Book: By Grace You Have Been Saved— Now What?

Always keep in mind that initial conversion is only the beginning of the spiritual process of salvation. During this life, after initial conversion, we are to grow “until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), thus prepared for the final stage of salvation—the new birth into the very family of God at the first resurrection. In a continuing process of spiritual growth, you are to build upon the initial grace of God and expand your spiritual knowledge and understanding. The apostle Peter tells you to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). You need to grow in—that is, build on—the grace of God and the knowledge of Jesus Christ that God has freely given to you.

As time goes on, God—through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—forms in you the very mind of Christ, Who never once broke any of His Father’s commandments. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and was made in the likeness of men, and took the form of a servant; and being found in the manner of man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

God is, in fact, forming Christ in you (Col. 1:27; Gal. 4:19). Your part is to remain committed to a life of obedience to God—to continually seek His love, His Spirit and to practice His way of life. In doing so, you develop and grow in the love of God, and more perfectly love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This fulfills the greatest of all commandments (Matt. 22:37-38).

How do you “love God?” Christ answers in no uncertain terms: “If you love Me, keep the commandments—namely, My commandments” (John 14:15). “If you keep My commandments, you shall live in My love…” (John15:10). John reiterates this in his first general epistle: “For this is the love of God: that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3).

If you are truly converted and are now led by God’s Holy Spirit, He is in the process of writing His laws into your mind and heart (Heb. 10:16). This process takes place over your entire lifetime. God gives you His Spirit to help you love Him and obey His laws and commandments—not only in the letter, but in their spiritual intent. The continual practice of this obedience from the innermost part of your being builds in you the very heart, mind and character of Christ, Who loved God’s law and kept it perfectly. It is by your keeping of God’s law that it becomes “written in your heart.” Over time, the Christian who loves God and practices His way of life will become spiritually mature, “trained to discern between good and evil” (Heb. 5:14), and will continually grow in spiritual understanding. “But according as it is written, ‘The eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things—even the deep things of God. For who among men understands the things of man except by the spirit of man which is in him? In the same way also, the things of God no one understands except by the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is of God, so that we might know the things graciously given to us by God; which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Holy Spirit in order to communicate spiritual things by spiritual means” (I Cor. 2:9-13).

To put it simply, God’s part in the process of forming Christ in you is converting you and giving you His Holy Spirit, by which He guides and strengthens you to live His way. Your part in this process is praying daily to God, studying His Word, prayerfully meditating on it, and then living by it. This includes bringing even your thoughts under obedience to God’s commands. “For although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the overthrowing of strongholds, casting down vain imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:3-5).

Salvation Leads to a New Spiritual Creation

What God is creating in you—through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—is Christ in you. Paul wrote, “My little children, for whom I am again laboring in pain until Christ has been formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19). And, “To whom God did will to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ [formed] in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Through the life-long process of God living in you, the “old man” of your carnal human nature is gradually replaced with the inward “new man” of God’s nature. Paul declared, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live. Indeed, it is no longer I; but Christ lives in me. For the life that I am now living in the flesh, I live by faith—that very faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It is by this process of allowing Christ to live in and through you that your “outward man is being brought to decay, yet [your] inward man is being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). Indeed, you are to “put off the old man together with his deeds,” as you “put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him Who created him” (Col. 3:9-10).

Thus, each converted, spirit-led Christian is being developed into a new person or a new creation spiritually. “Therefore, if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17). Again, this is accomplished through the working of God’s Spirit conjointly with our human spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Now you have not received a spirit of bondage again unto fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit itself bears witness conjointly with our own spirit, testifying that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:14-16).

Notice how the apostle Peter describes this process of personal growth and development based on God’s wonderful promises: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and virtue; through which He has given to us the greatest and most precious promises, that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And for this very reason also, having applied all diligence besides, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly love; and to brotherly love, the love of God. For if these things exist and abound in you, they will cause you to be neither lacking effort nor lacking fruit in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:2-8).

As we continually “stir up” and draw upon the gift of God— His Holy Spirit in us (II Tim. 1:6)—and follow Christ’s example of how to live (I Pet. 2:21-22; I John 2:6), God will develop in us the love, mind, attitude and very nature of Jesus Christ until we all “come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

The process of salvation ultimately culminates in your new spiritual birth into the family of God—as a spirit-born son or daughter of God. For those who remain faithful throughout their lives, this final step of entering the Kingdom and family of God takes place through the first resurrection at the return of Christ. Those who have died in the faith will be raised from the dead, while those who are still alive will be transformed—empowered with immortal spirit bodies to inherit eternity (I Thess. 4:16-17; I Cor. 15:23, 49-52).

As glorified spirit beings, we will receive the full inheritance of the earth and the universe. “Now if we are children, we are also heirs— truly, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer together with Him, so that we may also be glorified together with Him. For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:17-18). We will be exactly like Christ Himself, Who will “transform our vile bodies, that they may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the inner working of His own power, whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21). We will also rule with Christ over all that God the Father has put “under His feet” (Heb. 2:8; Rev. 3:21; 20:4-6; Dan. 7:27).

As you can see, this life is a time of preparation for godly rulership. Who will Christ have assisting Him in the age to come? Only those who have developed godly minds, attitudes and character by living His way in this life—who have grown in the grace which He gives as a free gift (II Pet. 3:18; Luke 19:11-26).

Salvation Requires Your Active Participation

Let’s say you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, having repented of your sins. You are forgiven for your violations of His law, and the death penalty has been removed. You’ve received God’s grace and His Holy Spirit. You know your works did not gain you salvation, nor will any works you may do in the future; but God, by His grace, bestowed this free gift upon you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Where do you go from here? What are you to “do” with this gift of salvation? Do you continue as you’ve always lived, as if nothing has changed in your life? Is spiritual growth really required? Perhaps that’s asking the wrong question. Look at it this way: If you’re only willing to do what is “required,” that makes you no more than an “unprofitable servant” (Luke 17:10). Indeed, if any lesson stands out in the parable of the pounds, it is that God expects you to develop whatever gift He gives you (Luke 19:11-27).

As mentioned, Peter tells you to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18)—that is, build on the grace of God and the knowledge of Jesus Christ that God has freely given to you. There is no “requirement” as to how much you grow; but if you truly love God, you will want to become as much like Him as possible.

God gives you as a Christian a critical role in this lifelong process of spiritual growth. You can either help in the process by doing your part, or hinder the process by neglect, carelessness, or continuing in your old sinful practices. Or like some, you may allow false teachers to convince you that “it doesn’t matter what you do,” or that “the law is done away with.” Your part in the ongoing process of God forming Christ’s nature in you is to put on the “new man” by seeking His Spirit daily and by living life God’s way. Notice what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “[Now] concerning your former conduct, [I admonish] you [to] put off the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which according to God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:22-24).

As Christians, we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:21), Who fully obeyed the laws God established as the standard of conduct for humanity. God’s way is defined by His basic laws—the Ten Commandments in particular, along with numerous principles dealing with mercy and giving. In His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7), Christ outlines both the inward attitudes and the outward actions Christians are expected to manifest in their daily lives. It has nothing to do with sacrifices, rituals, vestments or artifacts; it has everything to do with loving God and fellow man.

Far from being the end, coming under God’s grace and receiving His Holy Spirit is just the beginning—the beginning of a lifelong walk with Christ to His eternal kingdom. To walk with Christ means to walk the same way He walked (John 14:15; 15:10). The apostle John writes, “Anyone who claims to dwell in Him is obliging himself also so to walk, even as He Himself walked” (I John 2:6). Jesus Christ living in you will walk the same way He walked when He was in the flesh nearly 2000 years ago—if you will seek Him and allow God’s Spirit to guide you.

Vital Keys to Spiritual Growth

There are definite keys to spiritual growth—prayer, study, meditation, fasting and fellowship. If you truly love God for all He has done for you, you’ll be serious about growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord. You won’t think of these keys as a burden of “duty,” but as exciting opportunities to work with God in the most important project ever undertaken—the spiritual creation of new members of His family. You’ll want to grow ever closer “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” This spiritual growth in preparation for the Kingdom of God becomes the most important priority in your life (Matt. 6:33). How can you be sure you’ll accomplish the needed spiritual growth?

At your conversion there was a new creation begotten in you— an “inward man” (or woman) of the Spirit—which requires regular spiritual nourishment in order to grow, to be “renewed day by day.” You draw spiritual nourishment by daily contact with God through prayer, Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting. You’re also nourished spiritually by regular fellowship on God’s Sabbath with other faithful followers of Christ, and by hearing the Word of God expounded by a dedicated teacher of God (Rom. 10:17). As you gain understanding, you also grow by living God’s way in every aspect of your day-today life.

Through these spiritual tools, you will gradually come to understand the greatness of God’s love and the miraculous work He is doing in your life. You will grow to love Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. As you build a deep, loving relationship with God, you will become highly motivated to please Him in every way and to work with Him in what He’s doing in you.

Daily Prayer

God is establishing a deep, loving relationship with you as a begotten son or daughter. You build on that relationship by regular contact and communication with Him. Your love for God should motivate you to seek contact with Him daily by praying—talking with Him about your needs and the needs of others. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6). “[God] is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Prayer isn’t something a Christian should approach casually. Left to chance, too many days can go by with inadequate contact with God. Be certain to make prayer the top priority of each day.

Just living daily life in this age can be difficult. You need to pray to God for His guidance, for His protection, and for the spiritual power you need to resist sin. Prayer is the all-important tool for drawing upon more of God’s Spirit for the strength you need in your spiritual struggles. Paul writes that you are to “stir up the gift of God” that is in you by the laying on of hands (II Tim. 1:6). You do that through daily contact with God.

On the other hand, some place self-imposed quotas on themselves for prayer. If a day goes by when they fail to “get their prayer in,” they may carry around a burden of guilt, thinking God is angry with them for falling short. But nowhere does the Bible say God “requires” a set amount of prayer time each day. God does not expect you to pray by the clock. If you truly love God, you will want to communicate with Him frequently. If you’re praying from the heart—adequately covering your needs and the needs of others—you will spend plenty of time in prayer. In fact, it isn’t the time that matters, it’s the quality and effectiveness that matters in building a relationship with God.

Notice what Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-18. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the might of His strength. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, because we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, against the world rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual power of wickedness in high places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having worked out all things, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, and wearing the breastplate of righteousness, and having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Besides all these, take up the shield of the faith, with which you will have the power to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one; and put on the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying at all times with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and in this very thing being watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

As Paul says, you should be praying for the needs of others— ministers and teachers, fellow Christians, family members, coworkers, anyone you know of suffering trials or sickness. You should also pray for God’s guidance for those in governmental decision-making positions, whose actions affect the lives of many. Prayer for others is one of the ways you grow in the unselfish love of God.

There are a number of examples in the Psalms of how David prayed to God. Psalm three is a cry to God for deliverance; in Psalm six David asks God to be gentle when correcting him. Psalm eight is David’s praise to God for His creation; Psalm 13 is David’s cry to God when it seemed like he had been abandoned. Psalm 51 is a prayer of deep repentance (probably after David’s sin with Bathsheba). Psalm 103 lists many of the ways God provides for His people and tells of His mercy and love. Psalm 119 is all about the countless benefits of keeping God’s law, and the converted attitude one should have toward God’s laws. Almost every reason or purpose for praying can be found in the Psalms.

Christ gave some overall principles of prayer to His disciples as part of His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 6:5-8). Then He spoke a sample prayer (verses 9-13). He did not intend the words of this “Lord’s prayer” to simply be recited verbatim, as is done today at many public gatherings. Notice: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that by multiplying their words they shall be heard” (verse 7). Rather, each of the phrases in Jesus’ model prayer is given as an example of a subject to pray about. You are to pray about those subjects (and any others you may need to discuss with God) from the heart—not by rote.

Bible Study

Through prayer, you “talk to God.” But you need a two-way conversation with God. You need to let Him also speak to you. You do that through prayerful Bible study. Your relationship with God must be “in spirit and in [the] truth” (John 4:24). Christ said His very words— the Bible—are spirit and life (John 6:63). They are also truth—the truth (John 17:17). Continuous spiritual growth, then, requires regular Bible study.

If you’ve accepted Christ as your savior—if you’re truly converted—you will be diligently studying and living by ALL of Jesus’ teachings. As Paul admonished the evangelist Timothy, “Diligently study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of the truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Jesus said, “I [that is, His teachings and the example He set] am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Christ set the perfect example of how you are to live (John 15:10; I Pet. 2:21; I John 2:6). How can you learn from His example, unless you read it?

You learn God’s way of life—how Jesus Himself lived— through the study of the Bible. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4)—the inspired Word of God. You accept the free gift of God’s grace and grow: “Rather, be growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (II Pet. 3:18). By studying God’s Word, you will come to intimately know Jesus Christ and the way He lived.

Many avoid Bible study because it’s work—brain strain. You may have attempted to read or study the Bible, but were unable to understand. Don’t expect to understand all the Bible at once. The study of God’s Word is an ongoing lifetime project. If the first few readings don’t seem to yield much understanding, do not give up. If God inspired the Scriptures to be written (II Tim. 3:16), He can inspire you to understand them. Christ promised His followers, “when that one has come, even the Spirit of the truth, it will lead you into all truth... ” (John 16:13).

The key to understanding the Bible is the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. “For who among men understands the things of man except by the spirit of man which is in him? In the same way also, the things of God no one understands except by the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11). “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (verse 14). Begin each Bible study session by asking God for His guidance in understanding His Word—and His help to live by it. Remember, He gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

If you are to grow spiritually, there is so much you need to learn about Jesus Christ—His personality and character, His teachings and His example. You also need the teachings of the apostles, as they were inspired to expound on the way of God. And you need to understand the Old Testament, because it is the foundation upon which true Christianity is laid, along with Christ and the apostles (II Tim. 3:15-17).

Look at it this way: Throughout high school and college you studied textbooks and worked to learn what you needed to know in order to have a successful adult life, including getting a good job. You had to do it, and you did it. But that education was needed only for this life. The study of the Word of God is for your eternal life. The stakes are infinitely higher!

To combat wrong spiritual influences, you need to be putting on the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-17)—which will equip you for your daily spiritual warfare with Satan, the world and your own human nature. At least three of those pieces of “spiritual armor” are acquired through Bible study: the “girding of our loins with truth” (John 17:17), the “preparation of the gospel of peace” (Mark 1:14), and the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Heb. 4:12).

As you’ve seen, Bible study is a key tool for spiritual growth (I Pet. 2:1-2; II Pet 3:18). You grow in grace by growing in your knowledge of Christ and His teachings and the example He set—then following that example. (For instructions in how to study the Bible, see “Fourteen Rules For Bible Study” at the Christian Biblical Church of God Web site,

Avoiding Deception

In these troublesome end times, you need to be solidly grounded in the Word of God in order to discern true teachers from false teachers—and to keep the false teachers from misleading you (Eph. 4:14-15). You alone are responsible for knowing the Bible well enough to determine whether a teaching is “of God” (I John 4:1).

Indeed, to let others do your studying and thinking for you is a huge mistake. You are warned over and over not to let anyone deceive you. Christ warned against false teachers in Matthew 24:4-5. Paul admonishes you not to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14; KJV). The Word of God repeatedly warns that deceivers are out there. Satan has not taken a holiday—and is quite busy!

Paul says Satan’s ministers appear as ministers of light. “For such are false apostles—deceitful workers who are transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And it is no marvel, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his servants also transform themselves as ministers of righteousness—whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 11:13-15).

That likable, charismatic preacher you saw on TV, who said so many appealing things, could be one of them. Many preachers deliberately teach what they think people want to hear. We must judge, not by their looks, their demeanor, or by whether we “like what they say,” but by their message—whether it is in agreement with the Scriptures. And you will know only if you are studying the Bible.

To avoid deception, you must study the Bible for yourself and prove what is true and what is not. You are specifically warned to “prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21). Any teaching that is in conflict with Scripture must be rejected; you must be careful to never “reason around the Scriptures” in order to continue in a private belief. In fact, the Scriptures are not to be “interpreted” in isolation. God has inspired His Word to be written so that if one passage is difficult to understand, it is interpreted by other scriptures—not by human ideas (II Pet. 1:20). The whole story on a given subject is not all found in any one place; rather, it is “here a little, there a little” (Isa. 28:10-13). That is why you need to study the whole Bible and learn how to “rightly divide” the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15).

Both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John warn us to test all would-be religious teachers by this criterion: “To the law and to the testimony [the Bible]! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). This is one of the most important passages in God’s Word—so mark it well. Failure to apply this admonition has led many into dangerous religious deception. John warns Christians, “Brethren, do not believe every spirit [every spiritual teacher], but test the spirits, whether they are from God, because many false prophets [teachers] have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). Do not take anyone’s word for any religious teaching—“test it” to make sure that it is “according to this Word,” the Bible.

Paul writes: “Be on guard so that no one takes you captive through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). That is exactly what many popular preachers are doing, teaching a mixture of selected biblical passages and philosophical traditions—which ends up in conflict with what the Bible really says. Indeed, you cannot profess to worship God “in truth” while believing and practicing a lot of philosophical baloney that conflicts with the Word of God. Only God’s Word—ALL of it—is the truth (John 17:17). You must reject all traditions and teachings that conflict with the Bible—while learning, believing and obeying God’s Word as it is applicable to your life.

Some will say, “I can’t trust myself to study and understand the Bible. I need someone to interpret it for me.” It’s true that you can’t trust yourself to understand the Bible. Solomon warns, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). You need to look to God—not to men—for help in understanding the Scriptures. Paul writes, “For it is mandatory for the one who comes to God to believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). You need to believe that God is real, and that He is ready to reveal Himself to those who truly want to know Him.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). If God can inspire the Bible to be written, He can inspire you to understand it—if you ask Him to. Christ promises us, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:8). And, “Truly, truly I tell you, whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (John 16:23).

Concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus also said, “However, when that one has come, even the Spirit of the truth, it will lead you into all truth…” (John 16:13). Christ promises that He, through the Holy Spirit, will guide you in your study of His Word—the truth (John17:17). “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, ‘If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’ ” (John 8:31-32).

As mentioned earlier, without the Spirit of God to give us understanding, none of us could grasp the spiritual teachings of the Bible (I Cor. 2:9-14). Thus, Bible study should always begin with prayer for understanding. And notice the key condition that Christ placed on “knowing the truth”—“If you continue in My word.”

How to Recognize God’s True Ministers: As mentioned above, Satan’s ministers are cleverly disguised as “ministers of righteousness” (II Cor. 11:13-15). According to Jude, such false teachers have “stealthily” entered in even among the churches of God, “perverting the grace of our God, turning it into licentiousness, and are personally denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). How can you discern between Satan’s counterfeit ministers and God’s true teaching servants?

Obviously, you must be continually close to God the Father and Jesus Christ through prayer, mediation and occasional fasting. You must be thoroughly grounded in the Word of God, completely familiar with the fundamental teachings of Scripture. A good understanding of the Word of God is your best defense against false teachers; it is also by knowing the Scriptures that you will recognize true teachers of God.

A true minister of God is one who rightly “divides” the Word of God (II Tim. 2:15)—that is, he is skilled in handling the Scriptures, building doctrine line upon line, precept upon precept, truth upon truth (see Isa. 28:10). In presenting doctrine, a true teacher of God utilizes all of the Scriptures on a subject—never “picking and choosing” the passages that seem to support some private point of view. A true minister of God’s Word lets the Bible interpret itself.

Notice what Paul wrote about the apostles’ ministry: “Therefore, having this [God given] ministry, according as we have received mercy, we are not fainthearted. For we have personally renounced the hidden things of dishonest gain, not walking in cunning craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully [as do Satan’s false ministers]; but by manifestation of the truth [the correct use of the Scriptures], we are commending ourselves to every man’s conscience before God” (II Cor. 4:1-2). Unlike false teachers who use “the sleight of men in cunning craftiness” (Eph. 4:14), God’s true ministers simply teach the Word of God—understanding that only Scripture itself is “God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17). They teach the Scriptures openly, letting God’s Word speak for itself.

Just as Paul warned the Colossians, false teachers use subtle deceit to win followers. “Now this I say so that no one may deceive you by persuasive speech.... Be on guard so that no one takes you captive through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:4, 8). There is the key! A true minister and servant of God will always teach “according to Christ”—exactly in agreement with what Jesus Himself taught. Paul instructed Titus, a fellow minister, to resist false teachings and to refute them with sound doctrine— according to Christ’s teachings. He wrote that a true minister must be “holding steadfastly to the faithful word, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, so that he may be able both to encourage with sound doctrine and to convict those who are gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). Paul also warned Timothy: “If anyone teaches any different doctrine [than what was originally taught], and does not adhere to sound words, even those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine that is according to godliness, he is proud and knows nothing. Rather, he has a morbid attraction to questions and disputes over words, from which come envy, arguments, blasphemy, wicked suspicions, vain reasonings of men who have been corrupted in their minds and are destitute of the truth—men who believe that gain is godliness. From such [false teachers] withdraw yourself” (I Tim. 6:3-5).

Indeed, it is as Christ said, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples” (John 8:31). This applies equally to ministers— and God’s true ministers teach only according to Christ’s word.

God’s true teaching servants genuinely love God and His Word. Unlike “hirelings” who only seek position, power and the praise of men, God’s ministers teach His Word because God’s has called them into such a position and given them a gift of teaching (Eph. 4:11). There is a genuine love of God’s people, a desire to serve and give. A true servant of God would never presumptuously assume the role of teacher; rather, God places His chosen ministers into such positions of service. Also, a true minister of God will faithfully preach the truth of God even at the risk of personal loss and deprivation.

When it comes to discerning between Satan’s false ministers and God’s true ministers, Christ’s advice in Matthew 7:15-20 is profound. “But beware of false prophets [teachers, ministers] who come to you [deceptively] in sheep’s clothing, for within they are ravening wolves. [How will you know them?] You shall know them by their fruits. They do not gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, do they? In the same way, every good tree [minister] produces good fruit, but a corrupt tree [false minister] produces evil fruit. A good tree cannot produce evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that is not producing good fruit is cut down and is cast into the fire. Therefore, you shall assuredly know them by their fruits.”

Examine the fruit produced by one who comes as a minister of God. If he is of God, the fruit will be good. As Paul admonished the Thessalonians, you are to “prove [test] all things” (I Thess. 5:21), to see if they are of God; you are to “test the spirits, whether they are from God” (I John 4:1). You are to follow the excellent example of the Bereans, who were commended because they diligently searched the Scriptures to see whether Paul’s teachings were of God. “Now these [Jews in Berea] were more noble than those [unbelieving Jews] in Thessalonica, for they received the Word [as taught by Paul] with all readiness of mind and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things [being taught by Paul] were so” (Acts 17:11). These Bereans had a “readiness of mind”—they did not blindly accept what Paul was teaching, nor did they rashly reject what Paul was trying to tell them. Rather, they carefully examined the Scriptures to prove for themselves that Paul was, in fact, teaching the true message of God concerning Christ.

Likewise, you must diligently search and examine the Scriptures in order to discern true doctrine from false doctrine, true teachers from false teachers. Remember, as well, that God has given you His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to help you discern the true from the false. “And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that it may be with you throughout the age: Even the Spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive because it perceives it not, nor knows it; but you know it because it dwells with you, and shall be within you.... [And] when the Comforter comes, even the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, that one shall teach you all things, and shall bring to your remembrance everything that I have told you” (John 14:16-17, 26).

Again, the standard by which you are to “test the spirits” and “prove all things” is the very Word of God. Indeed, the “acid test” is given by the prophet Isaiah: “To the law and to the testimony! If they [those who come as ministers] do not speak according to this Word [both Old and New Testaments], it is because there is no light [truth] in them” (Isa. 8:20).


In the biblical sense, to “meditate” essentially means to “think.” In the world, the term has an almost opposite meaning: “don’t think”— empty your mind of all conscious thought by endlessly repeating some “mantra.” Nearly every place in Scripture where the word meditate is used, it refers to thinking about God, His ways, or His Word (Psa. 1:2; 119:97; etc.). It is never emptying the mind of thought. Beware of any system of “meditation” which advocates that you empty your mind of conscious thought. That could open you up to satanic spiritual influence. Always ask God to guide your meditation.

Some of the best meditation comes during prayerful Bible study. Basically, you’re thinking about what you’re reading, asking God to help you understand, and assimilating the meaning of the scripture into your mind and heart. For example, one can meditate on what a particular aspect of life might be like during the millennial reign of Christ—or how some particular human problem might be solved— while studying prophecies about that time. Such meditation often yields insight on how God’s Word and His laws could be applied today.

Control of your thoughts is at the heart of your spiritual warfare with Satan. Except for when you’re doing something that temporarily requires your full attention and concentration, your mind can easily drift off on any number of ideas, fantasies or imaginings. The question is, are such thoughts wholesome, worthwhile and godly? Satan will try anything to get a “foot in the door” of your mind. Meditation on godly matters can be a very effective tool for ridding your mind of carnal thinking. To get air out of a glass, you need to put something in, like water; to put wrong thoughts out of your mind, you need to be actively putting right thoughts in. In this way, you can learn to bring “into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).

It is highly beneficial to set aside a time to “just meditate”— though you should have a subject in mind so your thoughts don’t wander aimlessly. Perhaps there is a particular question or a personal problem you are needing to resolve. Prayerful meditation can often start you on the path to a God-inspired solution.

If you awaken during the night, prayerful meditation in bed can help you get back to sleep. David recounted in numerous psalms how he meditated on God and His laws at night on his bed. Of the righteous man David says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law does he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). He adds, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the night watches” (Psalm 63:5-6). “I have remembered Your name, O LORD, in the night…. My eyes go before the night watches, so that I might meditate on Your word” (Psalm 119:55, 148).

Notice that David was always meditating on a particular topic. Remember, spiritual meditation is always about something pertaining to God or His Word.


The prophet Isaiah outlines both right and wrong motivations for fasting (Isa. 58:1-10). Men of God in the Bible fasted when they wanted to draw closer to God—especially when they were dealing with a sore trial or test. Moses, Daniel and Jesus Christ set examples of how and when to fast (Ex. 34:28; Dan. 9:3; 10:3; Matt. 4:2).

Fasting can also help in your repentance before God. As a part of his repentance, David fasted after Nathan the prophet confronted him over his sin with Bathsheba and his orchestration of her husband’s death (II Sam. 12:1-20). Psalm 51, written by David, is reputed to be part of the prayer he prayed to God during this fast.

A spiritual fast involves abstinence from both food and drink. The first few times you fast, it is best to fast for no more than one full day. Anyone with a serious medical condition should use caution and perhaps fast for shorter periods. It is preferable to set aside a large portion of the fasting time for prayer, Bible study and meditation. The main purpose for fasting is to humble yourself before God and ask Him to help you grow in a godly, obedient attitude before Him. If you (or someone you are close to) are having an acute, serious trial or problem, fasting in humility before God can help your prayers be more effective.

It is important to bear in mind that your purpose for fasting must not be to “get God to do your will”—but to ask Him to show you His will and then give you the strength to follow His will. If the problem requires His intervention on your behalf, you can ask for that intervention in a humble, submissive attitude—but never demanding anything from God.

Sabbath Fellowship—With God and Brethren

Unlike those “of the world” who are caught up in the pagan holidays of the occult—such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.—the life of the true Christian revolves around the weekly Sabbath and holy days of God. The weekly and annual Sabbaths outline the very plan of God—they serve as “focal points” for those who genuinely seek to follow God. Moreover, God gave man the Sabbath for the very purpose of fellowshipping with Him (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; 31:13-17). It is through this fellowship that you come to know God in a highly personal way. Notice what the apostle John wrote concerning this vital aspect of the Christian’s life: “That which we have seen and have heard [concerning Christ] we are reporting to you in order that you also may have fellowship with us; for the fellowship—indeed, our fellowship— is with the Father and with His own Son, Jesus Christ. These things we are also writing to you, so that your joy may be completely full” (I John 1:3-4). This fellowship with God is especially important on the Sabbath day. The truth is, you cannot have a growing, intimate relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ without this Sabbath fellowship.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God has this to say about the importance of His Sabbath day: “If you turn your foot away from [trampling on] the Sabbath, from doing your own desires on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy [time] of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor pursuing your own desires, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it” (Isa. 58:13-14). The Sabbath—like no other day—provides a special opportunity to draw close to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Just as the Word of God is living (Heb. 4:12), the Sabbath is likewise spiritually alive, as it were. Through the Holy Spirit, God is uniquely present in the Sabbath day.

In fact, your Sabbath and holy day fellowship with God is the key to your eternal life! If you are truly called and converted by God, if you possess and are led by the Holy Spirit of God, then you belong to Him—“you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God is indeed dwelling within you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him... For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:9, 14). As a spirit-led son or daughter of God, you have a deep hunger for the Word of God. You also hunger for an intimate relationship with God the Father—crying out, in spirit, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Again, such a relationship is only possible by fellowshipping with God the Father and Jesus Christ on the Sabbath day. And such fellowship is only possible through the indwelling of the Spirit of God. Living God’s way of life through the Holy Spirit, living in the love of God, fellowshipping with God and Spirit-led brethren—these are the true keys to eternal life.

Jesus declared that He is the Lord of the Sabbath; and He observed it as our example by regularly attending Sabbath services at the synagogue (Luke 4:16; Mark 2:28). Sabbath services provide a key opportunity to be fed spiritually by hearing the Word of God expounded (Rom. 10:14-17)—and the Sabbath is a wonderful time to fellowship with your spiritual brethren. Indeed, fellowshipping with other true believers on the Sabbath is absolutely vital—and will greatly enhance your spiritual growth and development. There is no better time than the Sabbath to discuss biblical topics with those of like mind—“iron sharpening iron” (see Prov. 27:17). And sharing your life with others is what godly love is all about. By fellowshipping and communicating with other Christians—especially on the Sabbath—you become more aware of opportunities to give, serve and help (Phil. 2:4).

Today, much of God’s Church is scattered. Many have little or no opportunity to attend organized Sabbath services, and must keep the Sabbath alone or in small groups. This makes it all the more important to reach out to one another—to be mindful of the needs of others—to make sure that no one is lacking in Sabbath fellowship. Keep in mind that when you fellowship with those who have God’s Spirit, you’re also fellowshipping with God Himself (I John 1:3). When you help other people, you’re helping Christ (Matt. 25:31-48). You are doing to others as you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12). In so doing, you are following Christ’s own example—and learning to become more like Him.

Living God’s Way of Life

We’ve discussed several tools for spiritual growth, such as prayer and Bible study. However, all of your efforts at laying a foundation of faith by learning about God can be defeated if you forget God in your daily life and simply live as you always have. As you grow in the knowledge of God’s ways, you need to apply that knowledge in your life. You need to live the life of a true Christian, motivated by godly love; you must be dedicated to following Jesus’ example in every aspect of your life—in each waking moment, as each choice and decision comes along. You need to prayerfully ask how Christ or other godly people in the Bible would handle various situations—and which of God’s laws would apply. Never forget—you are in training for eternal life!

The experience—the practice—of living by God’s standards and precepts, and the character built by doing the right thing at the right time, will enhance your spiritual growth and help you to truly become more like Jesus Christ and the Father. Paul writes in I Corinthians 3:11- 15 of building on the foundation of Jesus Christ (the knowledge of Him, His teachings and example): “For no one is able to lay any other foundation besides that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble, the work of each one shall be manifested; for the day of trial will declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall prove what kind of work each one’s is. If the work that anyone has built endures, he shall receive a reward. If the work of anyone is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet as through fire.” As you diligently live by Christ’s example, the more solid your foundation will be—as well as the spiritual superstructure you build upon it.

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples” (John 8:31). What did Jesus mean by “continue in My word”? The one who hears God’s words and puts them into practice, Christ likens to a wise man (see Matthew 7:24-27). You “continue” in His Word by applying it in your life. The key to understanding God’s Word is obedience—for God gives His Spirit only to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). If your heart is willingly obedient, He promises to give you the guidance of His Spirit and the understanding of His Word. Remember, the doers of the law shall be just before God (Rom. 2:13).

There’s a story of a musician who was walking down the street in New York one day, when a car pulled up beside him and someone called out, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The musician answered, “Practice, practice, practice.”

To the musician, the only way to become good enough to perform at Carnegie Hall was to constantly practice. To the Christian, the only way to become Christ-like and eventually attain His kingdom is to constantly practice God’s way of life—the way Christ lived as our example.

An aspiring pianist, while preparing to perform of a new piece of music, may encounter a passage he cannot play well enough for the performance. He may have to practice playing the part slowly at first, in order to play it correctly. But as he plays the passage over and over, he is gradually able to play it at the required tempo—while retaining both the accuracy and the smoothness required for good performance.

Researchers in neurology have found that each time a person correctly repeats a skilled motion—such as in learning a musical skill— the neurological pathways involved are enhanced. After enough repetitions, the pathways are noticeably thicker, enabling the signal to travel more easily. Eventually, the action becomes virtually automatic.

To become a good musician, you must practice until it becomes automatic. To become like God, you must practice godliness until it becomes automatic. Paul says that we can learn much about God and the way He works from His physical creation (Rom. 1:20). Could it be that each time we make the choice to obey one of God’s laws or precepts, we enhance our spiritual “nerve pathways” and become more skilled in godliness—putting on the very nature of God?

Following God’s laws and precepts—and the perfect example of Christ—assures you that you’re practicing godliness. Ultimately, you will become like those “who through repeated practice have had their senses [mind and thoughts] trained to discern between good and evil [and then to choose good]” (Heb. 5:14).