Written by His Grace,
Kevin K. OíConnor
Main thought: to examine the contrast between how we and God view spiritual growth
Quality not Quantity
Our concept of spiritual growth is usually quantity and Godís is quality. We think that if we perform enough righteous acts or read enough of His Word that weíll be made more righteous.
Our Lord repeats Himself and so we need to pay heed to what He is saying. We get so caught up within our own efforts that we neglect to hear what He is saying. While we get caught up within the thought that our righteousness is dependent on the amount of self-effort we exert, weíre missing the joy of living in the beauty of His Love and Righteousness. We get focused on the thought that spiritual success is measured in the realms of quantity while God Himself tells us that the majority of the world will not choose Him; "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (Whole Chapter: In context: ) We even think that our prayers are somehow more righteous when they are filled with much grandeur and many words; And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Whole Chapter: In context: ) Then there are those who think that God clothes Himself within incredible mighty acts of the miraculous and to those I say look at Elijah in the following scripture 1 Kings 19:11-13 11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
We get so consumed with the Power and Might of God that we neglect to hear His small still voice asking us to spend time with Him. His Love is deeper than the deepest sea and beyond the heart of man to comprehend and yet we still find ourselves thinking that the multitude of our efforts give us greater favor with Him. Oh how His Heart desires relationship with us so that our actions can be rewarded. I believe that the amount of our eternal reward is going to be directly proportional to the amount of intimacy weíve grown into with Him. Just as money in itself is not sin but the love of money is, so it is with works. Works when done out of drawing near to Him will produce eternal rewards but those who think that labor in itself is wrong will themselves be found wanting on the day of judgment; One cannot desire to be with Him without also desiring to reflect His Heart through their lives; Luke 19:16:-28 16†† Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17†† And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18†† And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19†† And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. 20†† And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21†† For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. 22†† And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23†† Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? 24†† And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25†† (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) 26†† For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. 27†† But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. 28†† And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.
The very nature of God is to give of Himself, which He does so very beautifully! When we find ourselves growing in Love with Him, we too will want to esteem others more highly than ourselves just as God the Father had all of the angels of heaven worship Jesus; Hebrews 1:5-6 5For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father " ? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son" ? 6And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." But note that righteous acts can only be done when its done out of love for Him. Thus they are acts of response to His Infinite Beauty. They are righteous only because they are performed out of a heart of gratitude and love and not for the purposes of growing ourselves within our own acts of so-called righteousness.†
Notice the following verses and how those that are righteous respond in verse 37-39. They said when did we do all those things You said we did? Why? Because they were merely living a life of gratitude for what God had done for them and not trying to earn their righteousness through their activities. Thus those who are considered unrighteous ask in verse 44 when havenít we done those things? Why? Because they thought that righteousness was the result of the multitude of their actions and not a relationship with Christ Who alone could produce the kind of righteousness that flows from the heart out of relationship with Him. Matthew 25:31-46† 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Not only do we think that we become more righteous with our actions, but with the knowledge of Godís Word; But notice how our Lord warns us about the accumulation of His Word; James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (Whole Chapter: James 3 In context: James 3:1-2) And another good verse depicting the importance of not necessarily the accumulation of knowledge of knowing right from wrong but the doing of the right we know to do. Luke 12:47 47"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Here again we see the heart of God and that is quality and not quantity. God Himself understands the joy we experience through the revelations His Word gives our spirit; Proverbs 24: 13-14 13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. 14 Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. But, at the same time He also understands the tendency we have to allow the joy of growing in wisdom overshadow the need we have of growing in relationship; Proverbs 25:16 16 If you find honey, eat just enough-too much of it, and you will vomit.
I think weíve all met people who had a lot of knowledge of Godís Word but lacked much in their relationship with Him. Note how the Lord gave bread from Heaven to His children in Exodus 16:15-21 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer  for each person you have in your tent.' " 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning." 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. 21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. So then, just as too much honey will cause us to vomit, so the Lordís own bread from Heaven will become foul stench if hoarded for our own selfish reasons. Our hearts need to learn to Love Him as He so loved us and gave Himself for us. Our lives should be a reaction to the love relationship that He builds within our hearts as we spend time with Him. We need to get our eyes off of the multitude of our actions and place them and the beauties of His being. Then when we live, our actions will truly glorify the One from which all things exist!
Heavenly Father, teach us how to spend time listening to Your Heart and to allow the Living Word to cut away those things that are not of You. In Jesus Precious Name, Amen
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