Garry spoke tonight from Gal 3:1-6, a challenging passage which reminds us that we can start the journey of faith well, but can easily fail to grow and develop as we should. Ultimately, we need to understand that our birth into the new life means accessing a spiritual realm, and this demands our whole attention. Only when we are born again can we understand the mind of God (1 Cor 2:12-3:4), but the challenge throughout life is whether we will choose to live in the physical realm only or whether we will choose to access the spiritual life God has for us. This life is available for us, but we have to access it!
Our natural state is ‘unspiritual’ (Rom 7:14) and Eph 2:1-6 clearly tells us what we were like prior to coming to faith. Now, however, we live not in the realm of the flesh but in the realm of the Spirit (Rom 8:9). Just as a baby has to learn to control its body (learning to master head control, roll over, sit up and eventually stand and walk and learn to talk), we have to learn to live in the spiritual realm. This happens, Peter says, as we get rid of our old nature (‘rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind‘ 1 Pet 2:1) and crave (yearn with longing) pure spiritual milk (1 Pet 2:2) so that we can grow up in faith. We need the word of God for this (Matt 4:4) and the easiest way for us to tell if we are making true spiritual progress is to judge how quickly we turn to God in prayer.
The spiritual life requires more than cosmetic change (such as adding spotlights or ‘go faster’ stripes to a car!) It requires the kind of change which makes a real difference (in car terms, putting in a bigger engine, for example!) This can only happen as we put to death the old nature. An old Cherokee proverb talks about life being a fight between two wolves, and who wins the fight comes down to which wolf we feed. Will we feed the old nature, slipping back into familiar ways and well-worn reactions, or will we learn to allow God to renew our minds and transform our thinking?
It can be hard to measure spiritual progress, because it’s often invisible, but actually, the easiest way to tell which wolf we are feeding is how willing and quick we are to pray. We can look spiritual to others and can even persuade ourselves we are, but Rev 3:17 reminds us that God’s evaluation is often very different to ours. What matters is that we develop our prayer life, for it’s there that we learn what pleases God and make the choices that are necessary for spiritual growth. God’s challenge is for us to be spiritual and see what God can do with that.