Spiritual Growth Principles
('Originally written October-November 2000. This is the piece which unlocked the "Thinking" series for my pea brain. This site was last Revised 3/2004, hastily.)

JOHN'S THEME in 1Jn is a how-to primer on post-Cross SPIRITUAL MECHANICS. Theology used to call this "experiential sanctification". Bible calls it GROWTH, which is why John uses child-adult metaphors to depict spiritual growth thresholds, just like the other NT writers (and the Lord) do. So, you use these mechanics to GROW UP in Him, which GOD uses also to BEAT SATAN IN THIS, the LAST STAGE ("hour") of THE ANGELIC APPEAL TRIAL. 1 John greatly affected my pastor. He started teaching us EVEN MORE comprehensively as a result of what he learned from it in 1980, retooling everything he had taught us, prior. Obviously, I myself was completely changed by it as well (my entry under his ministry was 1971).

John's encouragement in this epistle: Being "born of God" means we are in BOTH a temporal-and-eternal unimpeachable STATUS from the moment of salvation, which IS what makes us sons of God, via the Baptism of the Spirit (1Jn3, 1Jn5:13, 1Jn5:18, 1Jn5:20 -- the hundred-plus Baptism of the Spirit verses are too many to list here). So, let's learn to grow up and enjoy that status by "abiding" in Him: spiritual growth in our born-again (spiritual birth, unterminable) life is the theme of the epistle (1Jn1:3-4). Upshot: since we have the STATUS, let's get the FUNCTION of spiritual intimacy with GOD. (Paul discusses this same "upshot" in Romans 5-8.) Via that function, spiritual fellowship with believers will occur: John repeats this last phrase often to show that GOD FIRST; and as a RESULT, life with people evidences love.

Running physically above the encouragement purpose, John unrolls a DIVINE DRAMA in each of his writings, as here in 1Jn. That's his larger rhetorical style, blended with age-old OT metaphors, to explain God's TRIAL purpose "from the beginning": to prove WHY Satan&Co.'s alternative to the Divine Plan was hellish. Bible is first a set of LEGAL documents; one use of which, is as a deposition in a Trial -- the Trial of Satan and the Fallen Angels. See Gen3, Matt25:41, Isa14:12-14, Eze28, beginnings of each Job1 and 2, Gen 6, etc.

The promise that God (the Son) would take on Humanity and pay for sins was a big sticking point with Satan, and probably was the cause de guerre for him. Satan knew of this promise, as (I suppose) did all the angels, when ONLY angels existed, and BEFORE Satan rebelled. Since 1967, My pastor has spent lots of time explaining this, and the "Thinking" series extrapolates to account for that origin, testing for doctrinal fit in my understanding, etc. So I'll not go into details here. Suffice it to say that because this promise was long known, man ended up being additionally created for the TRIAL purpose, and of course Satan&Co. chose to mock it all. Pretty much every culture in history has some story about this beginning, each one a mutation on the same theme. So, in Bible, the promise of such intimacy was thus derided by Satan&Co. by means of phallicism. Genesis 6, "the gods" (Satan&Co.) had sex with the women, and phallicism has been some version of that ever since. Greek culture from Mycanea forward is thoroughly born of and saturated with, this root idea. So in the Gen6 COURT CASE pronouncement, ("riv", in Hebrew), God rules to allow the 4-generation-curse to finish out; during which time, Noah is to build that boat and alert all those laughing at him that God is really gonna tsunami everyone who DOESN'T believe in Him.

So the audience of the Bible was VERY familiar with Greek-god type concepts. So Bible frequently makes reference to those concepts: and of course any student of history knows that the Greek pantheon is but one flavor of many world-wide versions. Same 'gods', you see. Same game played on all mankind, to MOCK the Redeemer to Come. To MOCK the Promise of His Thinking being in our hearts, as a consequence (i.e., in Jer31:31-34, the easiest translated reference to see). That's why the Jews even to this day CHERISH TORAH, for it's the WORD being IN them, which was the promise from Gen3 forward (illustrated by clothing them with skins, and by Abel sacrificing the Lamb of God).

So against this TRIAL backdrop, the Incarnation had a Chief Witness function (i.e., "Faithful and True Witness" title in Rev1:5, 3:14, Heb1:2, 2:3ff). So too, for us, since we get the same spiritual life (1Jn4:17), we face the same question: since "now" (Church Age Bible keyword) God dwells in YOU, how do YOU 'dwell in' HIM? Answer: via Filling, the mechanics of which are explained in 1Jn1:9 (in context), and via the WORD, the mechanics of which everyone already long knew: STUDY YOUR BRAINS OUT under your teacher. OT version is Deut 6, which is likewise a think-Law-all-day lifestyle. NT parallel passages are legion, for it's the MAIN THEME of the NT, as a FULFILLMENT of Gen3's promise of salvation.

Now that you are permanently saved, you face a different issue, AFTER salvation: your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, now; but are YOU in your own temple WITH HIM, or are you lollygagging around in your MIND, OUT somewhere else? Without the Spirit, without the Word, you're OUT (1Jn2:5 is tied to 1Jn4:12-19, and of course to 1Jn1:5-10). So the 'evidence' of being out is that you will sin, you will be in the dark, you won't love your fellow man, and you won't know God, so of course you CAN'T love God, since you can't even love God until you know Him.

Dramatic EVIDENCE of Trial Success is that you LEARN AND STAY IN WORD. Then you know God, then you love God, then you love your fellow man. You can't SIN if you are in the Word, but only if OUT -- so if you're NOT GETTING the WORD IN YOU, you're OUT. But, then use 1Jn1:9 to GET BACK in (1Jn1:5-2:2), because you KNOW you are supposed to be WALKING IN THE WORD (1Jn2:3-6). See? it's PUNCTILIAR and 'where' you are TEMPORALLY, not what you do, etc.

As he later does in Revelation, in 1Jn he paints the spiritual life as a play in which God beats Satan. Greek plays were always done as a SERIES of 'fours' (set of four distinct plays), and we are in play #3 of this set. [You might say play#2, if the Lord's 1st Advent is play #1 of the New Testament, depending on how you classify what Bible calls the "Age", aka "Dispensation" in theology. Play #3 is thus the Trib, and #4 is the Millenium. I prefer to call this play#3, with #4 being the Trib, because the 2nd Advent is a new beginning. #1 is thus the OT, and #2 is the 1st Advent.]

OUTCOME: because YOU DWELL in the Temple Word where God is, you "overcome" the devil. See, in 1Jn, Greek word "menw" has ALL its meanings. So we are the actors, constituting EVIDENCE in the Trial, and so if we are menw'd-OUT-of-WORD, that's our testimony; if IN, that's our testimony. John keeps on playing in-and-out parallelisms so the reader can see the dynamics of the witness IN THE TRIAL; so he can know for himself 'where' he himself is, in or out. See, we are not so much witnesses to mankind; that's a necessary but WAY LOWER role, and is NOT in view in 1Jn. JOHN FOCUSES INSTEAD on our TRIAL witness to the superior power of ABIDING IN THE WORD, vs. abiding in the world's word, which Satan wrote; our abiding in the Word produces the Love, which proves Satan wrong.

See, because the entire Trial and history and Bible are to REVEAL CHRIST, you are to understand that THERE'S NO SEPARATION BETWEEN WORD AND PERSON. So all NT epistles use "Christ" to ALSO mean BIBLE, for it is His Thinking. Hence, "Christ"= WORD= TRUTH= LOVE= RIGHTEOUSNESS= ETERNAL LIFE. So if you see one of the capped words, it's ALWAYS talking about God's Nature, which INCLUDES Bible, His Thinking. Any human meanings of the word arrange hierarchically WELL BELOW that first tier. So, each metaphor tells you the mechanics of transference: You get filled up with Righteousness (Rom8) by the Righteous One's THINKING, for example. So, you can DO righteousness because you DID truth (1Jn1:6 parallelling 1Jn3:7). So if LOVE-WORD is in you, you will thus love your fellow man.

BEYOND the above basic orientation, some surprising principles are in 1Jn: here's a brief on them. The Holy Spirit will alert you to study this book, I'm certain. NO ONE MAKES IT IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE WITHOUT THESE MECHANICS. "Thinking" series outlines them in the section, "1 John's Outline of God's Script". You can go there quickly if you click on the "Spiritual Royalty Brief" box and then click on the second embedded link you see. Sorry I can't do a better job right now.
  1. Whatever comes from a spiritual motive produces a spiritual gain.
  2. Whatever comes from a non-spiritual motive produces a non-spiritual gain.
  3. Spiritual motives are impossible apart from being first born-again (believer in Christ), AND being in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (1Jn1:9 used, habitually).
  4. Spiritual motives cannot be sustained apart from consistent learning of Bible Doctrine while in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. [Greek verb "menw" is a MAJOR keyword in Scripture (including the Hebrew equivalent). Its root meaning: to dwell in the comfort of one's own home. It is translated, variously, in English: "abide", "dwell", "remain", "rest", "be in fellowship with", "be at home with", etc. As far as I can tell, Scripture writers mean ALL of these layers of English meanings at once, whenever they use the verb.]

  5. Non-spiritual motives harm.
  6. Whatever comes from a counterfeit spiritual motive (thinking-oneself-in-the-Light) produces a counterfeit spiritual gain.
  7. Counterfeit spiritual gains are the most harmful of all:  deceiving self, and "having a form of godliness, but denying its power", which deceives others, particularly unbelievers and young believers.

  8. Satan's #1 goal is to maximize counterfeit spiritual gains.  Thus he not only stunts the growth of the Body of Christ, but he dishonors Christ in the eyes of all.  This goal, to the extent achieved, buys Satan time in his ongoing attempt to prove he can rule and benefit man better (i.e., gain man's "love" better) than Christ (cf Job Chaps 1, 2, beginning of Chapters, as well as 1Jn).

  9.  Satan aims to prove, via Trial Arguments (e.g., Job, but the principles there apply in varying degree to us all)  that God the Son made rational creatures (i.e., Satan & Co.) DEFECTIVE, hence too handicapped to avoid failure (sin), so no one deserves to go to the Lake of Fire.  The fact that (presumably angels and) man may opt to receive the Salvation Gift doesn't ipse prove anything, since the Gift has strings:  Accept salvation or burn.  If strings, then God does not love, and Satan & Co.'s rebellion was justly a filing for divorce (as it were), which God should grant, without punishment;  not only to Satan & Co., but to all unbelievers. (Satan thus claims to be the "savior" of all nonbelievers.)

  10. The True spiritual life, true spiritual gains, buy time for mankind as a whole to receive salvation and to learn Christ, thus receiving the freedom God intended "from the beginning".  (Tie-in principle:  salt of the earth, remnant)

  11. Freedom means freedom to choose Christ (choose to receive salvation) as a FLOOR..the ceiling is true independence, wrought by Bible Doctrine (Mind of Christ) circulating in the soul, which produces in the believer an inviolate Integrity, and thus an inviolate Love (i.e., maximum enjoyment of all circumstances and persons, be they pleasant or not). This result can only occur due to free use of volition, since Love requires choice. Such a result is superior to equality, the heart of Satan's plan. To have made rational creatures with full Integrity absent their choice to learn it (via learning God) would be tyranny, and such beings would be equal, alright: as automatons. Love does not tyrannize.

  12. So, in God's Plan, spiritual gains are internal and rarely visible, because spiritual gains progressively produce love and peace, which are fundamentally quiet by nature. (cf 1Cor13, and "fruit of the Spirit" verse..Gal5:16?)

  13. These true spiritual gains are produced solely through learning Bible Doctrine (1Jn4:4-17), because to grow spiritually,  one must learn Christ;  that learning produces Love for Him, and the Love for Him produces love for one's fellow man.  (Tie-in verses:  2Pet3:18, "grow in grace and in the knowledge of Our Lord and Savior.." and Eph 3:15-19, Eph1:15-23.)  Absent learning Christ, all works count for nothing, because the person doing the works is out of fellowship, or has not yet learned love.  (1Jn, whole epistle, plus 1Cor13, Jas2:18-24 compared to James 1.)

  14. Thus, the FIRST work is to learn Christ, without which the believer is a counterfeit.  This gives the believer a progressive spiritual competency in any activity he is given BY GOD to do;  he is able to decipher, with progressive competence, the difference between false spirituality, false righteousness, and the true "deeds" God Himself orders for the believer.

  15. Thus, God the Father's  first priority for the believer, and the most important one, is to produce in the believer a thinking pattern progressively-more like His Son's Humanity's ("Mind of Christ", 1Cor2:16, and whole chapter). To God the Father, the PERSON, not the person's works, are the most important, since it is the PERSON who will be living with His Son. To Satan, by contrast, the person's works matter, and the person is expendable, for the person is only worth to Satan what he can "get" from the person.

  16. Satan & Co. cannot defeat this thinking pattern, so those exposed to it or those learning it are prime targets in the Angelic Conflict.  ('Major subtheme in 1Jn.)

  17. Seduction, more than crass attack, is the preferred tactical approach Satan & Co. take to neutralize such "targets".  (Matt 4's extremely-varied and subtle temptation patterns tie in here.)

  18. If the tactical objective, seduction, loses effectiveness or is insufficient, crass attacks are added (cf Job), to create a Kyle und Kessel (double-envelopment) barrage against the growing believer.

  19. The greater the prolongation of this double-envelopment deployment, the more spiritual gain the growing believer receives per "inch" (as it were) of offensive movement (staying in the Spirit, learning Bible Doctrine).

  20. Externally, one is in circumstances such that one feels "on the edge", seemingly near-collapse (cf 1Cor10:13, 2Cor12:7-9, 2Cor4:6-10).
  21. Such externals are designed to exploit our weaknesses but curb our strengths.  ('Not having own righteousness; so, if we "can", God "can't", and we have cut Him out in favor of our own righteousness/competence).
  22. Spritual gains under such externals produce a massive Kyle-und-Kessel counterattack "reply" of increasing (but always invisible) strength.
  23. Such spiritual gains produce balance such that one is a Joe Palooka Doll*.  Satan can't knock one down and keep him down. (2Cor4:6-10 ties in).

  24. Alternatively, if the believer collapses under the weight of these externals, or otherwise becomes negative to further spiritual growth, he lapses into self-deception (thinking self in the Light), and his spiritual life arrests.  At that point, he becomes progressively-hardened, frozen in that spiritual growth state (i.e., "young children", "young men"), and is only going through the motions of the spiritual life, like the Ephesians ended up doing in Rev 2.  The believer becomes a spiritual casualty, and doesn't even realize it, because he's observing the "form of godliness";  instead, he is really loving the world (really, his own ego).  Such a believer is most-favored by Satan & Co., for the discrediting they can make of him in the world.

  25. Works done by spiritual casualties are "wood, hay, stubble" and do not count before the Judgement Seat of Christ, but the believers themselves are still saved.  NO works done outside the Spirit, or with insufficient competency due to lack of doctrine learned, count. (Major theme of 1Jn and James).

  26. Conversely, the believer who uses the learn-My-Son mandates to hide in(pride himself on)  doctrinal knowledge, and/or to excuse himself (like the Corban gimmick) from helping his fellow man is also in self-deception, and is a spiritual casualty, fancying himself to be-in-the-Light.  Idea remains:  "neither to the right, nor to the left". (1Jn3, 2nd half, and James 2:18-24)

  27. Above all, the 1st Commandment, upgraded to the HIGHEST LEVEL in all human history, due to the Session:  'can't be happy if you don't get to the "completion" of God's Love (KJV "perfect" is "teleiow":  "to finish, complete, fulfill" and is a MAJOR keyword in all NT); 'can't avoid shame at Judgement Seat of Christ if you don't get to that "completion";  'can't love your fellow man if you don't love God;  'can't love God until you KNOW God;  'can't know God unless you learn God;  'can't learn God if not in the Spirit (1Jn1:9 used habitually);  'can't learn God if not first a believer in Christ.  (1Jn4:12-17, esp v.17, is shouted and climactic, the thrust of 1Jn.)
  28. The Prosecution's (God's) Trial Evidence of the believer's (freely-received-from-Doctrine) Integrity, LOVE and Happiness level proves God the Father's Plan superior to Satan's, in the Angelic Conflict -- NOT -- repeat, NOT -- the believer's works.
  29. Works, contrary to Satan's longstanding claims, are tangential, byproducts, and of themselves do not prove the motive behind them. It's the thought that counts. So Satan's claim that God the Son made rational creatures solely as pets He could train for His amusement reflects Satan's motive, not God's.

  30. Satan's claim that rational beings were created defectively by God the Son is proven not merely wrong, but also his alleged-correction, equality, is proven both inferior and maximally-miserable.

  31. Hence, the Divorce (as it were) is granted with prejudice, and the sentence of the Lake of Fire for all who have never once believed IN the Son for salvation, is the new, separate 'universe' in which the divorcees shall live forever, as befits their rejecting, miserable, self-made natures.

  32. However, Love has never rejected them, and instead provided all of this time and teaching so to avoid the Lake-of-Fire outcome, despite knowing they would forever reject Love. So, God being Omniscient, always knew and will always know the suffering; always saw and will always see the suffering; always "suffers" with them, forever. ('As it were -- knowing suffering is greater than feeling suffering, and God has no emotions) So Love, the motive of God's Integrity, still! never rejects them.

  33. Believers, likewise, have in varying degrees rejected the Love for God, to the extent such believers did not grow in the knowledge of Him. To the extent of their spiritual arrest during their lives on earth, and in accordance with the Covenant (or Dispensation) applicable to them, such believers shall be forever arrested at that level; however, within that level they will be able to continue to learn forever, and will be maximally happy within such level forever. (1Jn4:17, in light of whole epistle, plus Ephesians and Revelation 2-3,19,20)

  34. In short, the eternal state (and the Millenium) is a hierarchical society, just as in the Garden Adam was the Head, and the woman was the wife. Everyone will be ideally suited to his niche in that society, yet will have uncompromised free will, and will never choose to sin, even as God never chooses to sin. Such a range of inequality provides maximum enjoyment, synergy via differences, in which Love rules them all.

  35. Believers who have grown to Pleroma (Eph3:19's "fullness" is "pleroma", in Greek, and is a MAJOR keyword in the NT, which John uses in 1Jn1:4) will be co-rulers with Christ. Purpose of the higher status is to LOVE, just as He loves. Thus, those lower are benefitted, and gain more than were they absent rulers. (Analogous provisions apply to those of other Covenants/Dispensations, e.g., the Jeshurun class of the OT.)

  36. Because, it is not about Power, it is about Love, "from the beginning" (biggest theme in 1Jn). Power is worthless, without love. Works are worthless, without love. Goodies are worthless, without love. Everything is worthless, without love: "for God is Love." (cf 1Jn4:12,16.)




*In the 1950's, America made a sand-weighted, air-filled vinyl doll as tall as an 8-year-old child, painted as the famous boxer, Joe Palooka. When the child punched the doll, it would rock back and forth, but could not REMAIN struck down, due to the sand-weighting at the bottom. So also, the believer can be struck down, but not KEPT down, due to his maturity in Christ, learned via Bible Doctrine (2Cor4:6-10, compared to 1Jn1:4-2:6,and all of Chap4, plus Eph1 and Eph3).