvest Ministries.

 

content Editor Peter Benson -- no copyright, except where noted.  Please feel free to use this material for instruction and edification
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