6.4 Spiritual growth in the kingdom of God
Christians in reality do not either comprise a single, homogeneous group.
Crucial differences exist among them:
- With the term, "fleshly Christians", the Bible refers to self centered "wilderness Christians." These are spiritual babies who have stopped growing, and live in divisive factions.
Unfortunately, they seldom realize their sin, but continue to quarrel over questions of doctrine, while boasting in their leaders and in their brand of right doctrine. The congregation in Corinth was a typical example of this group. (I Cor.3:1-9). The more extreme examples are usually called "sects".
- Spiritual Christians, on the other hand, are healthy Christians who grow up from being healthy spiritual children to adolescents, and finally to spiritual parents. (I John 2:14-17)
- The more spiritually mature we become, the less we are ruled by our "flesh", and the more we can walk in love toward others. Stephen became so fully mature and Christlike that he could forgive and pray for the ones who stoned him to death. (Acts 7:54-60)
A complementary way to look at this picture is to ask oneself, how completely the three groups have learned to fulfill the three commandments of love.
Ultimately, this illustration intends to demonstrate that the risk for backsliding and spiritual death is of course greatest among the fleshly Christians, since these can be considered to be spiritually sick from their selfishness.
These three commandments of love are:
All sound spiritual growth begins with restoring our love relationship to God, our heavenly Father, as stated in the first commandment. Following this, the Holy Spirit inspires us with his love, directed towards our spiritual brothers and sisters. It is a powerful experience to see when love begins to bind us together across church- and faith boundaries.
- Towards God: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
- Towards the brethren: Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
- Towards our neighbors: "Love your neighbor as yourself". Jesus sharpened this commandment by declaring, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you".
No other religion has such a lofty goal!!!
The end goal, however, is to become so mature that we
can also, "love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us". Stephen, as already mentioned, was the first to pass this test, and he was received up into an open heaven.
Imagine then if the greatest overcomers in the history of the world are, in a similar manner, able to arise right in the middle of the persecutions of the Antichrist, before the rapture of the Bride occurs. Then the great tribulation will not be meaningless. (See also illustration 5.7)
As an outcome, the Bride will win a triumphant ultimate victory in her final battle against the Devil.