Formula for Spiritual Growth
The formula for spiritual growth is given briefly in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, perseverance; and perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
This is given in a logical order. It must be in the order given.
All one has to know to obey the gospel is that we are lost and that our only hope is the grace of God. After we obey the gospel, we must first add goodness to our faith. We must acquire goodness before more knowledge because if we haven't cleaned up our act, eliminated evil things from our life, more knowledge would probably be interpreted wrong and we wouldn't mature spiritually. If we haven't committed to being good people, knowledge would give us false pride, not make us more spiritual. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1CO 8:1).
Knowledge must be added to a pure heart committed to being the good person God desires. Without the proper attitude a little knowledge can be dangerous. Unless being fully committed to becoming what the Lord calls good, one would probably stop after learning a little and think he has all he needs. He would then have the wrong idea about God's grace and sin more, influencing others to follow.
Before we can persevere at anything, we must have self-control. It is impossible to be an effective Christian or even a good citizen without self-control. If we can't control our actions' others, have to. That is why prisons are necessary. If we can't control our sins, we will be back in Satan's prison of bondage again. If we can't live right, others will be tempted to follow our evil ways. If we can't control our tongue, others will be offended and the unity of the church will be lost.
After we have mastered goodness, and knowledge, we are ready to tackle perseverance. It takes all of the Christian virtues we have to keep climbing the spiritual ladder in the midst of trials and temptations we all face. Satan will throw all he has in our path to stop us. Christians that live for God are considered bitter enemies by the evil one. They are a menace to his cause. He will stop at nothing to distract them. All that we have to keep us going is our faith. He knows that we will be given strength when we pray, so he will attempt to keep us so busy that we will think we don't have time to talk to God. Don't listen to the devil. He is a liar. Ask the Lord for help, resist the evil one and you will succeed.
Godliness can only be achieved after the preceding attributes are acquired. We can readily see that there is quite a bit to be learned between goodness and godliness. There is a difference between worldly and spiritual goodness. The world's idea of good doesn't include biblical principles. We must have the purpose to be totally committed to him. He is as much impressed by our intents and purposes as he is to our actions. Our works make our faith complete.
It is only at this point in our journey to spiritual completeness that we are ready for brotherly kindness. We do not qualify for this type of kindness until we master the other virtues. Being kind to a worldly friend does not possess the spiritual qualities that brotherly kindness has. This term comes from the Greek word Philadelphia, which refers to kindness, love of the brethren. Christian brothers and sisters are to be closer than family members (if they are not Christians). We are to prefer Christian brethren and love them with special affection.
Love is the ultimate and most difficult to achieve. This is translated from Agape, which is love in a spiritual and social sense, a God like love. Christians with this type of love can agree to disagree with no hard feelings, respecting each other's position. Paul said that we should consider others better than our self (PHIL 2:3). He didn't say that others are better, but that we should consider them better.
This has nothing to do with self-esteem. It is laying down the principles of relationship. If I consider you better than me, and you consider me better than you, we are going to have a beautiful relationship. When we have achieved all these virtues, we will be complete, spiritually mature.
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Lynn Bradley is the author of the paperback book, "Climbing the Heavenly Stairs." It is meant as a guide to growing spiritually and becoming mature. Learn more at http://www.thelynnbradleybook.com.
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