Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 12 - God's Will and Man's Character

After one has made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior of his life, the primary desire on God's part is for that person to come to Spiritual maturity, in a life long endeavor of growth. There are several verses that emphasize this aspect of the Christian life: I Peter 2:2; I Peter 4:1,2; II Peter 3:18; Col. 1:27,28.

In John 14:16-26, Christ spoke to the Disciples concerning His return to Heaven, and told them He would send another Comforter, who would be the Holy Spirit, to indwell the believers. Then in John 16:13, He said of the Holy Spirit that, "He will guide you into all the truth". It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer to guide one toward this goal of maturity, that is to re-characterize the Christian from being self centered to being Christ centered and more like Him.

The problem that every Christian has in this work is the basic sin nature that is common to all. The character that we possess is from two elements: 1) Genetic inherited tendencies, and 2) Learned behaviors which we acquired from our family of origin, as we watched our parents model before us. Both of these sources, plus our basic sin nature, tend to cause us to be the self centered person we are, which is opposite from being God centered, which is what He desires for us.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the new born Christian, to begin the life long process of producing a change of character in the child of God. The promise and hope to us is God's promise that this continuing transformation will be perfect and complete at the coming of Jesus Christ for His children. This is seen in Phil. 1:6 and I John 3:2,3, and is guaranteed to us by the resurrection of Christ (I Cor.15:20-23; See also John 14:19).

I. How This Is Accomplished - It starts with the WILL. Since mankind's will is opposed to God's will for him, the Christian must begin here. In Matt. 6:33, Christ said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you". The last part of the verse is God's promise to us based upon our acceptance of the first part. God knows our needs better than we know our needs, and He said, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:19).

Then, in Rom. 12:1,2 we have the "What" in verse one, that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Christ gave up His body unto death for us; isn't it reasonable for Him to ask that we be a living example for Him?). Verse two provides the "How" to do it. We are not to conform ourselves to be like the world, but to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives into Christ's likeness, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God for us. His will for us is always good, acceptable, and perfect, and customized for each person by the Holy Spirit.

In I John 2:15-17 we have the admonition not to love the things of this world, "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life". John tells us these things will pass away, but the Christian who does the will of God will abide forever. Satan used these three elements, in the Garden of Eden, to deceive Adam/Eve. In Gen. 3:6 as the serpent presented the tree to them they saw that it was, "Good for food" (the lust of the flesh), and that it was "Pleasant to the eyes" (the lust of the eyes), and a tree to be, "Desired to make one wise" (the pride of life)", and they succumbed to Satanic deception.

Once the Christian has made up his mind to follow and serve the Lord, by listening to the Holy Spirit, then Psalm 37:3-7 provides the framework of how to go about making the choices and decisions of life. First, one is to TRUST in the Lord, and do good according to Biblical principles. Then follows a delight in wanting to carry out the principles in behavior. Next comes a daily committal of one's life to the Holy Spirit's control, and allowing Him to bring to pass His best for one's development of things for that day. The admonition is to wait patiently for the Lord, as He is in control. This does not mean that one cannot plan ahead, but to always commit those plans to the Lord, and be willing to shift, if the Lord through circumstances and controlling of the mind orders otherwise. Keeping a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit and God's principles, is the best way to go.

II. Guaranteed Results - Every person desires joy, happiness, fulfillment, peace, prosperity, success, etc., and God wishes these for His children. But, we must accomplish them in God's way, and by His means, if we are to be truly fulfilled in life.

There are two ways by which we achieve our goals in life; God's way through following Biblical principles guarantees success, whereas for the Christian to follow his selfish ways guarantees failure and sadness. There are three scriptures that have bearing on this: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2,3; Rom. 8:6. Let's examine these important ideas.

In Joshua 1:8 Israel's new leader, Joshua, is about to lead Israel into the land of Canaan. God instructs him as to prosperity and success in their new venture; meditate upon the law of God, day and night, and then both prosperity and success would be guaranteed by God to Israel. It is interesting to note that the word, "Success" is used only one in the Bible, in this verse. The admonition to us today is clear; as we move forward in the unchartered waters of life, as we allow the Word of God to permeate and control our live, God is the guarantor that we will be both prosperous, as God evaluates prosperity, as well as be successful in His eyes. By following His Word, we become re-characterized through the work of the Holy Spirit. The result is a change of character to become more Christ-like, and the evidence is the "Fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-24).

Psalm 1:2,3 gives to us, by analogy, an affirmation of what was seen in Joshua 1:8. God tells us that when we delight in the law of God day and night, to allow the Holy Spirit, through the Word to permeate our life, then we will be like a tree that is well planted, well watered, good leaves, and prosperous. When one sees that kind of a tree, we realize that it is a good tree. God tells us we can be like that, as we allow His Word to control our life.

Finally, in Romans 8:6, we have a basic principle of life that is plainly understood: "For to be fleshly (i.e. self centered) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace". As the Holy Spirit controls and guides the Christian, the fullness of life, with inward peace, becomes the controlling factor in that person. This is God's supreme will for every child of His.

Every individual desires to get ahead in life, and God has a formula for that, as found in Deuteronomy 28:13, "The Lord will make you the head, not the tail, if you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom". God wants us to be on the cutting edge of life, not on the trailing element. This is the God ordained way to be there.

III. How One Can Know God's Will - There are two ways by which the Christian is able to generally discern the will of God for one's life.

The first is the Internal principle. Submission of one's will to the control of the Holy Spirit, then allows Him to change the thoughts and intents of the mind and heart, to bring one's internal ideas into conformity to the principles of God's Word. One's desires are now in the process of change, as guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Then comes the External principle. Conditions outside of one's life, over which there may be little or no control, are then controlled by the Holy Spirit, to bring both the internal desires, and the external conditions into conformity to God's will for His child. All this is for our good and maturation.

God never allows anything to come into the lives of His children, but what it is for their good and His honor in their lives. God is not a capricious Father, zapping His children for His pleasure, laying trials and tribulations upon us indiscriminately. Even the adversities of life are for our ultimate benefit, and become experiences through which our character is developed according to His will for us. This is why one can say, "All things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28), not necessarily as we evaluate them, but as God does for our character development.

Therefore, we can give thanks to God in our prosperity (Eph.5:20) as well as in our adversity (I Thess 5:18). This is why the Apostle Paul was able to say, "God said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in your weakness". Paul was then able to reply that in Christ, "When I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12: 9,10). Trusting God for everything, strengthens us, and provides a continuing maturity in life.

IV. Conclusion - There are parting promises given to the Christian as one is guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Of all people in the world, the Christian should be the most optimistic in life. In Philippians 4:6-8 we are told not to be disturbed about anything (that is highly idealistic, since we do get bent out of shape by circumstances), but "In everything by prayer and supplication (that means to lay it on the Lord) let your requests be made known unto God". The response of God is His promise to us in verse 7, "And the peace of God, which is beyond our comprehension, will surround our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus".

Then, in John 14:27 Christ tells us, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". Again, in John 16:33 He said, "In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". In Hebrews 13:5,6 God's Word comforts us with, "For He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, why should I fear".

Lastly, Christ said in John 10:10, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". Again, He said in John 15:11, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full". God's will for us His children is continuing growth to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, and along the pathway of life to enjoy life to the full. This is God's way for every child of His.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

To Him I owe my life and breath,
And all the joys I have,
He makes me triumph over death,
And saves me from the grave.

Since from His bounty I receive,
Such proofs of love divine;
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be thine.

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