Hindrances to Growing in God

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In Ephesians 4:31, Paul lists things we must remove from our lives if we are to grow in the grace of Christ: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

We dare not skip over these issues on Paul’s list. If you ignore the heart issues Paul mentions here, you will grieve the Holy Spirit. Your growth will be stunted, and you’ll end up a spiritual zombie.

The first three items on Paul’s list—bitterness, wrath and anger—are self-explanatory. Bitterness is a refusal to let go of an old wound or forgive a past wrong. Wrath is a stronghold of resentment coupled with a hope to have revenge. Anger is exasperation, either a quick explosive outburst or a slow burn of indignation toward someone. Evil speaking is malicious, hurtful words that tear someone down.

Clamor is a sudden outburst over nothing, an unnecessary hubbub, a loud noise made for no purpose. We cause a clamor when we make a big issue out of something insignificant or cause a scene rather than trying to help or heal.

The final item on Paul’s list is malice. Malice is the desire to see someone else suffer. For many Christians malice means hoping God will punish someone who wounded them. It’s a devilish spirit, and it’s usually hidden deep within the heart.

When Paul says, “Put away all these evils from you,” he’s not talking about a quick fix. He’s describing a process of growth that takes time. At times, we may fail at ridding ourselves of these evils. If we will quickly repent and commit to making things right with the person, over time these issues will fade away. As we put away these evils, we are also commanded to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

The apostle says we absolutely must confront those sins and cultivate these fruits of the Spirit if we are to grow in grace.

Maturing in Godly Grace

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Our growth in grace can be explosive if we’re willing to work at true edification. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:29-30, NKJV). The root word Paul uses for edify here means “house builder.” That word, in turn, comes from a root word that means “to build up.” In short, everyone who edifies is building up God’s house, the church.

Paul is telling us three important things about the words we speak.

  1. 1. We are to use our words to build up God’s people.

  2. 2. We are to use our words to minister grace to others.

  3. 3. It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit with our words.

I get deeply convicted as I read the life stories of some of the spiritual giants of the past. These godly men and women were heavenly minded, studious in God’s Word, praying often and concerned about growing in grace. What strikes me most about these people’s lives isn’t their devotion to Christ or the intensity of their prayers. It is the godly fruit that these things produced in them.

Moreover, I discovered a common thread among these spiritual giants: their main concern was to grow in the grace of a pure heart, out of which holy conversation would flow. Christ warned his listeners, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34-35).

I grow in grace when I choose to live for others and not myself. That growth in grace must begin in my home by showing my mate and my children ever-increasing Christlikeness. My home must become a proving ground where all problems, all misunderstandings are overcome by my willingness to give up “my attempts to be always right.”

Never having to be “right” has helped me enjoy the power of God’s grace as never before. All arguments, all so-called “rights” vanish when we seek to edify one another rather than trying to win some silly dispute.

Dear believer, let us grow up in grace.

The Heart of the Prophets

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

When I read about the exploits of godly men in the Old Testament, my heart burns. These servants were so burdened for the cause of God’s name that they did powerful works that baffle the minds of most Christians today.

These saints of old were rock-like in their refusal to go forward without a word from God. They wept and mourned for days at a time over the backslidden condition in his house. They refused to eat, drink or wash their bodies. The prophet Jeremiah even laid on his side in the streets of Jerusalem for 365 days, continuously warning of God’s coming judgment.

I wonder, where did these saints get the spiritual authority and stamina to do all they did? They were men of a totally different type from those we see in the church today. I simply can’t relate to them and their walk. I know I’m not totally of their kind. I don’t know a single Christian who is.

This troubles me. The Bible says these men’s Old Testament exploits were recorded as lessons for us: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11, NKJV). Their stories are meant to show us how to move God’s heart or how to bring a corrupt people to repentance.

Were these saints a special breed? Were they supermen with a predetermined destiny, endowed with supernatural powers unknown to our generation?

Not at all. The Bible states emphatically that our godly forebearers were people just like you and me, subject to the same passions of the flesh (see James 5:17). The fact is their examples reveal a pattern for us to follow. Scripture says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). Long before God laid his hand on Ezra, this man was diligent in searching the scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it and cleansed body and spirit. Ezra allowed the Scriptures to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That’s why the Lord laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him.

These men allowed scripture to build a character in them that caused God to lay his hand on them. That’s why he chose them to accomplish his purposes, and he’s urging us to seek that same character quality today.

Faith on Fire

Gary Wilkerson

Do you have just enough of the Holy Spirit to feel like you are surviving? Do you want to go on into all that Jesus has for you?

I believe that many believers have that deep, deep desire to be moved greatly and to hold to a zealous passion for God. We want the fire of God to fall on us and make us into disciples who will whole-heartedly and ambitiously give to Jesus in order to make his glory known to the masses.

Church should be the place that makes real disciples who reach the masses and change a society. Isn’t that a simple way to think about church? Faith-on-fire disciples are going to go out into the world just like Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV).

Much of this fanning of the flame in our generation has been greatly diminished. It has moved from what was once a central focus on Jesus into more of a “To Do” list. “I pray. I read my Bible. I fast occasionally. I give at church. I go on missions trips. I belong to a small group. I have an accountability partner.”

If we can check off some of these boxes, we feel like we’re doing well as a disciple, but I want to say to you that none of those things make you a disciple. Mormons can do that. Jehovah’s Witnesses can do that. Pagans can do each and every one of those things and not even know Jesus Christ.

A disciple is not defined by the things that you do. A disciple is defined by the person that you know. It’s defined by a knowledge and revelation and a deep, deep work of God called salvation, not a man-centered work. The man-centered activities that come follow the work that Jesus has done in our hearts.

None of those things make a true disciple. A disciple is not one who keeps his life in moral decency. It’s not one attends regular religious activities or does religious services. A disciple will do all those things as they follow Christ, but at the heart of a true disciple lays one who has fallen deeply in love with Jesus.

Growing Bitter or Growing Better

Keith Holloway

In our humanity, we seem to have an inclination toward focusing on our problems. Sometimes rightfully so because they can be tremendous challenges that are overwhelming.

Many of you are facing unbelievable things. In our ministry at World Challenge, we get thousands of letters and emails coming in with people just pouring their hearts out in prayer requests. I've read some of those lately. Honestly, it’s shocking what many people are living through: drug addiction, alcoholism, infidelity, broken relationships, financial troubles. The list goes on and on.

Yet so many people get their ‘daily bread’, if you will, from watching the news, reading online reports or watching reality shows that are filled with lies, cheating, murdering, stealing and all manner of depravity over and over again. It's not surprising that people are in depression and suicide is at an all-time high.

Even many believers are being shaken in their faith and in their walk, feeling like God is not with them. People have turned against them, and they have started asking the questions of “Who am I? What am I here for? Is it worth it?”

I want to bring you a word today that I believe is a wonderful word.

Peter wrote the early church and encouraged believers, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV).

When trials come, we can either grow better or grow bitter. The opportunity is there, but it's our response to crisis. Crises aren’t what causes our faith to falter or that change us. Our response to a crisis is what determines whether we grow better or we grow bitter.

Conduct yourself courageously. Admit and recognize the pain and suffering, but also equally recognize and admit that we have an eternal hope. Hope is an expectation of God's good to come to us, no matter how deep, no matter how dark, no matter how long our troubles are. We have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The mercy of God is abundantly available to us today. He's born us again into a living hope.