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Welcome back to our newest series called The Discipleship Spiral.
Today I’m going to explain what the Spiral is as well as discuss the first fourth of the discipleship journey.
But — before we do that — let me encourage you to carefully consider attending or hosting a Celebration of God conference.
There are three options for this . . . and at least one of them may work for you.
1. You could attend a Celebration of God conference where we — the Celebration of God staff — put on the entire event. We can do that at our location or at yours.
2. A Celebration of God speaker could participate in your event. If you would like a speaker to add to your lineup, just let us know.
And 3. Even if you don’t have a church, camp, school, or other organization, you could host a Private Celebration of God Event.
These private events involve you inviting friends over to your home for fellowship, and then I connect with all of you live via Zoom. I would give a personal challenge take your questions, pray with you, and serve you and your group any way that I can.
So, I hope you’ll consider how you might engage with a Celebration of God event this year.
And — now that I think of it — joining me on the Wisdom App is a like participating in a live workshop. You can follow the Wisdom link in the description of today’s episode to get the app and follow me @AMBrewster. Then you can connect on Monday at 11am EST where we discuss Friday’s episode in more detail.
You can not only listen, but you can also join me live to ask your questions, get counsel, and add to the discussion.
So, that’s a fourth way you can participate in a Celebration of God live teaching time this year. How cool is that?!
And, lastly, be sure to check out our episode notes and transcripts available on our blog.
And now, let’s get a firm understanding of the Discipleship Spiral.
On our last episode we zoomed way out so that we could see the full picture of the disciple’s journey.
We learned that a disciple is a student. Therefore, a disciple of God is a student of God. And — as a student — we’re expected to learn about God and live like God.
But the journey of learning about God and living like God is not as simple as a straight line drawn on a map.
The imagery of a journey is a valid one when we’re talking about discipleship, but we know that the Christian life is one of ups and downs, hardships and blessings, mountaintop experiences and sometimes even the valley of the shadow of death.
So the journey of a disciple of Christ would look less like a straight line and more like a twisting, turning path that goes up and down.
But, in order to simplify the imagery, I’m going to liken the journey of a disciple to a spiral.
Now, lest you have have the wrong picture in your mind of a plane in a nosedive spiraling out of control toward the ground . . . allow me to set the parameters.
Imagine, if you will a mountain. It consists on one very tall peak, and the path to the top is a road that winds all the way around and around and around the mountain until it reaches the top.
That is the imagery we want in our minds.
Now, what you should see in your mind’s eye consists of two main images. There’s the mountain itself, and then there’s the path spiraling up the mountain. And it’s our intention to talk about both of those elements.
Now, even though the mountain is the most important part, we’re actually going to talk about it toward the end of this series. This episode and the next two are all going to be about the path itself because the path is made up of three distinct parts.
Now, allow me to clarify for the sake of our mental picture.
When I say that the path is made of three distinct parts, I’m not suggesting that the first third of the path is one part, the second third is the next, and the final third of the path is the last part.
That’s not the right idea, so here’s how the path works.
I don’t know if you’ve ever climbed a mountain, but some of the hike is often relatively easy. It’s flatter ground that’s pretty simple to traverse. However, other parts of the climb are far more strenuous. And still other parts will likely require ropes and specialized gear.
So, imagine that as you start up this mountain the first part of the hike is relatively even. It’s more of a walk than a climb. But then you round a bend and the path becomes steeper, and there are roots and boulders covering the path. And then — before you know it — you round another bend, and you have to literally climb hand over foot to get to the next part of the path.
However, when you reach the top of that rock face, you notice that the path evens out again for a while. But then sooner than before you encounter more rough terrain that again leads to a finger-straining, sweat-inducing, heart-pounding climb.
And as you traverse this mountain path you will find that this progression from easy to difficult to very hard repeats over and over as you near the top.
Of course, if you’re picturing the same type of mountain I’m picturing, you should also notice that the spiral becomes narrower and narrower as you reach the top. That means a couple interesting things.
First, those three different terrains are changing with greater frequency, and it also means that even the smoother terrain is more challenging than it was near the bottom of the mountain.
That is the most basic picture of the Discipleship Spiral — a winding path that encircles a large mountain — slowly leading you to the top.
So, now let’s zoom in real close and investigate the first third of our discipleship journey.
In order to understand the path of a disciple, let’s remind ourselves again that to be a disciple is to learn. But what does it mean to learn?
Well, most dictionaries define learning as the acquisition of knowledge. And that’s a fair start. But here’s the definition I like best. Learning is the process of acquiring information, systematizing it, and using it.
And — for the disciple of Christ — we would say that learning is the process of acquiring information about God, systematizing it, and then using it for His glory.
And the three parts of that definition represent the three stages we will encounter as we spiral up the mountain.
Therefore, the very first steps every disciple of Christ must take involve the acquisition of knowledge about God.
We see this truth all throughout Scripture. We see God teaching Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Proverbs is filled with teaching concerning the importance of knowledge, Jesus commands all of His disciples to teach others — aka: impart knowledge to them — and the list goes on and on.
But in order to understand this first third of the Discipleship Spiral, we need to know what knowledge is.
Knowledge is defined as “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.” And that matches up well with the dictionary definition of learning.
So, though I’m going to really oversimplify this, don’t miss what I’m trying to help us learn. Think of your brain as a box. The knowledge is the stuff in the box that can be retrieved from the box. It’s the information in the brain that we have the ability to access at any time.
I would argue that if you don’t know something, it’s because that information was either never in the box, or you had it in your box at one point, but it’s since been removed, or it’s so buried that you can’t find it.
That’s why I’m going to say that to truly “know” something requires that you do not forget the information. You need to be able to readily access the information from the box in order to say that you really know it.
So, let me think. Do I really know what God taught me about Himself when I was in church two years ago? Well, I might be able to figure it out — that would be akin to digging around in the box to locate the information. But I may find that no matter how much I dig, I’ll never retrieve the information.
Now, what’s really interesting is that if I dig and dig and have no memory of what I learned that Sunday, if someone were to remind me what the preacher said, I might immediately remember with great clarity the truth I learned.
That’s the amazingness of the brain that makes it so much cooler than some old box. In fact, there are scientists who say that our brains store 100% of everything we perceive — the question is how to access it.
But — for the purposes of this study — “to know” something is to possess it in a way that it can be retrieved when necessary.
Why is that important? Well, because I’ve asked many a counselee to answer a question, and I received this response, “Well, I know the answer, I just can remember it right now.”
Then I would say, “What good is having the information if you can’t find it?” It’s like knowing you have just the right tool for the job, but you can’t find it anywhere in the mess that is your garage, so you have to go out and buy another one. And then — by the end of your life — you end up owning 18 of the same tool because you use it so infrequently that you never remembered where you put it.
And we do the same thing with the truth about God that we’ve heard. Yeah, we know we encountered that truth somewhere before, but we haven’t used it since, and we have no idea where to find it. And we’re stuck having to learn it all over again — either that or just not applying the truth in our lives.
Now, this level of learning is most often associated with rote memorization, and — don’t get me wrong — memorization is a very important part of the learning process. In fact, I believe memorizing the truth of God is more important than most people realize, but — at the same time — memorization is not the most important part.
Why is that? Well, because without the next two parts of the Spiral, memorization is pretty pointless. In fact, without the next two parts of the disciple’s journey, a collection of facts about God can actually just make us arrogant and useless.
This is all very important — especially for people who have been influenced by the American way of thinking. Most American’s have the idea that learning is intimately attached to school, and school is a place where we get through it by absorbing the least amount of information as possible in order to regurgitate it on a test so that we can promptly forget it until our teachers have to teach it to us all over again next year.
But we must never approach the learning of a disciple in that way.
Yes, collecting facts, experiencing reality, and learning truth is absolutely imperative if we hope to change and grow and mature as a disciple of Christ. But there is so much more to learning that just collecting facts about God.
However, we’ll talk about those other parts next time. For now, let’s understand the importance of acquiring the knowledge of God.
To that end, we’re going to consider the Nature of the Knowledge of God, the Source of the Knowledge of God, the Rejection of the Knowledge of God, and the Acquisition of the Knowledge of God.
1. The Nature of the Knowledge of God
As always, it’s very important to define our terms.
We may think we understand what a word means to us and other people, but it’s desperately important to discover what God intended the word to mean and therefore adopt His understanding.
So, let’s start with the fact that . . .
A. The Knowledge of God is Good.
Proverbs 19:2 says, “It is not good for a person to be without knowledge.”
Many people despise knowledge. Those people are not disciples.
Some people don’t hate knowledge so much as they hate the process of acquiring it. Others believe that a person with more knowledge than everyone else is too big for their britches. And still others are afraid of certain knowledge believing that learning such knowledge will corrupt the one who learns it.
But knowledge — in and of itself — especially the knowledge of God, is always good.
And why is it good?
B. The Knowledge of God is Power.
My friends, in many ways Sir. Francis Bacon was right when he said "ipsa scientia potestas est,” which means “knowledge itself is power.”
But this truth is far older that Bacon. In Proverbs 24:5 we read, “A wise man is strong, And a man of knowledge increases power.”
Knowledge increases power — literally this means knowledge gives strength to power. It makes power more powerful.
How powerful is knowledge?
Well, in Proverbs 13:16 we read that “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” It’s impossible to be sensible and shrewd without knowledge.
But consider Proverbs 3:20, “By His knowledge the deeps were broken up And the skies drip with dew.”
God applied His knowledge to the creation of the universe. That’s pretty powerful.
The word “power” used in Proverbs 24:5 can refer to might and wealth on one hand or the simple ability to do something on the other.
And that’s what knowledge is. If I don’t know how to add, I’m powerless to use addition.
And the same is true for spiritual realities.
In Romans 10:14 we read, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” The spiritual ability to enter into a saving relationship with God is impossible unless someone teaches us about God, about our sin, and about the salvation offered through Jesus Christ’s substitutionary life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Therefore, knowledge is good because knowledge gives us the ability to do the things we should.
Therefore, sometimes our problems as disciples of Christ are issues of ignorance.
Yes, misunderstanding and rebellion are also huge problems in our lives and the lives of our students and counselees and church family and children, but both misunderstanding and rebellion require some sort of knowledge.
But there are many issues in each of our lives that are simply a lack of knowledge. We simply don’t know enough about God’s character, deeds, and expectations. If we knew what to do, many of us would do it, but we don’t know.
So this means that if we’re afraid of knowledge, or we hate the acquisition of knowledge, or we’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t need more knowledge, or we’re just too lazy, we’re lying to ourselves about the nature of knowledge, and we’re literally handicapping ourselves.
Disciples of Christ need to understand that because knowledge of God is both good and powerful . . .
C. The Knowledge of God Can Save.
Proverbs 11:9, “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.”
Every situation in which we find ourselves is a situation that requires us to make a Christ-honoring decision. I’ll either choose to worship God or myself. Therefore, being able to make the right decision will save me from the heartaches that come from displeasing my God, and my decision to submit to God will save me from an eternity separated from Him.
This is why . . .
D. The Knowledge of God is Valuable.
Proverbs 8:10, “Take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold.”
Because knowledge is so good, and because it enables us to serve God better, and because it saves us from making bad decisions that can negatively affect every area of our lives, the knowledge of God is far more valuable than money.
Ignorant people win the lottery all of the time, and that money accomplishes absolutely nothing of value as it’s wasted away.
As disciples of Christ we need to believe that knowledge is to be desired more than material possessions. Knowledge for knowledge sake is not the point, but it is the ever-important starting point for the Discipleship Spiral because we can’t be a student without bathing in information.
So, since knowledge is good, powerful, saving, and — therefore — valuable, it’s necessary to ask, “Where do we find knowledge?”
So, we now need to consider . . .
2. The Source of the Knowledge of God
In Proverbs 2:6 we read, “From [the Lord’s] mouth comes knowledge.”
Proverbs 22:20-21 says, “Have I not written to you excellent things Of counsels and knowledge, 21 To make you know the certainty of the words of truth That you may correctly answer him who sent you?”
God is the source of all truth. God is the way, the truth, and the life. The sum of His Word is truth. There is no truth that isn’t God’s truth.
This is why absolute truth absolutely exists. There is right, and there is wrong. There is truth, and there are lies. Lies are a creation of Satan, but all truth radiates from God.
This is why the knowledge of God is so good and powerful. Lies are falsehoods. When you think you know something, but that something is a lie, you not only don’t possess knowledge, you possess anti-knowledge.
The lie steals from your store of knowledge by convincing you to jettison facts and substitute them for falsehoods. And in the same way that knowledge is good and powerful, lies are bad and damaging.
And the Bible has a lot to say about people who substitute truth for lies. So let’s talk about what happens when we don’t gather information the way a good disciple should.
3. The Rejection of the Knowledge of God
Proverbs 1:22, “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?”
Anyone who would take a bar of pure gold and substitute it for a common, ordinary rock is a fool. Only someone bereft of common sense would make such a detrimental decision. And it would have to be an even bigger fool who would — standing there empty-handed — refuse to accept a bar of gold being offered to him for free.
But we do it every day. Children in particular are very good at this. Because they’re born into this world with foolishness knotted up in their hearts, they regularly substitute the good and powerful knowledge of God for impotent, destructive lies. But adults do it all the time too.
And the Bible also has a lot to say about the consequences of rejecting knowledge.
Proverbs 19:27 tells us, “Cease listening, my son, to discipline, And you will stray from the words of knowledge.”
I know this sounds simple — and even a bit redundant — but when you reject knowledge you won’t gain knowledge.
I think we all understand the concept that we don’t know what we don’t know, but have you ever watched a life implode due to a person’s inability to know what they don’t know? It’s tragic. It’s like a person with cancer who rejects life-saving treatments believing that the unhealthy lifestyle that caused the cancer in the first place would cure her. All it does it quicken her death.
In my years of ministry as a biblical counselor, I’ve watched a heart-breaking number of people cease listening to teaching only to stray more and more from the words of knowledge. And — all the while — those same people believed they were smart for rejecting what they’d heard.
They believed they had the right answers. Only one day they found that they had destroyed themselves by rejecting the knowledge of God.
Consider Proverbs 1:29-33, “Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord. 30 They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. 31 So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices. 32 For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them. 33 But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
Okay, so here we are — followers of Christ walking together along the pathway of discipleship.
This first stretch requires us to seek out and learn the truth of God.
And, yes, compared to the second and third phases of our discipleship, the learning phase is the easiest. The learning part of the journey is smoother and flatter. All we have to do is open God’s Word and start reading it. All it takes is turning on our minds while the preacher is preaching, the counselor is counseling, the speaker is speaking, and the teacher is teaching — actively trying to learn everything we can about our great God.
But learning is not a passive endeavor. You do have to put one foot in front of the other. In order to move along this part of the path, you actually have to be adding to your stores of knowledge.
As you look up the path, you’ll notice there are people who are farther along than you. Well, for the sake of this illustration, those people simply know more than you do. If you want to catch up with them, all you have to do is continue learning more and more about God’s character, deeds, and expectations for us.
And — like I said, the learning part of the path is much easier than the second and third parts of the path. We’ll discover why this is the case in the next couple episodes.
But even though I’ve suggested that the learning phase of the Discipleship Spiral is the easiest, I know that many of you may not look at learning like that. When we compare learning with mindless entertainment and amusement, learning seems really hard.
And, you’re right. Putting one foot in front of another up a mountain pass takes more work than sitting on couch binge-watching the newest Marvel iteration.
But, compared to the more strenuous parts of being a disciple of God, learning the truths of God really is the easiest part.
So, if you already enjoy learning, or you’re recognizing that you need to accept what God says about learning and start appreciating it and doing it the way He commands, you’re ready for this last bit of truth.
4. The Acquisition of the Knowledge of God
This is our final point for the day, but there are four short sub-points to understand as we discuss the acquisition of knowledge.
Here we go.
A. We need to want the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 15:14, “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge.”
Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.”
We absolutely must desire knowledge, and we have to teach our fellow disciple to value it as well.
This starts with how we approach the knowledge of God.
Listen, if you are an unteachable person, you’re not only failing God in your own discipleship journey, you’re also teaching those around you to be better fools.
Not only do we owe it to God to be eternal students, we owe it to our fellow disciples to teach them how to love learning.
But we also need to realize that . . .
B. We need to work for the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5, “My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you,
2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God.”
Like I said earlier, learning is often harder than amusement. And — if we want to do it well — we’ll need to really apply ourselves — especially as we get higher up the mountain and the information we’re learning becomes broader and deeper. That’s why we need to apply ourselves. We’re not going to just absorb knowledge by sitting brainlessly in church. We need to lean forward, be attentive, and actively work to learn.
Proverbs 22:17, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your mind to my knowledge.”
Proverbs 10:14, “Wise men store up knowledge.”
As we’re going to learn in the following episodes, all the knowledge we gain makes it easier to learn more knowledge. And the farther we move up the Discipleship Spiral, the easier it will be to gain more and more knowledge.
Now, a person who values the knowledge of God and is prepared to work for it is going to make some important life choices.
C. We need to reject that which doesn’t give us the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 14:7, “Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge.”
This is a huge point we really can’t take the time to discuss today. This point has everything to do with your influences.
Many of God’s people are foolish because they surround themselves with fools. Their friends, their entertainment, even their teachers and mentors are fools. How could we ever expect that we’re going to become wise surrounded by all of that?
We need to reject everything that lies to us. We don’t have time to be lied to. We need to be learning the things of God; we don’t have time to have our learning stripped away and replaced by anti-knowledge.
Instead . . .
D. We need to run after that which does provide the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 15:2, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.”
Proverbs 15:7, “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, But the hearts of fools are not so.”
Instead of surrounding ourselves with fools, we need to be enveloped by wise men and women who will help us learn.
And — here’s our final point for today — if we’re serious about learning everything God has for us . . . we need to run toward discipline.
There are four stages of biblical discipline, but the first two stages are instruction and reproof.
Disciples of Christ will run toward instruction.
Proverbs 21:11, “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.”
But we also need to run toward reproof.
Proverbs 19:25, “Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.”
It takes a lot of humility and maturity, but a teachable disciple is thankful when someone tells him he’s wrong. Christ-honoring reproof says, “I know you thought what you did was a good idea, but it was wrong.” Reproof is providing the knowledge that the individual was functioning off a lie instead of truth.
And when a wise man is reproved, he gains that knowledge — he learns the lesson.
That’s why today’s episode was entitled the Zealous Student. We should be passionate about learning everything we can about God.
So, that’s the first part of the Discipleship Spiral.
The knowledge of God is good, it’s powerful, it saves, and it’s valuable. And this makes sense because it flows from God Himself.
And only a fool would reject the knowledge of God because only a fool would invite destruction into his life.
But wise people value knowledge. They work for it, and they work hard for it.
Disciples of Christ are willing to reject everything that’s going to lie to them and — instead — surround themselves with that which provides even more knowledge of God . . . even if that means spending time with people who love them enough to tell them they’re wrong.
Listen, as disciples of Christ, we need more knowledge about God. Now, the mere acquisition of knowledge from the Bible shouldn’t be our highest goal, but it’s the absolutely vital first step for the disciples
So, please share this episode with your fellow disciples. Invite them to learn right along with you, and make sure you share this episode with your pastor, your church friends, and anyone else who professes to be a follower of God.
And — if you need some specific assistance in truly appreciating the value of the knowledge of God — please contact us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com or give us a call at (828) 423-0894.
I’m really excited about continuing this series with you, and I hope you’ll join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing The Discerning Researcher | The Discipleship Spiral, Part 3.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.