and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence)..: [2 Peter 1:5 AMP]
When you read John’s description of the third phase of Kingdom Life you see the three areas of learning and training necessary for the immature believer to grow into a spiritual adult. Meaning that while you are in phase two, the goal and focus must be to graduate in all of the three areas before God considers you mature, which is what a phase three Christian is: a strong, spiritual adult.
John says, ” I write to you, young men, because you are strong and vigorous, and the Word of God is [always] abiding in you (in your hearts), and you have been victorious over the wicked one.” [1 John 2:14 AMP] Three clear areas, means three clear steps must be achieved and obediently practiced before our Lord pronounces us spiritually mature. And Peter helps us understand what these next steps of obedience are, with the same command to use all diligence to first 1] add knowledge, 2] next add self-control, 3] and then add endurance. So we must focus our efforts on each step, one right after the other, until we complete all three.
Here’s what he says, “For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence)..: [2 Peter 1:5 AMP] With the same focus and drive needed to thoroughly repent and leave your old sinful life behind, now you must add knowledge!
You are no longer an infant, now you are an immature spiritual child. Children learn, learn, and learn. Children go to school, mimic their parents, and copy their friends as they grow up, and growing up is hard to do. God’s goal is to turn you into strong, dedicated, intelligent, and powerful spiritual warriors who can defeat the enemy, withstand temptation, and join the workforce of the King. This is the same goal for kids today, parents want them to grow up, go to college, get a job, and do great things.
If you studied Step 1, which you need to, you will remember that Hebrews 5 listed the milk, or fundamental knowledge needed to understand the will of God. His educational process is well designed for life change, character change, and ministry preparation. God demands that you become a disciplined learner, a disciple of Jesus.
You must understand that this is school! Yes, the thing you might have hated, if you are now an adult. Church is not to be a relaxing, fun filled spiritual shot to make you feel good until next week. Church is a gathering place for committed believers to gather for strength from God’s Word, to build each other up, to reach others for Christ, to pray together to pull down Satan’s power in their community, and to examine themselves for spiritual health and purity.
Remember you have a lot to learn, God has a clear plan for you, and you must take action! Do not lose focus.
Start with “the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity. Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works (dead formalism) and of the faith [by which you turned] to God, With teachings about purifying, the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment…” (Heb 6:1-2 AMP)
STEP 1 – Repentance of sin and abandonment of dead works
Remember when you leave sin you must replace it with good works, not to earn salvation, but prove your salvation. Children of obedience live their lives and spend their time doing the things Jesus would be doing if He were still here. The Holy Spirit in each believer has strong desires to accomplish the same good work in our day that Jesus did in His time.
Acts 26:20 [AMP] illustrates this expectation; “But made known openly first of all to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the whole land of Judea, and also among the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works and live lives consistent with and worthy of their repentance.”
“He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Eph 2:10 from THE MESSAGE) Once you are living a holy life [walking in obedience], you are ready for your education. Yes God intends to train you to graduate from school and get to work, just like your parents expected you to finish school and grow up and get a job!
STEP 2 – Develop Knowledge
Use the strength of your virtue (character) to graduate from Christ’s school of obedience and ministry… You must do like you did in worldly education, start in elementary school and establish the foundations. You must use your brain and “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” [2 Tim 2:15 AMP] God will let you know when you graduate from His school!
First the Milk: An introduction of the ABC’s of spiritual learning are:
1/ “The faith [by which you turned] to God” [Hebrews 6:1 AMP]
[Explained in Session 1 of the Spiritual Growth Seminar] To really understand the faith, you must read the Bible from the beginning to see the history of sin and mankind, God’s solution for your sin, and the promises of eternal life through Christ Jesus and not by your own sacrifice, as explained in the four gospels of the New Testament. You must understand the full picture, the complete story of redemption! Do not get lazy here, you read more than this in elementary school. You must understand what happens when you are born again.
2/ “…teachings about purifying” [Heb 6:2 AMP]
The original Greek is “baptisms” in the plural, meaning that you must understand water baptism, and Holy Spirit baptism. [See Baptism: The Sign of Joining Christ and His Church; and What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?] The outpouring or immersing of water is a symbol of inward change similar to a wedding band is a symbol of a new covenant and relation. But the outpouring of the Spirit is a powerful outward presence of God that does what it did in Acts 2, deeply convicting sinners of their evil and causing them to repent and truly be converted. This powerful flow of God’s grace is why we are saved today, 2000 years after the church first began.
3/ “…laying on of hands” [Heb 6:2 AMP]
This is the principle of authority, not some mystical secret, that must be studied and learned. This is illustrated in Acts 13 by the first church to make it clear spiritual authority is foundational knowledge. “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” [Acts 13:2,3]
God established the church, not man! He organized it to work as a team to fulfill His purposes under established authority that He gives in His word. We are told in the Word, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct… Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” [Hebrews 13:7,17 NKJV]
You must understand that God works through the human authorities that He establishes to mold you into a mature Christian. [See Romans 13 and the book of Ephesians]
It is essential to learn that you must submit to earthly authority to be obedient to God, otherwise you weaken and hurt the church, which is His plan for all Christians. Think of a sport with a coach, if the players refuse to submit to the coach and work together they lose! The Lord demands that local Christians obey Him by grouping together as local churches, and obey His purposes. Read Revelation 2 and 3 and see how He oversees teams [churches], not individuals, and expects every individual believer to submit to the leaders and get busy fulfilling His Kingdom assignments.
4/ “…the resurrection from the dead” [Heb 6:2 (AMP)]
This world is only the very beginning for Christians, the Lord Jesus died two thousand years ago, but He also was resurrected from the grave three days after His death. All the prophecies of the Old Testament were literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ that predicted His birth, death and resurrection. This shows us that our future which is promised in the Word of God, is true and will literally come to pass.
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” [1 Thess 4:13-18 (NKJV)]
“‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak,14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” [2 Cor 4:13-15 (NKJV)]
“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” [Rev 20:5-6 (NKJV)]
5/ “…and eternal judgment and punishment” [Heb 6:2 (AMP)]
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” [1 John 4:16-18 (NLT)]
“Behold, the Lord comes with His myriads of holy ones (ten thousands of His saints) 15 To execute judgment upon all and to convict all the impious (unholy ones) of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed [in such an] ungodly [way], and of all the severe (abusive, jarring) things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” [Jude 1:14-15 (AMP)]
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” [Rev 20:11-15 (NKJV)]
Next the Meat
Next we must understand the meat of the word and this means digging deeply into the teachings of Jesus as found in the four gospels, Matthew through John. Build on the Lord’s commands found in the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7]. We know this is true from the great commission, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matt 28:18-20 (NKJV)]
1/ The Commands of Christ
In Acts it says the apostles doctrine was the primary teaching to all new disciples of Jesus. It reads, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” [Acts 2:41-42 (NKJV)] The church gathered fearlessly together and learned the apostles’ doctrine which is exactly what Jesus commanded them to do “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”.
Study carefully the words of Jesus until you understand the commands He established for all believers. Use all the scriptures for background and culture, context, and answers to questions raised in His commands. Make sure you know how to fully comply to your Lord.
2/ The Priority and Application of Christ’s Commands in Your Life and Church Ministry
Next study the scriptures to the end of establishing the purposes of God into your life. Five grand purposes are revealed by our Lord. Here are the first two, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” [Matt 22:36-40 (NLT)]
Then the next three purposes are revealed, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matt 28:18-20 (NKJV)] Basically stated you must understand where God’s will is for your life, so that you can follow the Lord Jesus fully and freely. Understand the full implications of what it is to love the Lord and your neighbor. Read and study John and 1 John to get started.
We will explain more in the later steps of maturity also. [see STEPS 5-7]
It is very important to also understand the part you must play in making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them. Each believer must play a part in the local church assisting the leaders in these tasks. God’s purpose is for every believer to share the Good News with friends and family, and invite neighbors to God’s salvation. Then accepting and loving the new followers of Christ is what baptism means for you as a member of the family. And getting to a place that you teach and mentor your friends and family is all a part of God’s will for your life. Learn to do them! Learn by watching and helping the leaders until you can take responsibility.
3/ The Hard To Understand Teachings of Paul
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 3:14-18 (NKJV)]
Most of the New Testament books are the letters of Paul. They will expand and build upon the basic principles and commands of Jesus. These writings are to further your education after you have a strong foundation. They help you apply Christ’s teaching and embrace the underlying principles of God’s way of life. For example 1 Timothy introduces the importance of clearing your conscience, along with many other things. The freedom of moral purity releases you from frustration, guilt and the fear of the future. The need to have harmony in your home is explained in Ephesians, again with many other things. Since a basic human need is intimate fellowship with others you must study Paul’s letters for clear instruction for close friendships and relationships. Family and friendships are very different and very important, protect yourself with God’s direction and wisdom.
Remember kids go to school for many years and just like that, this stage of spiritual growth is an extended process of years. You have spent years going to school, this is a million times more important, because it glorifies your Creator. With all diligence develop your spiritual knowledge!