Knowledge

Knowledge

Week 3 of a series examining Christian virtues

Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

We are continuing with the virtues of God described in 2 Peter 1:5-11.  Today we’re looking at knowledge; the knowledge of God.

The knowledge of God is like a garment we put on that is way too big for us. We need to continue to grow into it.

I can remember my parents saying to me you’ll grow into that jumper, especially when I was having a “hand-me-down” from my older brother!

The picture Scripture gives about the knowledge of God is like clothing a child while they are growing up.

When our daughters were babies we never bought clothes that were just the right fit.  We knew that they would grow, so we bought the baby grow that little bit bigger, saying, “Oh, she is going to grow into it.” And she did – all too quickly!  This continued when we sent them to school. Blouses, skirts, jumpers, coats were all bought on the large side.  We turned up the sleeves because it was easier to let them down than buy another garment.

Adults grow as well, but not primarily physical growth – although that does happen, and often in ways we don’t desire! The growth of the adult should primarily in the areas of experience, knowledge, and maturity.

It is the same for us as believers. But the interesting thing is that the growing process never stops, because the knowledge of God is a garment that you and I could never possibly grow all the way into.  The knowledge of God is so vast, and deep, and wide, and high that you could spend a hundred lifetimes growing in your knowledge of God, and you would still have an incredible amount of growing yet to do.

The Bible clearly shows us that growing in the knowledge of God, and so of Jesus, is a process

It begins with the foundation of faith, that we trust God about Jesus, that we’re convicted about who Jesus is; the Son of God.  The next part of the process is to add goodness, which we looked at last week.  This is about striving to allow God to renew us so that we are ready to believe and then receive His goodness, because God is a GOOD God.

Now Peter is saying we are to add knowledge to faith and goodness (2 Peter 1:5).  This makes sense for what good is it to have faith and the desire to do good (virtue) unless we know where to focus our faith and channel our goodness?

Knowledge, therefore, is an essential element in growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Knowledge can be defined as “to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to know accurately, know well” (Thayer). (The word epignosis {ep-ig’-no-sis}). It can also be defined as “seeking to know, an inquiry, investigation” (Vine).  (The word gnosis {gno’-sis})

So for the Christian, knowledge pertains to understanding the will of God and that the way of salvation is found only through His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 1:77; Philippeans 3:8).  God wants us to seek His knowledge so that we truly know that we’re thoroughly acquainted with Jesus Christ.

In Scripture we find that God demands his people to have knowledge… Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us that God expected it of Israel:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.

The Lord also declared to Jeremiah that the Knowledge of God would be a characteristic of the New Covenant.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.

33 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord.  ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.   I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Paul in his letter to the Colossians says for us to be pleasing to the Lord, we must have a knowledge of His will –

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10).

If it is God’s demand for us to have knowledge, then it goes without saying that when we display a lack of knowledge He is displeased with us. Hosea 4 & 6 tells us that Israel was destroyed because of their lack of knowledge…

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: ‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.  (Hosea 4:1,6)

‘What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.  5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth – then my judgments go forth like the sun.  6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:4-6)

In 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 we read how Jesus will come in judgement against those who do not know God…

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

So without knowledge, all the sincerity and zeal in the world is in vain!

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:1-3)

Since knowledge of God and His will is so important, how do we “add” knowledge?

The development of knowledge

Well, we have to acknowledge that the source for knowledge is Jesus.

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:1-3)

So the New Testament is essential as we pursue Godly knowledge, for it contains the only reliable source of information concerning Jesus’ teachings while on earth and later through His apostles.

The Old Testament is also to be a source of knowledge (2 Timothy 3:14-17), and this not only for the prophetic information about Christ and His salvation, but also sheds light on the nature of God, and what makes the Godly person complete. Therefore, in our search for knowledge, certain attitudes are necessary:

  • A heart that longs and searches for knowledge (Pr 2:3-6; cf. 1 Pe 2:2)
  • A mind that values knowledge more highly than gold (Pr 8: 10-11)
  • A love for instruction (Pr 12:1)

A person with these attitudes will:

  • Make daily Bible reading a priority in their life
  • Utilise every opportunity to study the Word of God alone, and with others
  • Not take such opportunities for granted

So, do we demonstrate to others that acquiring knowledge of God and His Word is a priority? If we are diligent in our study of God’s Word, progress will be evident to others, as we read in 1 Tim 4:

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:15-16)

Of course, the reverse is just as true, sadly.  We also need to be cautious with the knowledge we have, for like all things, knowledge can be dangerous.

The danger of knowledge

Knowledge has the potential to produce arrogance, because it can “puff up” rather than “build up” (edify).  It has been said that “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” (Alexander Pope)

Now about food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.  (1 Co 8: 1-2)

For this reason, we must temper knowledge with love and meekness, for love edifies, and does not puff itself up, (See 1 Cor 8:1; 13:4).

So, to check if our perceived knowledge or wisdom is being used wisely we need to see if it is manifesting itself in a spirit of meekness.  If it’s hard, abrupt, bullying or intimidating then we need to go back to God and seek His forgiveness and let Him temper our knowledge and His perfect wisdom.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13,17)

The truth is this:

there is no virtue in knowledge if it leads to arrogance.

If used incorrectly, KNOWLEDGE CAN DESTROY a fellow Christian when it is misused.

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that ‘There is no God but one.’ 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling-block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  (see 1 Co 8:4-11)

How do we know when we’re operating out of arrogance?

  • When we despise the lack of knowledge in others,
  • when we run roughshod over the weak conscience of others.

Such abuse of knowledge produces sin in our lives (see 1 Cor 8:12-13) which can lead us to sin against Christ! Therefore, humility, compassion, grace, mercy and love must properly restrain our use of knowledge (see Romans 14:14-21), for like a sharp knife, knowledge can be dangerous when used improperly.

Conclusion

With the proper application of knowledge:

  • We can build up our faith, as faith comes from God’s Word
  • We provide direction in which to channel our striving for excellence

So a question worth asking on a regular basis is “am I growing in knowledge?” If the answer is “no”, we are setting ourselves up for destruction for Scripture warns;

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”  Hosea 4:6

If we are growing, then we are on the right track for Scripture promises;

“…you will never stumble or fall.”  (2 Peter 1:10)

However, we must take care that our knowledge of God does not lead us away from God by making us arrogant and unloving towards others. There is no virtue in knowledge if it leads to arrogance.

To our faith and goodness, therefore, let us be sure to add knowledge, that we might truly grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Goodness

Goodness

Week 2 of a series examining Christian Virtues

Tasting the goodness of God

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Our God is a good God!

If you know Him and love Him, you’ll likely respond with a hearty, Amen to that!  Yesterday, today, forever; God is good. On our best days, on our worst days; God is good. He desires to bless us, heal us, deliver us and prosper us every day. Psalm 34:8 says taste and see that the Lord is good.

When Barbara and I were away in France recently, our hotel had its own patisserie.  We could see lots of wonderful pastries, and oh they looked good.  I knew they existed because I could see them. People were coming in and enjoying them.  But I didn’t know how good they were until I’d tasted one myself. We know the truth about something through first-hand experience.

You see, Jesus teaches that we have to press into God’s goodness, and the best way to start this is to accept that you still have something to learn about God and His goodness.  Paul says in Romans 12:2 Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Therefore, don’t let religious traditions rob you of the goodness of God. Don’t let a sense of unworthiness rob you of the goodness of God.

Dig into your Bible and discover for yourself the passages that speak of God’s mercy (Psalm 86:5), of His loving-kindness (Jeremiah 9:24), and His compassion (Psalm 145:8), for He is good to all. We will see the goodness of God in our lives by the renewing of our minds.

We read in James, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

God is not holding back any good thing from anyone. God has things in store for you that you’ve never even dared to imagine. That should be exciting to think about, (1 Corinthians 2:9-10), but you need to believe this.

When we begin to understand God’s goodness, we find it easier to trust Him. That trust then enables us to open our hearts to new level of His power in our lives, as our belief grows.  You see it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you His Kingdom, (Luke 12:32).  He does not want to withhold anything from those who push deeper into Him (Psalm 84:11).

If you doubt that God is good and that He is going to manifest His goodness in your life, you will lose heart and quit, move into unbelief and close the door on what He wants to give you.  But if you were to take a deeper step in believing in the goodness of God where will you be this time next year?  Where will we as a church be this time next year?   Things will be better in your life, and in the life of Christ’s Church here.  We will be better equipped to overcome the forces of evil, for the devil works by stealing, killing and destroying what is good in our lives.  “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11). Once you renew your mind and believe you will see the goodness of God, all that is left for you to do is receive the goodness of God.

Do you feel that there are things missing in your life today?  Are there things that you long for, pray for, dream about?

If the missing things align with God’s Word, He wants you to have it.  Now that doesn’t mean He will hand it to you on a plate, very often you have a part to play. The biggest part will be obedience and receiving by faith. Sometimes there is a preparation period between the “Amen” and “There it is.” But don’t doubt for a moment that He wants to give it to you.

Why do some people have trouble receiving from God?  Because they haven’t fully understood the goodness of God. Yet, it’s a foundation of our faith in Him.

I know many of you have tasted the goodness of the Lord in many areas of your life. Praise God for that! But wouldn’t you like to go further in your walk with Him? Wouldn’t you like to be bolder and more daring in your faith?

Think of the times when you sensed the Lord calling you to do something new, to make a change in your life. Like Peter, you heard the voice of the Master calling you to cross the water of life to new levels in Him. You heard Him say, “Come!” You wanted to step out of your little comfort zone and walk on the water…but you didn’t. Fear stopped you. You saw the wind and the waves in the circumstances around you. You grew timid and shrank back. You didn’t reach out and receive.

But don’t feel condemned. Instead, let the truth strengthen your faith. Let it inspire you to search the Word, and so let it show you more about the goodness of God.

Renewing your mind, believing and receiving are all part of the journey to taste the goodness of God in every single part of your life. Put a piece of God’s goodness on your plate, pick up a fork and dig in! Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Based on Psalm 145:1-13; Matthew 7:7-12