We are continuing on in our series entitled, “The Consecrated Way,” which is really a climb up Peter’s ladder. 2 Peter 1:3–5 says, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.”
The second rung of Peter’s ladder, as we begin to reach toward heaven in our consecrated way, is knowledge. Last month we looked at the first rung of virtue, having been reinforced by faith. In the process of sanctified living there needs to be a continual process. One of the greatest dangers that Christians face is to reach a point in life where there is a sense of self-satisfaction—a sense of having arrived.
We see this even manifested in certain church doctrines, such as once saved always saved. Some churches teach that once you accept Jesus as your Saviour, that is all you need to do. But that is not correct, as far as the Bible is concerned. There is the walk. Indeed, there is the climb that takes place. Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that there is the narrow path. There is the uphill walk. He did not say that it was a broad road; He said it was a narrow, uphill path. (See Matthew 7:13, 14.)
That means that some effort needs to be put forth as we walk with Christ day by day, making those decisions that will establish us in the faith more than ever before. We need to walk in that respect and never come to a point where we are self-satisfied in our process of Christian living.
Having All the Answers
It is not like the world in terms of achievements and education. In the world of education, we think when you have received your Ph.D. that you have arrived; there is no higher level of education that you can reach.
I met a man one time who had five doctorate degrees. I was studying with some people who felt they had to call in some reinforcements, and this was the man they called.
My Bible students felt that, because of his level of education, he could answer all the questions. He told me he had decided that maybe he would go for an M. D., because he did not have one of those. He was attending Loma Linda University at that time. He said, “Some people collect stamps; I collect sheepskins [degrees].”
When you reach that level, do you think you have finally arrived?
Dear people, as far as the Christian process is concerned, we never stop learning. It is a continual process, learning more and more all the time. Indeed, throughout all eternity we will learn. A lot of people have the idea that when we arrive in heaven there will be a cloud, a harp, and a halo, and we will just sit around all day eating from the Tree of Life.
No! God has a better plan than that. We will continue to research and to learn the intricacies and to probe the wonders that God has created for us. And each one of those will share something more about the great God that we serve. We will be learning throughout all eternity.
“Having received the faith of the gospel, the next work of the believer is to add to his character virtue, and thus cleanse the heart and prepare the mind for the reception of the knowledge of God. This knowledge is the foundation of all true education and of all true service. It is the only real safeguard against temptation; and it is this alone that can make one like God in character.” Acts of the Apostles, 530, 531.
Learning to Know Him
We have discovered, in the past, that it has been helpful for us to define our terms so we are able to see the intent of what Peter is saying to us in this passage of Scripture. We have an idea of what the word knowledge means, but let us define it a little more carefully.
The Dictionary of New Testament Words says that this word, used by Peter, has a greater meaning than to just know something. It means exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition; a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him. Knowing that definition, it is not surprising that Peter used this word in illustrating the growth of the Christian in character perfection. To be satisfied with anything less than exact or full knowledge about spiritual things is a sin.
There are too many who are satisfied with only a superficial knowledge, either as it comes from the preacher or as it comes from some other person. They will depend upon someone like that for their knowledge about the truths of God, and they make that the foundation of their faith. Indeed, if that is the case, they have already gotten off the track.
The Bible says, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” John 17:17. That leaves no room for human speculation, as we find going around today. The devil is a deceiver. If you do not know that, I am telling you that he is a deceiver, and he has been trying, for years, to undermine those truths that have been established by God in His Word.
At this late date in earth’s history, we cannot afford to listen to what false knowledge is proclaiming—a knowledge that, when examined in the light of the Word of God and of the Spirit of Prophecy, only leaves us chaff and no grain.
The Attack of Evolution
One of the attacks, one of the inroads that is being made against the Bible today is evolution. It has been sounding for a long, long time, but it is reaching a crescendo.
Evolutionists say man has been on this earth three million years plus, and that the universe is the result of a big bang. We find that these concepts of evolution are designed, by the deceiver of our souls, for only one reason: to strike right at the very heart of the Ten Commandment moral law—the Sabbath. Because if the earth took long eons of time to be created and to come into being, then what need is there of the Sabbath as the memorial of the rest that God took when it was all finished at the end of six days? We need to be very careful that we are not listening to the serpent, as did Eve, when we hear something that does not match up with the Word of God.
God’s Word is True
We can know that God’s Word is true, through prophecy, which establishes it without question. We can depend upon it. When we hear something strange that does not match up, we need to flee from it. The highest and supreme end of all knowledge, of course, is the knowledge of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, in John 17:3, “This is life eternal.” Evolution does not promise that. God’s Word does.
“This is life eternal,” Jesus said, “that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” The prophet Jeremiah declares, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23, 24. It appears to me that these are the things that we need to know.
In the book Ministry of Healing, 409, we are told, “Like our Saviour, we are in this world to do service for God. We are here to become like God in character, and by a life of service to reveal Him to the world. In order to be co-workers with God, in order to become like Him and to reveal His character, we must know Him aright. We must know Him as He reveals Himself.”
God’s Character Attributes
Going back to what we just read from Jeremiah, if we are to glory in anything, we should glory in the fact that knowing God is knowing His character attributes and those which He outlines are very specific here. Knowledge, the second rung of this ladder, is to lead us to know these character attributes of God: loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness.
I believe if there is anyone whom we could trust to tell us about the loving kindness of God, it would be the apostle John. John was called the beloved disciple, and he tells us in 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” If you do not love, you do not know God, but if you love, then you know God. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Verses 8–11.
That is pretty good counsel, don’t you think? This is the process of character development—learning about God, and then putting that knowledge into operation as we live day by day. You see, knowledge cannot be all theoretical. It also has to be practical. There is a great difference between the two.
Learning is not Knowing
A person who has theoretical knowledge has only heard or read or studied, but that is as far as it goes. We call them “armchair theologians.” To give a little clearer illustration of the theoretical, we could consider learning how to bake a loaf of bread, perhaps in a cooking class.
We can learn about all the different measurements of ingredients, about what a teaspoon is, a tablespoon, and a cup. We can learn about all the ingredients, whether the flour is bleached or whether it is whole grain. We can learn about the stove, about the manufacturer, and about the temperature settings. We can learn how to use the stove, and yet never bake a loaf of bread.
What profit is there in all of this? Absolutely nothing! Knowledge only becomes useful as it is put into operation, into practical use. You need to take the ingredients down off the shelf. You need to turn the stove to the proper temperature; you need to mix those ingredients together in the proper amounts; put it into the oven, and then you have results that are beneficial, not only to you, but to others as well.
All too often those who call themselves Christians today do not put their knowledge into practice. They still have the ingredients on the shelf. It does absolutely no good for them, or for others, to know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16), unless we are taking that knowledge, utilizing it in our own life, and sharing it with others, sharing the loving kindness of God with those who do not know it. That is where real value is found.
Use It or Lose It
Knowledge becomes like manna that fell in the wilderness. If it was laid up, not used, it began to stink and to breed worms. Kind of an awesome thought when you think about knowledge that is not put into practice; it is totally useless! What am I saying in all of this? Just this, God expects something from you. He expects you to learn; He expects you to develop a knowledge of Him—that He is a God of love. And then He expects you to share that love with other people, following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on this earth.
“Taking humanity upon Him, Christ came to be one with humanity, and at the same time to reveal our heavenly Father to sinful human beings. He who had been in the presence of the Father from the beginning, He who was the express image of the invisible God, was alone able to reveal the character of the Deity to mankind. He was in all things made like unto His brethren. He became flesh even as we are. . . . He shared the lot of men; yet He was the blameless Son of God. He was a stranger and sojourner on the earth—in the world, but not of the world; tempted and tried as men and women today are tempted and tried, yet living a life free from sin. Tender, compassionate, sympathetic, ever considerate of others, He represented the character of God, and was constantly engaged in service for God and man.” The Ministry of Healing, 422, 423. To engage in service is really to put into practical operation the knowledge that we learn.
A True Court of Justice
Another aspect, concerning the knowledge of God that Jeremiah talks about, is judgment. Psalm 9:16 says that “The Lord is known by the judgment which He executeth.” Revelation 16:7 says that the judgments of God are true and righteous.
Do you not wish that could be said of the courts of the land today? Part of the process of knowledge, concerning the great God of heaven, is that we know that He is the God who judges with equality. He is no respecter of persons, and we see this in the life of Jesus when He was here on this earth. He was not impressed with one person over another, like we are, so often, today.
He dealt fairly with everybody, Jew and Gentile. If we add to our faith virtue, and to our virtue knowledge, it is going to lead us to judge fairly among our fellow human beings, just as Jesus did, because we are learning of Him. If we are learning of Him, we are going to become like Him, for by beholding we will indeed become changed. (See 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
People will be blessed by our lives, because they will know that we have been with God. One of the great tragedies of Christianity is that there are those who say one thing, they have all the theory, but they do something different. There are probably more people who will be shut out of heaven because of this one factor than anything else.
I am sure you have all heard someone say, “Oh, I know about Christians. Do not get involved with them; they will rip you off every time.” I suppose we all have known people who have represented that kind of life. Then you could multiply that by the hundreds of people whom they have driven away from Christ because of it. What a terrible tragedy that is!
It is a double tragedy! Do you know why it is a double tragedy? There is a tragedy on both sides, not only for the perpetrator but for the one who has been perpetrated upon. The one who is the perpetrator is self-deceived. He does not have knowledge. He has an armchair knowledge; he does not understand what it means to be honest and true in all his dealings. And for the person who has suffered at his hands, it is a tragedy, because it becomes even more difficult for God to reach his heart again. It is like putting a steel band around the heart so that it cannot be penetrated. What a sad thing that is.
Are Christians perfect? No, they have their failings, but when people purport one thing while stabbing you in the back, that is quite another thing. I think we need to realize that we all are subject to failing. We need to behold Jesus, because by beholding Jesus we become changed, and we do not get involved in situations where judgment is perverted; where situations are taken advantage of; where discrimination is taking place and oppression is being exercised.
We are still faced with these problems today, and we need to get beyond that. God never perverts judgment. He does not say one thing and do another. His theory and His practice are always the same, and He expects that of every one of us. If we are learning of Him, if we are adding the only knowledge that is worthwhile, then our theory and our practice are going to match His.
The Righteousness of Christ
The last area to consider is our understanding of the knowledge of Christ’s righteousness. No knowledge of God would ever be complete without that part which reveals the righteousness of Jesus Christ, for it is the righteousness of Christ which is able to save man. It is the righteousness of Christ which can give power to stem the tide of evil that wants to flood over the life. It is the righteousness of Christ which can make a sinner acceptable to God, and it is the righteousness of Christ which fits us for a place at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
It is only the righteousness of Christ which, when properly understood, brings us to understand the law and the gospel. How thankful I am for the Spirit of Prophecy which has been given to us to convey the proper concept of the righteousness of Christ. These words of inspiration help us define those special areas of potential problems that we will be facing in the last days of this earth’s history.
There are those who, again, are trying to tear down this gift, trying to get it out of the church, supposing that somehow the philosophy of man can replace the words of inspiration with something better. But woe to the one who falls for such deceitful flatteries as this. You see, without the knowledge of the righteousness of Christ, in its full meaning, as it has been given through the words of inspiration, we are in trouble.
There is no such thing as once saved, always saved. There is no such thing as accepting Jesus and that is all you have to do. “The knowledge of God as revealed in Christ is the knowledge that all who are saved must have. It is the knowledge that works transformation of character.” The Ministry of Healing, 425. How important is knowledge? Knowledge is tremendously important, because it is the grease on the wheel that transforms our character, as it were.
Ignorance is Not Bliss
If you do not know, you are not going to do. It is just as simple as that. There are people who have the philosophy that ignorance is bliss, but the time is coming when bliss is going to burn awfully hot. Ignorance is not bliss! Ignorance will lead you straight to hell fire, because you will have a character that will not be fit for heaven.
The knowledge of God received, will recreate the soul in the image of God. It will impart to the whole being a spiritual power that is divine. Does this sound something like what Peter wrote? It gets awfully close, does it not? That is what righteousness is; it is spiritual power that is divine. We need it; we desire it; we seek for it, and indeed, the promise is, we shall find it.
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.” 2 Peter 1:4, 5.
This, dear people, is the ladder that God has called us to climb. It is a ladder where each rung, as we place our foot upon it, has transforming divine power to take the character that we possess and change it, modify it more and more and more, until we reflect the character of Christ in our lives.
May the Lord challenge us. May the Lord continue to bless us, as we climb that ladder.