Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of God
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.2 Peter 3:18
As many of you may know from my testimony, my walk with the Lord hasn’t been as faithful as it is today. For long periods of time I wasn’t reading my bible and consequently I wasn’t growing. Yet in March 2014, when I did begin to read my bible again I read verse 18 of our text which says:
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
And it highlighted the importance of spiritual growth. The first question we should probably ask ourselves is: What is growth?
Growth is loosely defined as “an increase in number, size or quality.”
It is the latter which is a more apt description of Christian growth.
The process of growth for the Christian is called sanctification [being made holy].
I frequently [and frighteningly] see a confusion between salvation and sanctification; especially when I hear individuals who profess to be Christians use phrases such as, “I’m getting there”. Unfortunately I’m not usually in a position to unpack these comments at the time; but if I was it would be thus:
Salvation is a one time event [it is not a process] in a person’s life whereby an individual is saved from the punishment of his sin through accepting the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. This exchange happens in an instant.
Sanctification on the other hand is a process; it is the work of grace in a person’s life which causes them to become more Christ-like. It is defined by holy living.
It is important to realize that neither SALVATION nor SANCTIFICATION are achieved through the performance of good deeds or works. Good works are the outworking or result of God’s grace in a person’s life; otherwise they are DEAD works.
When we think about our own personal growth:
We know that the bible says that “none is good” And it was the realization of our own defective state that drew us to God in the first place. Obviously, if we were all perfect salvation would not be necessary and growth would not be possible.
Despite being created in the image of God we came to know that that image has been marred by original sin. Christian growth is also the process of being restored to that image. The word of God tells us that we are being conformed to the image of Christ. And we are told that the purpose of the 5-fold ministry [of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers] was for he perfecting of the saints:
[We see that church and ministry is for the perfecting of the saints]
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”Ephesians 4:13
Jesus is the standard to which we attain or strive.
The Imperative to Grow:
According to this verse we are commanded to grow.
In fact so many of the verbs in our bibles have this imperative tense [they command us to do something] and we should read our bibles in this manner; taking these commands to heart. A commandment is given to be obeyed and since we have this inner desire to please God; our response to him should be a desire to grow.
The Lord wants us to grow and this makes perfect sense since what parent wants their child to be in diapers and sucking on a dummy at age 30.
We see this command expressed in scripture in various ways:
“ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy”
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
“…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
Hebrews tells us to exhort one and other daily.
Paul tells Timothy to strive for masteries.
Paul himself presses toward the mark.
And in Ephesians Paul speaks about the five-fold ministry for the perfecting of the saints.
And so, we can’t escape the fact that we are commanded to grow; and if we underestimate the importance of this command: we do it to our own detriment
…and not only our own detriment but also those around us.
Hopefully [by now] something inside you that knows that you ought to be growing. If this isn’t the case there is a definite cause for concern. That is to say; you’re not growing and seeing changes in your relationship with the Lord and more importantly that there is NO concern in regard to this you should probably have a serious examination your faith:
[Being a gardener]
I love how the Lord gives us examples of growth from nature. This makes sense since it is written:
“…the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, evenRomans 1:20
hiseternal power and Godhead”.
Jesus’ illustration of the vine in John chapter 15 is a perfect example in terms of growth [in an organic sense]; and in particular of healthy growth.
From an organic perspective, we know that in the plant world a healthy plant is a growing plant and the more it grows the healthier it is likely to be. In fact certain insects recognize an unhealthy plant [by the colour yellow] and exploit its weakened state. Growth and health complement each other.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a manJohn 15:1-8
abidenot in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
In relation to the grape vine:
Jesus tells us that the fruitful branch must be purged in order to be more fruitful. Purging is done through pruning [this is the word that modern translations use] but the word purge itself carries far more meaning. It means to cleanse or purify; and it’s this process makes the branch stronger and less susceptible to disease and therefore healthier and more fruitful.
Note: Only the born-again believer is capable of bearing fruit unto righteousness. It is also important to note that growth is dependent on our relationship to Jesus and to his word. There are plenty of people who claim to love God but have NO love for his word and consequently WILL not grow; no matter how much they desire to do so.
As far as commandments go, there are many, many things we read in scripture; things that we ought to be doing and it is a sad indictment on believers in general that this commandment in particular is not taken seriously.
Few and far between are those who with contrite hearts….TREMBLE AT HIS WORD
Of course you have to read his word before it can cause you to tremble.
Believers are made aware of their potential to disobey God and to disregard his word by the frequent reminders and even rebukes in scripture; both to whole churches and individuals who aren’t growing spiritually.
The church of Corinth is one prime example; and Paul refers to them as carnal.
But we also have this example in Hebrews:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye haveHebrews 5:12-14
needthat one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God ; andare become such as haveneed of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Scripture doesn’t mince words here: it describes as BABES, those who ought to have grown sufficiently not only to know God’s word but to teach God’s word.
The writer of Hebrews chastises them for this and rightly so because the bible was written for our learning and we should regard it as such.
There is no excuse given in this text and so it is safe to say that there must have been a certain unwillingness on the part of these believers in failing to grow the way that they should:
THE COMMITMENT TO GROWTH IS 100% A MATTER OF THE WILL
Those referred to in the book of Hebrews no doubt had access to many of the epistles circulating at the time as well as the Old Testament scriptures.
Yet these are backslidden to the point of having to re-learn everything that that had come to know [and it seems it wasn’t much].
There is no suggestion given in the bible that an individual cannot grow; therefore nobody is exempt from obeying this command. If it weren’t possible for us to grow then this commandment was given to us in vain. God’s word would be void and the bible which has been given to us as our sole authority for every aspect of our life would be pointless reading.
But we know that it is possible to grow because we have been given the means, and besides the Lord has promised to complete that which he began in us.
It is sad when the believer doesn’t recognize his own infantile state: perhaps misinterpreting growth in his own self-confidence as spiritual growth. This is incredibly dangerous; especially when we think about how deceptive our sinful hearts can be.
But what we naturally come to realize [as we do start to grow] is that the more we grow, the more we realize we need to grow.
AND THAT’S A GOOD THING
There was one man who did however recognize his failure to grow [particularly from devoting himself to the bible] and that was George Mueller.
He says in this quote:
The consequence was, that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace. In knowledge I say; for all true knowledge must be derived, by the Spirit, from the word. And as I neglected the word, I was for nearly four years so ignorant, that I did not clearly know even the fundamental points of our holy faith. And this lack of knowledge most sadly kept me back from walking steadily in the ways of God.
The Impetus of Growth:
Since growth is only possible in living organisms, it makes perfect sense that we must be born of God and alive to him for spiritual growth to occur. Therefore the command to grow can only be heeded by someone who is truly born again.
By impetus of growth I refer to the force which causes that growth.
We saw this exemplified with the vine and the branches.
The life of the believer is inextricably connected to the life of Christ. Just as the branches draw sap from the vine via the root, so the believer draws his life and strength from the Lord. He does this by abiding in Christ and because God’s word is abiding in him.
The bible describes the word of God in incredible terms and without delving into occultism [something taught by the Word of Faith Movement] it has miraculous properties:
It is said to be quick [alive] and powerful [Hebrews 4:12]
It is magnified above God’s name [Psalm 138]
It is likened to the rain that causes the grass to grow [Isaiah 55:6-13]
It is said to wash the believer [in Ephesians]; refreshing him when he falls into sin.
It is given by inspiration of God and able to make man perfect [2Timothy 3:17].
But this process had to begin somewhere and this was at conversion. Prior to this we are told that we were DEAD in our sins [the wages of sin is death] and if dead then there was NO life in us. And if there was no life in us then there was absolutely NO possibility of growth; not in a biblical sense.
Not surprisingly the word of God had a part to play in our conversion also:
In James we are told that it was through God’s word that he begat us.
In Psalms we are told that his word [in particular the law] converts the soul.
The wonderful thing is [and this was fortunate for me]; the Lord is truly long-suffering [even in periods of negligible growth] and is faithful to his promise to complete the work he began us. I can testify to this personally. I can also testify to the process of growth by following a biblical method and not some hyped up program designed to entertain the flesh.
When we speak of the process of growth and a biblical method…
Firstly we should agree that knowledge is something that needs to be taught and that teachings require a teacher.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”Matthew 11:29
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”John 14:26
By virtue of the Spirit’s indwelling in the believer we have a teacher; and as we know already: the bible was written for our learning.
The work of the Holy Spirit is further explained in 1John:
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” 1John 2:20
One thing is for sure: Christian growth is NOT rocket science.
Just as physical growth can be reduced to the 3 simple principles of:
Food Rest and Exercise
So can spiritual growth:
Itinerant preacher of the 60’s [Vance Havner] succinctly puts it this way:
Feed on the Word
Rest in God
Exercise your faith
Feeding on the word should be simple enough…but it is not:
There are all manner of lame excuses that people give for not reading their bibles [and yet it is a sin].
And there are all manner of vain ideas [such as fancy reading plans, commentaries and devotionals] that people conjure up in order to entice people to read the bible and somehow create an appetite for the word of God.
Furthermore there are a multitude of bible versions and study guides also designed to do the same. […but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;]
But in reality these can be a DISTRACTION and a DETOUR in gaining the knowledge that can be gleaned from simply reading the bible.
My bible simply states: “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I’m a strong advocate for reading the bible from cover to cover because I am convinced firstly [besides being logical] that this develops a solid bible reading habit.
Of course: then there is the temptation to read books other than the bible. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I have certainly read books that have benefitted me.
It pays to remember that books [as good as they might seem] are not inspired and are prone to error.
We probably don’t want to admit that they do because then we would have to confess our own errors and short-comings. We should also realize there is a fine line between edification and entertainment; some books are merely entertainment for the mind.
Putting error aside and assuming no error: Books of a theological nature tend to focus on doctrine [and topics]; the bible of course contains doctrine but these are spread throughout the entire volume of the book.
Again; referring to the biblical method:
What does the Lord say:
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: Isaiah 28:9-10
“Here a little, there a little” tells me that no one doctrine is found perfectly explained in one portion of scripture. The bible is a balanced diet and you don’t take a years supply of vitamins and minerals in one hit…do you?
Similarly if you over-feed a plant on one particular element it is likely to become toxic or result in poor growth; even death. For example an overdose of nitrogen causes what gardeners call “leggy growth”; long, spindly, unhealthy and susceptible to insect attack.
From and aesthetic point of view; leggy growth is unattractive.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; doctrines are important especially since they can affect our perception of God.
WHILST IT MIGHT BE GOOD TO KNOW YOUR DOCTRINES
There are three things that you also need to be aware of:
- If you’re getting your doctrines out of a book the author might be in error.
- Growth in one particular direction makes a tree look ugly [Do we really want an eschatology branch poking us in the eye].
- We worship God with all our minds but [with emphasis] worshipping doctrines is idolatry.
One thing that I must add and which is vitally important.
It is our attitude to God’s word that will determine its effectiveness in our lives.
Despite the fact:
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
If we harden our hearts to the truth of God’s word we stunt our growth.
The parable of the sower reveals this truth to us and the importance of the state of the heart in regards to God’s word.
Some of the things that hinder fruitfulness and growth are: worldliness and covetousness, unbelief, worry, fear and pride…just to name a few.
Resting in God is likewise simple:
It is as simple as taking his yoke upon us and learning of him
It is as simple as coming to the Lord in prayer
It is simple as choosing to believe what the bible says to be true…
…above what we imagine or even desire to be true.
It is as simple as humbly admitting the things we don’t understand and asking for wisdom
It is as simple as asking for his grace to be sufficient in our weakness
It is as simple as confessing our sins and receiving his forgiveness
It is as simple as believing that there is a rest for the people of God
Exercising your faith on the other hand does require some discipline.
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”Hebrews 5:14
In Ecclesiastes Solomon also tells us that God gives man travail to be exercised therein. It is through these trials that we ought to rely on God’s word to teach our hearts to be faithful to him. Underlying this is the promise that all things work together for good to them that love God.
The key phrase in the passage in Hebrews [read previously] is “those who by reason of use”. In order to use the word we must read the word and to have that word hidden in our hearts in our time of testing. Those who use the word are meditating on it and applying it to their daily lives and circumstances.
This is how discernment is developed and we absolutely need discernment in a world where so many ideas are being thrown at us [both from the world and also institutions that call themselves churches]. It is only the word of God that is able to “…caste down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
In regards to exercising our faith; we can sum it up in just one word: OBEDIENCE
Obedience is such an important part of growth and we have Christ as our perfect example.
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Hebrews 5:8-9
If we are looking for a purpose to suffering we need look no further.
We also have the apostle Paul’s example as we read in the book of Acts:
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:22-24
The true test of obedience is the willingness to die for our faith. Hebrews chapter 11 lays out a number of individuals who were willing to do just that.
Finally on this point:
IF IMPETUS IS THE FORCE WHICH CAUSES US TO GROW THEN INERTIA IS THE FORCE WHICH IMPEDES OUR GROWTH. THAT IS WHAT MUST BE OVERCOME IN ORDER TO MOVE IN A STRAIGHT DIRECTION. AND THAT DIRECTION IS TOWARDS GOD.
The Indicators of Growth:
So what are the indicators or signs of growth in a believer?
According to this verse (at least), the signs of growth that we are looking for:
GRACE and the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The next obvious question is: why GRACE and why KNOWLEDGE?
God’s word speaks of his grace in quite elevated terms:
[In particular these 2 verses]
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Ephesians 1:7
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7
I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that GRACE is God’s most valuable commodity especially when we consider what it cost and the lengths the Lord had to go in order to extend it to us. I am of course referring to the cross of Christ.
God’s grace is first experienced by the sinner at salvation and was demonstrated by Christ on the cross: It was Jesus who knew NO sin that became sin for us, so that we might qualify for eternal life. Salvation isn’t something we had to earn; because we simply couldn’t.
It is not surprising to see grace and knowledge paired together since it is only the grace of God in Christ that enables us to know God personally. The unsaved man cannot know God; he might know about God but that is an entirely different matter. The natural man is described as brutish; devoid of true knowledge and prone to idolatry.
This is what distinguishes biblical Christianity from the plethora of cults that existed then and continue to exist even now. You can claim to have your own personal Jesus but [for example] the gnostic Jesus preached by the New Age doesn’t exist; neither does the Mormon Jesus or the Jehovah’s Witness Jesus.
Jesus can only be known through the bible by virtue of God’s Spirit dwelling in the believer.
Grace and Knowledge however are 2 very different qualities. And in many respects we might say that grace refers to the heart whilst knowledge often [but not always] refers to the head: and we would have to say that there needs to be a perfect balance between these two things and that to tip the scale in favour of one would be detrimental to the life of the believer.
Grace is often defined as God’s unmerited favour [this is particularly in relation to salvation] and his enabling power [particularly in relation to overcoming sin]. Grace works both in our salvation and our sanctification.
But even these are inadequate to describe fully what grace is.
Grace as an inner quality may be hard to define in and of itself; nevertheless it ought to be seen through our actions or behaviour. One thing we do know is that grace is an expression of God’s love: AND GOD IS LOVE
The end goal of our faith is to become increasingly Christ-like. Therefore to grow in grace is to become more gracious since God is gracious:
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
Jesus himself is described as being “full of grace and truth” [another word for knowledge]
Given that Jesus is the standard to which we attain; John the Baptist possibly gives the perfect response when he says that “Jesus must increase and I must decrease”.
The abrupt end to his ministry ensured that this would be the case. Nevertheless, he innately knew that it wasn’t about him…and effectively gave us a mandate for adopting the same attitude. The need to be recognized is counterproductive to the attaining of grace.
Graciousness is possibly best summed up in this scripture:
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” 2Corinthians 5:19
Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. God’s love is able to cover a multitude of sins…but only if you allow him to.
THAT HAS TO BE GOOD NEWS
But more importantly:
As we grow in grace we ought to be extending that same grace to others.
But especially to the unbeliever for the express purpose of sharing the hope that is within us.
Extending grace doesn’t mean that we overlook sin altogether. There is definitely a place for challenging each other; that is part of the growth process also: to be able to speak the truth in love.
Which brings us to another aspect to grace that shouldn’t be overlooked:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus 2:11-14
It is the same grace of God which saved us that also teaches us to live holy lives for the purpose of good works whilst awaiting his return [and not being ashamed of a sinful wasted life when he does return].
The first thing we should say about knowledge is that God is a God of knowledge and that all TRUE knowledge comes from within the pages of the bible. There sheer fact that we desire to investigate the world around us is testimony to the fact that we were created by an omniscient [ALL KNOWING] God and not by some random process. Science is knowledge and those that laid the foundations of science understood that things didn’t happen by chance.
When it comes to knowledge we know that “knowledge puffs up” whilst love [or charity more specifically] edifies or builds up”. It’s easy to see then that too much knowledge can cause the believer to become proud and arrogant.
Nevertheless the potential for pride shouldn’t dissuade the believer from acquiring knowledge otherwise we wouldn’t be exhorted to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Even though: on the one hand we recognize that knowledge can lead to pride and arrogance other hand we see:
“[God’s people]…are destroyed for lack of knowledge:…” Hosea 4:6
It is for this reason that we take this command seriously since we are warned frequently in regards to being blown about by every wind of doctrine. This is something that isn’t new but is becoming increasingly prevalent in the post-modern church where feelings take precedence over objective truth [which is another word for KNOWLEDGE]
There is also an aspect to knowledge which has the connotation of intimacy. And although we agree that knowledge applies to the mind; there is also such a thing as heart knowledge.
We need to be careful here because we know the heart is deceitful above all things and so the knowledge that we perceive as coming from our hearts must [repeat must] line up with scripture. This task is made easier of course, if we are reading our bibles.
We see the use of the word “know” [as in knowledge] in relation to the union between man and woman.
“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” Genesis 4:1
The bible describes children as the fruit of our bodies [be fruitful and multiply]; this is in a natural sense.
In a spiritual sense fruitfulness is measured in its efforts to win souls; therefore the fruit of a believer is another believer.
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”Proverbs 11:30
If intimacy between a man and woman produces children then intimacy with God will also be fruitful and this is exactly what we see at the beginning of this epistle.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 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. 2Peter 1:5-8
At the beginning of this epistle, Peter exhorts the believer to add unto himself knowledge as part of a comprehensive strategy which has as its end: a fruitful [even abundant] life.
Needless to say knowledge of [or knowing the Lord personally] is vitally important, given that it leads to fruitfulness and it is by our fruit (good or bad) we are known by all.
A fruitful life begins by knowing ONE thing [as Paul states here:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
Everything begins with the gospel and the simplicity which is in Christ:
Jesus Christ is the Son of God; sent by the Father to die on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for your sins and save you from an eternity in hell.
Certainly knowing this made all the difference in our lives; it also has the potential to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
The Implications of Not Growing:
I titled this point “The implications of not growing” but it is a misnomer really because the word implicit can mean unspoken.
This contradicts in a big way what we read in 1 Timothy.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” 1Timothy 4:1
In our text today, the preposition “But” is used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.
The command to grow is given in the context of a portion of scripture which deals with deception and the importance of being aware of false teachers.
“But…grow”: The scripture promotes growth as an alternative; an alternative to what: alternative to NOT growing.
In verse 17 of the text we read:
“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” 2Peter 3:17
The alternative to growing is to be led away with the error of the wicked and to fall away from your own steadfastness [in the truth].
In our passage today Peter encourages the churches; and even though he affirms to them that they know all things that he previously warns about: he exhorts them not to be complacent and fall into error…
BUT GROW…in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Part of this error is the error of following “another Jesus”. Scripture warns us of this.
Although…unlike the BRUTE [you will see why I use this word]: believers have the capacity to know God; we are still subject to the temptations of this world…of which idolatry is one such temptation.
Yet God is who he is: Speaking from the burning bush says “I am that I am”. Likewise Jesus being the revelation of God and the express image of his person: is who he is and likewise says: I am the way, the truth and the life among seven I AM statements in the gospel of John.
When dealing with God and the bible we are dealing with ABSOLUTES. Therefore if we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, we don’t seek to know an ambiguous Jesus. An ambiguous Jesus is unknowable; he doesn’t exist.
This is why error is so dangerous because only the Jesus who is perfectly represented in the bible can transform your life.
The false prophet would have you chase the wind.
When it comes to false prophets, idolatry and brutishness we need look no further than these three passages in our bibles. They give a scathing report on those who perpetrate the errors we are to avoid.
Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. Jeremiah 10:14-15
“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD;” Ezekiel 13:2
“But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” Jude 1:10
In summary: the false prophet prophesies out of his own heart; a Jesus created from his own imagination: is it any wonder that the bible calls these false prophets filthy dreamers.
In case you think you are immune from their influence; believing that you would never be in the company of such a person: know that they are found in churches, in books [including corrupt bibles], commentaries and devotions, on the internet, and on the radio and even in contemporary worship music.
No false teacher announces himself as such; the word of God says these sneak in “privily”.
It isn’t hard to fall for a Jesus who is less than what the bible portrays him to be; especially if you aren’t reading your bible and are seduced by the philosophies of this world. In verse 17 of our text we actually read “lead away” and so there is definite passivity involved. But those who determine themselves to remain steadfast do so by putting up a resistance.
And this is exactly what we are taught to do:
Submit to God…and resist the devil: and he will flee.
In light of our text:
If grace and knowledge result in fruitfulness then error must result in barrenness.
It’s sickening to think that the Mega-Church Movement is deceived into thinking that large numbers equate to fruitfulness and the blessing of God.
Yet we see quite clearly that it is biblical truth which defines a godly church:
“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” 2John 1:4
One further exhortation if I may:
Just as the devil seeks whom he might devour; it is the sickly and weak that are easy prey. In the natural world, predators, pests and parasites instinctively know which are weak. Even insect pests for example are able to distinguish a sick plant from a healthy one by a slight yellowing of foliage: being attracted by the colour yellow itself.
“…To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen”.
It is fitting that this passage concludes with the words “to him be the glory” although it might be for our benefit that we grow; that we might enjoy the abundant life given to us through Christ: It is for his glory that the command to grow is given.
Looking back at what we read in John chapter 15?
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
It’s worth mentioning: There is a necessary element in all of this and it is humility: if God gets the glory then I do not.
As we saw in our introduction:
Having come short of his glory through sin; we now are being restored and transformed once again to that glory: that is to say to reflect his glory.
But Jesus makes it explicitly clear that without him, we can do NOTHING and gives us the means to achieve HIS purpose in our lives.
It is he who gives the command to grow.
And it is he who gives the grace to grow.
And it is his image into which we are being conformed.
Contrary to other books the bible isn’t a self-help manual and it is despicable that anyone should equate the teachings of the bible with those of other religions. Clearly these people have never read the bible and understood the warnings contained in its pages.
And yes: it is WARNING…but at the same time it is a LOVE STORY in which God reaches into this sin stained world with the sole purpose to seek and to save that which was lost.
Between its pages is the whole counsel or wisdom of God and his dealings with mankind. It is God’s plan of salvation for ALL people for ALL time. And it was written for your learning: firstly in bringing you to salvation and then to sanctification.
That indeed you might grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.