What kind of spiritual growth have you experienced during the past year? I strongly believe we should ask ourselves that question. If we are serious about growing spiritually, we must at times measure our progress. That’s the only way we will know where we are in our quest to reach spiritual maturity. Of course, I am assuming that you have that for a goal.
It is a fact that once you become born again through faith in Christ, you have all you will ever need to get to heaven. No matter how much serving, praying, and studying the Bible you do thereafter, you can never become more justified than you were when you first repented of your sins, and believed on Christ.
So if our spiritual growth—or the lack thereof—is not a salvation/damnation issue, a logical question to ask ourselves is why is our spiritual growth important. I submit to you that our commitment to growing spiritually is more than just a good idea or a nice to have. Looking at the big picture, the failure to grow is not an option for us.
The bottom line is that God did not save us only so we can go to heaven, but also that we might be instruments of winning the lost and serving the body of Christ. It is on the authority of this truth that I say all Christians should commit themselves to growing spiritually. For instance, in Hebrews 5:12, we find these words: “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.” The problem here was that the believers were not growing spiritually.
It goes something like this: Pastor Johnson has a need for some of the church members to serve in some badly needed ministry roles. Because of the importance of the ministries involved, he decides to formulate a list of candidates from among those who have been Christians the longest, since one would assume that these are the most spiritually mature members of the church. So he calls a meeting with them to talk about the need for them to serve in those important ministries. To his dismay, these candidates ask basic questions like, what is salvation? What is the purpose of water baptism? The point is that the only way Christians can progress from students to teachers is that they commit themselves to growing spiritually.
It seems to me that many believers in local churches believe the preacher is supposed to do most of the work in the church. After all, he gets monetary compensation for what he does, right? Perhaps it is because of this misconception that many congregants feel little pressure to grow. But the Bible says, concerning God, that “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Clearly, then, it is the pastor’s job to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, not to be the only workhorse in the congregation. Equally important, in order for Christians to serve the body of believers, they must commit themselves to growing spiritually.
So we have at least two important reasons why our spiritual growth is important.
A third reason. Our spiritual growth may not be a salvation or damnation issue, but it is certainly a huge quality of life issue. A person who has truly been born again—and all bona fide Christians have—but who is not growing spiritually cannot—I repeat—cannot be a happy and vibrant Christian. That’s because when we become born again, God changes us on the inside so we desire spiritual things as He is spiritual, and we can only accommodate that inner person by growing spiritually.
But how do we go about growing spiritually? Based on May 2009 findings by a Christian Research Firm, the Barna Group, this is a difficult area for many Christians. The study identifies an underlying reason why there is little progress in helping people develop spiritually: “many churchgoers and clergy struggle to articulate a basic understanding of spiritual maturity. People aspire to be spiritually mature, but they do not know what it means. Pastors want to guide others on the path to spiritual wholeness, but they are often not clearly defining the goals or the outcomes of that process.”
I have been preaching for over 28 years. I have served as a senior pastor for over 12 of those years. Now, in addition to ministering to people personally and doing Christian writing, I also preach most weeks, but the most important thing to me is that I am growing spiritually. Think about it. How can I challenge and edify others, if I am not growing spiritually myself? I need to be ministering to the people at a level that challenges them to reach up, not a place that’s below where they are currently living.
The Bible says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Our spirit needs a regular diet of the wholesome Word of God, just as our body needs a regular diet of wholesome food. Note the word “desire” in the verse above. The question is, what kind of desire—or should I say, what kind of appetite—do you have for sound biblical teaching and preaching? The lack of such an appetite will impede your spiritual growth.
Equally important is the issue of what we must do with the Word of God once we receive it. The Bible refers to the strong as those “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14, NIV). We will never reach spiritual maturity by simply hearing and studying the Word of God, no matter how wholesome that teaching is. We have to put the Word into practice on a daily basis so that we learn how to walk in perfect discernment between the good and the evil. This is a lifetime endeavor. Christ is our example. Let us strive to become like Him in all respects.
The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that God’s will for us extends beyond salvation.
First and foremost, of course, we must be saved. And it was with great cost that our salvation was purchased. To Christ we owe all. But salvation is not the end but the beginning.
Salvation is the only foundation upon which we can build to become the mature Christians we are called to be. Why? Because we can’t even desire spiritual maturity until we become born again through faith. Such a desire cannot come from the natural man. According to the Bible, the carnal mind “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). That’s one reason why Christians should not get their hopes up too high when trying to impose their biblical views upon the world of unbelievers. This Scripture tells us that the unbeliever is unable to subject himself to God.
For those of us who know Christ, the essential foundation has already been laid, and God has placed a desire in us for the things of His kingdom. It is imperative that we build upon these and grow because He has called us to be a part of winning the lost and serving the believers, and this is no job for the spiritually immature.