Luke 16:16:  “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John the Baptist. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.” (NIV)

Until the time that John the Baptist began his ministry, the law and the prophets, with the holy writings (it was into these three parts the Jews divided the books of the Old Testament) were the only writings they had, and which contained the whole revelation given to them.  Therefore, prior to Christ, the very words of God were spoken to His people through a prophet.  So, how does God speak to us today?

God has given gifts to the church.  In some passages of scripture it details the spiritual gifts given to believers (I Corinthians 12:4-7), with us not all having the same but a diversity of gifts.  And, if you lack a gift, the word tells us that if we earnestly desire a gift we can pray and ask God.  However, Ephesians 4 details yet another set of gifts given:

Ephesians 4:11-13 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

What is a gift?  A gift is the transfer of something without the expectation of payment and without it being earned.  Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free.

Many of us have seen the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit whether it be speaking in tongues, words of knowledge, gifts of healing, wisdom, etc.  However, one gift of the Spirit that is probably the most misunderstood and abused is that of prophesy.  As we will see, the purpose of the gifts is to equip the church, not for individual glory or praise.  Individual glory or praise feeds our old nature, because we are taking credit for another’s work, the work of the Holy Spirit.  The purpose is clear for the gifts of the Spirit, for the common good of the church, to build up the body of Christ.  The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.

We should strive to flourish under the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than our own strength.  For this reason, we should examine the “gifts” we have.  We should make sure they are from the Holy Spirit.  The Word tells us to test every spirit and if one doesn’t have the fruit of the Spirit, but has fruits of the flesh, then we really need to question, the source of the “gift”.

During a conference I attended, they had speakers who didn’t call themselves evangelists, but rather prophetesses.  On one particular night, after giving the word, the prophetess came forth to raise her offering.  She told the congregation that God gave her specific amounts for faith or seed offering envelopes and that she knew the people in the building would have offerings of varied denominations (i.e., $1000, $500, $250.00, etc. and it went all the way down to the $30.00 amount that was being asked of each person nightly for the conference offering).  The prophetess didn’t budge until she saw her line begin to form.  The prophetess stepped down to receive her envelopes personally.  She held the hand which had the money, took the envelope and handed it to her “armor-bearer,” and then gave you a word of prophecy.  Interestingly, those people who hadn’t moved when she first called the offering began writing checks to get in the line for a “word.”  I began to hear her tell individuals how God was going to make people famous in their singing careers, or that God was going to give them significant wealth, that real estate transactions were going to be coming to them within two to three years, she even saw one individual working with various well-known gospel artists and becoming a great producer, and there were many more prophecies along those lines.  I sat in stunned silence and amazement.

I share this story to illuminate truth of scripture wherein God said his people are destroyed not for lack of faith, but for lack of knowledge.  How are God’s people destroyed from a lack of knowledge?  When we fail to know –that is take to heart and follow – God’s word, it’s easy for that man to stumble, lose his way and be led astray.

If we know anything about the building process, we know that first its foundation has to be laid.  Once the foundation is in place, everything else is built upon it.  Today, we have those who have established themselves in ministry as apostles, prophets and bishops.  However, the Bible clearly states that apostles and prophets were the foundation; therefore, we should be very careful as to how we’re building upon it as no other foundation can be laid.  Apostles were those who saw Christ personally and were sent out, for a specific purpose and with special endowments.  Jesus’ twelve disciples eventually became apostles, meaning they matured from being students to teachers, those ready to carry out Christ’s mandates.  In Luke 10, we read the account of Christ appointing and sending forth an additional 70 (some manuscripts say 72) and the book of The Acts details some of those acts of the apostles of Christ.  Therefore, be clear that apostles or prophets are not being added in our day as in times past.  Ephesians 2:19-22 clearly indicates that the foundation has been laid, with Christ being the cornerstone.  It is not merely the doctrine of the apostles and prophets that is the foundation, but who is contained in them and that is Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the foundation on which the church, and all true believers are built; He is the chief corner stone that cements and knits together Jews and Gentiles, Old and New Testament saints, saints on earth and those who have  preceded us, and it is on this foundation the saints today are being built by the Holy Spirit.

Saints, there are many people operating in positions today who do not meet the qualification of that office.  Thus, the positions or titles they hold either were earned or bestowed upon them by others, but only God can give these gifts.  For example, there are qualifications for pastors and deacons in I Timothy 3.  However, there are pastors today who fit few, if any, of these qualifications.   It does not mean God cannot use them in other areas, such as ministry or teaching, but they do not meet the standards for the office they hold.  So, if they are in these positions, the question becomes are they being led by the Spirit?  Since many of the gifts have an outward demonstration, it is possible for some to lay claim to spiritual gifts, when they may actually be operating in the flesh.   Christ said we will know them by their fruit.  If there is a lack of fruit, then we need to ask is the manifestations of these individuals from the Spirit or the flesh.  You may be wondering why I am saying flesh instead of saying they are not of God.  When you have a moment read the book of Galatians and also Romans 8 where Paul speaks of those carnal Christians and those who walk according to the flesh.  Oftentimes we don’t properly apply Romans 8.  Sometimes I hear people say they know they are in Christ, but they feel condemned about some particular situation.  Before most people even ask questions, they immediately begin advising them saying, “Well, you know there’s no condemnation to those in Christ.”  Is that accurate?  If we continue reading, it says there is no condemnation to those who walk after the Spirit and that is the key.  Did you ask them if they were walking according to the flesh or after the Spirit?  Conviction by the Holy Spirit should occur if you are walking after the flesh and it is that Godly sorrow that leads one back to repentance.

I Peter 4:10-11 reads, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Ministry is a gift; it is a calling from the Lord.   God has appointed people in His church to oversee, govern and set order in the Church (pastors, elders and deacons) and He has given to the church those who will build up the body and equip the saints.  These are the gifts given in the form of persons to the church today – evangelists, pastors and teachers.  If God wanted his chosen people — the children of Israel — to depend upon his word by faith and we are saved by faith, and live and work out our Christian walk by faith, why would God change now?  The just shall live by faith.

In the Old Testament, the Trinity had been spoken of, but not revealed.  Thus, God spoke to his people through a prophet, someone who spoke forth, communicated and interpreted the actual words of God.   God also made provision for the atoning of sin whereby the priesthood, consisting of the priests and high priests, represented the people before God, interceding on their behalves with blood sacrifices.  Why is this so important for me to state?  Simply put, many of us don’t know our positions in Christ.  Because of the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary – He came, lived a sinless life, and became the perfect sacrifice.  He died and was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, rent the veil and gave all those who would believe on Him direct access to God.  It is the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer that gives us understanding of scripture, will teach us all things, shapes our character and mind into the image of Christ and distributes gifts for service.   We no longer need a prophet to tell us the words of God; we have the written Word and God’s Holy Spirit.  We no longer need a priest to atone for our sins as Christ was the perfect sacrifice and is our Great High Priest who makes intercession for the saints to God.  All those in the body of Christ become joint-heirs with Christ.  If Christ is our Great High Priest then we are his priesthood.  Christ intercedes on our behalf to God and we, as His priesthood, should be interceding on the behalf of others to God and showing forth the praises of Him who’s called us out of darkness into the Light.

Again, who are the New Testament prophets?  In the Old Testament, the criteria for judging whether the words spoken were of God or a false prophet was to see if the prophecy came true and if it was against the words of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).   If their prophecy did not, they were in many instances, put to death.  Therefore, this New Testament prophet does not operate according to the standards of the Old Testament prophet, but rather is one who speaks forth and proclaims the written word of God with one objective in mind, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out!

At the nearing of Samuel’s death he made his sons judges over Israel.  However, Samuel’s sons didn’t walk according to his ways – they were influenced by money, took bribes and perverted justice.  The children of Israel decided they no longer wanted a prophet-priest, but rather desired to have a king rule over them as the pagan nations.  Samuel prayed to God about the people’s request, but God gave Samuel to know it wasn’t him they were rejecting, but God himself.  We know the rest of the story, God gave them a king, but King Saul was not a man after God’s heart.  Before Samuel’s death, he rebuked Saul and told him that because he had rejected the word of God that God also rejected him from being king.  After Samuel’s death, we read about King Saul sending for a medium to summon a word from her as God would not visit him in his dreams nor speak to him through the prophets.  Saul already knew he was losing his kingdom; however, instead of asking what he could do to return to God, he sought out a medium for answers as to his future.  Interestingly, Saul learns nothing new from the medium.  She confirms that his kingdom had been torn from him and that David would be the next king.  You see, God had already spoken!

When God has a call or plan for your life, He speaks or manifests it to you first.  The New Testament prophet, therefore, is not someone who foretells, as in predicting what is going to happen, but rather forth tells.  Thus, any prophecy you receive should not be a revelation to you, but rather a confirmation of what God has already revealed to you.  When someone has a gift of knowledge, it’s the Holy Spirit giving him or her access to information they would not ordinarily know about you, thus – it’s something you already know about yourself – and can immediately determine the validity of the word you’re receiving and whether it be of God.  Therefore, when they speak, they speak as to where you are, not your future.  If this was God’s way, to have someone foretelling our future, then why would we need faith?  The word tells us that He’s given every man a measure of faith and that without it, it’s impossible to please God.  God wants us acting on and living by His word.   The just shall live by faith!

Take a look at Acts 15:30-35.   It says the apostles were also prophets.  However, look at the characteristics given the prophets, they exhorted, taught and preached the word of God.  Let’s go back to Ephesians 4:11-14.  The work of the New Testament prophet, the gifts given the church in the form of evangelists, pastors and teachers, is the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

According to I Corinthians 14:3, the New Testament prophets that prophesieth should do three things:  (i) speak unto men to edification (which means to build up not puff you up), (ii) to exhortation (to urge), and (iii) comfort (to strengthen and lift up).  Paul encouraged us all to seek the greater gift.  Are you seeking?

Many people are calling themselves prophets and prophetesses of God, they hold prophetic conferences and even say they can teach you to prophesy.  I’m going to give this nugget to you for free – no registration fee, no offering, no books, cd’s or DVD’s to purchase.  You too can prophesy by doing these things:  studying God’s word, earnestly seeking Him and presenting your body as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto Him for His use.  You see, when you do these things, His word promises that no good thing will He withhold from those who walk upright before Him.  When you hear people prophesying in church telling you that you’re going to become wealthy in a matter of months/years if you give this seed offering, or that they’re seeing a wealthy spouse in your future, or they see your ministry going in such a way that you’ll be known world-wide or working with known gospel artists or producers, then I would question the spirit at work.  These people speak the thoughts of the world, and it’s the world who listens to them.  False prophets seek to draw followers to themselves rather than causing us to focus on God.  How do they draw to themselves?  The fact that they promote themselves by the use of a gift rather than the giver of the gift is one clear indication of the spirit that’s leading them.

Having said this, let me bring this text a little closer to home.  First of all, we should expect false prophets today, just as the Israelites were to expect them in the past.  Jesus warned of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-23; 24:23-25), as did the apostle Paul (Acts 20:28-31), Peter (II Peter 2:1) as well as John (I John 4:1).  Some of these false prophets will come from outside and they will also rise up from within.  Some may very well come with false wonders, but we must be constantly on the alert for such who seek to lead us astray.

If God tested the children of Israel, the natural branches, don’t you think He’ll test the grafted in branches, us?  These false prophets are a test of our faith and our commitment to God.  By allowing them to arise, God tests His people to see whether or not we will follow Him with our whole heart and soul.  Therefore, as believers, as members of churches, we can’t always depend on the leaders of the church to deal with false prophets.  Therefore, when we become aware of their existence, we must not involve ourselves with them.  Stop running to their meetings and conferences.  Separate yourself.  You see, we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.  The ultimate test of a New Testament prophet is whether or not he or she leads you to worship the One True God.  Does the prophesy speak of the things of God or the flesh?  False prophets tell us what we want to hear, they appeal to the flesh and our appetites, they speak the things of the world because they’re being led by the spirit of the world.

Our defense is straightforward.  I exhort you to test every spirit and see if it be of God.  And how would one know you ask?  The spirit of God always works with the word of God and this sort of “knowing” comes through relationship and fellowship – you have to be abiding in the Word.  The New Testament prophet will be led by the Holy Spirit to speak those things of His Spirit!

© 2012 Belinda Powell

Created to reflect His image . . .

Genesis 1:26-27:  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over the earth, and over every creeping thing, that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 
We are not our own!

He Rose with All Power . . . He Lives!

Isaiah 53: Who hath believed our report?  And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?  For he shall grow up before him like a tender plant, and like a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Although he was God in the flesh, we somehow seem to forget that he was also Mary’s baby.  A man who knew was it was to feel pain, knew what it was to be betrayed, tempted, despised and rejected; yet a man who never lost sight of his purpose and God’s plan.  Seeing, then, that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). 

 It wasn’t the nails that kept him to the cross, it was His love for me and you!

Worthy is the,
Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You!

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings
We will adore YOU Lord
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

in the beginning . . . He Came!

In the beginning was the Word.   Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  Before the mountains were formed or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God!

Growing up in church and a single-parent home, Amena grew up struggling to trust God. She now expresses her love for God by performing spoken word poetry.  Enjoy the spoken words of the Word by Amena Brown.

The Purpose of the Church . . .

Matthew 28: 16-20 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.  And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  Amen”

In the past 20 years, I have noticed a trend introduced into the church experience – that of the ubiquitous “conference.”  Many of us are very familiar with one of the most known conferences, which originated here in Dallas, Texas that has become an annual event hosted in various cities and states.  From my understanding, the conferences book well-known speakers; they provide seminars on varied topics; they have books, cd’s, DVDs, t-shirts, etc. for sale; and definitely provide some of the best entertainers in the industry.

Since the inception of this trend 20 years ago, I had neither felt inspired nor a sense of urgency to see what this was all about.  However, two and a half years ago the Holy Spirit led me to a few women conferences, three to be exact.  The first conference I attended was in November 2009, and it ran over three nights.  In March 2010, I attended a second conference, which was held over five days; and the last in August of 2010.  I began to see some patterns – the conferences were being promoted as the place you needed to be to hear and receive a relevant, timely, inspired word from God – that is, a prophetic word.  Hmm.  It is touted to be the place to “take you to your next level in your faith walk,” and you were always told to expect to receive your “breakthrough, it’s in the air.”  If that’s the purpose of the conference, then what is the purpose of the church?

If you read the scripture cited above, you probably overlooked a very specific instruction Jesus left his disciples and it is the same directive given the church today.  Also, in John 21:15, we find Christ eating with disciples this being the third time He’s shown himself to his disciples after being resurrected from the dead.  He begins to question Peter’s love for him.  Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him and on each occasion Peter responds in the affirmative, “yes Lord,” to which Christ replied, “Feed my lambs,” “Feed my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.”  I’d like for you to read John 21:15-17, keeping in mind the post, The Subject at Issue.  Notice that, although Christ is having a conversation with Peter, look at who is the subject of Christ’s command.  You are.  Christ’s threefold repetition of “my” is a reminder to all Christians who hold responsibility over others that the persons under them belong to Christ.  “You” means pastors, missionaries, teachers and parents are under-shepherds to whose care Christ has committed His sheep and He has a standard of care to which you will be held accountable.  Teach them!

In Philippians 4:9, Paul instructs the church at Philippi, “whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you.”  In the book of Hebrews, the writer — unknown but assumed to be Paul — has a message of exhortation to hold fast and to go on to maturity.  Additionally, II Peter 3:18 exhorts us to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Learn.  Practice.  Grow.

Notice the four directives given the church by Christ and the apostles:

  • Teach
  • Learn
  • Practice (to live out, to do, to observe, to abide)
  • Grow.

Of our time dedicated in the sanctuary, although we should gather together for corporate worship and praise, the ultimate purpose of our meeting should be dedicated to teaching and feeding Christ’s sheep, building up the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning of craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive all with the ultimate goal of equipping the saints to go out and make disciples of men.

Instead of teaching, many churches today spend so much time preaching to the saints.  I read Face Book posts of those who talk about going to church, especially Bible study, and announce how their pastors or ministers preached a good word.  Teaching is for the saved; preaching – while I know many enjoy the charisma of it — is for the lost.  You ever wonder why some pastors are preaching a word instead of teaching the Word?  I will give you three solid reasons why?  First, many of them are self-appointed and not a gift that the Word declares only God Himself can give.  Second, many are not equipped to teach the Word and lack the knowledge (not intelligence, but knowledge Himself) to impart to you.  And finally, but more importantly, the false teachers preach instead of teach so as to not expose themselves.  Many of you have been in various churches over the years, while some have belonged to the same church consistently for years.  I ask you to do some serious reflection.  Ask yourself how many whole books of the Bible has your pastor taken the time to teach your local body, verse by verse, or chapter by chapter, until finished?  Ask yourself how often your church has preaching on Bible study night and not teaching that entails you taking notes and being able to ask questions?  Ask yourself if your church has a model for evangelism that is regularly taught to believers to equip you to carry out Christ’s directive?  And, if you have a model, how often are you as a church going out to seek to make disciples of Christ?  Finally, has your pastor taught any or all of these books in entirety at any point in your membership:  John, Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Timothy, James, I and II Peter, I, II and III John and Jude?  Why these books in particular?  I encourage you to make the time for study and discover it for yourselves.  The false teachers will always distort truth of scripture, and will avoid teaching whole books – specifically the ones mentioned above – in their attempt to draw you to themselves and away from Truth in their desire to make merchandise of you.  I cannot detail it here, but please read this passage of scripture, Paul’s farewell to the elders in Ephesus (Acts 20:19-38).  This is the heart of a shepherd given by the Holy Spirit!

Churches have become occupied with so many events, so much entertainment and very little teaching.  Pastor and wife anniversary; founder’s day; church anniversary; choir anniversary – these were the events of the past.  In addition to those events, they have added youth conferences; women’s conferences; men’s conferences; pastor’s conferences; single’s conferences, marriage conferences, musicals, banquets, concerts and the like.  Ever wonder why they are having all these conferences?  Christ himself has given the directive to feed his sheep, but they have learned how to make the gospel big business.  It is a lot easier and beneficial for them to make members than it is to make disciples.  Look at the business world model.  Anyone who goes to school, gets a degree, attains let’s say twenty years or more in a given field, can then with certain credentials be labeled an expert and hire themselves out at exorbitant rates for those who need what they have.  And so it is in the church now.  Thus, anything labeled conference, symposium, seminar, or summit comes with a price for which, if they truly are gifts given by God, they received it freely.  Observe and discern these events, and the people who sponsor them, for what they can be – distractions – meant to keep you busy, but unfocused to lead the sheep astray.  Do you recall the account of Christ feeding the five thousand (Mark 6:32-44)?  There is much to expound on, but I will point towards a few key facts.  First, if you are not being taught where you are, then you don’t have a shepherd.  The shepherd seeks to meet the needs of his flock, not having the flock meet his.  When Jesus saw the need of the people, he had compassion toward them as they were as sheep not having a shepherd and he taught them.  Second, when the work is of God, He sustains it (II Corinthians 9:8-9).  The disciples, concerned that it was getting late and because they were in a desert place, became concerned as to how the people would be provided for.  Notice Jesus gave the command to the disciples first for them to feed the people.  If Christ said it, they should have known that with Him they could do it.  They failed to see the power that was amongst them and, greater things could we all do in His name, if we surrender to the power within us.  Finally, never look to man.  Place no confidence in the flesh, but always look up to God.  When they brought Jesus the five loaves and two fish, Christ looked up to heaven – the source from which all blessings flow and where His help came from.  A good under-shepherd will always help you focus your eyes on The Shepherd of your souls in all things, in all your ways, at all times.

The enemy is the prince of this world, but his agenda is still the same; he wants to exalt himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-14).  Christ has forewarned us to beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Did you notice the revealed truth?  Not just that there will be false prophets who appear to be sheep, but the fact that they will come to you?  Thus, we should be on guard for them in the place you least expect —  the church!

Practice and you will grow!  If they teach, you should learn.  Are you learning?  If so, then it is required of you to practice so that you may grow.  Both 2 Peter 3:17-18 and Colossians 1:9-10 clearly show the importance of growing in knowledge.  On the one hand, we are called to knowledge of the Truth – the unalterable revealed Truth that contains no error – and we are told to hold fast to that Truth.   On the other hand, we are admonished to grow in grace and knowledge.  In order to realize that one has grown, one must have a starting point, a point of comparison.  We should drink in God’s Word like newly born infants, crave pure spiritual milk that we may by it be able to grow.  In light of the fact that many churches today have made various doctrinal adjustments over the years, wisdom shows itself by asking, “if God’s word has not changed, then why have they?”

We can certainly understand that growth is essential. Yet, do the scriptures provide any specific indications of how to grow? Indeed they do.  At the beginning of 2 Peter is a clear description of what it means to grow and neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-10 reads :

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue, through these he gave us the very great and precious promises that by them we might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  Because you have these blessings, we need to make every effort to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love.  If all these things are in you and are growing, they will help you to be useful and productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But, if anyone lacks these things he is blind and cannot see afar and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

Please note that faith, virtue, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity are characteristics that are not acquired through personal study and intellectual prowess.  Many intelligent individuals in this world are sorely lacking in these attributes.  These are characteristics that we obtain and develop, over our lifetime, only with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In like manner, the “knowledge” that Peter is referring to also is not acquired through study.  We cannot grow in spiritual knowledge on our own – we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  While it is mandatory to grow in knowledge, what is often overlooked is that there is more than one type of knowledge.  The book of Colossians addressed this very issue.  There were those, a group called Gnostics – derived from the word for knowledge – who claimed that the possessed privileged supernatural knowledge necessary for salvation.  Satan is a deceiver, he is a liar and the father of them and his knowledge is earthly, sensual and demoniacal.  God’s knowledge is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  I serve an all-knowing, all-powerful omnipresent God who desires to be known by those who are His.  Thus, growth in this knowledge is not about coming up with new doctrines, but it means that our behavior will begin to reflect His behavior. Our actions will begin to reflect His actions. Our thoughts will begin to reflect His thoughts.  One does not grow in grace and knowledge by adding additional restrictions to the revealed Way of life.  Neither does one grow by taking away any requirements from the revealed Way of life.  We cannot change the Truth of God.  What we must do is persevere in our application of the knowledge of the Truth, for “perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). We should labor fervently, that we “may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).

In the final analysis, it is the Christian’s responsibility to diligently remain faithful to the Truth, firm and unwavering, from the beginning to the end (Heb. 3:6, 14; 1 John 2:24).  If we are members of the church of God in these last days, then we are recipients of the Truth.  This is not just a physical, letter-of-the-law truth, but also spiritual truth, which can only be comprehended through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.  This does not imply that we have all understanding about everything. Far from it. We still have partial understanding with regard to many things.  However, those called during this present dispensation are given knowledge of the Truth, while others are ever learning, yet never able to come to it. Sadly, some would have been better off not to have “known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet. 2:21).

In case you didn’t see it, the purpose, the work, the mission of the church should reside within the walls of the heart of each individual believer because, unfortunate as it may be, you may not see it residing within the walls of the church!

Jesus said the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.  If you aren’t being trained for evangelism, if you aren’t being equipped for spiritual warfare, if you aren’t being exhorted to remember all that Christ has commanded of you and if making disciples is not your focus, then what is the purpose of your church?  Make  your calling and election sure!

© April 2012 Belinda Powell