A friend wrote and asked me to respond to the following quote:
“You can not grow spiritually healthy until your are emotionally healthy. Emotional maturity is necessary for spiritual growth”
Wow! What a burden that places on us to get emotionally healthy, and what a hindrance for the Holy Spirit. This statement is very similar to the statement that was made to a bunch of single friends back in the 1990s: “You will never be married until you are spiritually mature!” Glad we have that going for us. Now that I’m married, I MUST be spiritually mature!
I had to speak to my friend to find out more about the quote before I gave any comment to it. Apparently the pastors of this church are preaching through a book that makes this claim on Sunday mornings. Notice, I said that they are “preaching through a book?” Please notice, they are not preaching from a book in the Bible, but some popular book out there that is supposed to help us become holistically healthy, so that we may go out into the culture and reach people for Jesus Christ.
This type of stuff always sounds great on the surface. “Let’s get you healed up and complete so that you can be used by God, people will see you for being complete and whole and want to come to know Christ too!” The problem with this mindset is that it is contrary to the gospel itself and makes evangelism/spiritual maturity, growth in Christ, all dependent upon us. It is very much like the statement from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always. Use words when necessary.”
This isn’t the gospel at all, but humanism with a gospel dress. It’s an attempt to make those feel like they are in control of their emotions, the gospel, the kingdom, their own spiritual growth. This fails on several levels.
First, please notice that the Apostle Paul never called us to become more Christ-like so that we could preach the gospel, even using words at times. He said just the opposite: 2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
Paul wasn’t preaching himself, but Christ alone. This is the call of the church when it comes to reaching the world. We are not to preach ourselves, or put ourselves on display or even talk about how much we have benefited from being saved. We are to preach Christ. We are to tell of His death and resurrection. We are to point others to the gospel for salvation, not us, or a particular church. It is the gospel that saves, not our conformity to some holistic ministry model.
Secondly, the above quote and assertion assumes that emotional health is something under our control and precedes spiritual maturity. Emotional health may result as we grow in Christ, but it may not. That is not the goal of the gospel and sometimes the LORD leaves a thorn or two in our flesh to keep us dependent upon Him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Some people may always be emotional wrecks, yet, God may use such to help them grow spiritually.
Third, the problem with the quote is that it seems devoid of Christ’s work in our lives through the washing of the water and the word (Ephesians 5:25-26). It is Christ who cleanses us with His word and His Spirit. We don’t mature because we do something or don’t do something, we mature spiritually because He causes the growth and cleanses us and heals us. We are dependent upon Him for spiritual growth.
Now, we may aid in that growth. Just as a child will grow whether we feed him M&M’s and candy bars, or chicken soup and veggies, the child will grow. The question is: will the child be more healthy using a healthy diet, or using candy? Since we know healthy eating helps our children grow in a healthy manner, so too does eating spiritually healthy food aid us in our spiritual lives.
What is spiritual food? The preaching and teaching of God’s word. This is the spiritual food that Jesus commanded Peter to give to His sheep (John 21). If we want to be healthy spiritually speaking and grow spiritually speaking, we must seek out those things that help us grow in that manner: His word, the preached word of God, the sacraments of baptism and communion, prayer and corporate worship.
Isn’t it ironic that the above church that brought all this about is trying to grow their people spiritually but isn’t using the very means that God has given them to do so? Sad. The pastors of this church should truly repent of such foolishness. They are turning to man’s wisdom in order to grow God’s people, yet God has told us to preach Christ crucified in order to do so. Shame on them.
For more on spiritual growth, I commend the chapter on Growth in J.C. Ryle’s book: Holiness. Go here to read it.
Also, if you have a question for me, email me at askpastortimothy at Gmail dot com. That is in code, so I hope you can figure it out. I wrote it that way so some bot doesn’t discover it and spam me.