What Do We Know About Spiritual Growth?
Spiritual growth is an essential part of preparing for heaven. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18) Paul described spiritual growth by saying, "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ --" (Ephesians 4:15) The Hebrew Christians had to be reminded of the need for spiritual growth. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:12-14)
Spiritual growth includes, increasing in knowledge and understanding of God's word, avoiding sin, becoming more and more Christ-like and possessing stronger, deeper faith. If you are a Christian and you are becoming more loving, more joyful, kinder and more self-controlled then you can rest assured that spiritual growth is genuinely occurring in your life. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of what it truly means to be spiritual. What can we know about spiritual growth?
We know that spiritual growth comes by developing the "fruit of the Spirit" in our life. The term "Fruit of the Spirit" is a Bible term that sums up nine necessary attributes of a true Christian life. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23) The fruit of the Spirit is a physical manifestation of a Christian's transformed life. Love is affection, good will or benevolence toward others. Through Jesus Christ, our greatest goal is to do all things in love. Joy is gladness both received and shared with others. "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10) Peace is tranquility, harmony and concord. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1) Longsuffering is patience or endurance. "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2) Gentleness is goodness and kindness. "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32) Goodness is uprightness of heart and life. "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:9) Faith is the conviction of the truths we hold. "O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth" (Isaiah 25:1) Meekness is gentleness or mildness. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1) Self-control is temperance. "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (2 Peter 1:5-7) As the fruit of the Spirit increases in life spiritual growth is taking place. All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ!
We know that spiritual growth comes as we increase in love for lost souls. The "Gospel” is the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. "Good News" must be shared. Jesus commanded that the gospel be preached to every creature in every place. (Mark 16:15-16) Based on the suffering of Jesus let us preach repentance and remission of sins throughout the world. "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47) Those who have learned the gospel must grow to the point that they gladly share it with others. "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2) Let us all come to feel as Paul felt, "...woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16) We must become aware of other's need for the gospel and realize that we owe it to them to share the gospel with them. Let no one around you say, "no one cared for my soul." "Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul." (Psalm 142:4) Pray for the Lord to use you in being a soul winner. God's plan for evangelism is simple. One who has learned the truth must share Christ with another. Let us lay aside all hindrances and start now on the task of taking salvation to the lost.
We know that spiritual growth comes by developing Christ-likeness. Believers must be willing to pay the cost of being conformed to Christ, which is the goal of all discipleship. "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you." (Galatians 4:19) Christians must have the mind of Christ and follow His example. (Philippians 2:5, 1 Peter 2:21) The moon reflects the light of the sun. Jesus is our Bible example. He is unique. There has never been another comparable to Him. Those who lived when He did said, "…It was never so seen in Israel." (Matthew 9:33) Others said, "Never man spake like this man." (John 7:46) Jesus, the Son of God, is our great example for honoring God in this life. The challenge of the living Christ is the challenge of living for Christ daily. Jesus is the example of how we should live. "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21) The goal of all Christian life is conformity to Christ's likeness. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord..." (Matthew 10:24-25) Let each of us make the quiet and solemn commitment to walk as Jesus walked. "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:6) His example is ours to follow. "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15) Christians must reflect the light and likeness of God's Son.
Are you growing spiritually? Will you accept God's wonderful good news that Jesus died for your sins? Will you be baptized into Christ to put on Christ so that your sins can be forgiven by His blood? "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Believers contact Christ's saving blood by being baptized into His death. Those that become children of God have reason to rejoice. (Acts 8:39) Rejoicing follows man's response to God's good news of forgiveness by the death of Jesus.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA