Growth is a process and a progression. Just as the stages of life, we are conceived, born, grow to be toddlers, children, adolescents and finally become adults. We then grow older until we become old people and die. The process of life continues with our children and grandchildren. In the same way there is a process in our spiritual growth. We are converted or born again, we study the scriptures, pray, fellowship with the brethren and increase always in faith.
Abounding in Faith
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9 – 11 (NASB)
Today we will be looking at the progression of spiritual growth as presented in Philippians 1:9 – 11. Paul’s prayer to his audience is that they abound in love and that that love may abound in real knowledge and all discernment. All of this to the end that we may approve the things that are excellent. This in turn brings sincerity and blamelessness even unto the day of Christ Jesus. This love that is mentioned in today’s on-line bible study is more than just a Christian sentiment, but is rooted in knowledge and understanding.
This knowledge and understanding springs from personal bible study where the gospel is ‘heard’ and this produces faith. The word faith in the New Testament is Pistis which in its active form means to believe. Unlike our common understanding of faith over the years – faith is not just a matter of trust, but believing beyond present or former knowledge. It is a knowing where there is no present thing to substantiate that knowledge.
The place God wishes to take us is where we are more like Christ in our love for each other, even as is depicted by the gospel. It is that place where we think of others as being more worthy than ourselves. Rudy ‘the Bear’ challenges his hearers by using the analogy of parents’ love for their children. Parents are more knowledgeable than their children and do what is best for them, even if it means giving their lives for their health, their safety and their benefit.
In the same way, our Heavenly Father gave His Son for us His children. Jesus was willing to die so that all may have a choice of eternal life. The gospel redeems us and we are converted. As we move on from this conversion and we engage in bible study – we ‘hear’ God’s word which produces in us faith which is wrapped up in discernment and understanding.
Let us take a look at 1 Corinthians 13 which defines for us the excellence of love:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The point of this passage to the church of Christ is that love, as defined by God, is selfless. Love does not seek its own, but cherishes the other as valuable. Each person is encouraged to think soberly about themselves; but at the end of the day, selflessness brings about the Christ-likeness that God wants us to become.
The Progression of Growth
1 Peter 2:2 says:
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby
However you may wish to examine the scriptures: through on-line bible study, adult bible study, or group bible study – the truth about the matter is, when this is done with sincere willingness to learn, God grows us. We experience spiritual growth when we study the bible and adopt and obey the principles of faith. Gathering as the church of Christ is important to the process of growth. Praying without ceasing is important to the process of growth. Giving thanks and giving are also important to the process of spiritual growth.
Again let us look at the progression. Bible study leads to hearing the word of God. Hearing leads to faith. Faith leads to real knowledge in discernment, which in turn leads to love. This love results in us approving the things that are excellent. Here we look after others’ state of being – an expression of love. Let us remind ourselves of the following:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
[Philippians 2:4 – 10]
By being selfless, by thinking of others as worth more than ourselves, we show that we endeavor to be like Christ Jesus. And as Rudy ‘the Bear’ points out,
the importance of our growth
in order for us to be the best assets to the people that we love
In order for us to be the best assets, we turn again to praying one for another. This in turn produces hope, and hope faith – and the cycle goes on. This brings us to an important axiom in our on-line bible study. And it is that, things lead to other things. And these things bring about our spiritual growth.