The Holiness Project – The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success (continued)….

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NIV).

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:26,27 NIV).

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:10,11 NIV).

My apologies to those who just want to get on with talking about the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. Upon reflection, I realized that I needed to give this whole idea a bit more of an introduction than just one post. So this post continues from the last one…..

The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success (continued)….

In the last post, I tried to differentiate these 7 spiritual laws of success from the whole Prosperity Gospel thing. Like most heresies, it is based on a half-truth. God DOES want to prosper us (even financially) but He prioritizes our Christ-like character first (including our stewardship) and defines prosperity and success in terms of eternal values and a higher purpose (saving mankind from their sin). This perspective is what we call “spiritual.”

I also pointed out the fundamental differences between an Old Testament citizen and a New Testament saint. God’s purpose and plan was different in the Old Testament. A specific country, a moral light to the nations, a religious and cultural context to understand the cross and even to bring Christ into the world. It was glorious.

But the New Testament (even though based on the Old Testament) has a new plan and a more specific purpose to go and make disciples (not merely be a light to the nations, although that too). The whole world is our “land” even though we are wanderers and strangers, living in the desert, seeking the new Jerusalem, the promised land in the presence of God. We are like the Davids, the Solomons, the prophets of old, the heros of faith, the Rebeccas and Rahabs who lived as Old Testament citizens but had spiritual and leadership roles that were more specific and brought more pain and suffering and grief. If you don’t believe me, just read about the heros of faith and what happened to them in Hebrews 11.

Finally, I also mentioned Bill Bright and his 4 Spiritual Laws which are focused on salvation and the conversion process. Here we are talking about discipleship (what comes after conversion). Bill Bright coined the phrase (with solid Biblical backing) that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Without Christ, you cannot know that “wonderful” life. So true. That foundation is essential which is why this blog post and this theme is for Christians even though there are universal truths to be found here as well.

I finished my last post by giving you the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success and I will repeat them here again for you to have in mind.

The 5 Spiritual Laws of Success

  1. Life is Ministry 
  2. Everything is Spiritual
  3. Ambition is Expected
  4. Discipline is Essential
  5. Discipleship is Warfare
  6. Stewardship is Simplicity
  7. Leadership is Influence

But before we go any further, I have come to the conclusion that one of the key parts of this whole process is how we anchor these 7 spiritual laws of success into our ongoing discussion on holiness and Christian maturity. Specifically, how do these laws of success “square” with our discussions on confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Good question.

We will find ourselves coming back to these questions over and over again as we discuss success and prosperity. I plan to take popular quotes from big name speakers like Tony Robbins, Jim Rhon, Les Brown and others and reflect on them and try to root them in the Scriptures (but not throwing the baby out with the bath water). What we will find is that these people are NOT rooted in the cross or in a relationship with Christ but they still speak Biblical truth and frame it more as universal truths. That’s fine for what they are doing, but not good enough for Christians.

Our highest ambition is to please God and so we aren’t inclusive of all spirituality or all points of view. We have been bought with a price and we want to understand our creational roles from a spiritual point of view. Making those distinctions are what I plan to do as we go along.

But first of all lets talk about the relationship between Spiritual Maturity and Success. It is a rocky relationship to say the least. The gurus have the ability to talk to a wide audience in language that makes sense to them (and that’s a good thing) but we have few people in the church who can do the same and do it right. Perhaps some would point to someone like Joel Oosteen as a model to follow. I would disagree. His preaching sounds very similar to the other big names in the industry even though he uses the word “God” more often and even “Jesus” on occassion. But he never talks about “sin” and the cross is an alien concept to his teaching. He is positive and optimistic but does not seem to understand anything about suffering for the gospel and being persecuted for following Christ. He has embraced the world to the detriment of the kingdom of God and so does not represent a good model to follow.

Others might point out that there are great apologists and writers in the church, past and present, from C.S. Lewis to Chuck Colson to………(and there is a long list). An apologist attempts to speak to the world in a language that the world understands but squarely from within the gospel. I love them all. Some take a more logical tack and others make movies and still others demonstrate the gospel with their actions. It’s all good.

But there still seems to be a lack of structure, or biblical theology, or training to support our efforts to explain the gospel in terms of this “wonderful” plan that God has for our lives. Apologetics seems to be focused almost exclusively on salvation issues rather than “success and prosperity” (with a few notable exceptions).

So let me talk a bit about this connection between Spiritual Maturity and Prosperity and Success. We said in our last post that success is optional, exclusive and relational and that’s a good place to start. By calling success optional we root it in the concept of “no condemnation” which is a relational concept. We are loved. We are saved. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. We have his perfection, his righteousness and nothing can be added to it. It is finished. Wait. Hold on a minute. The Bible tells us that we have work to do, that we need to make every effort, that we need to make building the Kingdom of God our top priority, doesn’t it? It most certainly does. But God cares about our motivations. If we are trying to be “successful” as Christians because we want to make sure we are saved, then we have a problem.

I just watched a video on goal planning (quite well done) by an internet marketing guru who claimed also to be a Christian. One of his goals was to make a certain amount of money in five years so that he could retire and dedicate more time to his spiritual life. So far so good (although spirituality is ongoing and not merely a project to be done later). But then he said, “because, you know, I want to tie up that part of my life and make sure I get in.” Well, that changes everything. He needs to hear and accept the good news. Accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour and you are already in. For Christians, there is no condemnation. So what is our motivation for serving Christ? Gratitude. Love. Always has been and always will be. The problem is that gratitude and love don’t seem to motivate people as much as fear and greed. Sigh.

So, yes, the first point to make is that it is all optional. There is no obligation in terms of the relationship. No one is laying down an ultimative that we must do in order to be in the relationship. When that happens in marriage, watch out! It will backfire. Ultimatives do not come from a place of love. Period. On the other hand, even though love accepts, it also expects. Love expects great things from us. Love wants the best …..for us. Ultimatives are about you. The obligations of love are about the welfare of the other. God invites us to find our identity in Christ as a new creature, a son or daughter of the King. Great. That is where it starts. He also invites us to find our purpose in Christ, in fact, to share the purpose of Christ in saving the world from the consequences and the power of sin (rebellion against God). We find our significance in Christ because we are needed, truly needed in this process of salvation and making disciples from every nation.

Our testimony, in words and deeds, that proves to people that God is real in our lives and that transformation actually happens and things are truly different. That “social proof” (to use an internet marketing term) is essential to the process and God has given us that significant role to play in the process. And when we have our identity, our purpose and our significance in alignment, we discover what true meaning in life is all about.

Not only is success (which is another way of saying “significance”) optional in the ultimate sense (but not optional from a love point of view), it is also exclusive. Success is defined by one person and that person is not ourselves. It is God. Our success is exclusive to our relationship with God. It is not merely “spiritual” which is a universal concept that includes all types of spirituality from many different traditions. It is spiritual in the sense that it is based on the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. We, therefore, cannot be successful and find our significance or our “wonderful” plan for our lives without the Holy Spirit who only comes into our lives through Christ and accepting him as our personal Lord and Saviour (the 4 Spiritual Laws). That makes success rather exclusive to those who have the Holy Spirit and who are walking in the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, our definition of success will have to be something more than merely financial prosperity. This definition of success will have to be “spiritual” rather than worldly. But, and listen well, that doesn’t mean that it is something less than what Tony Robbins and Les Brown offer but rather more, much more. Spiritual success includes financial success but goes further, digs deeper, and accomplishes more. Thank God.

And what that “more” consists of is what I call the “relational” aspect of success and significance. Here we come full circle back to our identity in Christ. It is all relational. Relationships are key to life as we have been saying in our last post. Even the gurus believe this and, in that respect, they are dead on. But something more has to be said. Although they claim that relationships are key to success and to life, they seem to assume that we all have the power to heal our relationships in our own strength. And right there, the lie is exposed. It simply isn’t true. Sometimes a relationship can be restored but that doesn’t mean it is healed. Two different ideas. Reconciliation (a healed relationship) is something that happens spiritually based on confession, repentance and forgiveness. Reconciliation is the natural consequence of true forgiveness.

We talk about forgiveness a lot but very few, even in the church, know the power of a forgiveness rooted in the cross. Some of us might know it but not apply it. The power is in the application of forgiveness rooted in the cross that results in reconciliation. The problem, of course, is sin. Sin is like a stick in the wheel, a fly in the ointment, a wrench in the gears of the process of healing a relationship. It is a rocky road and cannot be accomplished without the help of the Holy Spirit. It takes training. It takes focus. It takes “every effort.” There is no other way. And the truth of the matter is that we all go to our deathbeds with broken relationships we wish we could heal, with regrets centered around awful moments in which we let our anger overflow, our resentment continue, or bitterness dominate our language and attitude. All of that has to do with our relationships. It isn’t about our work, our money, our assets or our accomplishments. It’s about love and relationships. That’s what matters and that’s what we all regret on our deathbeds. Enough said.

So what am I trying to say? In some ways I am rehashing some of the points from the last post about success being optional, exclusive and relational but I am going deeper. I suspect that this circular approach will be a common occurance in dealing with this theme.

Here are some key takeaways that I have on this discussion…..

  1. Yes, success is defined in terms of our significance in the Kingdom of God, which is rooted in our purpose and identity in Christ. That is a key part of our spiritual success. It takes some spiritual maturity to accept (with joy) that our “wonderful” life will be focused on the Kingdom of God and that all of our abilities will be developed and used and our dreams fulfilled in the battle for the human heart.
  2. Yes, spiritual success is rooted in Christian maturity since walking in the Spirit is key to having the power and the help of the Holy Spirit to fulfill our purpose and express our identity in Christ. Spiritual success is a consequence of Christian maturity.
  3. Yes, spiritual success includes, but is not limited to, financial success and prosperity. The word “prosperity” is usually associated with a type of lifestyle. Mother Teresa was a spiritually successful person even though you would not normally associate the word “prosperity” with her or her mission in life to work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India.
  4. Yes, spiritual success is something to be desired, sought after, pursued as a natural outcome of our walk with God. Why do so many Christians live in spiritual drift, without ambition for the things of God? Either because they are worried that ambition will drive them away from God or because they are unable to reconcile their worldly ambitions with their walk with God. A pox on both your houses. Spiritual ambition is expected and needed so long as it is ambition focused on the things of God and, at the same time, fulfills your deepest longings and desires for this life. Those two things are not mutually exclusive but, rather, wonderfully inclusive.
  5. Yes, spiritual success is a reflection of holiness. It is becoming “fully alive” in Christ (which is the ONLY way to become fully alive, self-actualized, developing all of your potential). That is why this discussion is part of the Holiness Project.

Here they are again – The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success (for Christians)

  1. Life is Ministry
  2. Everything is Spiritual
  3. Ambition is Expected
  4. Discipline is Essential
  5. Discipleship is Warfare
  6. Stewardship is Simplicity
  7. Leadership is Influence

Now I think we are ready to move on and talk about the truth that “Life is Ministry.” Until next time.

The Desert Warrior

Lord, I don’t want any success other than what is success in your eyes. I suspect that your wonderful plan for my life will make me grow and become a unique type of person that will have great power and ability to accomplish meaningful things. I give up all of my small ambitions to make this one thing the hallmark of my life – to please You. That focus on you will always steer me right. Thank you, Lord. Amen.