Wednesday, May 8, 2024

14 Stages of the Pilgrimage Journey of the Christian

Growing up my mother’s favorite New Year’s Eve tradition was to start and finish a puzzle. The puzzles were big and difficult. We would race against the clock, trying to complete it by midnight. Even though we were all working together, the puzzle would take hours to finish.

We watched the clock turning as we fought against time to get done before midnight. The picture would slowly take form, from appearing as nothing more than a random assortment of colors, to slowly resembling something detailed and real. 

As the clock approached midnight, sometimes we wouldn't get done until minutes before midnight, and we'd all celebrate, and gaze at the beautiful picture that the puzzle created. We couldn't see it at first, but we kept working diligently, and finally near midnight, we saw how it all fit together. 

Similarly, we as Christians slowly study the word of God, the parables of Jesus, the Old Testament heroes, the proverbs, the psalms, the prophets, the four gospels, the I am statements of Jesus, the teachings of the Apostle Paul, Peter, John, and others, and we find ourselves with all sorts of puzzle pieces. 

Over the years we begin to sort these puzzle pieces and bring them together, one by one, and more and more, we begin to see a big picture of how Christianity actually works. 

Over the last three months we’ve gone through a series called "Shapes of Faith" and we’ve looked at different scriptures in a visual format. We’ve learned a lot about the journey of life for a Christian, but now we’re going to put it all together.

We’re going to piece together the different pictures we created into a depiction of the Christian life from the moment we first find salvation in Jesus, to the moment we pass into the next life.

1. The Gray Fish

We start off at the gray fish, unsaved, and headed in the wrong direction.

But at some point in our lives we came to saving faith in Jesus Christ and we repented, we changed directions and began moving in the a new direction.

2. The Blue Fish

This began life in the Spirit, which we talked about from Romans 8:9-11, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

3. Square Shape

This led us into the square shape, where we as Christians come to be taught in the truth (Ephesians 4:21). We find fellowship with other Christians in faithful churches, we’re taught the truth, and in so doing we learn to put on the new self, and put off the old self.

4. Triangle Shape

As we grow and learn we become more and more in tune with the Holy Spirit within, and we grow into the peace of Christ which guards our hearts and minds.

We change our thought life and make allowance for each other’s faults. We practice self-examination, and in all this we become ambassadors for Christ in the world, spreading the gospel for Him.

5. The Two Towers

As we continue our journey with Christ, we really learn that it’s about sowing. If we sow to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life through the Spirit, if we sow to the flesh, we will reap destruction from the flesh.

If we plant seeds that build a holy life, we’ll walk the path of life, if we plant seeds of sin, we’ll reap disaster.

6. The House Built Up in Fullness

As we grow in Christ more and more, we eventually reach a point where we come into spiritual maturity. We’ve grown into maturity. And we become more and more conformed in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

As it says in Ephesians 4:13, “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”

This is the way of unveiling perfect love.

7. The Heart

So, in maturity in Christ, we come to a place where we can say, "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast."

We’ve seen God clear away negative things from our hearts and make our hearts truly pure and full of the love of God.

The whole process of being led by the Spirit, crucifying the flesh, resisting the flesh, practicing faithful behavior, was all for the purpose of developing a heart of love.

As it says in 1st Cor 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

8. The Road

Yet we know this Christian life is a lifelong journey, a journey down a long road from Earth towards heaven.

As we travel the road, we know we must forget the past, and press on toward the goal, knowing that already today we are citizens of heaven, and we are on a pilgrimage through this world, toward the next.

We set aside everything else and press on toward the goal.

As it says in Philippians 3, verses 8-11, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

And we know the enemy is gunning for us on the journey, so we always remember to put on the armor of God.

9. Star of David

We learned to put on the armor of God daily in our pilgrimage journey toward heaven. We know we have an adversary who is seeking to harm us. But God is with us, and protects us, as we wear His armor.

And as we apply the armor each day, with faith, hope, peace, and discernment, we find ourselves in a spiritual place of readiness called “Strong in the Lord.”

10. The Eagle
We know though, that in the battles of life, the difficulties and problems we face, we go through cycles with the Lord, where we begin to lose hope, and grow weary. Then we start to clutch the branch, and we sometimes forget how to fly. But God comes in those times where we’ve given up and lost hope. He restores our hope, heals us, and helps us to hope again. Then he brings us up and teaches us to soar on the winds again. This cycle occurs many times in life. It’s a process of molding and shaping us as His beloved children.

11. The Butterflies

As we go through the trials and tribulations of life, the low spots and pains, God brings us through transformations in the Christian life.

We learn to surrender to God and His will, we learn to find liberty from sins, we learn humility, we learn spiritual warfare, and we experience encounters with God, mountaintop experiences, and in all this we learn death to self, to really allow God to reign in us.

As it says in 2nd Cor 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

12. Body of Christ

As we grow and learn and develop, we find our place in the body of Christ as a servant, using our spiritual gifts to bless each other, build each other up, and spread the gospel to the unsaved.

We learn that we’re part of a large whole, and that we have a part to play. We learn to use our gifts, we learn to serve, to give, to encourage one another, to show mercy, to prophesy, and to teach.

13. The Hour-Glass

But as the years go by and we get closer to heaven, more and more we begin to focus our attention on heaven. We long to be united with Christ. We long to be with Him in heaven. We long to be free from the flesh.

2nd Cor 5:1-3 says “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.”

We long for heaven, we long to have our new clothing, the clothing of heaven. We long to no longer be in the flesh, because we fear being found unfaithful, so we long for the time when Jesus returns, so we may be found faithful.

We’re tired of battling the flesh. We’re tired of the struggles of life. More and more we long for the heavenly dwelling.

14. The Sun

Yet always shining above us is the sun in our sky, our great hope, of the return of Jesus Christ, when all things will be made right. We long for that moment. We cry out for that moment. We dream of that moment.

We know Jesus our savior lived a perfect life, that he died a substitutionary death for us on the cross, and that he rose from the grave and is alive right now!

We know Jesus Christ will return to reign on the earth. We know that we must be awake and sober watching for the return of Jesus.

We know that the dead in Christ will rise again from the dead and live forever with Him. We know God will judge the living and the dead, when Jesus returns.

What an amazing adventure! Are you on the journey? What stage are you at? Which area do you need to focus in on? Spend some time in prayer and ask God to speak to you about which phase of the journey you're currently in. 

Let’s Review our Main Points today:

1. The Gray Fish – We lived in the realm of the flesh, until we came into a crisis moment when we encountered the gospel of Jesus Christ (lostness)

2. The Blue Fish - Once we move from the flesh to the Spirit through the salvation in Jesus Christ, we begin a journey of being led by the Spirit of Christ (salvation)

3. The Square – We’ve been taught in the truth and the truth changes us (sanctification)

4. The Triangle – As we grow we become ambassadors for Christ (representatives of God’s kingdom)

5. The Tower Towers – As we sow to the Spirit more and more we reap spiritual growth, but the flesh attempts to pull us back (Fruits of the Spirit develop)

6. The House – the five fold ministry helps build us up into the fullness of Jesus Christ (We find spiritual maturity)

7. The Heart – spiritual maturity manifests as total change in our hearts (We learn to really love people from a pure heart)

8. The Road – we travel day by day through this life pressing on toward the goal (we travel the pilgrim road as citizens of heaven)

9. Star of David – the enemy attacks us on the way, so we put on the armor of God (we learn faithful mindset for spiritual battles)

10. The Eagle – when we face weariness, we wait on God and God restores our hope and causes us to soar (we learn to persevere through dark times)

11. The Butterfly – in our Christian life we experience different transformations, where God changes us through sanctification (Spiritual growth continues from glory to glory)

12. Body of Christ – we serve in the body of Christ as part of a larger whole (We learn to be part of a larger mission and use the gifts God gave us)

13. The Hour Glass – as we travel through this world we long for heaven (Our focus becomes more and more on heaven in this world)

14. The Sun – the final victory comes when Jesus Christ returns to Earth (Our Salvation is made manifest in the return of Jesus)