TOWARD SPIRITUAL MATURITY AND PERFECTION

Some believe that, after they are baptized and receive the  spirit of God, they are not required to expend any further effort  to obtain salvation. However, baptism by water and the holy spirit are only the first  steps toward becoming an immortal being in the Family  of God. From these first steps, a newly converted person  must begin to  fulfill the purpose and responsibilities for which they  have been called.

Created for a Purpose

"For  we  are his workmanship, created in Christ  Jesus  to  good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:10 KJV).

The Father and Christ want to have a  relationship with the children of God that is characterized by intense personal interaction. A  child of God is not only called to participate in the Family of God but also to perform a work that will  result in others being granted sonship in the Family of God.

Major Responsibilities

There  are four basic reasons why God calls people  to  salvation during this age:

1. To grow in grace and knowledge and to learn and  perfect  the ways of God in their lives, so that they will be able to  fulfill  the purpose for which they were called. See 2.Pet.3:18.

2. To preach the good news of the soon coming Kingdom of God:

"And  this  gospel of the kingdom shall be preached  in  all  the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end  come" (Matt.24:14 KJV).

3. To preach the message of repentance:

"Go  you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in  the name  of  the  Father, and of the Son, and of  the  holy  spirit: Teaching   them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you . . ." (Matt.28:19-20 KJV).

4. To prepare a people to help Jesus Christ rule the world:

"And has made us to our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on  the  earth" (Rev.5:10 KJV). See also  1.Thes.3:13;  Rev.3:21; 20:4-6.

In  order  to fulfill these responsibilities, each child  of  God must  grow in grace and knowledge toward spiritual  maturity  and perfection.  Those in the first resurrection are to be the  examples, leaders,  and teachers of the way of God for the rest of humanity  who  have never  had an opportunity for salvation.

After Conversion

After  repentance, baptism, and receiving the holy spirit,  there must be  a process of growing toward spiritual  maturity  and perfection, which is referred to in the scriptures as "overcoming". This process of overcoming is a lifelong endeavor that includes learning  about  God  the Father and Jesus Christ, making  correct decisions, and living a righteous life to the best of one's ability.  As  a  part of this process, people  find  themselves  going through varying degrees of trials and tests. See Rom.12:21; 1.Jn.5:4; Rev.3:5.

Sons of God

A child of God should always remember that they are very different from  other humans. A child of God is actually a son of God, a  member  of the divine and holy Family of God, and a being that did not exist in the physical or spiritual dimensions prior to Jesus. When God's  spirit enters a person, that person actually becomes a new and different creature and a member of the Family of God.   See 2.Cor.5:17; Gal.6:15; Eph.2:10; Col.3:7-10; Jms.1:18.

Not of This World

"If  the  world hates you, you know that it hated  me  before  it hated  you.  If you were of the world, the world would  love  its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,  for this reason the world  hates  you"  (Jn.15:18-19 Para). See 1.Cor.5:9-11; 10:20-21; Eph.5:1-11; Rev.18:3-4.

Accountability

"But  why do you judge your brother? Or why do you  also  despise your  brother?  For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it has been written, I live, says the Lord, that every  knee will bow to me, and every tongue confess to God. So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God"  (Rom.14:10-12 KJV Para.).

Everyone  who has been given an opportunity for salvation  during this age must give an account for what they have done with  this opportunity:

"For  we all must appear before the judgment seat of  Christ,  so that each one may receive the things done in his body,  according to what we did, whether good or bad" (2.Cor.5:10 Para.).

BECOME PERFECT

God the Father and Jesus Christ are righteous and  perfect; therefore, those who are called to become a part  of their family must also become perfect.

Jesus knew that everyone would someday come before  the judgment  seat of the Father, and because nothing  unrighteous can come  into God's presence and live, he admonished those  who would follow him to seek spiritual maturity and perfection.

"Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"  (Matt.5:48 KJV).

The  English word 'perfect' is translated from the Greek word 'teleious', which means 'whole' or 'undivided'. Thus,  our effort  and conduct toward being righteous before God should  be whole and undivided.

Some  might  believe that they could never  be  perfect;  however, Jesus  Christ  says, "Be perfect." Jesus would never ask  us  to perform something that was impossible. Therefore, it is  possible for us to become perfect.

While  speaking   to the Hebrews about the trials and  tests  of life, the writer reminds them of how difficult it was to   obtain salvation  under the old agreement and the ease with  which  one may obtain salvation under the new agreement.

"But  you  have drawn near to Mount Zion, even the  city  of  the living  God, to a heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads  of  angels, and  to an assembly, a church of the firstborn ones having been enrolled  in  heaven;  and to God the judge of all;  and  to  the spirits  of just ones who have been perfected, and to  Jesus  the Mediator  of  the new agreement, and to the blood  of  sprinkling speaking  better  things  than that of  Abel"  (Heb.12:22-24).

Yes,  we can become spiritually mature and perfect.  Others  have done  it  and so can we, if we use the powerful  spiritual  tools that  God  the  Father has made available  to  us  through  Jesus Christ. When  we have accomplished what God has given us  to  do with  our lives through overcoming evil with good and becoming  totally subject to his will, we will have reached spiritual maturity  and perfection.

Progress Requires Change

In order to begin to accomplish spiritual maturity and perfection there  are a number of things a person must change or  eliminate as a part of their attitude, behavior, thoughts, and character. Paul spoke of this process of change as putting off the  old man  and putting on the new. Notice what he says to the elect  at Ephesus and Colosse about living as a son of God in the flesh:

"If truly you heard him, and were taught in him, as the truth  is in  Jesus; for you to put off the old man, as regards the  former behavior, having been corrupted according to the deceitful lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and to have put  on the  new man which according to God was created in  righteousness and true holiness" (Eph.4:21-24 Para.). Also read verses  25-32.

Colossians 3:1-10 Paraphrased

"If  then  you were raised with Christ, seek  the  things  above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; mind the things above,  not the things on the earth, for you died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. Whenever Christ our life  is revealed,  then  also  you will be revealed in  glory  with  him" (vs.1-4).

Again, we see that the  former life, which was  under the law  of death, is gone forever after one receives the holy spirit.  Moreover,  after receiving the holy spirit, we should focus our  lives on seeking heavenly things instead of earthly things:

"Then put to death your members which are on the earth;  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil lust, and covetousness, which is idolatry;  on account of which things the wrath of God is coming on  the sons of disobedience; among whom you also walked  at  one time, when you were living in these. But now, also put off these things:  wrath, anger, malice, evil speaking, shameful words  out of your mouth" (vs.5-8). See also Rom.8:12-13.

In  order  to obtain the spiritual power and glory that  God  the Father  and Jesus Christ want us to have, we must make a  serious commitment  and effort to put away our former  evil  behavior and replace  it  with God's righteous standards. The way to accomplish this type of commitment and behavioral  change  is through  using the power of the holy spirit that resides  within us.

"Do not lie to one another, having put off the old self with  his practices, and having put on the new, having been renewed in full knowledge according to the image of the one creating him"  (vs.9-10).

BECOME A LIVING SACRIFICE

In  speaking to the elect in Rome, Paul uses the example  of  the sacrifices  to illustrate the kind of life a child of God  should lead:

"I  beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,  that you  present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable  to God,  which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed  to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your  mind, that  you may prove what is that good, and acceptable,  and  perfect, will of God" (Rom.12:1-2 KJV).

Under the sacrificial system, all sacrifices were to be as  physically perfect as possible, and only those that conformed to God's standards of perfection were acceptable to him. See Lev.22:20-24; Deut.15:19-21.

In order to live the kind of sacrificial life that Paul was inspired to speak about, a person cannot continue to conform to  this  world's standards. One must continually seek to conform to God's standards  of righteousness by overcoming the pulls of the  flesh  and the daily challenges that would damage one's spiritual character.

Be Transformed

The  English  word 'transformed' used in Romans 12:2 is translated from the  Greek 'metamorphoo', and means 'to undergo change (i.e., a  metamorphosis)'.

Humans  were  designed by God for such a  transformation  from  a lower  life-form  (Heb.2:5-8) to a higher  life-form  through  a process  of  metamorphosis (i.e., change). There are  four  major stages to this metamorphosis:

1. The  human egg is fertilized and God  forms  the  human spirit within it. See Job 31:14-15; Zech.12:1.

2. The  human is born and lives a physical life until  God  the Father presents the opportunity for salvation.

3. The human accepts God's call to salvation and becomes a son of God at the very moment that the holy spirit merges with the human spirit. See Acts 2:38; 3:19.

4. The  son of God grows toward spiritual maturity  until  being changed into an immortal spirit-being. See 1.Cor.15:51-54.

A truly  converted person is in a stage of  change  throughout their  entire  life until their final change to  immortality.  Once  a person  is  called and converted into the  New  Creation,  change toward spiritual  maturity and perfection must  be  an  ongoing process. See Eph.4:11-13; Heb.6:1-8; 12:23; Rev.3:5.

SIN NO MORE

One  major aspect of being a living sacrifice is  the  elimination of sin  from one's life. Paul reminds the elect at Rome  that, because they had accepted God's way of life and were dead to past  sins, they were to cease practicing sin:

"What  shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin,  that  grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin,  live any  longer  therein? Know you not, that as many of us  as  were baptized  into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore  we  are buried with him by baptism to death: that  like  as Christ  was raised up from the dead by the glory of  the  Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom.6:1-4 KJV).

Because the old self died and was buried in the baptismal  waters, the new person should begin to live as what they are: a son  of God seeking to do God's will in their life:

"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you  are  slaves to sin, which leads to death, or  to obedience, which  leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that,  though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the  form of  teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set  free from  sin and have become slaves to  righteousness"  (Rom.6:16-18 NIV).

Notice  what the apostle John said about overcoming the old  self after becoming a son of God:

"The  person who has been born into God's family does not make  a practice  of  sinning, because now God's life is in  him;  so  he can't  keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into  him and controls him—he has been born again" (1.Jn.3:9 LBP).  See also 1.Jn.5:18.

Although the above is not an exact translation, the Living  Bible Paraphrased clarifies what John was trying to convey about overcoming the old self with the power of the holy spirit.

WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION

Understanding  how  difficult the battle for the mastery  of  the mind  and  body  is, the apostle Paul encouraged  the  Church  at Philippi to be earnest and sincere in working toward salvation:  

"Wherefore,  my  beloved, as you have always obeyed,  not  as  in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out  your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in  you both to will and to do his good pleasure"   (Phil.2:12-13 KJV). See also Gal.6:3-10.

The  way to salvation is a growth process that requires  an  ongoing  effort in order to receive immortality and  eternal  life. God  the Father gives the opportunity for salvation, but  it  is the responsibility of each individual to make an ongoing  effort to  develop spiritual maturity and perform the work  to  which they have been called.

How to be a Successful Overcomer

In  order  to succeed at anything, there are a number  of  things that are essential to know and understand.

1. What is the goal?

The goal for a child of God is to succeed in becoming an  immortal being  in the Family of God and to fulfill the  responsibilities that they have been given to perform before and after the return of Christ.

2. What are the obstacles to success?

One's  old self, temptations of the flesh, and the forces of evil that rule this present world are all obstacles to success.

3. How  does one acquire the tools and skills  necessary  for success?

Each  person whom the Father calls to salvation already has  some of the tools and skills necessary for success. However,  the Father gives the  holy spirit to each of his children, and  through the holy spirit  all the other tools and  skills  that  are necessary  for  success  are either given at baptism  or can  be developed.

THE OBSTACLES OF TEMPTATIONS, TRIALS, AND TESTS

On the road to spiritual maturity and perfection God's children experience  various obstacles in the form of temptations,  trials,  and tests.   Although  trials and tests are sometimes unpleasant, they provide opportunities for  spiritual  growth  and they indicate whether or not we have our priorities correct. See Heb.12:9-11.

God and Temptations

Most of us have heard someone say that God must be testing them,  when they  find  themselves in a difficult situation; however,  it  is important  to  understand that God does not test  a  person  with evil. It  is our own decisions, desires, and normal everyday  circumstances that tempt us with evil:

"And remember, when someone wants to do wrong it is never God who is tempting him, for God never wants to do wrong and never tempts anyone  else to do it. Temptation is the pull of man's  own evil thoughts and wishes. These evil thoughts lead to evil actions and afterwards to  the death penalty from God. So don't  be  misled, dear brothers" (Jms.1:13-16 LBP).

Lust

In the Bible, the desire to do and practice  evil is called "lust". It  is this lust to gratify the flesh that is in opposition  to the law of God and has an adverse effect upon a person's spiritual character:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is  of the  world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof:  but he that does the will of God abides forever" (1.Jn.2:15-17 KJV).

It  is  primarily the desire to participate in behavior  that  is opposed  to God that can cause a converted person many  problems. These  things only give temporary satisfaction because they  are not eternal like the things of God.

Temptation is Common to Man

Remember,  all  people experience and are subjected  to   temptations, and trials whether or not they have  God's spirit:

"There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to  man: but God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted  above that which you are able, but will, with the temptation, also make the way to escape, that you may be able to bear it"  (1.Cor.10:13 Scofield Bible).

Although temptations are  common to all people, God shows special favor  to those he has called to salvation. The Father  will  not allow  his  children  to be in a situation with  which  they  are unable to cope. He also says that with each tempting situation  in which we find ourselves, he will make a way of escape.

"The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations,  and to  reserve  the unjust to the day of judgment to  be  punished;" (2.Pet.2:9 KJV).

Our  God is all powerful and he has the ability to save us from  any situation. However, even when he does this,  we may still suffer the physical consequences of being in a trying situation. Remember that the Father and Jesus are ultimately interested in the saving of our spirit, not our flesh. See Matt.5:29-30; 18:8-9.

How  we  react and the decisions we make about  life's   temptations,  trials, and tests will reflect our value system  at  that point in time. If we react in a righteous manner to life's  experiences,  we will know that our value system and  priorities  are correct before God.

Trials of Faith

Both James and Peter speak of the joys of having one's faith tried and tested. But why?

"My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations. knowing that the proving of your faith works patience. But let  patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect  and complete,  lacking  nothing"  (Jms.1:2-4 Para).   See   also Rom.5:3-5; 12:12; 2.Thes.1:3-7.

"Happy  is  the man who doesn't give in and do wrong when  he  is tempted,  for afterwards he will get as his reward the  crown  of life that God has promised those who love him" (Jms.1:12 LBP).

"So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though  the going  is rough for a while down here. These trials are  only  to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure.  It is  being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it—and  your faith  is  far more precious to God than mere gold; so  if  your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on  the day of his return" (1.Pet.1:6-7 LBP).

Why  should we be happy when we experience adversities  in  life? We should be happy because as we overcome these tests and  trials, we  gain spiritual character and strength. Moreover, such  trials should  make us happy because we are gaining  spiritual  maturity and perfection. However, we should not try to  place  ourselves  into  situations that would test us.  Notice  what  Jesus advises us to ask of the Father when we pray to him:

"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us  from  evil; for  Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory  forever. Amen" (Matt.6:13). See also Matt.26:41; Lk.22:40.

Through  successfully  overcoming various trials  and  tests,  we should  acquire greater spiritual maturity and perfection and a deeper love and appreciation for God the Father and Jesus Christ.

THE OBSTACLE OF EVIL SPIRITS

Although one's own failings and lustful desires are a  formidable foe  to  conquer, the child of God must also be aware  that  evil spirits present a powerful threat to their eternal destiny.  Paul encourages  the Romans and Ephesians to use God's power and  protection in their battle against evil spirits:

"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom.12:21 KJV).

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and  blood, but against  principalities,  against  powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual  wickedness  in  high places" (Eph.6:10-12  KJV). Read  also verses 13-18.

The  apostle Peter also warns that the devil is an enemy  who  is trying to destroy the righteous person and he shows that the way to  conquer the devil is to resist him and have faith  that  God will deliver us:

"Humble  yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,  that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he  cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your  adversary the  devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom  he  may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions  are  accomplished in your brethren that are  in  the world. But the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you  perfect,  establish, strengthen, settle  you"  (1.Pet.5:6-10 KJV). See also Jms.4:7.

The  existence  of the evil side of the spirit world  was  common knowledge  to those who were called to salvation during the  time of  the  early church.  Paul explains to the Romans that no physical trial or evil spiritual power is strong enough to overcome the  power of God in one's life:

"Who  shall separate us from the love of Christ?  shall  tribulation,  or distress, or persecution, or famine, or  nakedness,  or peril,  or sword? As it is written, For your sake we are  killed all  the day long; we are accounted as sheep for  the  slaughter. No,  in all these things we are more than conquerors through  him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor  life, nor  angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things  present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any  other  creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom.8:35-39 KJV).

Although it is  a  powerful adversary, evil is  no match  for those who truly believe in the Father and Jesus,  because they have the power to overcome all adversaries through the power of Christ's sacrifice and the holy spirit:

"And  I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is  come  salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power  of his  Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,  which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame  him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death" (Rev.12:10-11 KJV).

HOW TO SUCCEED AS AN OVERCOMER

The question many have about overcoming is not what to overcome, but  how to overcome. How does one gain the mastery over an  evil desire, a problem, a temptation, a trial, a test, or some adverse situation  and  use  it to grow toward  spiritual  maturity  and perfection?

Do Not Become Discouraged

Some people become frustrated and discouraged as they endeavor to live a godly  life. This is also a part of the experience of  overcoming as we travel along the road to spiritual maturity and perfection. Overcoming these periods of frustrations and discouragement  will become somewhat easier if we remind ourselves that God has  promised to care for us and help us through all adversity:

"Being  confident of this very thing, that he which has  begun  a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus  Christ;" (Phil.1:6 KJV).

"But  the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of  temptation, and keeps the unjust for the day of judgment" (2.Pet.2:9 Para.). See also 1.Sam.26:24; 1.Pet.5:6-7.

"Stay  away  from the love of money; be satisfied with  what  you have. For God has said, "I will never, never fail you nor forsake you." That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, "The Lord is my helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me" (Heb.13:5-6 LBP). See 2.Cor.1:3-6.

HELP IN OVERCOMING

We  are not alone in our efforts to overcome and  gain  spiritual maturity and perfection. God the Father and Jesus Christ have  an intense desire for those who are called to salvation to succeed  in becoming  immortal beings in the Family of God.  Therefore,  they have  provided  powerful spiritual tools for us to   use  in  our endeavor  to  overcome  the old self,  temptations,  trials,  and tests.

The Holy Spirit

The holy spirit is a powerful tool, which has many functions that can be used to help us overcome the obstacles to spiritual  maturity and perfection.

The Spirit as an Advocate

Before and after Christ's death and resurrection, he promised  to send the holy spirit to comfort those whom the Father  calls to salvation:

"If  you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray  the  Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may  abide with you for ever" (Jn.14:15-16 KJV).

Here, the English word 'comforter' is translated from the Greek word 'parakletos', which means 'advocate' or 'helper'. Other  scriptures that mention the holy spirit indicate that it  is indeed an advocate and helper to us in our physical and spiritual lives:

"But  the Comforter, the holy spirit, whom the Father shall  send in my name, it will teach you all things, and shall remind you of all things that I said to you" (Jn.14:26 Para.).

Here, John records two  very valuable functions of the spirit.  He says  that the spirit is a teacher of all things (all physical and spiritual  knowledge), and that it will remind us of  the things that Jesus taught.

"But  when it the spirit of truth, comes, it will guide you  into all truth" (Jn.16:13 Para).

The  spirit  is  a guide to all truth (God's truth).  If  we  are subject  to  God's will and are receptive to  the  holy  spirit's guidance,  we will have the ability to view life  with  its various trials and tests from God's perspective.

Paul also confirms that the spirit has power to transfer spiritual knowledge to the elect of God:

"According as it has been written, 'Eye has not seen, and ear has not  heard,'  nor  has it risen up into the heart  of  man,  'the things  which God has prepared for those that love him.  But God revealed  them to us by his spirit, for the spirit  searches  all things,  even  the  depths of God. For who among  men  knows  the things of a man, except the spirit of man within him? So also  no one has  known  the  things of God except  the  spirit  of  God"  (1.Cor.2:9-11). See also verses 13-16.

The Spirit and the Law

"For  this  is the covenant that I will make with  the  house  of Israel  after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws  into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a  God,  and they shall be to me a people:" (Heb.8:10  KJV).  See also Jer.31:31-33.

"Forasmuch  as you are manifestly declared to be the  epistle  of Christ  ministered by us, written not with ink,   but   with  the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart"  (2.Cor.3:3 KJV).

When  one  receives the holy spirit, the law of God is  made  a part  of their very nature and being, which makes it possible  to be conscious of the difference between  righteous and unrighteous concepts  and behavior. Having these laws as a constant  part  of the  consciousness alerts a child of God to the right  spiritual path to be followed.

Working to overcome the former evil behavior is a challenge  that can be taken on through the power and use of the holy spirit.  This  spirit-power is an extremely  valuable  tool  that should be cultivated and used in our daily lives.

The Bible

It is important to note that the Bible was  written primarily for those  whom God has called to salvation during this age.  Through the  Bible, it is possible to learn from the experience and teaching of  others  and  gain valuable  knowledge,  understanding,  and inspiration to help us in our daily walk with God:

"Every scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof,  for  correction, for instruction in  righteousness;  so that the man of God may be perfect, fully furnished for every good work" (2.Tim.3:16-17 Para). See also Eph.6:10-17; Heb.4:12.

"Now all these things happened to them for examples: and they are written  for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world  are come" (1.Cor.10:11 KJV). See also Psa.19:7, Pro.1:1-7; Dan.12:9-12; Col.1:7-10.

Study God's Word

A person is not given perfect knowledge and understanding of  all the  mysteries  of  God's plan or his laws at  the  instant  they receive the holy spirit. A short review of the apostles'  letters to  the churches shows that the acquisition of spiritual  knowledge  and  understanding requires much time, effort,  study,  and prayer:

"The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the  mouth of the wicked pours out evil things" (Pro.15:28 KJV).

"Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God. But shun profane and  vain babblings: for they will increase to more  ungodliness" (2.Tim.2:15-16 KJV). See also 1.Thes.4:10-12; 2.Pet.3:13-18.

All  those  who have accepted the call of God are  admonished  to prove  all  things and hold onto the things that are good.  See 1.Thes.5:21; Rom.12:2.

Although  the  spirit of God  imparts  knowledge,  understanding, discernment, and wisdom,  a person must ask  the  Father  for these  things and follow through with study and  meditation on his word:

"Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor  stands  in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat  of  the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law  does he meditate day and night" (Psa.1:1-2 KJV).  See  also Psa.119:15-148; 1.Tim.4:12-16.

Be Christ-minded

"Let  this  mind  be  in you, which was  also  in  Christ  Jesus" (Phil.2:5 KJV).

One of the primary ways to have the mind of Christ and to  understand God, his ways, and his will, is to study what he has  caused to be written for our encouragement and edification:

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming  the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be  you not  unwise,  but  understanding what the will of  the Lord  is" (Eph.5:15-17 KJV). See Col.1:7-10.

Listen And Obey God's Instructions

Because God speaks to us through his written word, we should  study it  in order to build a strong foundation of  knowledge to help us grow and overcome:

"All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain  comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his  house,  it won't collapse, for it is built on  a  rock.  But those who hear my instructions and ignore them are foolish,  like a  man who builds his house on the sand. For when the  rains  and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash" (Matt.7:24-27 LBP). See also 1.Tim.6:17-19.

"But  whosoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love  of  God perfected:  hereby  we know that we are in him. He that  says  he abides  in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1.Jn.2:5-6 KJV).

Prayer and Fasting

Prayer  is an extremely powerful and readily available  tool  for use in the daily overcoming process; it is our communication link with God the Father. Through this vital tool, we can go  directly to  the throne of the Sovereign Father as a son. Moreover, through prayer, we can praise him and ask him for help with our  needs, desires, and frustrations.

God  the Father and Jesus Christ want those called to salvation to use  this  communication tool in order to grow  toward  spiritual maturity  and perfection. For prayer to be effective, we must  be earnest and consistent in its use:

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: For every one that asks  receives; and  he  that  seeks finds; and to him that knocks  it  shall be opened" (Matt.7:7-8 KJV).

"For  the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and  his  ears are  opened  to  their prayers . . ." (1.Pet.3:12  KJV).  See  also Jn.16:24; Mk.11:24; Rom.12:12; Col.4:2.

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

One  of  the ways the spirit of God helps a child of  God grow toward spiritual maturity is through its help in  communicating  our  thoughts, emotions,  desires,  frustrations,  and needs to the Father and Christ:

"And likewise the spirit also joins in to help our weakness.  For we  do  not  know what we should pray for as we  ought,  but  the spirit pleads our case with groanings that cannot be uttered. But the one searching the hearts knows what is the mind  of  the spirit  because  he [it] intercedes for the saints  according  to God"  (Rom.8:26-27 Para.).

Truly  a person does not always know exactly what they need or how to express their  emotions, thoughts, desires, and needs. However, one of the functions of the indwelling  of the  spirit  of God is to  act as an information  gathering  and communication  system between a person and the God family.  This function  allows the Father and Christ to be aware of the  innermost emotions, thoughts, desires, and needs of those called to salvation:

"But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut  the door  behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and  your  Father, who knows your secrets,  will reward you. Don't recite  the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who  think  prayers are  answered only by repeating them again and  again.  Remember! your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask  him" (Matt.6:6-8 LBP). See also Psa.91:14-15; Isa.41:17; 58:9; 65:24; Matt.6:25-33; 6:28-31.

Because the spirit communicates one's true physical and spiritual condition  to the Father and Christ, the child of God can  always have  the  assurance that, even before they ask  anything  of  the Father, he already knows what they need:

"A  man's conscience [spirit] is the Lord's searchlight  exposing his  hidden motives" (Pro.20:27 LBP). The King James  translation renders  this scripture: "The spirit of man is the candle of  the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly."

Fasting

In  both the Old and New Testaments, there are examples where fasting is used with  prayer in situations  of  extreme importance or need. Fasting combined with prayer  shows God  that one  is very serious about what is being asked for and that  one has resolved to put forth an intense effort to acquire his intervention  in the matter. See Psa.35:11-14; Joel 1:13-15;  2:12-14; Lk.2:36-38; Acts 14:21-25.

Angelic Help

A  short  review  of how God used the angels  to  help  righteous individuals  under  both the Old and New Covenants,  will  reveal that God has always provided spirit-beings to watch over and care for those he has called to salvation.

Jesus  spoke  of the continual attention of the angels over  the children  of  God:

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you  that their angels in heaven do continually look on the  face of my Father in heaven" (Matt.18:10 Para.).

The writer to the Hebrews confirms that God uses angels to help his children:

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb.1:14 KJV).

It  should  be very comforting to know that God is  so  concerned about  his  children that he assigns spirit-beings to  help  them succeed.

OUR HIGH PRIEST

Under  the first agreement  with national Israel,  the  priesthood  was not an adequate intercessor between God and his people because they were also sinful by nature and had to be cleansed  of  sin each time they appeared  before  God.  However,  Jesus is qualified to come before the Father, not by  physical cleansing,  but  by his perfect obedience and submission  to  the Father  and  his law. His eternal qualification  enables  him  to qualify the elect, whom he represents, so that they can come before the Father as well:

"Though  he  were a Son, yet learned he obedience by  the  things which  he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the  author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedec" (Heb.5:8-10 KJV).

Here, the English word 'perfect' is translated from the Greek word 'teleioo', which connotes perfection that enables one to stand before God.

Jesus'  experience of overcoming temptations, tests, trials, and  suffering qualified him to become our Savior and High Priest.

In  his redemptive ministry, Christ overcame  the  temptations, trials,  and tests that are common to man. He did this to remove the  curse of death, which is the result of yielding  to  desires and situations that are in opposition to God's way of life.

The mental and physical temptations, trials, tests, and suffering that  Jesus experienced are not unique to him;  they  are  things that many will encounter on their road to spiritual maturity  and perfection. See 1.Pet.chps.3;4.

Help in Time of Need

Our Lord and Savior understands our human weaknesses because  he was  human just as we are. Jesus who was the Creator God, experienced life as a human. He fully understands human nature and why humans do the things they do. He can intercede on our behalf because he has first-hand knowledge of what it is like  to be  a fleshly being.  He knows how weak the flesh is and he is able to tell the Father who has never been human how difficult  it is  to live in the flesh.  With Christ as our intercessor, the Father is able to understand us, have mercy on us, and forgive our sins:

"My  little children, these things write I to you, that  you  sin not.  And  if any man sin, we have an advocate with  the  Father, Jesus  Christ  the righteous: And he is a  propitiation  for our sins:  and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the  whole world" (1.Jn.2:1-2 KJV). See also 1.Jn.1:5-9.

"Who  dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will  God? No! he is the one who has forgiven us and given us  right-standing with  himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For  he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to  God,  pleading for us there in heaven" (Rom.8:33-34 LBP).

"Wherefore  he  is able also to save them to the  uttermost  that come  to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make  intercession for them"  (Heb.7:25 KJV).

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men,  the man Christ Jesus;" (1.Tim.2:5 KJV). See Eph.2:18.

"Seeing  then  that we have a great high priest, that  is  passed into  the  heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us  hold  fast  our profession.  For  we  have not an high  priest  which  cannot be touched with  the  feeling of our infirmities; but  was  in  all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us  therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find  grace to help in time of need" (Heb.4:14-16 KJV). See  also Heb.2:14-18; 9:7-25.

FAITH AND WORKS

An  extremely  important part of the overcoming  process  is  the exercising  of faith and works. In addition to  knowing what God expects of us,  in order to be successful  in  overcoming temptations, trials, and tests, there are two actions that  must be taken:

1. A person must have and exercise faith in the promises of  God the Father and Jesus Christ.

2. A person must put forth an effort to make and carry out righteous decisions in whatever situation they  find  themselves.

Although  the Father and Jesus are extremely protective of the elect and have great pleasure in fulfilling their  promise to  help us in our effort toward spiritual maturity  and  perfection, they do expect us to exercise faith and works as a part  of our daily life.

James 2:11-24 LBP

"For the God who said you must not marry a woman who already  has a husband, also said you must not murder, so even though you have not  broken  the marriage laws by committing adultery,  but have murdered  someone, you have entirely broken God's laws and  stand utterly guilty before him. You will be judged on whether or  not you are doing what Christ wants you to. So watch what you do  and what  you  think; for there will be no mercy to those who  have shown no mercy.  But if you have been merciful, then God's  mercy toward  you will win out over his judgment against  you" (vs.11-13).

A  person  is judged by what they do,  as well as what  they  believe.  It is very important to understand what James says concerning works. Many times it takes physical effort and a  right attitude to fulfill God's laws,  precepts,  and principles in our life:

"Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith  and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others?   Will that  kind of faith  save anyone? If you have a friend who is  in need  of food and clothing,  and you say to him, 'Well,  good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,' and then don't give him  clothes  or food, what good does that do?  So you  see,  it isn't enough just to have faith. You must also do good to  prove that you have it. Faith that doesn't show itself by good works is no  faith  at all—it is dead and useless" (vs.14-17).  Please read the entire second chapter of James.

It is not enough just to have faith, because faith without  works is  no faith at all;  it is dead and useless. However,  a  person should  not try to  prove their faith by doing works; true  faith itself produces  good works because it is the  fruit  of  God's spirit being manifested in one's life.

The mere performance of good works is of no value if these  works are  not based on godly love (see 1.Cor.chp.13). Godly love, faith,  and works come from an internal desire to do what is right and good,  not  from a desire to prove something to  another  person. True love, faith, and good works are the natural result of yielding  to the influence of the holy spirit:

"But someone may well argue, 'You say the way to God is by  faith alone,  plus nothing; well, I say that good works  are  important too,  for  without good works you can't prove  whether you  have faith  or not; but anyone can see that I have faith by the way  I act'.   Are there  still some among you who hold that  'only  believing' is enough? Believing in one God? Well, remember that the devils believe  this  too—so strongly that  they  tremble  in terror!  Fool! When will you ever learn that 'believing'  is useless without doing what God wants you to? Faith that does  not result  in good deeds is not real faith"  (Jms.2:18-20 LBP).  The King James Version renders the last half of verse 20  "Faith without works is dead."

Abraham's Faith and Works

"Don't  you  remember that even our father Abraham  was  declared good  because  of what he did, when he was willing to  obey  God, even  if  it meant offering his son Isaac to die on the  altar?" (v21).

James says that Abraham was declared righteous because of what he did;   he was willing to obey God even if it meant  offering  his only son  Isaac as a sacrifice.

Trust in God

"You  see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to  do whatever God told him to; his faith was made complete by what  he did, by his  actions,  his  good   deeds. And  so  it happened just as the scriptures  say,  that  Abraham trusted  God, and the Lord declared him good in God's sight,  and he was even called 'the friend of God' So you see, a man is saved by what he does, as well as by what he believes"  (vs.22-24).

This  statement is very important because it shows that,  without the  manifestation of works, faith is not complete.  James  says  that  Abraham was willing to trust (have faith) in God no  matter what God  asked  him to do and because of his  works  (it  took physical  effort  to perform God's request), his faith  was  complete.

True  worship  of God requires faith and physical effort.  If  we have  faith  and works, we are truly obeying  God's  way  of life.  Through  faith combined with good works, we show  God  the Father and Jesus Christ that we truly love them and their way  of life:

"For  not  the hearers of the law are just before  God,  but  the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom.2:13 Para.).

DOING AND BELIEVING

James showed that a child of God is justified or  made righteous by what they do as well as by what they believe. It  is  evident that Abraham proved he had faith in  God  by  his physical  efforts.  When one is prompted by faith and  love,  one does  not have time to try to find good works to do because they are too busy taking care of all the opportunities already  available, many of which go unnoticed by those around them.

Needs are everywhere and the person filled with God's spirit sees them  and works on them. The person who is merely trying  to  act like  a Christian will only see the obvious  and do what will be noticed by others.

Although  there are many examples of how children of  God  should conduct  themselves  in serving those outside of the Family  of God, the word of God reveals that the primary responsibility of the elect of God is to  accomplish the task of growing into spiritual maturity and perfection,  not to perform a social gospel or attempt to save or reform  the  world through their own efforts.  When this is  accomplished, the elect will be equipped  to  help  Jesus Christ  save those who have never had an opportunity  for  salvation. See our study paper concerning the resurrections.

Keep Going Forward

From the moment a person becomes a son of God, the change  toward immortality must be a continual process, and  the cares of this world, and anything else must not be allowed to impede their progress toward the Kingdom of God. See Mk.8:35-37.

Because we are flesh, it is easy to allow the cares and  concerns of this world to overshadow the things of God unless one continually  thinks on the great goal and opportunity of God's  calling to salvation.

In the Book of Revelation, Christ gives a stern warning to  those who  are  guilty of unfaithfulness and those who  have  a  casual attitude toward their calling.

To the Ephesians

"But  I  have  against you that you left your  first  love.  Then remember  from where you are fallen, and repent and do the  first works.  And if not, I am coming to you quickly, and  will remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent"  (Rev.2:5 Para.).

The Ephesians were not being faithful to their  calling  and they needed to return to God, make a positive change toward  righteous behavior,  and renew their commitment to God or they would lose the knowledge of the truth they had been given.

The symbolism of light in the scriptures is very clear; when  the light  of  truth is gone, there is only darkness and no  hope  of salvation.

To the Laodiceans

Revelation 3:15-19 Paraphrased

"I  know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I  would that  you were cold or hot. So because you are neither  cold  nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth" (vs.15-16).

The Laodiceans were not making any progress in their spiritual growth; they were  standing  still, neither going forward  nor  backward. Moreover, they  lacked  zeal for their calling. Because of this casual  attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward their calling, they were in a  very dangerous  spiritual condition.

"Because  you say I am rich, and I am made rich, and I have  need of  nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and  miserable and poor and blind and naked" (v17).

The Laodiceans had deceived themselves into thinking they were spiritually rich,  but they stood before God as spiritually poor and  without righteous  garments.  However,  there was still  hope  for their salvation if they would heed the advice of Jesus Christ:

"I advise you to buy from me gold having been fired by fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and that  your  nakedness may not be revealed. And anoint  your eyes with eye-salve, that you may see. I, as many as I love, I  rebuke and chasten, Be zealous, then, and repent" (vs.18-19).

Notice that their hope lies in putting forth the effort it  takes to gain salvation. Jesus advises them to begin to  seriously work at being righteous.

A Stern Warning

There are many stern warnings to those who decide to depart from the  faith, after they have accepted the call to salvation.  Their fate is the same as the incorrigible wicked:

"For  it is impossible for those who were once  enlightened,  and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of  the holy spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of  the  world to come, If they shall fall away,  to  renew  them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame . . .. But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing; whose end is   to  be  burned"  (Heb.6:4-6;8 KJV).  See  also   Heb.2:1-3; 2.Pet.2:20-21; Ezk.18:24,26.

"For  if we willfully sin  after receiving the full knowledge  of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins, but a certain  fearful expectation of judgment and zealous fire being brought  about to consume the adversaries. Anyone  not  regarding the law of Moses dies without pities on the word of two or  three witnesses:  How  much worse punishment do you think  he  will be thought worthy to receive having trampled on the Son of God,  and having counted the blood of the covenant in which he was  sanctified   common,  and  having insulted  the  spirit   of   grace?" (Heb.10:26-29 Para.)

Habitual Sin

A son of God who continually breaks their baptismal agreement and makes  a practice of violating God's laws, precepts, and  principles  will die an eternal death, because a truly  converted person can never again become purely human. This is  their  only opportunity  for salvation and they will either succeed or  fail, depending on their desire and effort to become immortal.

If there is no sustained effort to live according to God's  ways, God  will  not grant eternal life, instead, he will destroy  the wicked  person  with  fire—"For the wages  of  sin  is  death" (Rom.6:23).

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31).

HOW TO NEVER FAIL

The  call of God is the most important event and experience  that can  ever  happen to any individual. All other  priorities,  concerns,  and  endeavors  are insignificant when compared to the call of God and the opportunity for  immortality as a member in the Family of God.

Because God the Father and Jesus Christ want us to succeed,  they have made us many powerful promises and placed  many tools for success at  our  disposal. They have also inspired many words of encouragement to be recorded for us:

2.Peter 1:2-10 KJV

"Grace  and peace be multiplied to you through the  knowledge  of God,  and  of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine  power  has given  to  us  all things that pertain  to  life  and godliness, through  the  knowledge of him that has called us  to  glory  and virtue: (vs.2-3).

"Whereby are given to exceeding great and precious promises: that by  these  you might be partakers of the  divine  nature,  having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (v4).

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and  to  virtue knowledge; And to knowledge  temperance;  and  to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (vs.5-7).

"For  if these things be in you, and abound, they make  you  that you  shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the  knowledge  of our Lord Jesus Christ (v8).

"But  he  that lacks these things is blind, and cannot  see  afar off,  and  has forgotten that he was purged from  his  old  sins. Wherefore  the  rather,  brethren, give diligence  to  make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you  shall never fail" (vs.9-10).

Fight the Good Fight

Paul  encouraged  Timothy and the elect at Rome to  continue  to strive toward obtaining eternal life:

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereto you are also called, and have professed a good profession  before many witnesses" (1.Tim.6:12;19 KJV).

"He will give eternal life to those who patiently do the will  of God, seeking for the unseen glory and honor and eternal life that he  offers" (Rom.2:7 LBP). See also  Matt.19:16-17; Lk.10:25-27; 18:18-20.

Endure and Overcome

Those  who  persist in the overcoming process are  promised  that they  will  be  saved and obtain great,  awesome,  and  wonderful rewards:

"And  you  shall be hated of all men for my name's sake:  but  he  that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved"  (Mk.13:13 KJV). See also Matt.24:13.

"He  that  has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says  to  the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life,  which  is in the midst of the paradise  of  God" (Rev.2:7 KJV).

"He  that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will  be  his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev.21:7 KJV). See also  Heb.1:1-2; vs.5-8.

"He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white  garments; and  I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but  I will  confess his name before my Father, and before  his angels" (Rev.3:5 KJV).

"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my  throne, even  as I also overcame, and am sit down with my Father  in  his throne"  (Rev.3:21 KJV). See our study papers concerning the awesome rewards of  the saved.

SUMMARY

This  brief study shows that the Father  and  Jesus Christ expect those called to salvation to grow toward spiritual maturity  and perfection. They both would like to be able to  say to  each of us  at the first resurrection, "well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt.25:21).

For  all those called by God to salvation, the pursuit of  righteousness and the  Kingdom of God must be their number one priority  in order to be successful in obtaining eternal and  immortal life.

Overcoming  is  a lifelong process that takes  effort,  which  is based on  knowledge and understanding of what is  required  by God.  In  addition  to knowledge  and  understanding, overcoming requires taking positive action toward spiritual growth by living a righteous life to the best of one's ability.

We  do  this through the help of the Father,  Jesus  Christ,  the study  of their word, and yielding to the influence of  the  holy spirit  that will correct, encourage, and help us  in  overcoming the temptations of the flesh.

Sons of God Overcome the World

"For  whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and  this  is the  victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is  he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is  the Son of God?" (1.Jn.5:4-5).

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our  Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting  covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen" (Heb.13:20-21 KJV).

God the Father has made a special effort to call some people in this age to salvation,  and Jesus Christ came and gave his life  so  that those  called could be saved. God the Father and Jesus Christ have committed themselves  and their tremendous resources to help us succeed and obtain the goal of salvation, and in order to succeed, all one has to do is put forth a sincere effort. See Matt.6:25-34; Heb.13:5-6; Jn.14:12-14.

"What  shall we then say to these things? If God be for  us, who can be against us?" (Rom.8:31 KJV).

By B.L. Cocherell, file b6w4