• Mike McInerney

Coming to Spiritual Maturity


How do people come to the Lord and then grow to spiritual maturity?

Looking at the current Church all around the world, one would think that this can only happen through man-made organizations, programs and buildings.

I believe that the Word of God teaches something VERY different and much less expensive and much less complicated.

Most importantly, what it teaches actually yields deep, lasting

results.

“Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19-21)

At the end of Acts 7 we see a man named Saul helping to kill the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Between then and chapter 11 of Acts a lot happens. Saul is born again as is recorded in chapter 9 and then he immediately begins to preach Jesus to the Jews in the synagogues.

This was HUGE news.

Saul (who later became known as Paul, the Apostle) bravely came back to Jerusalem to present himself to the disciples who were there.

They were, understandably, afraid of Saul.

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.” (Acts 9:26-28)

God changes people and it is very important that when we see this in action we speak to it. Barnabas saw a change in Saul and said so.

This caused the disciples to receive Saul and allow him to serve the Lord with them in Jerusalem.

Saul went to work in Jerusalem and it immediately cost him something: his physical safety.

“And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:29-30)

Back in Matthew 28 we see that before Jesus ascended back to heaven He gave the first members of HIS Church instructions as to how they were to spread His Kingdom on the earth.

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

He took the authority given to Him by His Father in heaven and gave them authority to do three things. He said that AS THEY WERE GOING they were to:

1) make DISCIPLES (not members of earthly organizations),

2) baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (not in the name of earthly organizations) and

3) teach them to observe (thoughtfully obey) His teachings (not the man-made doctrines of earthly organizations.)

In other words, the disciples Christians generate are to be disciples of Jesus and, therefore, members of His ONE Church (an idea found 11 times in 10 New Testament verses.)

The original Christians, including the new convert Saul, actually obeyed and practiced Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20 that we now call The Great Commission.

“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:22-24)

The disciples in Jerusalem dispatched Barnabas to go investigate. He was thrilled with what he saw as new Christians simply did what Jesus told us all to do. As he encouraged them to continue to depend upon the Lord and, AS THEY WERE GOING about their daily lives, to make disciples, baptize them and teach them, EVEN MORE people were added to the Lord!

Isn’t that amazing?

They had NO man-made programs.

All they did was simply do what Jesus said to do and “a great many people were added to the Lord”.

How do people come to the Lord and then become mature Christians? Let’s see what the Bible reveals about that:

“Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:25-26)

Barnabas knew that God was working through this new convert Saul. Barnabas got Saul and took him back to Antioch to work as a team with the baby Christians there.

Verse 26 says that they spent an entire year in Antioch and “assembled with the church and taught a great many people.” The word “assembled” comes from the Greek word “sunago” which means “to lead together, collect and convene, entertain with hospitality.”

Do you know what they did? They did what they were, as disciples, taught: they observed (obeyed and practiced) what Jesus did, which was to spend personal, one-on-one time with people.

They made disciples and taught them.

Making disciples and teaching them is not something that can be done in huge groups. Even when Jesus spoke to huge groups of people He made it a point later to tell the small group of disciples that His real goal was to teach them, not the multitudes.

Why do you think that authentic disciple-making is done one-on-one or in very small groups?

It is because people RECEIVE better in more intimate gatherings.

What did that look like in Antioch? Acts 11 doesn’t really say but I would imagine that, since they were in the habit of mainly going from house to house (Acts 2:46-47) and (Acts 20:20) everywhere they ministered they were assembled….. “lead together, collected, convened and entertained with hospitality” in humble homes in Antioch.

They did this daily….teaching personally….intimately….for a whole year.

The new Christians there simply had unimpeded and very personal access to the Holy Spirit of God in two leaders in the Body of Christ for an entire year.

How did THAT affect them?

Let’s see:

“And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” (Acts 11:27-28)

Apparently the Lord, in those days, would send prophets to places in which the people were mature enough to hear His messages through them. (I believe that since God never changes, He still does that – but many prophets are not received because of man-made religion and the restrictions that go with that.)

Why would God send prophets to these young Christians in Antioch? It was because He knew that the disciples there, having been discipled and taught the way Jesus said to do it, would be mature enough to respond appropriately to what the prophets would prophesy.

“Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

Think about that.

The last time we read about this sort of thing happening in Acts it is in Chapter 4. Pilgrims from all over had come to Jerusalem for Passover and Pentecost. They budgeted to stay in Jerusalem for a short while and then make their ways home but the resurrection of Jesus and the events of the Day of Pentecost caused them to remain in Jerusalem.

Eventually these people used up their travelling funds and needed food, lodging and other things. In addition, persecution from the Jewish leaders was beginning to come to the new Christians. The apostles prayed and Holy Spirit welled up in them and caused them to care for one another and sacrifice for one another.

“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” (Acts 4:31-35)

And one of those people who responded to the apostles’ teaching and leadership was none other than Barnabas!

“And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.” (Acts 4:36-37)

When Saul and Barnabas were in homes in Antioch teaching they didn’t use slick, man-made programs and systems. What they did was to simply teach what they had been taught and they spoke about what they had personally experienced in Christ.

They did that for a year…..intimately….in homes, just like Jesus did with the original disciples and it yielded good fruit.

“Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

When we share our homes and our lives and tell our stories of our dealings with Jesus and simply teach what God tells us to teach it will ALWAYS yield spiritual maturity in the hearts of younger Christians. That spiritual maturity will be evident through the things people do and say in Christ.

“This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:30)

Saul and Barnabas spent a year of their lives with the infant Christians in Antioch.

Was it worth it for them to spend their lives like that?

YES!

Barnabas and Saul felt confident enough to leave their brothers and sister in Antioch to carry their gifts to the Christians in Judea.

As we continue to read the book of Acts and then Paul’s letters, we will see that He and Barnabas would return to their beloved brothers and sisters in Antioch to teach, encourage and rest.

That is the pattern we see emerging as we read the Bible. Apostles, prophets and evangelists would establish disciples as they were going. They would baptize them and then spend portions of their lives teaching them mostly in small, intimate gatherings.

In turn, other apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors would emerge as Holy Spirit manifested those and other gifts among the Christians. The apostles, prophets and evangelists would then go out and establish other works in the name of Jesus. This is how the Kingdom of God is designed by God to spread on the earth – personally and as people go about their lives.

Pastors would remain where they emerged, shepherding, feeding and caring for the flock of the Lord in that place. Teachers would, for the most part, also remain where God placed them while travelling prophets and apostles would come back and teach and encourage the Christians with whom they had relationship.

I hope that what was written here will encourage you to recognize that God is still doing that in His Church now and that you will be encouraged to practice a simple, organic style of Christianity…as YOU are going.

I believe that as we live this way we will witness ourselves and those we disciple coming to spiritual maturity.

I submit this as an act of worship to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, Texas

© October 18, 2016

(For use with permission)


©2018 by Mike McInerney Ministries