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#66 What Is Spiritual Growth?

Spiritual growth is one of those things that every Christians knows he needs but few have a clear idea of what it really means or how to attain it.

In this episode of “Now Is the Time” I define spiritual growth and talk about key ingredients that are necessary for spiritual growth to happen.

You can also listen on  iTunes or on Stitcher

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Spiritual growth gimmicks

Just like the thousands of fitness fads and secrets to six-pack abs so there are spiritual growth gimmicks and faith fashions that promise a robust spiritual life in just 4 minutes a day if you follow the plan.
Maybe it’s our impatience, maybe it’s our push-button society, or maybe we’re just plain lazy but for some reason we are often willing to fall for fake faith in hopes that we’ll reach the pinnacle of perfection quicker and easier.
Spiritual growth gimmicks generally land in two categories:

The mysticism gimmick

This gimmick tells you that spiritual growth is more about feeling close to God. This is often attained through some form of asceticism (choosing to abstain from pleasures such as food, sex, warm clothing, etc…).

Those who promote this type of “spiritual growth” may also over emphasize the emotions of worship and focus on “reflective” or “contemplative” prayers.

The problem

While some of the practices of mysticism aren’t necessarily wrong, the focus on feeling close to God is not always a sign of spiritual growth and is never the definition of spiritual growth. It’s great to feel close to God but feelings can deceive you.

We also have to be careful of anything that calls for asceticism. The Apostle Paul specifically warns us of the problems of asceticism in Colossians 2:20-23 and I Timothy 4:3.

The methodism gimmick

Here’s an example of how this gimmick works, all you have to do is follow the list to spiritual maturity.

  • Read your Bible 20 minutes every morning.
  • Pray 10 minutes.
  • Memorize 1 verse a week.
  • Attend your mid-week Bible study.
  • And of course Sunday morning worship.

Depending on what Christian Guru you follow your list may look different. Unfortunately, sometimes Christian leaders gain large followings by convincing people if they just follow their program, or set of rules they’ll reach Christian Nirvana.

The problem

Generally their advice is not bad but it’s also not God’s Word and it’s easy to be deceived into thinking that simply by disciplining yourself in these practices you will grow spiritually. The truth is no mindless regimen will every produce spiritual fruit.

So let me just tell you now, there are no gimmicks, there are no short-cuts, it will be hard, it will be uncomfortable, but in the end it will all be worth it!

What is spiritual growth

Probably the best place to start is by looking at what spiritual growth really is. It is much more than a list of rules to follow and it’s not simply a feeling or and attitude to strive for.

So what is spiritual growth?

Simply put spiritual growth is the process of becoming more like Jesus in our mind, our heart, and our actions.

Paul explained it to one Church this way:

So be imitators of God, as his dear children. Live lovingly, just as the Messiah also loved us and gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice, a fragrant aroma to God.
(Eph 5:1-2)

To another Church he wrote:

Have the same attitude among yourselves that was also in the Messiah Jesus:
(Php 2:5)

What does spiritual growth look like?

While spiritual growth happens on the inside, those changes will result in visible fruit that you and others can see. Paul gives us a great list of what spiritual growth looks like:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Gal 5:22-23)

If these qualities are increasing in your life as you seek to please God by becoming more like Christ, then you are growing spiritually.

The key ingredients

While there is no program or set regime that will guarantee true spiritual growth, there are however, a few ingredients that must be present.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the agent who gives you spiritual life and produces spiritual growth.

That He may give you, according to the riches of His glory, by His power to become mighty in the inward man through His Spirit. Eph 3:16

Without the Holy Spirit we are dead and unable to grow spiritually. (Eph 2:1)

If you believe in Jesus as God and Savior then you have the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13) If you don’t then maybe you should stop here and watch this video.

Scripture

God’s Word not only provides fuel for your spiritual growth but it also gives you a solid foundation that will allow for continued growth. Much more than simply providing instruction on how you should live, God’s Word reveals to us the very character and nature of God. The more accurate our understanding is of God the more likely it will be that we can bring our lives into line with His will.

Like newborn babies, thirst for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in your salvation. I Pet 2:2

Fellowship

God designed the Church as the place where we grow best in our faith. We fool ourselves if we think that we can grow up in our faith without being a part of a church where God’s Word is taught and God’s people encourage each other. (Eph 4:11-16)

Suffering

Suffering might not come to your mind when you think of spiritual growth, but over the history of the Church it has had an integral part in the Church’s life. While you should not seek suffering you should also not seek comfort. Like or not we will all face some sort of suffering in our lives. How you respond to it will determine whether it will result in spiritual growth in your life. (Rom 5:3-4)

Obedience

Practicing Bible reading and Bible study but failing to apply those truths to your life is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your spirit. Notice How Peter connects the desire for God’s Word with the importance of obedience.

Therefore, rid yourselves of every kind of evil and deception, hypocrisy, jealousy, and every kind of slander. Like newborn babies, thirst for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in your salvation. 1Pet 2:1-2

Service

Spiritual growth must look outwardly to the needs of others. One of the most important purposes of spiritual growth is to enable us to serve others. Likewise, through service to others God stretches our spirit and brings us towards maturity. (1Ti 4:14-15)

Learning

Throughout Scripture we find the exhortation to grow in our knowledge of God. The better we understand who God is and what Has done for us the easier it will be for us to live, think, be the person He wants us to be. (Heb 5:12-6:1, 2Pe_3:18 )

Question: How do you define spiritual growth?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children!

My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Excellent lesson, Caleb. Good Word. Not easy, but Good. I agree in that humans are fallen and lazy by nature. It’s looking for the easy way out that causes people to want the preacher to do the work for them. No human being can give you what the Holy Spirit can and there is no replacement for truly striving for God. “Draw nigh unto Me and I will draw nigh unto you.”

    • Hmm, I think I’ve seen that before when people want the preacher to do all the work! You’re right on Floyd, there’s no replacement for truly striving for God and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

    • AMEN!

  • Paul Redding

    Good stuff, people like electricity will take the path of least resistance.

    • So true, that’s the easy way but not always the best way!

  • Excellent post! I can’t wait to listen to the podcast.

    For me, I’ve noticed my own spiritual growth by how I handle challenges. I’m seeing the fruit of the Spirit manifest in my life in how I’m responding to life. I still mess up but I’m noticing the changes in my heart. I’m seeing my focus becoming more aligned with God’s word than my wants/feelings.
    I don’t have as much time as I used to immerse myself in fellowship, service, and Bible Study but yet I am still growing because I’m intentional in my limited time. I’m learning the important of “praying without ceasing”. I’m learning the value of walking in the Spirit and turning to God instead of trying to fix things myself.
    Having limited time is making me more reliant upon God and I’m so thankful for that.

    • That’s great that you can see some areas of growth in your life TC! I think that sometimes it’s helpful to stop and recognize those areas that God is growing us in and give Him thanks for it, usually it’s those areas where we have struggle and pain.

  • Great thoughts here! The result of having the fruit of the Spirit comes from having a strong and growing relationship with God. It takes regular prayer, worship, spending time in the presence of God, and fasting to name a few to maintain our walk with God.

    • Yes, I think those are some of they key factors, things that we can practically do to bring about spiritual growth in our life if our heart is in the right place.