Biblical Answers for Spiritual Growth

Our Need to Know God

A study of the Bible makes it clear that knowing who God is, is important to our spiritual progress.  It is only when we understand what God is like, that we rightly understand the world that we live in that He has designed.  This knowledge of God is the very basis of truth.  Without it, we cannot know how to operate effectively in this world because without truly understanding God’s love and power, we will perceive this world as a hostile and fearful place where we are inadequate to overcome its challenges.  In the Old Testament, we are told that the Children of Israel were destroyed by their lack of knowledge.

 

Hos 4:1  Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  6  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 


If we choose not to know God, we are choosing to see things our way, which may or may not be right, and follow our own paths.  God’s response is to let us do what we want to do, so that we can learn that our ways do not work, and to allow us to receive the consequences of what we do.  Jesus, Himself, was the fullness of God manifested on earth.  He made it clear that through His words we would know the truth about God and that this truth would make us free. 


Jo 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  32  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.


The Need for Revelation Knowledge 


Almost everyone agrees that knowing a fact in our mind is not enough.  We must believe that it is true.  But even if we believe that something is true in our minds, this is still many times not enough for us to change our actions.  It is when something becomes real to us that our actions change.  This becoming real is what is called revelation. 


Revelation is “An uncovering, a bringing to light of that which had been previously wholly hidden or only obscurely seen. God has been pleased in various ways and at different times to make a supernatural revelation of Himself and His purposes and plans, which, under the guidance of His Spirit, has been committed to writing.”  The Greek word apokalupsis is most often translated as “revelation.”  It means “laying bare, making naked,  a disclosure of truth, instruction concerning things before unknown.”  It is used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all;  manifestation, appearance.  The foremost of the written revelations of God are the Scriptures.  “It is not merely the ‘record’ of God’s revelation; the Scriptures are the revelation itself in a written form in order to ensure the accurate preservation and propagation of the truth…. Revelation is the supernatural communication of truth to the mind.” (Quoted from The Online Bible Millennium Edition (2000) by Larry Pierce.) 

 

As we come to understand the truth about God, we begin to understand the truth about the universe in which we live and about ourselves.  How we perceive our universe and ourselves is the foundation of how we act and react to it.  As an example, if we see God as judgmental and ready to strike us with lightning for even the smallest mistake and ourselves as wretched members of a dysfunctional world without hope, we will act like animals fighting for survival in the “rat race” of life.  But if we see ourselves as redeemed children of a God who will always love and forgive us, even if we fail over and over again, who will meet all of our needs, and who will do anything for us that we ask for our good, we will be set free from the “rat race” of life to trust God and live for Him.  If we perceive that God will always meet all of our needs, we are set free from our own self-interest in order to be concerned about the needs of others. 

 

From a psychological perspective, we might say that when something is accepted in our subconscious, it becomes part of us.  That which is in our conscious mind does not necessarily change us, but when we allow values and ideas to become part of our identity or innermost being, we will act according to those values.  Psychological health and spiritual maturity are so intertwined that they are almost the same.  Our heart, as it is addressed in the Bible consists of our soul and spirit.  According to Watchman Nee, our soul consists of our mind, emotions, and will and our spirit consists of our communion with God, our intuition, and our conscience.  (The Spiritual Man, 1968, by Watchman Nee)  All of these interact with each other and have an effect on each other.  The soulish man is dominated by his soul and the spiritual man by his spirit.  As we shall see, we can only become psychologically healthy when our spirit predominates in our heart.  Consequently, it is only what we know in our spirit (or sub-conscious) that truly changes us. 

 

When we discuss faith or belief, we also understand that until it becomes faith of the heart, it is usually insufficient to change us.  We call faith that only resides in our minds mental ascent,  faith that is only in our emotions, feeling faith, and faith that is only in our volition, presumption.  Faith of the heart can refer to any of the above since our soul is part of our heart, but it more specifically refers to faith in our spirit.  We have faith in our spirit when we somehow “know” that something will happen or that it is true. 

 

It should be of no surprise that God, who is a spirit, would work through revelation knowledge which is the enlightenment of the spirit. God has many ways of doing this.  Probably the gifts of the spirit, visions, and dreams come to mind first.  But it is important to realize that we also receive revelation through reading the Word of God, preaching, teaching, reading, talking to others, and especially through our experiences. 

 

Revelation and experience are similar in many ways.  Both can influence us directly in the spiritual dimension.  Experience is, in fact, the strongest physical evidence for faith.  However, the effect of our experience is based on our perception of the meaning of each experience.  Two people can have the same experience and draw different meanings from it and, therefore, are affected differently by it.  Experience can lead to revelation truth, but it arrives indirectly through the filters of our mind.  Direct revelation from the Spirit of God bypasses our mind.

 

Getting knowledge from our head to our spirit

  

The most usual route for transforming thoughts into revelations is that of meditation on the Word of God.  That is why it is so strongly emphasized in the Bible. 


Ps 1:2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Jos 1:8  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.  9  Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. 

 

If we learn and believe something to be true in our mind, it may not have yet become a revelation to us.  The Bible makes this clear when it teaches us that faith without works is dead. (Jas 2:17)  While it is true that our faith should result in works if it is genuine, it is also true that what we do affects what we think.  The psychological term is dissonance.  It suggests that we cannot do something that contradicts what we believe is true for very long.  Either our thinking will change or our actions will change.  Consequently, if we act on what we believe to be true in our minds, these actions make it more true for us and can assist us in moving what we think in our minds to our spirits.  Note the encouragement in verse 9 above to act, immediately following the direction to meditate in Joshua chapter one.  This all makes sense when we understand that faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” 


Heb 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

 

The strongest type of evidence in a court is that which has actually been experienced by a witness.  We can believe something in our mind, we can feel something is true, we can want to do something, but many times it does not become revelation knowledge to us until we have experienced it.  Then it becomes part of us.  As an example, you can tell me all day that you believe parachutes work.  You can show me convincing evidence that the theory of parachute design is true.  You can show me films of parachute jumps and introduce me to witnesses who have made successful jumps.  But it is only when I have experienced a parachute jump myself (I have) that it becomes my experience and I have a revelation of what it is all about.  Consequently, it is only as I experience God’s actions in my life, feel His presence, have Him speak through my intuition or through one of the gifts of the Spirit, or I am healed by Him, that my knowledge of Him becomes a life-changing part of me.  A person with an experience is never at the mercy of someone with an argument.

 

An unfortunate example of this principle (in reverse) is a man I knew who was offended by his pastor.  Although he had been a Bible teacher and a dedicated Christian for years, he quit the church stating that he was now an atheist.  I challenged him by asking what new evidence he had discovered that changed his mind?  He admitted that he had not discovered anything new.  He had just chosen to act differently, and these actions had eventually changed his thinking.  In another case, a lady who had been a Christian for many years learned that her ex-husband and the father of her children was a homosexual.  Based on previous teaching, her daughter could not face the conclusion that if her Dad did not repent, he might not go to heaven.  This lady then concluded that the Bible must be wrong!  The pain of experience overrode her long-held beliefs.  That which can be used so effectively against our faith can also be used to build it. 

 

 I use a technique which I call, “If it is true…”  I state a simple biblical truth like, “If it is true that my worth is not dependent on my performance or what other people think of me but on God’s unmerited favor…how would I act?”  I then act according to the truth that I have just stated.  My actions now confirm what I believe and strengthen my belief that it is so.  This method helps move the biblical truth from my mind to my spirit.  It makes it more real until it becomes part of me.  However, as we shall discover later in this book, it is not what we do that determines who we are, it is who we are (as we perceive ourselves in our spirit) that determines what we do in the long run. 


  What the Bible Says About Revelation 


1.  Direct revelations from God can increase our understanding of spiritual truth

Ga 1:12  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

 

2.  God can give us direct revelation through the gifts of the Spirit. 

1 Co 14:6  Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

 

3.  A revelation from God can radically change the direction of our lives. 

 

Ac 26:13  At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.  14  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  15  And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.  16  But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;  19  Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:   

 

 4.  Revelation in the knowledge of God can transform our understanding, our calling, the concept of the wonderful things He will provide for us, and the mighty power available to us.  

 

 Eph 1:17  That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  18  The eyes of  your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  19  And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 

 

The revelation of God in the Old Testament 


            Although the Old Testament (covenant) has been superceded by the New Testament (covenant), the Old Testament is a type and shadow of the spiritual principles that were to come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)  Throughout the Old Testament, as God related directly in the lives of men, they learned new revelations about God from their experiences.  In many of these situations, they gave or were given a new name for God that expresses the new revelation that they had learned about God.  It was these revelations that gave them an expanded vision of God and that transformed them.  In addition, many times as they were transformed, God also renamed them to clearly demonstrate that they were a new person due to their experience with Him.  As examples, Abram was renamed Abraham, Sarai was renamed Sarah, and Jacob was renamed Israel. 

 

The Revelation of God in the New Testament 


When we compare these revelations of the names of God in the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find that God revealed Himself in an even greater way in the New Testament through sending Jesus as the full manifestation of God Himself.  The Bible tells us that God has spoken this new revelation to us through the experience of His Son.  The majority of our knowledge concerning Jesus is revealed to us throughout the gospels. 

 

Heb 1:1  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  2  Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;


Those who see Jesus have seen the full manifestation of God.  Jesus Himself made this clear.


Jo 14:9  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 


As we have discussed earlier, the word revelation means to enlighten or to make known something that was not known.  Jesus came to show us God and to allow us to experience Him in the fullest sense known to man—in physical form.

 

Jo 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

Possibly the second most important direct revelation in the New Testament is the actions of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Godhead, as revealed in the story of the New Testament church in the Book of Acts.  We can learn many wonderful insights about the reality of God, such as how He chose to reveal Himself, operate through the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and guide the early church.  

 

The remainder of new revelations concerning God in the New Testament come to us through the inspired letters or epistles, primarily through Paul, Peter, James, and John.  Through direct statements that they made concerning the nature of God and through the direction that they provided to the early churches, we can gain further insights into “the knowledge of God.”   

 

We have now seen that spiritual growth is primarily based on how we know and perceive God in our spirit.  We grow revelation by revelation as we get a fuller understanding of who God really is and what He is like.  God demonstrated this process of growth in the lives of Old Testament saints as He revealed Himself progressively through the compound names by which He and others referred to Him.  In the New Testament, God has primarily revealed Himself through the manifestation of Jesus Christ, the Acts of the Holy Spirit, and the Epistles.  In the next chapter, we will study the most important biblical models of spiritual growth.

Peter's Steps to Spiritual Growth

Possibly the most detailed explanation of spiritual growth is found in 2nd Peter chapter one.  These verses provide the most specific sequential understanding of how this plan of salvation, which includes both psychological wholeness and spiritual maturity, is accomplished by the Holy Spirit in our lives.  God promises that He will meet all of our needs beyond any expectation that we can even imagine, as we pursue His gift of salvation by faith.  He gives us His unmerited favor and power, without any works on our part (grace) as well as the peace that passes all understanding.  Finally, He provides absolutely everything that we need for our current life on earth and for our transformation to become like Him, with all of His excellence and holiness. 

 

2 Pe 1:2  Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

3  According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

 

All this is to be accomplished through “the knowledge of Him.” God’s plan is to make us like Him, full of glory and virtue.  The word in the Greek, translated here as knowledge, is epignosis which means “precise and correct knowledge of things ethical and divine.”  It has an intensive meaning as compared with gnosis which means knowledge, cognition, the understanding of facts or truths, or else insight or discernment.  It is a fuller, clearer, more thorough knowledge of divine things.  Consequently, it is clear that these verses are referring to a deeper knowledge in the spirit or revelations concerning God.

           

2 Pe 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

 

            The method that God uses in transforming us is to increase our faith in God, as we get to know Him better, so that we can be delivered from the selfish lust of this world that leads to corruption and take on the divine nature of God, which is love.  As we get to know God experientially, each new revelation leads to greater faith and further spiritual and psychological growth in our lives.   

 

2 Pe 1:5  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge;

6  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7 And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

 

            We have a part in this process—that of giving all diligence to make it happen.  This effort that is required on our part is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in accomplishing each of the steps to spiritual and psychological maturity that are listed below.

 

1.  FAITH:  We must be saved.  In verse five, we find that our salvation begins with faith.  We must believe and trust that God will meet our needs and give us eternal life before we are willing to commit our lives to Him.

 

2.  VIRTUE:  We must end our self-centeredness and selfishness and make Jesus Lord.  The word virtue here is the Greek word arete, which is interpreted as virtue, goodness, or worthiness.  It means “a virtuous course of thought, feeling, or action and suggests any moral excellence such as modesty or purity.”  It is our faith that leads us to virtue since it is faith that delivers us from selfishness.  We will never be free of our selfishness until Jesus is Lord and is directing our lives.

 

3.  KNOWLEDGE:  We have to know what is right and wrong and come to the realization that in our own strength we cannot do right and fulfill the law.  The fear of God provides external motivation, but not the will power to want to do what is right.  The word interpreted as knowledge is gnosis, which means “advanced knowledge especially of things lawful and unlawful for Christians (moral wisdom).”  After we have become unselfish and unbiased through faith, then it is possible to really know God's will for us.  Nevertheless, it is not possible, through our own effort, to obey it.

 

4. TEMPERANCE:   We must learn internal control through grace.  Once we have overcome our selfishness and know what is right and wrong, we must learn to be self-motivated to do what is right.  The word egkrateia is translated as temperance or self-control.  It means “the ability to master one’s desires and passions, especially sensual appetites.”  Once we achieve enough self-control to choose the control of the spirit, instead of the flesh, then we must learn to consistently do it. 

 

5.  PATIENCE:  We must become strong and persevere in doing right through a knowledge of who we are in Christ.  The word here is hupomone and is translated as patience, endurance, or perseverance.  It means “patient continuance, steadfastness, and constancy.”  It is characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.  We may be able to do God's will at certain times and in ideal circumstances for a short period of time, but we must learn to do it under tribulation and over an extended period of time. 

 

6.  GODLINESS:  We must die to ourselves and the flesh so that the character of Christ may live through us.  Once we are consistently obedient, we are finally in a position to do God’s will, maintain constant fellowship with Him, and get to know and worship Him as He really is.  The word interpreted as godliness or holiness is eusebeia and means “reverence, respect, or piety towards God.”  This is what leads to our desire to be like God, walk according to His Spirit, develop godly character, and live in the rest of God and the “peace that passes all understanding.”  In order for this to occur, we must die to self and the flesh and purify our lives. 

 

      7.  BROTHERLY KINDNESS:  We must learn to accept other Christians, faults and all, and learn true compassion and fondness for them.  Once we have experienced the unconditional acceptance of God and are working hand in hand with God’s people for the good of the Kingdom of God, we must accept each other like God accepts us and we must become fond of God’s other children, despite their faults.  The word interpreted as brotherly kindness or love is philadelphia, which means “the love with which Christians cherish or appreciate each other as brethren.”

 

       8.  CHARITY:  We must finally realize that God is love so that we will be free to love everyone else just as they are.  The word interpreted love or charity is agape and denotes “universal unconditional affection, good will, or benevolence.”  When we have experienced the unconditional love of God, in spite of all of our failures and faults, we can offer this same unconditional love, which is the very character of God, to others. 

 

2Pe 1:8  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make [you that ye shall]

neither [be] barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus

Christ.

9  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and

hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and

election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

11  For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

 

These verses again make it clear that it is through the revelation knowledge of Christ that we are changed and become fruitful.  These things must be in us and must abound!  We have to experience and actually do these steps in order to mature in Christ.  Although it is not directly stated, these verses imply that it is possible to have each of these steps in varying amounts and that it is when we come into full maturity in each one, they will make us so that we will never fall and  also ensure our calling and election.  It is also clear that without developing our faith along these lines, we can not have continuing victory over sin or even be absolutely sure of our calling or election.  If we do give diligence to these steps, we are promised all of these wonderful blessings.

 

            What more could we ever ask for or desire?  All that we need for life and becoming like God has been provided through Jesus and is available to us as we grow in our knowledge of God.   This gift of salvation leads to such complete psychological and spiritual maturity that we can have such constant victory over our selfish desires that we will never fall.  As we grow in Christ we can become so fruitful in our lives that we can completely fulfill our calling and election, and finally, have an abundant and glory-filled entrance into heaven itself!  Could there be anything more important than this?

 

            God has already done His part through Jesus Christ and has provided the “great and precious promises” for our future as well as a plan for our spiritual development.  In the chapters that follow, we must understand what it means to “give all diligence” to see these promises become a reality in our lives, as we grow in the “knowledge of God” one step at a time.  

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