Learning Christian Growth? To Study or Not to Study Is the Question

Learning Christian Growth? To Study or Not to Study Is the Question

Learning Christian Growth? To Study or Not to Study Is the Question

learning christian growth

Learning Christian growth ponders the mystery,”Why do two people sitting under the same message respond so differently?”

Learning Christian growth raises the question, “Does God withhold his revelation from one while allowing another to receive it? Why does a particular passage of Scripture suddenly “leap off the page” and speak powerful revelation to one’s heart although it has been read many times before? Does God delight in causing us to search continually while doling out nuggets of truth only in bits and pieces? Why does it seem so difficult to learn the ways of God? Is God a respecter of persons? If not, why then, does it seem one person knows more or learns faster than another?

Learning Christian growth is a paradox.

There is an amazing paradox that is largely unknown by most Christians in experiencing the revelation of God. Jesus indicated this mystery of experiencing God when He said,

. . . I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight . . . And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear; and have not heard them. (Luke 10:21, 23-24)

There is something definitely mysterious in the eyes which saw not and in the ears which heard not of the prophets and the kings of Israel.

They perceived themselves to be as a nation, the one true seeker of God. Paul wrote,

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God: and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind: a light of them which are in darkness (Rom. 2:17-19).

However, how they saw themselves was not how God saw them: “. . . all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21). They were hearing, but they were hearing amiss and were even obstinate in their faulty hearing. In fact, Paul added, ” . . . Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for . . .” (Rom. 1 1:7).

They actively sought God, but somehow in their seeking they did not find him. They misunderstood the unique godly principle that receiving the revelation of God is by the grace of God and not my the works of man (John 1:16).

Learning Christian growth is mysteriously not about searching for God.

The question has been raised, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection” (Job 11:7).

Paul, in his Corinthian letter raised the same query, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God . . .” (1 Cor. 1:20,21).

One of the foundational truth of the ways of God, the wisdom of this world is not capable of “finding out God.” Regardless of how hard the mind may seek, the wisdom of man cannot cross the great chasm into the mind of God. In fact, Paul recorded this statement of God to Moses,

 . . . I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy  (Rom. 9: 15,16).

The secret in finding God (learning Christian growth) lies not in the determination and effort of man, but, rather, it rests in the mercy of God (Rom. 12:1).

Learning Christian growth is by the self-disclosure of God.

If man cannot find out God by his own seeking and searching, then any knowledge of God that is acquired by man has to come from God’s own revelation of himself. If God had never chosen to reveal himself, man could never have come to know God or anything concerning him. Paul wrote,

But as if is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

Paul went on to say,

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Finally, Paul said,

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him. neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:9-16)

For man to acquire any knowledge (learning Christian growth) of God, God has to be the giver of that knowledge.

In other words, man learns of God as he encounters God through the disclosure of God. God has revealed himself in a self-opening out of his being. This is the statement of John when he wrote,

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

If it had not been for the coming of Jesus Christ, the ultimate revelation of God, mankind could never have come to “know him that is true . . . the true God.” Man could never experience learning Christian growth. Although man cannot find out God by his own searching, he can know God because God chose to reveal Himself by His grace.

Drawing back the veil of learning Christian growth.

Again, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave more of his insights into the uniqueness of Christian learning. Speaking concerning the hidden wisdom  of God (1 Cor. 2:7), Paul wrote, ” . . . God hath revealed [it] unto us by His Spirit . . . ” (1 Cor. 2: 10). The word “revealed” literally means “a drawing back of the veil.” That which had been concealed from man by a veil and could not be penetrated by man’s wisdom is now revealed or made known by the drawing back of the veil.

The belief in the existence of God and his revelation are the result of God’s initiative. Man could never know of God’s existence or experience his revelation if God had not a chosen to reveal himself. Moreover, man receives that revelation of God as he encounters or experiences God. All that man has or knows of God is a result of his experience with God.

Learning Christian growth is them mystery of revelation.

Paul recorded another dynamic statement concerning the uniqueness of learning Christian growth. He recorded the words of Isaiah who was quoting God, “. . . I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me” (Rom. 10:20). This seemingly difficult statement lies at the very heart of understanding the unique Christian approach to God.

Although God stated He was found of them that sought him not, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7,8). These two seemingly contradictory statements (God is found by them that did not seek him and Jesus’ admonition to seek and “it” shall be found) can be understood by recognizing that obviously there is a way to seek God that is not seeking Him.

Failure to find God is alway the failure of learning Christian growth.

Moreover, Paul seems to indicate that man’s effort to seek God by his own study, skills, or acts of wisdom may actually hinder the process of finding God. He wrote, “for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor. 1:17). His own preaching was “. . . not with enticing words of man’s wisdom . . . that . . .faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4,5). Man trying to experience the revelation of God, is actually hindered by his attempt to know God through his own skill, will, or determination.

A misunderstanding of learning Christian growth

Perhaps it would help to clear up a misunderstanding of the most often quoted verse concerning study in the Bible. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul stated,

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Many Christians understand this verse as a command or an admonition of Paul to Timothy to study the Word of God. However, if the mind of man cannot comprehend the things of God, why would Paul encourage Timothy to attempt something that is impossible?

Any good English dictionary will give a beginning clue to understand correctly what Paul really said. All comprehensive English dictionaries give two shades of meaning for the word study.  The first one is the more common understanding, “the use of the mind to gain knowledge or the act or process of learning about something.” The second definition is “to apply the attention and mind to a subject.” This second definition comes closer to the meaning of the original language of the New Testament.

Study to show must be understood to achieve learning Christian growth.

Paul is telling Timothy to apply his attention to the subject of being a workman approved unto God. He is not telling him “to study” in the sense of the most common understanding of the word. More specifically, Paul is telling Timothy not only to apply his attention but to make haste about it, for in the original language, the word translated study (actually the phrase study to show  is the translation of the original word) means “to make haste, to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.”

One is to study to shew  himself approved. He is to make haste about it. The entire verse will illustrate the meaning. The word “approved” in this context means a workman who has been put to the test and, meeting the specifications, has won the approval of the one who has subjected him to the test. Thus, Paul is actually telling Timothy, “Make haste, be approved of God.”

Conclusion of learning Christian growth

A workman such as this, one who is approved, has no cause for shame when he is inspected. The reason he does not need to be ashamed is that he has “rightly handled” (NIV) the Word of truth. Rightly handling the Word of truth will always produce a workman who is approved by God because the Word of truth is Jesus. When Jesus is “rightly handled,” approval is always given. A believer will not be ashamed of himself or of the work for he will have the approval of God through Jesus Christ.

Finally, there is the urging on, the exhortation to make haste. Thus, the study to show of this verse does not relate to the idea of the use of the mind to gain knowledge. Rather, it is an admonition to hurry up and let God do his work.

Learning Christian growth will not come by human ingenuity. It does not come from the study of the written word but from the revelation of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Or, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians

. . . Ye have not so learned Christ: If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus (4:20,21).

Learning Christian growth can come only by hearing Jesus and being taught by him. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Him (Col. 2:3). Jesus Christ is the means of learning Christian growth.

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Dr. James Stone is the founder and President of Christian Ministries, Inc., a ministry for personal, family, and church growth. He travels extensively across America and several foreign countries sharing his experiences with Jesus. His over 40 year career in ministry has included individual counseling, family counseling, church pastor, Bible college/seminary professorships, leader of revivals, Christian growth seminars & church growth specialist.

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