By Timothy Howe
Recognize Jesus as the true Messiah through these 3 pursuits.
This week, I have written about recognizing Jesus as the true Messiah through 2 different pursuits - (1) Pursue a personal relationship, not personal blessings and (2) Pursue personal sacrifice, not personal benefit.
The two pursuits are sequential. One is much more willing to pursue sacrifice after he or she has established a relationship with another. I am much more willing to sacrifice for the people closest to me. It is vital that we establish a relationship and that we are willing to offer personal sacrifice to nurture that relationship and to accomplish purpose within it. I would suggest that a third pursuit should follow.
3. Pursue personal spiritual growth, not personal spiritual hype.
We live in a world where image is often more important than substance. We all want to be seen as important. This is true in all areas of life, no less true for many people in areas of spiritual concern. Many people want to appear to be spiritual, but are not willing to invest in the hard work of being a daily disciple of Jesus and thus exchange true spiritual growth for cheap “spirituality.” This leads many people to experience false spiritual emotions that supplant genuine spiritual development. It is far too easy to mistake spiritual "feel-goodism" for spiritual depth. Yet, Jesus calls His disciples to daily growth.
Pursue an Endeavor with Vigor
This summer my family went on vacation back to the Mediterranean where we once lived. It was a refreshing and wonderful time for my wife and I to retrace some wonderful memories. We stayed in the fishing village pictured here. Our hotel was a short 5 minute walk from this small port. We watched the boats going in and out. The fisherman returned early each morning with their catch ready to sell at the market; not an easy task. They have to find their catch hidden under the sea and then bring it back to land and hope to find a buyer. This is all hard work and none of it comes about by happenstance. They have to pursue this endeavor with vigor if they hope to be successful. It costs them something to accomplish their goals. They must first nurture a relationship with the sea so as to know how to approach the task and then they must be willing to make real sacrifices in terms of time and effort if they want to be successful. Even as they establish this relationship and make the necessary sacrifices they must also grow as fisherman.
Pursue Perfection with Steadfastness
The same truths that govern the endeavors of the fishermen discussed above are true in our spiritual journey. I do not know anyone who believes that they "have arrived" when it comes to spiritual maturity. James tells us in James 1:4
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing. (James 1:4 ESV)
This concept of being perfect and complete does not mean that we must be without all faults. James is speaking about a spiritual maturity that each person must strive for if they are true disciples of Jesus. This is not easy, though. We must pursue spiritual maturity with a constant steadfastness. It is a constant working out of who God wants us to be, day by day. I believe the best way to do this is through spiritual disciples. One should establish a regular and consistent life of habit in the areas of prayer, scripture reading, scriptural study, meditation, worship, devotion, fasting, generosity, and so on. As we do this, we give ourselves the greatest tools to become spiritually mature.
The Not-so Nefarious Substitutes
But I have watched many people experience a spiritual "mountain experience" and think that they have attained the highest degree of spirituality. I must confess that I, too, have fallen prey to this. We go to a conference, hear a message, experience a powerful spiritual emotion and confuse it with true steadfast discipleship. These substitutes are tricky because they are not nefarious, sinful or evil. They are often useful and powerful tools in moving us in the right direction towards spiritual growth, especially if we have been stuck in a spiritual rut for some time. But they should be motivators towards, not replacements of true spiritual growth. And true spiritual growth is what it will take for us to achieve spiritual maturity.
What do you want?
What will you pursue? To best answer that, first assess what you want out of your spiritual life. Do you want occasional spiritual headiness, or you do you want true spiritual maturity? If it is the latter, seek spiritual growth and you will recognize the true Messiah who told the disciples to conceal His secret for a time.