Spiritual Maturity:
God's Part and Ours

Part 1

By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn

     We are living in a time, a season, a fresh, new dimension of the church today. It is vital that we in the church awaken to become more effective. It is too late to just "play church." God has provided all we need to be properly prepared for His next move. It is up to us, as individuals, to embrace and apply what He's taught us from His Word. The Old Testament is full of commands to "obey" and "keep," referring to His laws, precepts, and commandments. We are there again in time, and must learn to walk in pure obedience to all He has set before us. Learning to discern is vitally important. We must be able to discern His voice, His ways, and His timing. When the church begins to truly function according to His will, becoming more alive to the heart of God, we will become powerful, productive, and effective. The enemy fears that in the church and fights it.

May we recognize that in God's mind and by His divine plan, the universal church is comprised of every true believer regardless of socio-economic status, cultural or national heritage, the denomination of the church they attend, or the level of their zeal for Him. All who come in the name of Jesus Christ, worldwide, are a part of the "church."

There is a further fact we can notice. Resident within the larger body of the church, there is what I call "the church within the church." We could call it "the Bride." Or, in years gone by, it was labeled "the manifest sons of God." God has always dealt with a "remnant," that group that stands out in commitment, fervency, purity, holy living, and obedience to the ways of God. They not only love God, they are in love with Him. It is the "church within the church" that hungers and thirsts for the next move of God on the earth. It serves as a forerunner, one who goes ahead and says, "Prepare ye the way" (John1:23). It is the body of believers that hears the voice of the Spirit of God and quickly responds, coming ahead of His next move with revelation and power, authority and ability.

Today, we entertain the same questions previous generations asked: "God, what's next? Is there more than this?" His answer in the past was, "Yes," and then He poured out His Spirit in a mighty move, a mighty revelation of His power. His purpose was to build unity in the family of God, to bring a oneness into the church (1Cor.12:12,13; Gal.3:26-28). That purpose has not changed over time; it is the same today.

There was the revival called Pentecost in the early 20th century. Then, in the 1960's and '70's, it was the Charismatic Renewal when God poured out His Spirit in the mainline Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, among the Jews, and Hippies. People were hungry to experience God in all His fullness. Thousands were brought into His Kingdom through salvation, and then baptized in His Holy Spirit. It was an exciting time in the church.

At times like that, when hearts are open to the supernatural, there is a dangerous position that arises. Satan loves to counterfeit the real. He designs this "fake" to be both enchanting and desirable, but also repulsive in its extremes and abuses. When God's people demand from God what He is not giving at that time, a spirit of deception gains entrance into the Christian arena offering to give us whatever we are asking for. Because the people are so desirous of something dramatically more from God, the enemy can too easily dupe them into following after a counterfeit - a lie - some "teaching" that is not from God at all, or perhaps pushes a teaching to an errant extreme. The lie often is presented as a new truth, a new revelation, or something wonderful but not understood before. That, in itself, should be a caution light flashing in our eyes, for Solomon told us there was "nothing new under the sun" (Eccl.1:9,10).

Paul repeatedly warns us to be discerning concerning false doctrine and false teachers (1Thes.5:21; Eph.4:14; Col.2:4,8; Rom.16:18b; Phil.4:8). God knew we could easily be swayed by deceitful means so He addressed that in several different contexts of the New Testament in addition to Paul's writings (Heb.13:9a; 2Pet.2:1,2; 1Jn.4:1). Unfortunately, God's written warning against this danger went unheeded and came to pass during and following the Charismatic Renewal. We the church, designed by God to be one and walking in unity, ended up with new denominations, greater division over biblical interpretation, and even a few cults - groups that strayed so far from God's absolutes so as not to be "Christian" at all.

We are even living out another situation Paul addressed and condemned in the Corinthian church (1Cor.1:9-13). Then, contention arose among believers because they were picking and choosing which leader they wanted to follow, and seemed to set up a form of competition between them ("I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ" v.12). Much the same thing happened in the Charismatic move and continues today to a certain extent.

As in previous generations and past moves of God, in the '70's the people arose to a certain level of spiritual maturity and stopped right there. They claimed, "This is that...," referring to some prophetic scripture, and it became the status quo. The church moved into a good level with God, but, by and large, there was no continuing pursuit for more or greater revelation. We became too satisfied with what we now had in Him. Do you really think that was all God had in mind?

Observers became wary of the "move of God" because the church never actually moved into His complete plan but stopped short of the power in unity. We talked about His outpouring of power and authority, but failed to move into it. We then loathed the counterfeit with its division, competition, and lack of unity and almost stepped into an avoidance mode. The enemy's plot succeeds because when God's real comes along later, we do not discern its divine authenticity and miss it altogether. We fear being deceived again, so we reject the prophetic, the healing ministries, and the move of His Spirit in the miraculous. We just miss it, and Him.

The next move of God is not going to come as man orchestrates or plans it. It will not come through big or recognized names of ministers or para-church organizations. It will come through local churches into the universal church. It will come through the "regular" people in the pews who hunger for all God has to offer. Something that will hinder us in this next move of God is being locked into church (denominational) tradition - preconceived ideas, judgments, and precepts passed on from generation to generation. We can remember, even honor, what was set in the past, but it is sin to venerate traditions and not move on in accordance with what God is doing today to develop the whole church.

Consider this simplistic definition of spiritual maturity: it is the discovery and acceptance of that portion that is God's only, and that portion which is ours only. With this as a standard we must be willing to relinquish all of our great ideas with their human origins and reasoning. God will answer the "What's next?" "When will it happen?" and "How will it be?" questions only when He begins to pour out His Spirit anew to freshen His church. And when He does, it will feel like a "suddenly of God" even though we have been asking and watching for it for some time.

We are in an interim period at this time - between moves, between demonstrations, between outpourings from God. Now is a good time to take personal inventory. Jesus Himself said it was important to "count the cost" before entering into any venture, let alone following Him in discipleship (Lk.14:25-33). I believe we are hearing from God today something like this: "You've said a lot of things about being faithful to Me and doing according to My will. Now, it's time to live your whole life as you have spoken."

Church, we must rise to a higher level with God. We have enjoyed where we are long enough - long enough to be comfortable without being challenged to grow further. We say we are thirsty for more of God, but are we simply desirous of His blessings, or do we truly want Him for Who He is? The Psalmist says his heart (soul) is so thirsty "for God, for the living God," that it's as if he was a deer longing for a life-giving drink of water (Ps.42:1,2). In Psalm 63, David says, "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is" (v.1). Have we come to that kind of thirst for Him? Do we long for Him to satisfy our desires more than any other thing? Are we willing to pay the price whatever that might be?

Earlier, we said that spiritual maturity reflects our understanding of what is God's part in revival, and what is our part. For our purposes here, we will look at only two things we are responsible for as we prepare for more of God's outpouring: congregating and constancy.

1) Congregating

In Psalm 84, the Psalmist reveals this need and longing to be in the House of the Lord with God's people. David likewise wrote, in Psalm 27, verse 4, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." This whole Psalm is magnificent and worth the reading. Here, however, we are looking at the sincerity and depth in David's longing to be back in the congregation, forever beholding the incredible beauty of God. We have lost that as a deep desire today.

We have taken control of church attendance, picking and choosing when and where we will attend, led mostly by our feelings. We even seem to think we can select the scriptures we like and can live with comfortably, and "get by" applying only these in our every-day lives. For instance, if we have been hurt in the church, or if we are critical of the methodology of a certain church, and choose to worship at home alone, we tend to ignore or discard verses like Hebrews 10:25 - "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

This verse shows us that the closer we come to the return of the Lord, the more we will need the supportive and nurturing atmosphere of the family of God - the church. By implication, that demands the church to become a safe place, a place where we want to be because the experience is so rewarding. Unfortunately, many have been hurt in the church, but let us note that the hurt comes from humans in the church, not from God's plan of what the church is to be. We need to become the family of God as He designed it.

God is looking for a people who know how to prioritize their lives and their thinking. When we come together in the assembly (or congregation), there is a purely human tendency to participate mindlessly. Our minds are on something else, or so involved with our own things in the service to make it fun, we are too busy to even notice Him. We need to learn to be aware of His presence and His desires for directing the service.

Let's remember, when we are talking about "commitment," God is concerned about our level of commitment to Him. We err when we attempt to get the people of any given congregation to commit to a pastor or leader or any human being, or even to the church organization. That has never been God's focus. Our commitment is to be to God Himself.

On to Part Two