The fundamental principles which underlie any course of study are called simply "the basics." The basics are the ABCs, the nuts and bolts. They are the essentials, the things we must master before we can become proficient in any particular field. But the basics are also the things to which we must return when we lose our bearings. They are the bedrock—apart from which we have no hope of standing.
As new believers, we learn the basic principles: the love of God, the destructiveness of sin, salvation by faith, the authority of the Word, the sufficiency of grace. We begin to practice the basic exercises: confession, prayer, study, service.
As we mature, we come to realize that proficiency—skill in living the Christian life—is not a matter of moving beyond the basics, but is a matter of delving more deeply into them. We will never outgrow our need for confession or prayer or service; in fact, growth intensifies our need for and our pleasure in these things. And even though we learn more promises, more principles, more doctrines every day, we will never plumb the depths of even the most basic truths of God's Word.
The more we grow in the grace and knowledge of God, the less impressed we will be with ourselves and the more impressed we will become with the Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (COL 2:3).
As a pastor-teacher, my goal in teaching the Basics series—from which this book was written—was to lead my sheep to a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. My prayer is that this book will be used by God to encourage others to study with renewed enthusiasm and diligence the written Word, through which alone we can come to know the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God has a desire for every one of His children to become great. In eternity past He designed a plan that would bring us to greatness. He foresaw everything we would need to fulfill our destiny, and He set aside a lifetime of provisions for each of us. The purpose of this book is to lay out that plan, to show from the Word the goal He wants us to reach and the means by which He intends we get there.
Unit 1, The Plan of Redemption, explains why man is in the mess he is in and how God saw the problem before time began. It describes the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in providing the solution and tells us how to lay hold of it.
Unit 2, The Provisions of God's Grace, outlines five essential provisions that God has given to every believer. In Christ we are incredibly rich, but these riches are of no practical value to us until we know what they are. Not until we understand what is available to us can we begin to grow spiritually.
Unit 3, Spiritual Growth, describes the upward path from infancy to maturity in the spiritual realm. Once we know what God has made available, the next logical step is to use those resources, to let ourselves be trained for the work God has prepared for us. This unit explains both the alternative to growth and the joys of growth and describes the goal of growth: spiritual maturity.
Unit 4, The Christian Way of Life, describes the greater spiritual riches and the more subtle spiritual tests that accompany maturity. In maturity it is imperative that we have 20/20 spiritual vision. This is the point at which the "normal" Christian life really begins. The kind of life God intends to be "normal" for His children is the kind of life hinted at by men like Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, Gideon, and exemplified in Paul—men whom God could entrust with work because He knew they would trust Him.
Unit 5, Spiritual Warfare, opens the curtain on the spiritual battle that rages on this earth, describing both the strategy of the enemy and the ultimate futility of his cause. Focusing on Job, it puts into perspective the suffering and pain through which heroes of faith are forged.
Four of these units describe phases of spiritual growth to the point at which we must make a decision. Our freedom to choose is important to God. He is a gentleman; He will never force us to go any further with Him than we want to go. He wants to take us all the way to greatness, but He has chosen to limit Himself by our faith.
In Unit 1 the Gospel is made absolutely clear. It takes us, therefore, to the point at which we face the most important decision anyone ever makes: What will I do with Jesus Christ? Our eternal destiny hinges on how we answer that question. If we believe in Him, we enter eternal life. If we reject Him, we remain in death and doom ourselves to an eternity in hell. God sends no one to hell; men go there by their own free choice.
Believing in Jesus Christ is only the first of many choices that will determine the course of our lives and the rewards that will—or will not—be ours in heaven. Unit 2 takes us to the point at which we have to ask ourselves: Do I want to grow? If we say yes, all we have to do is receive and use the resources God has given.
By the end of Unit 3, we will be beginning to understand the next great decision we must make. In order to reach the high ground of spiritual maturity, we have to choose to present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, to subordinate everything we want in life to the plan of God.
Of the few who choose to press on to spiritual maturity, fewer still will make it through the minefields described in Unit 4 to the point at which we must decide: Do I want to become a hero of the faith? To move beyond this point, we must have come to the place where the spiritual realm is more real to use than the physical.
By the time we reach the end of what is described in Unit 5, we will have no more decisions to make. The day will come when each of us will face the result of all our previous decisions. On that day, we will stand alone before the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have chosen for the plan of God and have finished the race He set before us, we will hear the only words that a disciple wants to hear His Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"