How do we grow spiritually? There are three elements to growing. They are 1) knowledge, 2) will, and 3) emotion. Let's examine these elements and discover their role in our spiritual growth so that our growth aligns with God's purpose for us.
These are the notes taken live during services as captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a word for word transcript. For the exact wording, please consult the audio recording.
I’ve been told on many occasions that growing old stinks. But in ways it is nice that we do grow and mature. If everybody capped out at age 8, we would have a billion 8 year olds running around. We would be limited by the growth we had to that point. We were all born; we drank milk. Maybe your parents had a baby grinder; you put whatever you are eating in it, and out comes a mush. You feed it to your kids. Then you figure out where Mom hides the snacks. As parents, it is fun to watch the wheels turn. You see things click in their minds. Spiritually, how do we grow? Does the passing of time cause growth? For those that have been baptized 20, 30, or 40 years, are you more mature than those that have only been baptized 10? We are told to grow; we are given tips on how to grow. When was the last time you Bible studied? This morning? Yesterday? Thursday? How often do you study? Too often, Bible study consists of just reading a GN article or two. Or we listen to an old sermon. That is not what Bible study is. It is not limited to just to those item. A Yale librarian said: We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge. Have you ever stopped to think about all the information at our fingertips? The Church publishes magazines. The GN. The Veridical Thought Magazine. The GN commentary. The Beyond Today programs. The Breaking Free Journal. There are 6000+ video and audio sermons on the websites.
There are several websites that have all of Mr. Armstrong’s literature on them. All the versions of the Correspondence Course. We are drowning in information. When was the last time you read or studied something and said that was interesting and put it down? When was the last time when you said, I never knew that before! I just learned something! When was the last time you increased in knowledge? It is very difficult to do just by reading an article or listening to an old sermon. Are there good emotions or affections we can have when it comes to talking about growth? We all want to be in the family of God. None of us want to be stagnant and lukewarm and going through the motions. Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×, 12-13 Vs. 5 – It is important that it is Christ’s mind we should put on. It is not Christ trying to understand why we can’t do certain laws. Vs. 12 – Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. What does that mean? We have to have the knowledge and then be able to act on that knowledge. There are other attributes that tie into knowledge for growth. I want to talk about three elements that are critical to human growth.
1. Understanding, or knowledge. It is important to increase in knowledge of God’s word. Ephesian 4:17-19 Vs. 19 – These individual’s understanding was darkened. Before we were called, we could read the Bible and think, good kid’s stories. But, with God’s spirit, I can understand. This is what God wants me to do. This is God’s plan of salvation. Before we were called, our understanding was darkened; now it is not. God’s spirit is in us; we can have understanding. Romans 1:28 Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
American King James Version×They didn’t like to retain God in their knowledge, so they did their own thing. It is important to retain God in our knowledge. We all have knowledge available to us. What are we doing with it?
2. Decision making, or will. We need to subdue our carnal will to seek God’s will. We had a message a few weeks ago on God’s will. But we all have our own wills. The question is will we submit our will to God’s will and put our will on the back burner. John 5:39-40 John 5:39-40  Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
American King James Version×Here Christ makes the point that simply having the knowledge is not enough. The Pharisees understood the law very well. He commended them on that. He said if they said it, you should do it. It goes beyond understanding. Vs. 40 – You have to understand God’s purpose and will and what He wants us to do with that knowledge. We have to use it to overcome sins and take on His nature.
3. Emotion. Redirecting our desires – our emotions – in an appropriate way is necessary. On the converse, our emotions can mess things up. During the foot washing service at Passover, I read the scripture that says if we do these things, happy we will be. That is an emotional response. We should be happy about living God’s laws. Emotion doesn’t make us smart. But there is a satisfaction that comes though God’s spirit knowing that what we are doing makes God happy. Ephesians 2:3 Ephesians 2:3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
American King James Version×This is rogue emotion. Emotion gone AWOL. A path that is not correct. This is not proper emotion. Emotion can overtake us and cause us to do things we perhaps wouldn’t otherwise do. Romans 7:18 Romans 7:18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
American King James Version×, 24 (ISV) Vs. 24 – This is self-loathing. I know I’m not living up to God’s spirit. Emotion is the third element necessary for Christian growth. We have to have knowledge; we have to have desire; and we have to have the right emotion. Knowledge leads the way in understanding what the will of God is. We subdue our own will to align it with God’s will, and then we delight in living the way that puts a smile on God’s face. Consistency in that process is very vital.
Let’s go back to the story of the two trees. If any of these elements are misguided, bad things happen. Genesis 3:4 Genesis 3:4And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:
American King James Version×Adam and Eve were told to have all they want, but stay away from this tree. Vs. 4 – Satan said you will not die. Hogwash. Vs. 6 – Satan first begins to attack that knowledge layer. He taught a knowledge that is contrary to what God said. He then begins to stir the wrong emotional response. He appeals to the affections; please to the eyes and to the taste. They willingly went the wrong way, contrary to God’s way. At first, they had the knowledge and the will to go God’s way. Satan came in and started to jumble everything up. He broke down the knowledge layer and then attacked the emotions. He tried to mix these up. If we have a stubborn, rebellious well, knowledge won’t help. We can read all the magazines and booklets, but we won’t submit to them. Pride, anger and fear, bitterness and animosity can drag us away. Emotional responses can drag us away. We know that those are not right, but many times we let those reign in our life. We must understand the workings of our minds and the proper place of emotions. Our will can be a very powerful determinant of choice. In many cases, it can override the knowledge we have. There are influences, positive or negative, that can change our will. Our will can be influenced by God. Great. Our will can be influenced by friends. That could be good or bad. Or by Satan – definitely bad. What influences do we allow into our life? Music? TV? Things we read? Friends? Our will is determined largely by those influences. Knowledge is our rudder to hold our will in check.
Romans 7:20-23 Romans 7:20-23  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.
 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
American King James Version×Vs. 23 – Here we have facets of all three elements. We have to have knowledge to even know what sin is. We have will; we have emotion. We have to ask God about situations. Help me respond to this person appropriately. Help me keep my emotions always in check. There is a fantastic battle that goes on here. Some state: I don’t feel that I’m worthy. How do I know if I’m on the right track? If this battle is going on inside you, you are on the right track. With Satan’s influence, we want to do things that oppose scripture. Who will win? If we don’t have a battle going on, and we live a peachy life, that should be a huge red flag. If we find ourselves in this battle, and sometimes our selfishness gets in the way, and we say, we will do better next time, that is good. We should always try to elevate to God’s way. Why did you get baptized? Maybe it was decades ago. Maybe it was because you realized you were a sinner. You wanted this battle to go on. Some have no battle. We need God’s help for this battle to rage. Without God’s help, there is no battle. We are quite peachy with ourselves.
Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
American King James Version×, 37 Here, we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Peter gave a sermon that convicted the audience. Vs. 37 – They were cut to the heart. They weren’t cut to the mind. It is about the appropriate emotional response. We have the knowledge. We desire to put away our nature and align with God’s way of life. It comes down to the proper emotion. The Bible is the knowledge of God’s reasoning. Sometimes we do exactly what He says to do, because we have the knowledge. Sometimes, we know what to do, and we just don’t react that way. God says, make My day special. Do things you wouldn’t do other days of the week. Oh, there is this great party on Saturday night that starts early. Our minds must be constantly brought under God’s influence. The battle of the wills: Our will, or God’s will – which will win? The Bible primarily speaks to us through knowledge. It doesn’t speak through will or emotion. It is the instruction book for understanding God’s plan and why we are here. Why is it important that we constantly soak up knowledge? There is no shortcut to growth that bypasses knowledge. We have to have a constant intake of God’s word into our life. Growth is what God wants to see. It means a reward at Christ’s coming. It means being a participant. It is about the first resurrection.
Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30  For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them.
 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed:
 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours.
 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed:
 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents.
 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has.
 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version×They each got some talents. They had the knowledge. The master told them what to expect. Vs. 23 – The first couple of guys gained additional talents. The last guy didn’t act on that knowledge. He let his own will overtake him. We have to make God’s knowledge real and vibrant in our life. We have to be excited about studying and learning. How do we make God’s knowledge real and living? In short, study. The reality is, yes, we have to study. We have to meditate. We have to pray. We have to make God’s word interesting. Don’t lock yourself into the Bible Reading Program for 8 months and get bored. Mix it up. One day, take a Proverb. Sometimes, it can be half or one third of a verse. Think about how it applies in your life. Take a booklet. They have those boxes on the side (sidebars). What does it mean? What is the relevancy? Review notes from an old sermon. Listen to an old sermon. Listen to an ABC class. Don’t let it get boring. If you do, the knowledge stops, and growth stops. Study with your spouse. Or study with your friends. Get together for lunch and discuss what you have learned. We use compass checks at camp. A ten to fifteen minute study. Going to church is simply enough. It won’t get you into the first resurrection. Even as your minister, I’m bound by the same requirements for study. When you pray, that is you talking to God. You express your desires, you sorrow for the sins you committed. Bible study and meditation is God talking to you. You have to have both. If not growth slows down and stops. Prayer is us talking to God; Bible study and meditation is God talking to us. Without, how will God talk to us? There are no burning bushes here. There are many examples of having a proper response.
Luke 22:31-60 Luke 22:31-60  And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
 But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.
 And he said to him, Lord, I am ready to go with you, both into prison, and to death.
 And he said, I tell you, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that you shall thrice deny that you know me.
 And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, and money, and shoes, lacked you any thing? And they said, Nothing.
 Then said he to them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his money: and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
 For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.
 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
 And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray that you enter not into temptation.
 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
 Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
 And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him.
 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
 And said to them, Why sleep you? rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
 And while he yet spoke, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near to Jesus to kiss him.
 But Jesus said to him, Judas, betray you the Son of man with a kiss?
 When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said to him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
 And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer you thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be you come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
 When I was daily with you in the temple, you stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
 Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.
 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked on him, and said, This man was also with him.
 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
 And after a little while another saw him, and said, You are also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
 And Peter said, Man, I know not what you say. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crew.
American King James Version×Peter had the knowledge. He was given specific instructions to go take care of the sheep. Take care of the brethren. Peter’s will got in the way; he denied Christ three times. David knew it was wrong to be with Bathsheba, but he let his will get in the way. He had to do other bad things to cover the things he had done. Satan likes to stir up anger. It can make you forget what you know. Knowledge is that foundational layer. Our will helps us align us with God. Romans 1:28 Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
American King James Version×When we let emotions reign, our knowledge goes away. Satan likes to use wrong reasoning and false knowledge to confuse us. Doesn’t that scripture contradict everything you know? He knows if we get locked on emotions, he can work on everything else. Philippians 2:12-13 Philippians 2:12-13  Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
American King James Version×Part of our responsibility of working out our salvation is to guard our minds. Am I angry for the right reasons? We will have a sermon on anger after the Feast. Is there a right reason to be bitter? I have this grudge, but is that okay? We should take our emotions and stack them up against our knowledge layer. Vs. 13 – (Read in ISV). When we influence our emotions, it is our will that is in there. When our emotions are godly based, that is good. Knowledge plus will equals emotion. When we have the knowledge of what is in the Bible, and then add that to our will – what we want to do, properly aligned with God’s will, we get proper emotion. If any of those are off, it throws the formula off. Our emotion can run us off the cliff. If we always check to be sure our will and emotion are in harmony with the Bible, it works. Think about the other former Worldwide groups. Were they founded on knowledge or emotion? In most cases, emotions. My ideas are put to the side; I’m ticked, so I’m going to start my own group. In some cases, it was founded on knowledge; on preservation of God’s word. Mr. Luker has said we are not the only group that preserves God’s Word.
Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
American King James Version×This is where acquisition of godly knowledge should lead us. These are the three elements. We have the knowledge and the mind. We gain it with all our desires – our will. That leads to love, which is the proper emotional response. A true and deep love for God and His way of life. It is no longer forced to follow His way, but we love His way. These three elements are need for good spiritual growth. Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×Knowledge is foundational. We have to be praying and asking God to help us connect scriptures. Matthew 6:10 Matthew 6:10Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
American King James Version×We must align our will with God’s will. Our actions and responses must be justified scripturally. Psalms 119:97 Psalms 119:97O how I love your law! it is my meditation all the day.
American King James Version×This is the proper outcome of our spiritual journey. At first we come into the Church, and we learn things. But at some point, we must come to the point that we love God’s law. We have to truly love this way of life. That is the appropriate emotional response. When these things work together, it makes is easy to submit to God. Please make Bible study and prayer extreme priorities in your life. Knowledge leads to the proper emotion. Let’s complete the mathematical formula and deeply desire to love God’s way of life.