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Spiritual Growth & Maturity in Christ – Part 1

without spiritual re-birth from above
there is no New Life in Christ

 

In the midst of much discussion on religious issues, and much debate on the variety of expressions of the Christian world of faith, it is very easy to get lost in an ocean of concepts and opinions related to “God”, “faith”, “religious commandments and feasts”, “which doctrines are right and which practices are wrong”, “which days of the week, or, the year, are special days for religious practices and traditions”, “who is a true believer versus who is nominal”, and much more along the same lines of comparison among the man-made religions of this world, and, peoples’ individual perceptions of “God”, concerning who He is and what He expects of us.

In the whirlwind of discussions and debates, books, articles, websites as well as frequent hostilities among different “camps of faith”, a simple person who seeks the truth about God and wants to know more about the “Supreme Being” who created the Universe, can be so overwhelmed as to miss one simple fact…

… that no man can know anything about God, except God reveal Himself to that person…

… and that cannot happen through actions of religion but through personal relationship!

The following story is both revealing, and the entry point to a personal relationship with God – and this is not one of the many opinions about how things work – it is the common denominator/experience among the millions of Christians who share the experience of having a personal relationship with God, after they/we have become born-from-above by God’s Spirit, as it is also written in this historical account.

John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born-from-above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The expression born-from-above is also commonly known as “born again”. However, the original text speaks about “genesis anothen” (Hellenic words written in Latin letters) which is literally translated as “birth-from-above”.

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, no man can see God’s Kingdom unless there is a spiritual re-birth from above, which gives to mortal human beings the spiritual capacity to “see” (in) the spirit realm. That speaks of the eyes of a man’s “heart”, which is symbolic of a man’s spirit.

So, when the Spirit of God enters into a human heart/spirit, it (actually, He – because the Spirit of God is a person) empowers this human being to connect and communicate with the Kingdom of God, which is in the invisible, spiritual dimension.

This “birth-from-above” by God’s Spirit is also called “spiritual rebirth” or “spiritual regeneration” and cannot happen by man’s capacity or any religious activity. Spiritual rebirth can only happen by God’s sovereign will and supernatural activity which cannot be solicited by any man.

However, having said that, God has promised that we, humans, are actually invited to ask for it, and He has promised to always respond positively! In fact, He has made it so easy for us, that all we need do is accept the free gift of salvation that God has offered to mankind.

When we accept and welcome God’s gift, then He responds by saving us from the grip of Death and giving us New Life from above by sending us His Spirit to dwell in us.

This free gift of salvation and New Life is guaranteed to be granted by God to any human being who will receive God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. 

Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 

There have been real life stories of children who were born to Christian parents, and were part of Church life since they were babies. They later attended Christian Schools and grew up to be faithful Church-going Christians – some of them proceeded to become missionaries; some even went to Seminaries and Bible Colleges and some became Pastors…

All that is good (I think), except… some of these real life stories have proven that NOT EVERYONE of those good Christian folks ever gave their heart to the Lord – some of them never became born-from-above!

That sad reality is even more profound among the non-Evangelical circles of traditional, liturgical Christian organisations, such as the “Roman Catholic”, the “Lutheran”, the “Greek Orthodox”. So many among the ordained priests and top leaders have never become born-from-above by the Lord’s Spirit…

All of these people may be good people, may be good priests, may be very knowledgeable in regards to religious affairs… but they still CANNOT SEE God’s Kingdom! And… they still do not have New Life in them.

How do we know if a person has experienced spiritual re-birth from above? The answer is there are certain outward manifestations which are evidence:

-> if he/she has the Holy Spirit

-> if he/she displays overtime the change of character that reveals the inner working of transformation which is the result of sanctification

-> if he/she has a living relationship with the Lord which becomes manifest through gradual spiritual growth leading to maturity in Christ

Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head –Christ–

16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;

19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,

23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. 

These words of Apostle Paul reveal everything that we need to know on the subject of this article.

He speaks about the blindness of heart of those who are alienated from the Life of God.

He speaks about the Spirit of God who seals those who have received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

He speaks about the process of growing up in all things in Christ who is the Head.

He also speaks about the need for Christians to manifest the character of Christ in practical terms by how they/we live their/our lives – not according to the “old man who grows corrupt” but according to the “new man who was created according to God”.

Finally, Paul explains that in order to put off the old conduct in order to put on a Christ-like character, there is a need to “be renewed in the spirit of our mind” (without which there will be no spiritual growth and no maturing process).

-> To be continued next week
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