Growth: Who could be your greatest opponent?
Every believer needs to come to understand the extreme importance of spiritual growth through their learning of God’s Word. There is simply nothing more important for them in all of life. This has always been true even though very few people of every generation realize it. Please note what God wanted the Israelites to do.
18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. [Emphasis added]
Then later, in Christ’s earthly ministry, He quoted a portion of Deuteronomy 8:3 about this.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]
Just as we eat daily to feed our bodies for physical health, we should also be fed daily for spiritual health and continued growth. In our time, we need to focus our attention primarily on the writings of our apostle, the apostle Paul. It is through his writings that we get the teachings of Christ that are specifically addressed TO US today.
1 Corinthians 14:37-38
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
This wasn’t just the apostle Paul saying this TO US, it was our Lord saying this TO US through his writings. But then notice his warning statement.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. [Emphasis added]
One of the most important of all statements he makes to us in Scripture is this next one.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = Be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
Our attention should be on Paul’s teaching because he is said to be OUR apostle.
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I [Paul] am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]
I even have whole articles addressing this principle regarding Paul’s office.
Paul: Do we make too much of him?
Paul: What’s so special about his teaching?
This of course excludes Peter, Moses, and all the others. Their writings are all important FOR our learning that we might have hope, living confidently, but not always for our application. But it is Paul’s writings that deserve most of our attention.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [Emphasis added]
As surprising as it may be, the people who can be our biggest hindrance to our spiritual growth can be members of our own family. Note what our Lord said about this during His earthly ministry.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [Emphasis added]
Another big source of opposition to one’s spiritual growth will be “religious” people. There are many illustrations of this throughout the Bible, but let’s note who the great opposers were of our Lord’s earthly ministry. At that time, it was the “religious” people called the scribes and Pharisees. Here we see our Lord warning His disciples about them. They could all quote Scripture, but it was their interpretation and form of application of it that was so distorted and at times even deadly.
3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. [Emphasis added]
Our Lord said such people who do this are blind guides. We see Him mentioning this several times in Matthew 23. He scathes them throughout the whole chapter, but in verse thirty-three we have a one verse summary of the situation.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? [Emphasis added]
Yes, He was saying this to the top “religious” people of that day. And don’t think for even a second that we don’t have many such people today. Every time they opened their mouths, they would poison the thinking of people with their teaching. With such public exposure by our Lord of who they really were, it is no wonder that they grew to hate Him and even have a desire to kill Him. Christ brought serious charges to them all as well as to the people of the nation who had chosen to follow them.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! [Emphasis added]
But Jesus loved them all and would later prove that love by what He would accomplish on the cross for them and for all of us.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [Emphasis added]
As you may recall, the apostle Paul had once been such a “religious” but evil person himself. He was even a part of the stoning of the great man Stephen.
1 And Saul [later called Paul] was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
The only reason the apostles didn’t scatter was that they had been ordered by their commission to stay until the nation had come to a change of mind to accept this Jesus of Nazareth as their promised Messiah.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. [Emphasis added]
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul recalls all his “religious” credentials. He had been sincere in his beliefs, but sincerely wrong. He tells us that he did what he what he had done ignorantly.
2 Beware of dogs [KUON = dogs – a term used here for people of moral impurity], beware of evil workers, beware of the concision [KATATOME = mutilation].
What is normally spoken of as circumcision, Paul speaks of it here as a mutilation because this is now how he sees it as a mature believer. For these people it was a bloody ritual that no longer represented the truth it was originally designed to portray.
3 For we are [the spiritual reality of this as believers in Jesus Christ] the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh [speaking of human good works as the means to one’s salvation]. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. [Emphasis added]
The persecuting of the church was the persecution of believers of whom he was finally a part.
We find that throughout the apostle Paul’s ministry he was confronted with “religious” people, who were much like he had been, always opposing the truth about Jesus and what He had accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection. Do we have such people today? Of course, we do! They’re a part of every generation and in every society. In America, here in the twenty-first century, you’ll find most of them in churches of one kind or another. Paul was constantly warning students of God’s Word about being influenced by them and their teaching.
Romans 16:17-1817 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly [emotionally driven]; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple [AKAKOS = the unsuspecting or naive]. [Emphasis added]
Such represent his commands for us to separate ourselves from them. That’s always to occur in how we think and what we believe, but many times this demands physical separation from them. We are to see them all as poisonous snakes in how they think and operate.
Always realize that some people believe as they do only because they’ve not heard the truth. These people can gain from our help. But there are others who’ve been exposed to the truth but rejected it. It is that crowd that we need to beware of and avoid. We may foolishly believe it’ll be different with us in working with them, but it probably won’t. Often, we just need to move on to more “fertile ground” for the dissemination of God’s Word, rather than wasting our time on “rocky ground.” You may recall our Lord’s expressed wisdom on this in His Parable of The Sower.
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. [Emphasis added]
In that same setting He warns them.
15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. [Emphasis added]
What you’ve just read was a clear description of how things were then in Israel. Today, it is much the same in America. There’s resistance to truth with people every way you turn. Our Lord then goes on to give a full explanation of the meaning of the parable He cited.
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
This statement about “the word of the kingdom” is not our message today, but the principle concerning people’s resistance to truth applies in every generation. You can read more about this kingdom message in my articles about it. Here’s the name of one of them—Gospel: Is OUR gospel in “the four gospels?”
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon [immediately] with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended [SKANDALIZO = stumbles (spiritually)].
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. [Emphasis added]
Is this last verse in some way a description of you? It will be by your own will that you will determine where you choose to stand in all this. Whatever you choose will affect everything about your future in both time and eternity. This is “no small decision”! Your spiritual growth or lack of it will be determined by your decisions. Therefore, ultimately you yourself can be your greatest source of opposition to your growth. As it is sometime put, you can be your own worst enemy.
As it was then in the Garden of Eden and now outside that Garden, man has volition. God didn’t have to do this, but even as sinners outside that Garden He’s given us all free will. How we choose will determine so much about our future. Your spiritual growth as a believer should be your top priority, not allowing anything to stand in the way of that. How will you decide now? This website has been established to help you with all this. I hope you’ll choose to take advantage of that opportunity.
Who among all these I’ve mentioned in this article could be your greatest opponent to your spiritual growth? I can only wish that someone had provided me with such an opportunity as you have now with this website over fifty years ago when I began my own spiritual journey. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to perhaps be a small part of yours now!