Spiritual Growth-(updated)

Spiritual Growth-(updated)

THE LIVING WORD CENTER, INC.

Rev. Jay Werman, Director

Sturdy guide for “Three Stages of Spiritual Growth”

Topic: 3 Stages of Spiritual Growth (updated)

Text Based: 2 Kings 2:1-14

Some points to be details in this topic:

a) We will explain about stages of spiritual growth and how to identify myself in any of those levels.
b) How to grow and what are the elements involved in it.
c) How to grow in the inward man using the word of God.
d) What are the evidences of spiritual growth.
e) Principles established by God in his Word that produce changes in the inside and the outside.
f) The main point is to identify why I’m not growing in my inward man and how to correct it using what God had provided.
g) Most of our issues and problems come from the lock of spiritual growth.

In 2 Kings 2:1-14 we will draw a spiritual application based on the places where these two men of God were sent before one of them was taken to heaven. Let me make clear that when we study the scriptures and try to interpret a particular passage, it should be understood that there is only one interpretation, which is what the writer (inspired by God) of that particular book intended to reveal. The interpretation of that particular passage may be “Literal or Allegorical”, depends on what God wanted to communicate to those whom He addressed. We can use or extract different applications from those verses but keep in mind that the application is limited to the context that surrounds it and you should never distort the biblical language to try to justify actions that compromise all principles and laws established by God.

Let’s apply what we had already mentioned and establish a parallel between the place where Elijah and Elisha went and the levels of spiritual growth.

There are 3 different locations in 2 Kings 2:2-7: “Bethel, Jericho and Jordan”. These 3 locations can be used (in a limited sense limited) as a reference to represent believer’s spiritual levels but it has to be within the biblical context of the passage.

Bethel: For example, represents the place of “the vision” in Genesis 35:1-15. Observe several key words in these verses:

“And God said unto Jacob, arise, go up to Bethel”. v. 1
“And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother”. v.7

According to The Brown-Driver-Briggs’s dictionary the expression “El Bethel” means “The God of the House of God” from the Hebrew. Bethel was the place where God revealed Himself to Jacob.

The stages of spiritual growth are as follow:

  • First stage is Born Again (Beth-El): Here is where everything starts for us. God not only places his divine nature in us (John 3:15; 5:39; 6:54; 10:28; Rom. 6:23; Tit. 1:2; 1 John 5:13) but at the same time He placed his vision in our new spirit.
  • The second stage is when we start to obey God’s word (Jericho): and rely our dependency on God more than our old way to deal with problems and issues. After we are born again, we must receive instructions (musar) about the new life we have received aligned with the word of God. Compare with Proverbs 1:2-8; 6:23; 8:10; 12:1; 13:18; 15:33; 19:27.
Noted: The Hebrew word “musar” is used 50 times in the Old Testament and is translated “correction (8), instruction (30), chastening (3), chastisement (3), bond (1), chasteneth (1), check (1), discipline (1), doctrine (1), rebuker (1) according to The Brown-Driver-Brigg’s dictionary.
  • The Third stage is when we understand God’s purpose and we had surrendered to it (Jordan): As a born again Christians we are supposed to produce fruits that redounded to God’s glory. Mat 3:10; 7:17-19; 12:33; 13:8, 26; 21:19, 34; Mar 4:7-8, 29; 11:14; 12:2; Luke 1:42; 3:9; 6:43-44; 8:8; 13:6-7; 20:9-10; John 4:36; 12:24; 15:2; 15:4-5, 8, 16; Act 2:30, Rom 1:13; 6:21-22; 15:28, 1 Co 9:7; Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9, Phi 1:22; 4:17, Heb 12:11; 13:15, Jam 3:18; 5:7, 18; Rev 22:2

3 different places with 3 different meanings in 2 Kings 2:1-14

(a picture explaining these 3 different places and meaning will be upload soon)


First symbolical stage:

Explaining “Beth-El” as a Level of Spiritual Growth

Beth-El represents the place where God gives us his vision (plan and purpose for us). At the moment when we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he placed a vision (purpose) in our spirit, which it will develop as we grow in the inward man. 1 Samuel 3:1 reveals a clear truth where it says: “And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision”. The manifestation and contact with Jehovah was sporadic at those days, which made it so precious. In this in mind, observe the verse 7 which says: “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the Word of the LORD yet revealed unto him”. 2 things are exposed in those verses:

  • Where the Word scares there’s no vision from God.
  • In order to really know God, His Word has to be revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Note: “The Word of the Lord was precious in those days” means “because revelation, prophecies, visions, and contact with Jehovah was SCARCE and therefore valuable”.

Beth-El implies that we must let God’s Word to take over our lives so that we can comprehend the purpose of God for us. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians “But we have the mind of Christ”. 1 Cor. 2:16. It basically means that “we know the plans and purposes of God for us”. And Jesus expressed the same line of thought when He said in Mat. 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness”.

Beth-El is where we received a calling to work on a plan and purpose of God for our lives, which in the language of the biblical text means: we have received a vision from God. This is the first stage of the Christian life. God is expecting His children to grow in the inward man until we reach a maturity life. Ephesians 4:12-16.

In 1 Peter 2:1 we found 5 elements that will stop spiritual growth:

“Malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and evil speaking.”

Also in 1 Peter 2:2 it tells you how to grow in your inward man:

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby”.

The passage points out that the only way to grow spiritually is by taking the unadulterated milk of the Word of God, which is “The pure doctrines of the gospel and line up with the new covenant in Christ”. In Mark 4:2 says “And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine”. Only the doctrine of Jesus can “transform and change your life”. Compare James 1:21; Romans 12:2.

By allowing and receiving the unadulterated word of God you will grow as follow:

  • In knowledge 2 Peter 3:18
  • Into Christ ion all things. 4:15
  • Into a holy temple. Eph. 2:21
  • Like a cedar of the Lebanon Ps. 92:12
  • Like calves in the stall. 4:2
  • In Grace. 2 Peter 3:18

A “newborn baby” is a direct reference to the experience expressed by Jesus in John 3:110 and also in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where it expressed the fact that we are born again.

In Colossians 3:16 says:

“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”.
  • “Let” implies that you have to “accept voluntarily”. In James 1:21 we see the same line of thoughts “receive with meekness” and in 1 Peter 2:2 says “desire”. Compare with Rev. 3:20 where the reference in there is to Christian churches.
  • “Dwell” is used metaphorically to “dwell in one and influence him” (for good).
  • “Richly” means in the language of the text “metaphorically abounding, abundantly supplied; abounding (rich) in Christian virtues, gifts and eternal possessions.

Jesus said in John 6:63

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”.

The Word of God is the “spiritual food” provided by God for which we will grow “unto a perfect man” (mature person) Eph. 4:13. Jesus said in John 4:32:

“But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work”.

We are born again and received God’s nature to do God’s will, and to accomplish what we are here for. There is nothing that will bring us more satisfaction than to do God’s purpose with us. This is one of the great principles established by God in His Word.


The second symbolical stage is when we start to be obedient to God’s word (Jericho) and our dependency is on God more than our old way to deal with problems and issues.

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds”. Col 3:8-9

Breaking down the passages:

  • But now ye (as well as all other true believers) also put off all these – All these which follow, as being also inconsistent with God’s calling.
  • Anger, wrath – Eph 4:26. The two words appear together in Rom 2:8; Eph 4:31; Rev 16:19; Rev 19:15. The word rendered “anger” is rather chronic, that rendered “wrath” rather acute – an outburst.
  • Malice – Eph 4:31. The Greek word sometimes bears the sense of evil, ill, in general; e.g. Mat_6:34. But in lists of vices (compare here Rom 1:29, Tit 3:3; 1Pet 2:1) it means what we mean by “malice.”—It is the vice which lies below anger and wrath, as a root or spring.
  • Blasphemy – Mat 9:3. The word here seems to mean all injurious and calumnious speaking – whether against God or man.
  • Filthy communication (which comes) out of your mouth – Lewd, indecent, and immodest discourse; Eph 4:29. The conversation of the pagan everywhere abounds with this and which, though it is applicable to all speech that is unsavory, unedifying, idle, and useless, and may be properly enough said of flattery, lying, cursing, and swearing; yet chiefly regards obscene language, unchaste words, and filthy talking, which tend to encourage and cherish the sin of uncleanness in any of its branches, flattery, lying, cursing, and swearing; yet chiefly regards obscene language, unchaste words, and filthy talking, which tend to encourage and cherish the sin of uncleanness in any of its branches.

This is the stage of our spiritual lives when “God shapes us to formed Christ in us”. Since we were born again and received a new spiritual nature, God started a “breaking through process” to remove all those things that are an obstacle and are holding you back. One thing you need to be aware of, is that the devil and his demons are your number one enemies and they will get in the way so that you get discourage and not accomplish the purpose of God in you.

Paul spoke about the levels of maturity in 1 Corinthians 13:11;

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

The Greek word used for a child is “ne pios”, which means “not speaking, that is, an infant (minor); figuratively a simple minded person, an immature Christian”, according to The Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionary.

“I thought as a child” Better as margin, I reasoned. The same Greek word is used here as in 1Co 13:5, ‘thinketh no evil.’

“when I became a man, I put away childish things”, Rather, since I have become a man, I have brought to an end the things of the child, referring, not so much to the act which put away these things, as to the fact that they had been put away finally and irrevocably.

We need to put away;

  1. Speaking like a child.
  2. Understanding like a child.
  3. Thought like a child.

Extracting the essence of what the apostle is saying in this passage, we must grow and leave behind all those things we’ve been dragging on before we were born again.

How do I put away those things? Growing in the inward man through the Word of God.

The Greek word used for “put away” is “katargeo” and it means that “a superior and more complete stage will take over those that are put down”, in the same sense that adult hood replaced childhood. The whole point is that we must leave behind all the immature stages and move on to what is more excellent. Reading the context of this passage is clear the behavior of this believers.

At Gilgal (v.1-2) at Bethel (v.4) and Jericho (v.6) Elisha frankly told Elijah “I will not leave you”. After that, Elijah did not try to persuade him to stay at any place, indicating that he had merely tested Elisha.

The expression “The Lord hath sent me to” indicates that Elijah was just following in obedience the instructions of The Lord. Obedience has to be learned and it’s part of the process of spiritual growth. In Hebrew 5:8 says;

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”

The third symbolical stage is called “Jordan”. The word in Hebrew is “yardên” which means “a descender” or “One that descends”. It represents when we are submerged (figurative) into Christ and all our being (spirit, soul and body) is controlled by God through our spiritual growth (complete understanding of His will for us). This stage is a very slow process and it requires a spiritual understanding of how it works. In our last class I mentioned about how obscured was the definition of “Soul” in the O.T. because of the sinful nature of men. Eph 2:3; Rom. 6:23; Gal. 2:15. In the N.T. it is a totally different matter because now we had received a new nature through the price that our Lord Jesus paid for us. 2 Pet. 1:4. Our will, emotions, intellect, mind and reason are parts that conformed our soul. We must surrender all these areas to God in order to be in harmony with His plan and purpose for us. Observe what Jesus said in Mat. 16:24;

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Let’s explain the key words of this passage:

  • “If any man will come after me” – it refers to accept Jesus as the One that had paid the price and because we believe it we are born again. John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 1:23. Using a “Parallel” reference this stage represents “Beth-El”. All the benefits of the new pact in Christ are concentrated on individual decision and following certain conduction. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 22:17. God will never force or put pressure to obligate a person to do His will but rather He will persuade that person in love and kindness.
  • “let him (the born again) deny himself” – the Greek word for “deny” is “aparneomai” which has the following definitions according to Thayer’s Greek dictionary:
  1. to deny
  • to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone
  • to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests
  • “Take up his cross, and follow me” – this is an expression that had caused confusion because of the misuse and misunderstanding of what the expression meant when the writer wrote it. The context plays a great significance in the extraction of the original meaning taught by Jesus in this case. Wrong doctrines and false teachings had been the result of the wrong use of this expression, which Jesus never meant to use in such way. Some have even taught incorrectly by stating that the term “cross” in the text means caring a “sickness or affliction”. Such line of teaching violates God’s plan to redeem humanity from the cursed that came because of Adam’s transgressions. Read Rom 5:12; Gal. 3:13. When we use the term “cross” related to Jesus it means “The reason or purpose He came to accomplish” (read John 4:34; 6:38), in other words, “the specific mission He came to do”.

Using the term related to a believer, has the same meaning but connected to the term “Deny himself” which means, “All your personal ambitions need to be put aside and let God be the first one in your heart”. “Take the cross” within the context of the text implies “to do the commission you have received from God”, which includes “His plan and purpose”. Observe that in Luke 9:23 is even more specific when it says;

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

After we are born again (Beth- El) we are instructed by the Word of God to follow Jesus footsteps in obedience (Jericho). Read Luke 9:62; John 14:15. Then we are heading toward our goal, which is “surrendering our will to God” (Jordan). Paul experienced it when he spoke in Galatians 2:20;

“I am crucified (my personal ambitions) with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (to do God’s will): and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

That should be the objective of every born again Christian, all our personal agendas, plans, ambitions, aspirations, etc. must be replaced by God’s purpose in us. Jesus knew this when he faced a big decision in his earthy life just days before his crucifixion.  We read in Luke 22:42;

“Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

“Remove” means “to lead aside from the right course or path, to carry away”. Jesus knew that the only way for Him to do His father’s will was by surrendering all to the One He trusted all his earthy life. In a figurative way Jesus needed to cross the “Jordan” and rely on God the Father. Read Heb. 5:7. And also He said in John 12:24;

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

If Jesus didn’t die at the cross, He would’ve never die because he never had experienced sin in his life and according to Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.” But He came to put his own life to rescue the human race and restore everything; John 15:13. Jesus obtained the Victory not at the cross but rather at the garden of Gethsemane where He literally surrendered His will to the father’s will.

The Jordan represents for us those moments when we must surrender all to our Lord and rely on His perfect will. Every born again Christian will face with the decision whether to follow his/her own plans or to do God’s purpose. We won’t experience the fullness of God’s presence in us until we won’t let go and bury in the depth of the Jordan our own ambitions.

Only through spiritual growth we can reach a point where we can allow God to take control not only of plans and goals but our entire lives. It’s a process that might take years to accomplish for some. Others are not that privileged, no because they didn’t have the same opportunity but because they chose not to surrender to God’s perfect will.

One thing has to be clear, we belong to God since the moment we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are just partakers of the life of Christ and the remaining time we are on this earth must be lived to reflect His power and glory.

Spiritual growth is the more critical part of our Christian lives and keeping people from growing in the inward man is one of the reasons why the devil had introduced false doctrines, fallacies, humanism, heresies, etc. since the church got corrupted and mixed up with pagans rituals (From the 300s when Constantine the Roman Emperor). We need to be diligent in acquiring the pure spiritual knowledge that comes by the revelation from the Holy Spirit as is described by Paul in Eph. 1:17-18 that says;

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

Read and compare with John 5:39; 14:26; 15:26.

soulThree very important passages of the Scriptures:

“Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9:44
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. 10:17
” Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

 

Feedback:
If this teaching has been a blessing to your life, please let us know!!

 

Blessings upon you and yours!!

 

 

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