Growing to Maturity in Christ

Matthew 5:43-48 NASB

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Love Your Enemies

This love is not human love. It is not based on our emotions. It is not fleshly nor sensual in any way. It is not romantic love. It is love that comes from God, for he is love, and it is a love which prefers what he prefers, which is all that is holy, righteous, godly, upright, morally pure, honest, faithful, repentant and obedient and submissive to the Lord.

So, if we love others, including our enemies, with this (agape) love, then we will treat them with love and kindness, we will do to them and for them what is morally and spiritually and physically beneficial (healthful) for them and that which provides for real needs. And we will not cheat, lie to, lie about, steal from, hate, abuse, or take advantage of them in any way.

And we will pray for them in the will of God. We will pray for them to know God/Jesus Christ and to be saved from their sins and to have eternal life with God. And we will pray for their needs to be met, and for their hearts to be changed, and for them to see God and his working in their lives, and for them to be delivered from addiction to sin and to walk in his righteousness.

And we will love them and treat them with kindness, not just because we are instructed to do so, and not just to get some kind of reward, but because God’s love is within us and so we love as he loves, and so we genuinely care about other people, even those who treat us badly, and even those who persecute us and who say all manner of evil against us.

For God gives good gifts to all people on the earth, not just to those who love and serve him. He provides sunshine and rain and food and the air to breathe and trees for shade and water to drink and the moon, the stars, the clouds, the grass, the animals and all the beauty of nature for us to enjoy.

For If You Love

If we love those who love us, that should not be hard to do. But if we love those who mistreat us and who do evil against us, that is much harder. That takes a lot of grace and forgiveness and humility to return hate with love and meanness with kindness, because we are human and our flesh might not be so quick to respond with love, so we yield to the Spirit, instead.

We choose the Spirit over the flesh, and love over hate, and forgiveness over retaliation, because we are following Jesus Christ with our lives, by His Spirit – all glory to God! For if we are following Jesus Christ with our lives we are being conformed to his likeness, to his character, and daily by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

So the more that we put off and reject the flesh and the more that we put on Christ and his humility and kindness, the more we are becoming like our Lord in character, and the more natural it will become to love those who mistreat us. And our first thought will not be to get even, but to pray, and to do good in return, because we are yielded to God and to his will.

So, daily we are to be denying self, and dying to sin and to self, and putting on Christ and his righteousness, and walking in the ways of the Lord in obedience to our Lord. And as we do that, we are becoming like him in heart, mind, and will and character. And we are taking on his nature, and we are growing to maturity in Christ to the glory and praise of God.

This is the process of our salvation. This is a process of sanctification that the Spirit of God works in our hearts and lives as we cooperate with him and yield to him and to his purposes for our lives. We should always be learning and growing and maturing and becoming more and more like Jesus because of God’s work of grace in our lives.

The End Goal

You shall be perfect. One day when Jesus returns for us, his bride, we will be perfect, complete, fully mature in him. We will have reached the end of our spiritual journey and we will have reached our end goal (aim) when we will be with our Lord for eternity and our salvation will be complete and our marriage to Jesus Christ will be consummated. In the meanwhile we are being made into the likeness of Christ and we are growing in maturity.

But just know this. If we do not go through this process, and if instead of growing in our walks of faith and to maturity in Christ we continue living in deliberate and habitual sin, instead, then we don’t have eternal life with God, no matter what we profess with our lips or claim we believe in our hearts. For what we do gives evidence of what we really believe.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10]

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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