The Importance of Spiritual Growth by Choo Chin Teck

Our Spiritual Growth is Important to God  

Human parents are concerned about their children's growth. It should, therefore, not surprise us that God should also be concerned about the growth of His children. In fact, the Bible teaches clearly that the spiritual growth of His children is of utmost importance to Him. Strangely and sadly, however, there is a lot of confusion among Christians about how spiritual growth can be attained.

It WILL not Come through Accumulating Biblical Knowledge Only

Some people believe that spiritual growth is a matter of learning the correct Biblical information. They think that if they study the Bible well enough, attend as many Christian seminars as may be necessary, and gather sufficient Biblical data through other ways, growth in Christ will result automatically. In dealing with this misconception, Jesus said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify of Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life" (John 5:39-40). Jesus was speaking here to theological scholars among His hearers, and was making the point that their in-depth knowledge of Scriptures had not led them to Him, the source of truth and life.

It Will not Come through Following Certain Steps or Programmes

Other people believe that spiritual growth can come through following certain steps or programmes. While such lists of steps or programmes often contain good ideas. Peter's admonition to us is to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). He does not say that spiritual maturity is through growth in the grace and knowledge of a programme, a denomination, or anything else. Rather, He is saying that spiritual growth is connected inextricably with the person of Jesus Christ. It is His life which flows through our spiritual veins.

It Will not Come through Practising Asceticism

One other misconceived view is that spiritual growth can be achieved through giving up certain things, denying certain pleasures and abstaining from certain activities. This view is know as asceticism and is as old as Christianity itself. But asceticism will also ultimately not work because the fundamental problem with ourselves is that the sinful desires that messes up our lives come from within our hearts and not just from the outside. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says that our salvation (which includes deliverance from the power of sin) is by God's grace. It is His grace that has saved us from the penalty of sin, and it is also His grace that will transform us and make us grow spiritually. Through nourishment from God's Word and a deepening relationship with Christ, we are provided with the ingredients we need for spiritual growth.

What Then is Spiritual Growth?

Before we consider the reasons why spiritual growth is important to God, it will be helpful to have a definition of spiritual growth. Tony Evans provides the following definition. "Spiritual growth may be defined as that transformational process by which we allow the indwelling Christ to increasingly express Himself in and through us, resulting in a greater capacity on our part to bring GOd greater glory and experience His greater good for ourselves." A shorter definition of what spiritual growth is has been given by JOhn the Baptist when he declares, "He (Jesus) must become greater, I must become less." Put in another way, John is saying that we grow spiritually when more of Jesus is being expressed through less of our fallen humanity.

Why is Spiritual Growth Important?

We come now to the question: Why is spiritual growth important? Well, it is crucial for at least three reasons.

First, it is God's command and, therefore, His will for us. 2 Peter 3:18 quoted earlier is one of the many verses in the Bible with this command. When we go through all of them, we will come to realise that failing to grow is not an option for us, not if we want to please God. The alternative to growth - spiritual stagnation and eventual deformity - are not in God's will for His children. So, if we are not growing in Christ, we are actually living outside the will of God.

Secondly, in Isaiah 43:7, the Bible tells us that God created mankind for His glory. The word "glory" means "to be weighty", and is used to refer to something or someone of great worth. Therefore, when we glorify God, we are proclaiming that He is of great value. We attach weight to God whenever we draw the attention of other people to Him and promote Him as worthy of all praise. Just as the moon is created to reflect the brilliance of the sun, so are we created to reflect the light of God's character. And, this is why He wants us to grow spiritually. He wants us to grow so that we can display Him more. What we need to know and remember is that God is really passionate about His glory, and spiritual growth increases our capacity to glorify Him.

Thirdly, spiritual growth has benefits for us when we grow God's way. The definition of spiritual growth, which we saw earlier, includes God's greater good for us. For instance, we have in Matthew 6:33 God's promise that He will meet the needs of His children who pursue after Him. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, we have another benefit. Paul writes about it as follows: "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." Paul is saying that when we focus on God, something amazing happens. We are changed into God's image the way a person looking into the emirror sees His image reflected back on Him. Isn't it wonderful? God will change us to be more like Christ when we make Him our focus. He will shape and grow us no matter what trials or messes in life we go through. He will work everything out for our good (Romans 8:28).

Concluding Questions and Response for Our Consideration

Want to be more like Christ? Want to know God better? Want to experience Him deeper? The clear reminder from God's Word is that we need to pursue a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and be passionately committed to bring Him glory. Are you willing to be committed?

Reference

Tony Evans, "Life Essentials", Moody Publishers, 2003.

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