October 20, 2011
Dearest Canaan EMers,
Like the children of Israel, our English ministry has been on quite a journey this past year. We’ve shared many exciting new experiences, welcomed new pilgrims (including the new babies), and have said farewell to good friends. I hope that you have felt like you were a real part of it all!
Even as we have walked together towards becoming a healthier community, I hope that you’ve sensed that we are also on a journey towards personal spiritual maturity. As we learned from the first believers and the people of Israel, building up the body of Christ is fundamental to our spiritual growth. As we grow in relationship with our spouses, our children, our parents, and one another in the church, we learn, in a very real way, how to grow in our relationship with God.
At the end of last Sunday’s message, I shared how Israel’s journey through the wilderness taught them how to truly desire God. They walked through four stages:
- No desire – as enslaved people, they had forgotten who their God was. They forgot that they had an inheritance that was promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As a people stripped of their legacy and their God, they had no self-identity or desire for God.
- Desire for God to help me – but once Moses delivered them from slavery, they realized that God could help them. Thus, they were unafraid to cry out and complain when there was no food or water. They saw God as a Provider, not nothing more.
- Desire for God to be with me – as we learned last Sunday, Israel learned the hard way that they needed God’s presence in their community more than anything else. What good was it to enter the Promised Land if God was not with them? In the end, because of Moses’ advocacy, God decided to be with them after all.
- Desire for God’s glory – but later Moses taught Israel that the most important part of their relationship with God was to desire his glory, to desire him for who is and to desire to see his glory fill all of creation.
All three desires for God are important, but the desire for God’s glory is the mark of a mature faith. We at last see ourselves and the world as God does! Just as we become spiritually mature by desiring God himself and his glory, we become relationally mature by looking out and caring for others more than ourselves.
In an age where self-help books and DVDs dominate the spiritual landscape (some of which are really very good), the best way to really grow and appreciate God’s blessings is to seek Christ’s glory directly – and indirectly in the faces of your sisters and brothers in Christ! So let us willingly share our joys, struggles, and hopes together in community!
Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 –
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [Christ]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Like the children of Israel or those to whom Paul wrote, may we also press forward to God’s promise. Indeed, Paul says that this attitude is a mark of maturity in verses 15-16:
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
I look forward to moving forward with you in the days ahead! Let us continue to seek God’s glory in our lives and in one another!