Click the link below to download the PDF.
Welcome to Part 4 our Evidences of Spiritual Life Series where we are not only discovering the fruit of genuine conversion, but we are also staring at God’s roadmap for our continued spiritual growth.
I’m glad you’re with me today, but if this is your first time to visit The Celebration of God, I would ask that you do a couple things. First, please start with Part 1 of this series so that the foundation and continuum won’t be lost for you. Second, take a moment to visit CelebrationOfGod.com to learn more about who we are and what we’re seeking to accomplish in your life and the life of your fellow disciples of Christ.
And while you’re there, you’ll be able to access all of the episode notes, transcripts, and life resources for this series.
And now let’s talk about the exceptionally important next stage of our spiritual maturity.
II Peter 1:5, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence.”
As we learned last week, if you’re born again, you are so because you exercised the gift of faith when God revealed Himself to you through His Word. In that moment, you were given spiritual life and strength by the Holy Spirit and were fundamentally changed from the inside out. That’s why even baby Christians can start living morally excellent lives from day one. The righteousness of Christ was imputed to them and the Holy Spirit started His work of conforming them to the Savior.
But we all must continue to grow, and that will require that we continue to learn more about God and continue to respond to Him in faith. In II Peter 3:18, Peter ends his letter by commanding God’s people to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
1. The Knowledge of God
And as we saw earlier, the grace we need to mature in Christ comes as we are increasingly exposed to the knowledge of God. II Peter 1:2, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
But we must ask, will there ever be a time when we have learned all we need to learn? Will there ever come a time we can stop reading and studying and memorizing and meditating on the Bible?
According to Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”
There will absolutely never come a time—both now and into eternity—that we will be able to fathom the totality that is our infinite God. This is why Christians must continually be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Only in Christ and His Word can we ever hope to access the knowledge of God. Colossians 2:3, “In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
As a biblical counselor—really, just as a human—I am perpetually amazed by the fact that so may Christians are okay not learning anything more about God than what they hear from the pulpit on Sunday. The atrocity of this is compounded by the fact that a lot of so-called pulpits are filled with nothing but lies while others have partial truths mixed with feel-good humanism.
The state of the church and the state of the country is evidence of the fact that Christians aren’t learning, knowing, understanding, and living according to the truths of God.
If you have been truly born again, then you will desire to know more about God. A lack of interest in the things of God is often a glaring sign that a person hasn’t truly been saved.
When I was in college, it was still considered cool to write your significant other. I remember waiting very impatiently to receive a letter during summer break from my girlfriend who lived states away. And when it arrived, I would read and reread and respond to it.
Well, there are a lot of professing Christians out there who have supposedly been saved from eternal damnation by the God Who loves them with an eternal love, and they say they love Him back, but they have no interest to read His Word and get to know Him better. I believe they are self-deceived or just extremely immature.
That means that for those of us who are born again, there should be a drive in us to better know our God. We should want to read and reread His letters and respond to them.
2. A Warning Concerning Knowledge
We absolutely have to consider the warning from I Corinthians 8:1b-3, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”
Is it possible for the knowledge of God to make us arrogant? I believe so, but only in a superficial way. We should all know by now that obedience is doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason and in the right power. But most of our obedience is often relegated to simply doing the right thing and sometimes doing it the right way. In the same way, if our knowledge of God is nothing more than a factual collection of information concerning what God would have us do and how He would have us do it, then that knowledge can and will definitely puff us up.
However, if we are truly learning and growing in the necessity, nature, and focus of doing the right things for the right reasons, we absolutely won’t be able to become arrogant in that knowledge. To be arrogant is to reveal that we don’t understand the motivation.
Therefore, the relationship between the knowledge of God and the love of God is directly connected. As we study, learn, and grow in our knowledge of God, it should multiply our love for God to such a degree that we fade into the background as He becomes our sole aim in life.
When it comes to an evidence of spiritual life, if your knowledge of the Bible produces nothing but pride and arrogance, then you may very well not truly know God. There are many unsaved Bible scholars who approach the Scriptures from a dry academic perspective. They know so much about it, but they don’t believe any of it.
For those of us who are born again, when we study the Scriptures, we absolutely must desire to know more about the God of the Bible than to simply know more about the Bible or the Christian life or a doctrine. I’m not saying we should’t study those things, but underlying it all needs to be a passion to know the God Who has commanded the way of life and established the doctrine.
3. The Product of the Knowledge of God
The Apostle Paul was once a Pharisee who hated Christ and tried to have Christians imprisoned and killed. He knew much about the Old Testament—probably more than we do—but he was arrogant and foolish.
In Philippians 3, Paul recounts part of his former life when he knew much about the Scriptures, but even though he was a Jew of the Jews and “blameless” as the Pharisees understood the Law, Paul proclaims in verse 7 that “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” All of his arrogant knowledge was nothing compared to the excellencies of Christ.
As Paul learned Who Jesus really was, he loved Him more and more. And as Paul learned to truly love God, it affected how he viewed the knowledge of God and the knowledge he had accumulated his whole life.
In Philippians 3:8 Paul says, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things.”
There is absolutely nothing in this life that can compare with knowing the Lord. In fact, Paul said that all of his accomplishments before Christ were nothing but rubbish—a Greek word that could be used of human excrement.
Paul’s highest desire was that he “may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul’s knowledge of the Law produced a human righteousness in his own power, but Paul describes that the knowledge of Christ produces the following 5 things:
A. The righteousness which comes from God
Though we may experience a level of moral excellency in our lives when we are born again, it’s the knowledge of Christ that enables us to grow in our righteousness.
If you feel stuck in your Christian life—like your spiritual maturity has plateaued—it’s likely because you have stopped truly studying the Word to better know God. You may be studying it to learn more stuff, but you aren’t studying it to really know the God Who saved you.
B. The power of His resurrection
If you have been resurrected with Christ, that same power is yours to grow in Christ. If you would describe your walk with God as anything but powerful, that should give you pause.
If you are born again, I’m not suggesting that you will always feel up to the task. No, no! The reality is that whether we’re saved or not, we cannot do anything God wants us to do in our own power. However, through His strength we can do all things to which He has called us.
C. The fellowship of His sufferings
I’m just going to come out and say that a professing believer who is doing everything they can to avoid suffering in this life—especially the suffering associated with being a Christian—likely isn’t born again. Their focus is on themselves and their comfort.
Of course, I’m not arguing that the life of a Christian is one of masochism and self-flagellation. We should be wise enough to avoid hurting ourselves, but the things we cannot control (like persecution) are things that we shouldn’t inherently be trying to avoid. In fact, we should be living a life so similar to Christ’s that it would make all the sense in the world for scoffers and scorners to hate us the way they hated Him.
And that leads to . . .
D. Being conformed to His death
Are you willing to die to self and to put to death the deeds of the body? If not, then you likely do not have spiritual life. But if we do have spiritual life, the more we learn about God should motivate us to be conformed to His death by crucifying the sinful flesh within our hearts.
And the final thing Paul notates in this passage that comes from the knowledge of God is . . .
E. The resurrection from the dead
The knowledge of Christ produces the righteousness of Christ by the power of Christ so that we may experience the suffering of Christ that leads to the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ.
In the same way the knowledge of God encompassed the entirety of Christ’s earthy life and helped Him glorify God in it, the knowledge of God will do the same for us.
But knowing Christ doesn’t just teach us truth, it also gives us . . .
F. The ability to battle lies
II Corinthians 10:3-5 reads, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”
The phrase “walking in the flesh” doesn’t refer to living according to the lusts of our sinful flesh. It refers to simply being alive in their mortal, pre-glorified bodies. This should give us hope that what was described next in the verse is something we can have and experience now.
I also want to focus in on the word “fortresses.” This Greek word is only used in this passage, but it refers to a physical stronghold or military garrison. However, Paul is using it metaphorically to refer to areas in our thinking that stand in opposition to the knowledge of God.
The greatest threat to our faith and moral excellence is any “knowledge” that contradicts God’s Word. Any idea, opinion, speculation, feeling, thought, or belief that disagrees with the Bible is dangerous and deadly.
In verse 5, we see two important sides of the same coin. In order to grow in our knowledge of God we must
First, destroy the speculations that contradict God’s truth, and . . .
Second, take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
I love the imagery of that.
If you are a born-again disciple of Christ, then our thoughts need to exist within the confines of Christ’s truth. We aren’t allowed to be so open-minded that our brains fall out. We don’t need to give a second’s thought to ideas that contradict Scripture.
I recently posted something on Instagram and had someone tell me I had to “get with the times.” And by that, they meant to get rid of the biblical position I was taking. Well, no, I don’t. In fact, my thinking absolutely needs to be held captive by Jesus Christ.
I love to bring up Philippians 4:8 as I teach this: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
That’s what it looks like to have a mind that is captured by Christ.
And if that verse doesn’t describe your thought life, but instead your mind is given to speculations and lofty things that are raised up against the knowledge of God . . . you may very well not be a true child of God.
The saved battle lies, the unsaved believe them.
And finally . . .
G. The ability to teach others
As you continue to read the Bible, study it, and meditate on it, you will find that you will not only grow in your Christlikeness, but you will be able to help others do the same. Romans 15:14 says, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.”
Our chief goal at The Year Long Celebration of God is for you to better know, understand, and worship God this year. But our second goal is that you would help your fellow disciples to do the same. They may be your kids, your friends, your fellow church-members, your family, your co-workers . . . it doesn’t matter. If they are professing Christians, and God has them in your life, then He expects to use you in their sharpening, their maturing, and their spiritual growth.
So, ask yourself this: Who are the people in your life God wants you to be able to admonish (teach & warn) with His truth?
I hope you’re able to come up with at least one name.
If you are not actively involved in the spiritual maturity of God’s people, I’m going to argue that you are not growing in the knowledge of God, and therefore, may either be unsaved or still very spiritually immature.
But as you mature in Christ, you will be admonishing His people in your life.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and never hesitate to reach out to us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the spiritual necessity of self-control.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.