Spiritual growth is first of all growth in grace. Peter closes his second epistle with the admonition to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The two go hand in hand, grace and an ever increasing knowledge of Jesus. Spiritual growth is a sign of spiritual life, of a vital connection portrayed in Scripture by images such as a vine and its branches, a tree planted by steams of living water and a babe growing into maturity. God’s plan for us begins with salvation, with new birth, but it doesn’t stop there. His plan is that we grow into a maturity characterized by the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children. (Ephesians 4:13-14) Let’s explore the three ways we are to grow spiritually as Christians.
Grow in Love
If you fell more deeply in love with God, how might that change your behavior?James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God
When I think about my own spiritual growth in over 50+ years of walking with God I have to say I’ve grown the most when I’ve loved Him the most. That’s spiritual growth made simple! The more I loved the more I grew spiritually.
In the early years I thought spiritual growth was about knowing lots of Bible verses and going to church a lot. 🙃 As I matured in Christ I discovered that the most nutritious food for my soul was feasting on His love for me as I saw it throughout the Scriptures. And just as the Scriptures predicted, I began to love Him because He loved me first. In loving Him I wanted to stay close to Him, to enjoy a constant fellowship and sense of His presence with me throughout the day. Which in turn produced in me a desire to please God and be more and more like Jesus. That’s spiritual growth from the inside out.
We sometimes get this turned around. We think if we behave in some way God will love us more. So we redouble our efforts to be good, when we haven’t yet been made good by His love and the work of His Holy Spirit. Here’s a post I wrote about seeking His presence and learning to enjoy His companionship and trusting that He’ll work in me and through me in His own good time.
Do you want to grow spiritually? Then grow in love.
The Apostle John refers to himself as, ‘the one that Jesus loved’. He writes more beautifully about the love of God than any other of the Biblical writers. His constant refrain is that we should abide in God’s love. If we do that one thing, God will grow us up in Christ. He’ll complete the work He’s begun. He’s on it!!! But how do you abide in love? You fix your eyes on Jesus and keep searching God’s word to discover more about Who He is and what He’s like.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.1 John 4:12-16
Ask yourself some reflection questions from this passage.
Do I love my fellow believers? Not a warm fuzzy feeling kind of love, not a ‘let’s do coffee love, but a ‘bear their burdens’ kind of love. Do I know and sense the presence of the Holy Spirit within me? Do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do I know and believe God’s love for me? Do I trust that when I asked Jesus to come into my life, He did. Do I believe His Holy Spirit lives within my heart and is at work helping me to grow spiritually by growing first in my love for God.
Make sure you believe these things. Let these be your priority. Ask these things as your prayers!
Grow in Knowledge
I love spiritual growth quotes. I keep them on brightly colored post-it-notes and highlight them in books. I’m currently reading The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. It’s peppered with absolutely inspiring and quote worthy one liners. 🔥🙌✨But one quote from it is really a quote from The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. Dallas Willard taught Philosophy at USC and was considered an expert in ‘spiritual formation’. That’s a term used to describe the process of being conformed to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Here’s the spiritual growth quote that Smith includes in his book.
“The key, then, to loving God is to see Jesus, to hold him before the mind with as much fullness and clarity as possible. It is to adore him.”Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
As Christians we must grow in the knowledge of God, and in particular, the knowledge of Jesus Christ. God is at work conforming you and me to the image of Christ. So what is Jesus like? We’d know if we could only see Him. Now how are you and I gonna ‘see’ Jesus? Let’s try doing what Dallas Willard suggests.
Here’s a great exercise to do while reading through the Gospels. Read a passage (my personal favorite is John 4) ~ the story of the Woman at the Well. While reading it practice seeing Jesus in the scene and holding in your mind that picture of him. (John 4:1-42) Feel the heat of the midday sun. See the dusty streets of the village and the woman approaching the well with her water jar as Jesus is sitting nearby. Hear him speak to her. . .You get it.
Slow down, slow way down and pay attention to the details God decided you needed to know. We rush through the Scriptures and rob ourselves and the Holy Spirit of the time required to take in divine truth. God is speaking to you through the passage. He has things to enlighten you about. He has things to speak into your mind and spirit. Let the truth in, let the light shine deeply into your understanding.
In his classic, Knowing God, J.I. Packer shares part of a sermon text from the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon.
“the proper study of God’s elect is God. . .But while the subject (the Godhead) humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around his narrow globe. . .The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.Charles Spurgeon, 7 January, 1855
And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul, so calm the swelling billows of grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. . .
Grow in Likeness
The ultimate purpose of spiritual growth is to conform us to the image of Christ. We have become a new creation in Christ by being born again. That new birth (John 3) birthed us into the kingdom of God. We have become strangers and pilgrims on this earth as we sojourn on toward our eternal home. And every moment we have an opportunity to become more and more like the one who redeemed us, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Beloved Son in whom God was well pleased.
This is a work of God’s Holy Spirit living within us. He helps us understand the Scriptures and He guides us as we walk with Jesus. It is all a part of God’s plan from before the world began. So what is our part in this spiritual growth? To stay in fellowship with God by not quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit. We quench the Spirit when we refuse to follow His leading in using our spiritual gifts to minister to others. When we won’t share our faith with unbelievers or encourage our fellow believers. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. When we choose to fulfill the lusts of our flesh and refuse the spiritual strength to resist temptation. Here are three key verses that reveal God’s purpose, His plan and His process for conforming us to the image of His Son.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
These are just a few of the many Scriptures about being conformed to the image of Christ. I’m including below a link to a long list of Scriptures on the subject.
The Chief End of Man
What is your life purpose? What is mine? We like to think we’re individuals each with a unique and self-determined purpose. But the Bible tells us that we were made by God for His own pleasure. The old Westminster Catechism written in 1648 opens with a question and an answer:
Question: What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Start enjoying Him today. Cultivate a friendship with God. Read about Him and think on Him throughout your day. Let thoughts of Him be the first you have in the morning and the last you recall before sleep. Find your joy in knowing Him. Find your purpose in serving HIm. Find your life in becoming like Him.
Spiritual Growth Books
I’ve mentioned several books in this post. Here they are in a short list for your convenience. 🙂
The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
Knowing God, J. I. Packer
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