In today’s individualistic society, we can easily go to church each week flitting in and out of the sanctuary not speaking to anyone. This prevents us from being fully known by others in the church. This, paired with unconfessed sin, eventually creates a deep longing in our souls that can only be repaired by God. But how do we know if we or someone else is doing well in their spiritual walk? Here are 10 early indicators that, when gone unchecked, can lead to deeper spiritual problems later:
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“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
One of the biggest downfalls in a Christian’s life is the sin of pride. When pride goes unchecked and takes root in someone’s heart, it creates a wall between themselves and God. It starts out small—not confessing sin, denying any wrongdoing, or refusing to forgive. A healthy Christian analyzes his/her heart on a regular basis. But when he/she fails to do the emotional and spiritual work needed to maintain their health, pride can creep in quickly.
Just like we care for our bodies with exercise and good nutrition, we should also care for our hearts. Asking the Holy Spirit for His revelation, He can point out the areas where we are spiritually out of shape. Through humility and asking God for His forgiveness, we can maintain our spiritual health.
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2. Going through the Motions of Faith
When I became a Christian at the age of 18, I woke up early to attend church, served wherever there was a need, and enlisted the help of mature Christians so I could grow in my spiritual walk.
As the years went by however, and the disappointments of unanswered prayers, along with the hurt and betrayal of Christians letting me down, my spiritual zeal started to wane. Before I knew it, I dreaded attending church, refused to serve, and isolated myself from other Christians.
It is normal during a Christian’s life to experience “dry” times or times when it seems like God is silent. But a prolonged disconnection with God can cause someone to do a lot of things for God without experiencing a vibrant relationship with God. This can allow Satan to place lies and doubts in someone’s mind, causing them to walk away from God.
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3. A Religious Spirit
The spirit of religion is difficult to detect but can wreak havoc in our lives if not dealt with directly. If we find ourselves tearing others down, judging others by outward appearance, or becoming jealous of other’s blessings, we may be living in the wrong kind of spirit.
Criticism and gossip can also result from a religious spirit. This can lead to a disjointed works-based relationship where we compare ourselves to others and keep scores on our spiritual accomplishments instead of doing them out of a grace-based and obedient relationship with Christ.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14)
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4. False Idols
Anything that we are doing that places something else at the center of our lives before God is an idol. There are obvious idols like addictions, but there are also many good things in life that we can also turn into an idol. Relationships, money, work, or fitness can also be idols if not put in a proper place in our lives. This is where a strong community of other brothers and sisters in Christ comes in handy. Mature Christians can acknowledge an idol for what it is and help us rid ourselves of it, replacing with God as the rightful center of our hearts.
"Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry." (1 Corinthians 10:14)
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5. Neglecting Spiritual Disciplines
When the business of life takes over, it’s easy to neglect prayer and reading the Word. The longer we don’t put in the work required to cultivate our relationship with God, the easier it is to get out of the habit. Soon we will stop participating altogether, which is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
Reading the Word and praying is the best way to keep our lines of spiritual communication open. Think about this in terms of our earthly relationships. How healthy would your marriage be if you only spoke to each other once a month? What if you never listened what your spouse had to say? Lack of a communication in a marriage is the quickest way to end up in divorce court. God never leaves us or forsakes us, but our relationship with him will suffer if we don’t talk to him regularly.
“And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2)
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6. Lack of Church Attendence
It’s normal to miss a couple of Sundays due to a vacation or illness. But like any habit, the less you attend church the less likely you’re to continue the relationship in the future. Church attendance is not just a ritual, but rather an opportunity to use your spiritual gifts and to connect with others in fellowship. Regular attendance to a local church makes it feel like a family, a place you can lean on during the tough times as well as a place to share your triumphs. A reluctance to attend church regularly is a symptom of a much deeper problem. Lack of church attendance is an outward sign of an inward heart issue.
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7. Falling Out of Community (And Keeping Our Sins a Secret)
Community meets our needs for fellowship and connection with others, but community also affords us accountability when we are in sin. When we choose to keep sin to ourselves, we give Satan the opportunity to bind us with our sin. If we confess our sins to others, we allow them to use their gifts of wisdom on how to help us apply God’s Word to our lives as well as allow us to live in the light as God directs us to do.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
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8. Lack of Zeal for Reaching the Lost
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
When we are on fire for God we can’t help but tell others about Him. We hope they get to know Him like we know Him. But when we are going to the motions of faith, we stop caring about whether others coming to know Him. Soon we won’t be able to remember the last time we share the gospel with a nonbeliever. When we achieve the intimacy we desire with God, we will want to share that relationship with others.
Examine yourself for minute: When is the last time you shared Jesus with someone? What prevents you from sharing about Him regularly? Fear? Rejection? Something else? Identify what inhibits you and repent so God can use you to reach the lost.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)
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9. Believing Satan's Lies
Satan is the father of lies and he is subtle when it comes to His deception. We often don’t know we are believing a lie until it is too late. But we know from Scripture that negative self-talk, repeating statements like, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not worthy of love,” or “I’m stupid,” is the opposite of the way God sees us. This forces us to take out eyes off of our loving father and onto Satan, which is his ultimate goal.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (Jeremiah 31:3)
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10. Serving with Wrong Motives
When our identity is not rooted Jesus, we don’t live in the reality that God blesses unconditionally, and we serve to gain others’ approval and love. We serve to get a pat on the back or a word of appreciation, which are things we should be getting from our relationship with God and the promises found in His Word. We must serve out of our love for God, not to get love from others.
We can look the part of a Christian, saying and doing all the things the world expects from us. But God knows our innermost heart. We can’t fool him. If God is speaking to your heart about any of the above elements, seek help from your local church, your pastor, or another trusted leader. They can not only help you rid yourself of these symptoms but also point you to God, who can heal your heart, so it doesn’t become permanently damaged from the issues that sin causes.
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Originally published Tuesday, 11 December 2018.