Progressions of Spiritual Life"
By John Belt
When we see Jesus move into His earthly ministry there
is a progression we can recognize that will help us to better understand how things operate from a Kingdom perspective.
There are three ways to look at this. We can see the fulfillment of this through
a daily application, seasons and over the long haul – the full progression of our lives.
In summary, here are the 3 different angles:
2. Seasons of our lives
3. Full progression of our lives
Step One: Humility and
Matthew 3:15, "But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he allowed Him."
When Jesus came to John the Baptist He humbled Himself to a ministry that was passing away. He did this in obedience to the Father and to do that which was "right" to fulfill all righteousness. In the same way, our initial step is to yield to God,
find the Father's heart and fulfill His desires, doing the things that are "right" in His sight. This can also be seen as our "come to Jesus" moment in our lives. For Jesus this is not the case, but for us it does paint the picture of how we are to come to
God in full commitment – even through baptism.
Step Two: The Encounter and Affirmation
Matthew 3:16-17, "When He had been baptized, Jesus came
up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from Heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"
The next step or progression in the scope of these passages is found after Jesus is baptized. Once He is baptized, or "obeys to another level of commitment," being set apart for the purposes of God, there is an encounter
that occurs. In this encounter, He receives the affirmation of the Father by hearing His voice from the heavens in the most tangible way.
For us, this is a blessing that comes from obedience as we follow
after God. The Father speaks that affirming word to us to let us know His pleasure in us. For many Christians, this is where it ends – the encounter and affirmation stage. It is powerful but it does not extend beyond ourselves. It only helps us. We realize
God loves us. We've even had some great encounters. We've given ourselves to God to a degree but not in the fullness of dedication where our lives find the greatest impact.
Step Three: Sacrifice and Commitment
Matthew 4:1, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
Now the Holy Spirit leads Jesus to the wilderness. Isn't this
a mistake? He's not leading Him to the beach? This is where that materialistic, worldly mindset trips us up, because this is much more demanding. It is taxing on the old flesh. Jesus goes for 40 days on a fast in the wilderness where there is no food or distraction;
all He had was the Spirit, and then the devil eventually shows up as company in this dry land.
This is the next level. It's the place where testing, maturity and eventual spiritual breakthrough will blossom
– fasting with God in the wilderness. When we reach a point where we are willing to sacrifice that which is prized and precious to us, that is where God will meet us. This does not mean that we are supposed to fast 40 days, but there is a measure that
we can embrace. The measure that we sow will be the measure that we reap. God works with us until we get desperate enough to leave a life of boredom on the outskirts of the Kingdom of God.
We really have
to be honest with ourselves. In our world today we are provided with the maximum number of distractions and options that cause many Believers to settle for less than Kingdom living.
Jesus went to the desert.
He did not get to take His iPhone, television, or check His likes on Facebook. Think about it. There was NOTHING to distract Him. He had the blue sky and the wilderness, and maybe some snakes and rocks. This was complete focus on God and God alone. Then when
the time of temptation came, "at the very end of His fast" (which is important to note), the Word of God was in His heart. By this He overcame the temptations that the devil threw at Him.
We have to come
to a point in our lives where we don't settle for this lukewarm, "love the things of this world," wishy-washy, muddied version of materialistic Christianity.
God wants to prosper us, but it is not materialism.
Materialism is the worship of things. Prosperity is the blessing of the Lord on a life surrendered to His purposes. There is complete abundance as we give generously. The resources of this world should not be our desire but rather serve in seeing the Kingdom
of Heaven come on Earth. This requires our sacrifice. This step embodies the stripping of the fleshly desires to embrace true life after the Spirit – moving beyond self.
Step Four: The Power of the
Spirit and Beyond
Luke 4:14, "Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region."
is the last part of the progression – empowerment. The result of the sacrifice Jesus made through fasting and prayer for 40 days was a fresh anointing, the power of the Spirit in His life, and the plans of God laid before Him. Before the desert He was
led by the Spirit. After the desert He returned in the power of the Spirit.
The more we embrace a life of sacrifice through fasting and prayer, the more we will experience the power of the Spirit. The
goal is not the power but the pleasure of God. We would be foolish to think we can fully please God in settling for a life devoid of the power of the Spirit.
We can have the presence of God and not the
power. They are different. The presence of God is not the same as the anointing of the Spirit. The anointing is empowerment to break the chains of oppression. We need to have that initial dedication to God in our lives. We need the encounters with God and
the loving affirmation. We also need a life of sacrifice through prayer and fasting. Through these things we realize God's power in our lives.
When the disciples could not cast out a demon, Jesus clearly
said, "This kind ONLY comes out by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21, paraphrased).
There is a phrase that has been around quite a while – "What would Jesus do?" The word He shared with His disciples
is what He practiced. He was telling His disciples that this was going to require sacrifice on their part to see this person set free, if they were to be participants.
In the context of marriage, Paul
encourages a couple to set apart some time for prayer and fasting. It was an understood part of their faith.
Breakthrough is somewhat of a buzzword and popular in circles, but the truth is, there is no
breakthrough without a life of sacrifice. There is no revival without sacrifice. God breaks through when we give our time, food, money and other things in the context of our commitment to see His Kingdom come.
fact is, we always need breakthrough. If we don't realize that then we begin to settle for less. The Kingdom of God is always advancing and taking ground. There is always more ground to take, more lives to be changed and promises to be fulfilled. Because of
this, we are always in need of more breakthrough.
Jesus laid out some steps through His example, showing us how we can continue to take more ground, move beyond ourselves and discover a life filled with
the power of His Spirit.
Evaluate your life to His as you reflect on these four steps and ask these questions:
• Have you committed your life
• Are you having encounters with Him?
• Is fasting and prayer something that has been embraced as normal in your life with God?
• Do you desire to walk in God's power?
• Are you bored and ready to do something that will catapult your life into a fresh wind of God's Spirit?
What He wants to do is not reserved for the select few. God has destined you to live set apart for breakthrough where His power can be demonstrated through your life. Breakthrough begins on the inside, then reveals
His Kingdom power, through you, to others.
John and Brandi Belt
Elijah List Publications
528 Ellsworth St. SW
Albany, OR 97321
Phone 866-354-5245 (Toll-Free USA) or 541-926-3250