If you have not read the previous post, please do so. It presents some crucial questions that we must ask ourselves if we are serious about following Jesus. It also gives us some indicators to help us know if we are, or are not, living a spiritual and Spirit-filled life.
Having been born of the Spirit does not guarantee that you will live a spiritual and Spirit-filled daily life. It is hard to deny that this statement is true based upon the word of God and our own experience. Yet some believe otherwise. They basically think that if you are genuinely saved, you will live a spiritual and Spirit-filled life, and that if you are not living a spiritual and Spirit-filled life, you are probably not even saved. Once again, I would say that both the Bible and our own experience indicate otherwise.
This matter has caused much confusion to many dear believers in Christ, and Satan has taken advantage of this confusion to hinder and stumble their walk with the Lord. What must be understood is that the Christian life basically consists of a birth, growth, and maturity. It is likened to a race with its start, course, and finish. The birth is the start, the growth is the course, and the maturity is the finish. If you are not growing well, it doesn't mean that you haven't been born. If you are not running well, it doesn't mean that you have not started the race. Being born does not guarantee that you will grow well and mature. Starting a race does not guarantee that you will run well and finish.
The Bible gives many examples and teachings to clarify and substantiate this understanding:
Note: So as to avoid unnecessary debate, I will not include the parables of Jesus at this time, which I believe give clear illustrations of this truth, and will go to the more direct examples and teachings in the epistles.
First Corinthians 1:2-7, 11; 3:1-3
Paul was writing to the church of God in Corinth, to those who had been sanctified in Christ Jesus, to the saints who in everything had been enriched in Christ and had confirmed the testimony of the Lord. Yet, he was not able to speak to them as to spiritual men. They were still fleshy infants in Christ who were not able to receive solid food and were fleshly as indicated by the jealousy and strife among them. Having been begotten as children of God, they were lacking in proper growth.
First Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul spoke of himself as one who was running a race to receive the prize of an incorruptible crown. He was aware of the possibility of becoming disapproved or disqualified if he did not continue to run well. He exhorted the saints to do the same.
Paul addressed the Galatians as those who had begun their Christ life by receiving the Spirit by faith. His concern was now with their wrong understanding of how to be perfected. Perfection is related to growth and maturity and is to be accomplished not by the works of law through the efforts of the flesh, but by the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 5:1, 4, 7
Speaking to those who had been set free from the law by Christ, Paul realized they had fallen away from this grace and were no longer running well. Having begun the race by the Spirit by faith, they were now attempting to run according to the works of the law. Paul was laboring to set them back on a proper course.
Ephesians 1:1; 5:15-18
Writing to the saints in Ephesus, Paul did not charge them to be born of the Spirit, but to be filled with the Spirit. Being born of the Spirit is our initial entrance into the kingdom of God. Being filled with the Spirit is for our daily walk as children of God.
There is the initial salvation of those who are born of the Spirit through faith in Christ. There is then the working out of a further salvation with fear and trembling according to God's operation in those who are now growing unto maturity.
Paul himself, as one who had obviously been born of the Spirit and had entered the race of the Christian life, was now pursuing toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus his Lord. He clearly recognized that he had not yet obtained the prize or been perfected, so he strongly pursued that he might attain the goal of the Christian life. As such, he should be an example and warning to us all.
Colossians 2:8, 18
Here Paul warns the saints to be careful not to let others carry them off as spoil or cheat them of their prize by wrong and deceptive philosophies and teachings. Satan has many tactics to hinder the growth of the saints and frustrate them in the running of the race. We must be aware of his strategies and know how to fight against them.
In order to keep this lesson from getting too long, I will continue and finish it in my next posting. Grow to maturity! Run to the finish! Grace be with you all.
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