Spiritual Liberty: The Meat of Gospel Maturity
There are levels of growth in the gospel like there are grade levels in school and maturity levels in life as a person grows up. The Bible mentions two basic levels in scripture, but there are steps in between these levels that the believer must take as he grows in the gospel of Christ.
There are levels of growth in the gospel like there are grade levels in school and maturity levels in life as a person grows up. The Bible mentions two basic levels in scripture, but there are steps in between these levels that the believer must take as he grows in the gospel of Christ. And only the believer, and their pastor if he is paying attention, knows when they have transitioned from one level to another.
The first level the Bible mentions is being a babe in Christ that feeds off the milk of the Word. These are newly born-again believers who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost and are ready to begin their life in Christ. Like babies, they need milk to grow, which is the Word. “…as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” 1 Peter 2:2.
The second level is the meat level. Believers are weaned off the milk and begin eating solid foods of the Word, such as meats. “For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13, 14.
However, there are steps in between to get the believer from milk to the meats that is not particularly mentioned as a level in the Bible but is revealed to believers through the Spirit as they grow and mature in the gospel. This level is also a food group called fruit. The fruit of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering etc., are needed to make the transition naturally.
Walking with God
Immediately after a person receives the Holy Ghost, they learn to walk with God. This is a step in the first stages of salvation. This step is revealed to the believer when they realize that God is working in their life every day. He is walking with them daily. They see God doing small things in their life each day such as viewing people close to them in a different light they had never seen, or maybe realizing that the job they work is not the right one for them, or some people in their lives are only there to do them harm.
Also, during this initial phase believers may have dreams and visions of what is to come in their lives, or prophesies about other people in their lives. Some may realize that they have been given a spiritual gift by the Spirit and they want to learn to use the gift. Many dive headfirst into the Word and drink it down by the chapter or book, fascinated by the revelations they are seeing and comprehending. There are revelations about life, nature, and people unfolding every day.
This is a wonderful step to be on but to make it pass this step, the believer must be sincere about their salvation. They have to want to grow and to know God more and how to use the Holy Spirit in their lives. Most believers love this step right away because they can feel the love of God in their hearts and minds after they have received the Spirit; so, they continue the walk.
“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15.
But this is also a step where some believers are attacked right away by the devil and the word is taken out of their hearts. They become discouraged, frustrated, or doubtful about what they have just experienced. Many friends and family members talk negatively about them and the gospel and the believer become unfruitful and disbelieving. But they can always recover at any point in their lives if they want.
“When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” Matthew 13:19-23.
The Fruit Ministry
The reason fruit is revealed as a transitional level is because a believer must grow these fruits within their soul by trials and tribulations in their life, which would strengthen them against the lust of the flesh, attacks from the devil, and for them to understand the difference between good and evil, as it says in Hebrews 5:13.
The Word and the Spirit together along with fasting and prayer helps the believer grow to maturity during the trials in their life. As they begin to wean off the milk and start eating the fruit or experiencing the fruit ministry over the years and as the seasons change, they can handle more and more of the meat of the gospel, which means the Spirit begins to reveal mysteries, hidden wisdom and deeper things of God.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:… But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:7,10.
There is also a gradual succession in the fruit ministry that develops the believer’s character like there is a succession in a math course, for example, a student needs to master arithmetic before they can understand multiplication and understand multiplication before algebra.
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9.
Each step in the levels is gradual and are given to each believer by God in portions that they can handle. It may take some believers longer than others to walk through the steps and graduate from one level to another. That depends on how well the believer handles the trials in their life. If they fail a trial, that trial will show up again in the following season until the believer has perfected the fruit meant to develop them.
For example, some of the fruits of the Spirit are these: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance:” Galatians 5:22,23. But there are others such as virtue, hope, and patience. Each of these fruit have a fleshly adversary that wars against the growth of the believer, such as hate, which wars against love; despair, which wars against joy, and pride, which wars against meekness.
As the believer walks through the gospel, they must endure trials of life that attempt to replace these adversarial lusts with fruit of the spirit. This may take time and seasons as long as a few months to many years depending on the initial character and willingness of the believer. If the believer was already a patient person while living in the world, it would not take long to establish godly patience in the person. But if the person has had a problem with patience in their life and was anxious and ill-tempered, this transition could take longer. God will make them wait for things a lot longer than normal until they understand why they needed the patience.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:3-5.
Believers should learn to be thankful for the tribulations in life because they are there to enhance their faith and strengthen their character. Many believers fall away during times of tribulations because they cannot handle the pressure, the persecution, or warfare against certain people in their lives or evil forces meant to distract and frustrate them. But if they understand that tribulations help, they can endure longer, which perfects hope.
Family members and friends will come against them; they will be lied on, betrayed, emotionally hurt, maybe fired from a job for no real reason, lose a car or home or some other material things they own or value. They may discover truths they never knew about themselves and family members or friends; or may feel threatened or pressured by enemies, neighbors, and even authority figures. But all these things are meant to change the dynamic of their lives so God can put them in a better place around different people. And as stated earlier, this may take time.
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10.
Once the believer has learned through these experiences, they will begin to know that God can deliver them from any other trials that may come. “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;” Hebrews 10:32. After the believer has passed through a certain trial period, not only will the Lord place them into a better situation, but this is when the believer discovers their position or calling in the gospel and learn to use their gift for that calling.
Some believers are called to pastor, some are called to evangelize, some are called to teach, and others are called for various positions in the body of Christ, the church. “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” 1 Corinthians 12:5-7.
If the believer does not become illuminated, they may have to repeat a grade, or return to a step because their faith failed or they became impatience, frustrated or trapped by the devil and caught up in an old sin. Again, prayer and fasting can help in these situations and they should also return to the milk of the Word to gain more understanding. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Hebrews 5:12.
Meat of the Gospel
“And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” Luke 12:42.
In order to perform correctly in the calling, the believer must be able to discern between what is good and what is evil, so they are not caught and trapped by the devil, and he destroy their work in the Lord. This is when believers begin to eat the meat of the gospel. Some eat small portions of meat, depending on the level of their calling, and some eat greater portions. There is a difference in portions of the meat and the level of spiritual maturity.
“For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.” Romans 14:2. Because meat comes in levels of revelations, mysteries, and hidden wisdom, some believers can handle more than others because their faith is stronger than others. But those who get more meat than others cannot use that meat against those who do not have a higher level of faith and understanding. This causes believers to judge their brothers unjustly and is sinful behavior.
“But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of:” Romans 14:15,16.
Some believers become overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Ghost and have to be brought back down to the natural realm. This is because their faith tries to exceed the measure that God has given to them. Paul, for example, was brought down by God because he reached a level that was off limits to certain men. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” 2 Corinthians 12:7. Too much meat can lead to arrogance.
Over time in a calling of the Lord, a believer reaches a level of spiritual liberty. Many people take longer to reach this level because they are lacking somewhere in the understanding of the Lord and the gospel. More prayer and fasting can get believers to this level. On this level, a believer will seem to partake in acts that other believers who are not on this level, would consider a sin, as revealed throughout Romans chapter 14.
Although according to the laws of liberty, their actions are not considered sins. “So, speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:12. The laws of liberty are different from the law of the commandments. But this understanding can only come once a believer has reached spiritual maturity and are eating the meat of the gospel. They know and understand the difference between what is good and what is evil.
The bible also warned believers who are set at liberty to be careful using their liberty and not abuse it. “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9. Nevertheless, all believers are called unto liberty but only a few are able to appreciate it. In fact, the bible encourages us all as believers to reach the level of spiritual liberty. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.
Liberty comes with understanding how not to be taken again into bondage and old sins or give in to fleshly lust. Some believers outgrow temptations and can walk through a den of thieves or stand in the middle of a liquor store and not be tempted. They know how to go out and come back into the sheepfold and not be taken by the lust of the world or the pride of life. Eventually, they grow to bring forth many fruit unto perfection.
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:23.
As stated earlier, many believers will know when they have advanced to certain steps and levels of the gospel. It is revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Their pastors also, if they are paying attention, know when they have advanced. Paul knew when Timothy was set at liberty and was ready for a new ministry. “Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.” Hebrews 13:23.
Growing in the gospel takes time, sometimes a lifetime to be perfected. No one is perfect right away and may succumb to temptations and maybe sin a sin which is not unto death. But the Lord has offered us all as believers an opportunity to repent if we do sin. But we have to never return to those sins otherwise we are threatening our growth and may have to relive seasons over and over until we are perfected in one area.
Faith is the key to each step and levels in the gospel. Our faith first brings us to the Lord when we first believe in him and the Holy Ghost. From there our faith is increased through trials and tribulations, ministries that we work for the Lord and gifts of the Spirit that we perfect for the edifying of the body of Christ and others.
The ultimate gift for us all is love, the love of God through the Holy Ghost. This love in our hearts will help us move through the steps much easier because love wipes away many lusts of the flesh and any evil spirits and illnesses that have plagued us in our lives. It helps us develop better relationships with our brethren and our neighbors and help us win battles against our enemies. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8.