We know it by the chorus of a hymn when we sing, “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”
What does it mean to believe?
The Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and enables us to understand what we should believe to be saved (John 16:7-11). Belief is also an act of the will because it involves a decision on our part (John 7:17).
There are great statements made by Paul when he wrote Timothy and that we need to consider. Paul makes a final great affirmation that God is able to guard and keep totally safe everything we have deposited with God. The Scriptures exhort us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Our spiritual growth may be generally discussed as occurring in three seasons of development. Please do not use this teaching to examine where others are, but use it to examine yourself to see if you are indeed growing and maturing in the knowledge of Christ. (I will use the terms “childish,” but not with the intention of disdaining the young. I am simply contrasting maturity with immaturity, adulthood with childhood.)
Our children are still immature, but we cannot expect them to be anything other than immature so long as they are children. And we must lovingly commit to their long-term growth, step by step. In the same way brethren, let us not despise the spiritually immature or the weak in faith of our brethren in Christ. Instead, the Word tells us to receive them and watch over them (Romans 14:1). For those of you, who are further along, never forget how many years of God’s dealings it took to bring you to the level of experience you take for granted today. With those words of introduction, let me share with you some things that I know is important to consider the beginning season of the Christian life.
The child says, “I know WHAT I believe.”
1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.”
In the beginning of the Christian walk, we are primarily concerned with WHAT we believe. We depend heavily upon other Christians, the teachers, our parents, or the church leaders to tell us what we should believe. Our belief systems are established according to what we hear, see, or are taught during these formative years of spiritual development. We naturally give attention to those Christians who have known the Lord longer that we may learn the essential doctrines of our faith. Whoever or whatever influences us as a spiritual child will usually shape and mold us into what we will become tomorrow.
New Christians (or even old Christians who remain childish) are acutely interested in WHAT they believe. Once they are settled into WHAT they believe it is nearly impossible to convince them otherwise. A good example is a big religious group in the Philippines: they indoctrinated to their children that Jesus Christ was not God and they carry over that teaching. They believe it and they fight for it! Any perceived threat to their belief system is met with hostility, anger, confusion, even depression. Children are often told to do thus-and-so, and when they invariably ask why, the answer is usually they receive is, “because I said so.” Such an answer is sufficient for them at that stage, but when the child becomes a teenager, a simple “because I said so” is insulting to them because they felt like a robot. As an adult, “because I said so” is also offensive. Why? Simply because it does not allow anymore input, feedback, or explanation.
The young adult says, “I know WHY I believe.”
Hebrews 5:13, “for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.”
The one who knows WHAT they believe is always threatened by the one who knows WHY they believe. Unfortunately, some never grow to the point that they never ask why. They see no need to ask why, and therein lies the reason for their perpetual childhood. An immature Christian is one who does not permit himself or others to question anything incorporated into their belief system.
Yes, it is true that many who grow up in the church and begin asking WHY often appear to backslide or end up leaving the church altogether. You know why? Because we are always taking them back to the beginning.
– Because I said so
– Because that was what the preacher said
– Because that waswhat your dad, mom, uncle believe and so on….
This healthy questioning, searching, and seeking for truth is what Jesus called, “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” There is a promise when they ask questions! Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (satisfied).” The quest for truth, and the subsequent filling, almost never takes place where we are, but WHERE GOD WANTS TO BRING US! So, the best answer for WHY is just simply to bring them more closely to Christ or we can show them what the Lord said.
WHAT is an important first step in the Christian life, but that is all a first step, a means to an end, not THE end. I am not suggesting that you do not have to know WHAT you believe. I am saying that real progress begins when you begin to get an inkling as to WHY you believe. This is the middle stage of spiritual growth. Like knowing what, knowing why is an important step, but it is not the end either. It is merely a rite of passage between childishness and maturity. It is the literal enlargement of one’s capacity for truth, and of course, for Christ who is truth.
An exciting thing begins to happen in the spiritual life of the Christian who desires to grow and become mature. It is hoped that after some progress in spiritual things, we will ask, “Is there more to the Christian life than what I am experiencing?” This is a blessed question! How God has worked long and hard to bring the Christian to this point! And the answer which God so desires to give us is, “Yes! There is more to this Life!” WHAT they believe is no longer good enough, and they want to know WHY.
We sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” because we know the words of the song but it is better to know because we have truly experienced the great faithfulness of Jesus Christ. This is the difference my brethren. We know WHAT we are singing, but more importantly, we know WHY we are singing. And WHY we desire fellowship with one another. And WHY the Bible is the inspired Word of God. And so on. Most importantly, Christians at this stage of growth are liberated from the limiting beliefs imposed upon them by other people, even other good people. The young adults are full of argument, opinion, defense, and either/or thinking.
The mature adult says, “I know WHOM I believe.”
Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
There is a certain downside to the intermediate stage of growth, and that is a danger to lean upon our own understanding instead of looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Now that we know WHAT and WHY we believe we are apt to begin teaching the younger ones. People will look to us for answers. We tend to tell them all we know, even more than we know; simply we know whom we believed. We are in danger of falling prey to an intellectual faith instead of a Spirit walk. Their reasoning: This is what my brothers told me or even this is what my teacher/mentor said in the bible school.
Naturally speaking, matured adults have a lot of knowledge. However, academic learning is no substitute for experience, and experience takes time. In spiritual things, we will always be growing. The bible is the fountain of wisdom: Isaiah 34:16, “Seek and read from the book of the LORD: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the LORD has commanded.” Even the spiritually mature will continue to grow and learn. Again it is because “we know whom we believeth!” This is the difference between revelation and head-knowledge, between seeing for ourselves and merely hearing about.
Once we know what we wanted to know and why we need to know, then we can say, “I know whom I have believed” and be accurate, even though a person does not know anything in and of himself or herself because he or she is in the process of learning. This is faith!
To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for/assurance, to be certain/conviction of the things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). It is a case of owning nothing, but possessing everything. The Christian is poor in material life, yet blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Christianity is a spiritual paradox designed to confound man’s wisdom and reduce him to Christ. We decrease but Christ MUST increase (John 3:30). Sometimes we want other people to know us and other brilliant people instead of knowing Christ. It is all about giving up our own life in order to receive the eternal promise with our Lord. This world is not our home; don’t love the world (1 John 2:15). Some religious people claim that they know Jesus. But our Lord said I never knew you (Matthew 7:23). God allows mankind to distort and misrepresent and bring people to a place of despair, just so He can then step in and reveal Himself for who He really is. When we realize we don’t know anything, then Christ becomes our Wisdom so we CAN know.
When we are children we are apt to say, I know WHAT I believe. As we grow out of infancy and begin to wrestle with the deeper questions and issues of the Christian faith we will learn to say, I know WHY I believe. The ultimate experience, however, is to be brought to a place where we can say with confidence; “I know WHOM I have believed.”
– Knowing WHAT is a beginning.
– Knowing WHY is growing/progress.
– Knowing WHO is my Lord and my Savior Ultimate/Final.
Everything leads to Christ. All the questions, all the answers reduce to Him, for He is the sum of all spiritual things. When we are reduced to Him, then we will be satisfied. The Lord said it is a form of idolatry to love your possessions, education, wife, children, or even our life more than Him. The Lord said the idolater is not worthy to be His disciple (Luke 14:26-27, 33; Matthew 10:37-39). Let us lose our life/renounce all… that we may gain our Life because WE KNOW WHOM WE HAVE BELIEVED. Amen.
~ Roger Wanasen