The growth that God intends for disciples of Jesus follows a predictable pattern: from infancy, to maturity, to “Christ formed in you.” This growth is neither automatic nor accidental, rather it flows from several important decisions: the desire to remove harmful thoughts and practices from our lives, the commitment to nourish ourselves daily with a healthy spiritual diet, and the willingness to create time and space for God to live in our hearts.
There are habits and sins that hinder all spiritual growth! We are repeatedly told to remove these things from our lives. Paul contrasts these harmful habits with the healthy habits that lead to maturity – he calls the harmful habits “works of the flesh” and the healthy habits “the fruit of the Spirit.” (Remember that for Paul the flesh and the Sprit are not battling dogs in our minds, but are two very different paths we can take through life). Peter has this to say about starting a life of spiritual growth: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV) Notice that our desire for spiritual life and growth is a response to the truth that we “have tasted that the Lord is good.” That truth sets us on a remarkable journey to fill our lives with good, learning along the way to remove all that is not good from our lives.
The process of spiritual growth, unlike physical growth, is not mostly a matter of the passing of time. Paul points this out in writing to the Christians in
: Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people
who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in
Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food,
for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and
quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1
Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV) While it is certainly appropriate for infants to drink
milk, something is wrong with a teenager who does not eat solid food! Our
growth comes from the passage of time spent practicing spiritual disciplines
and walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Corinth
Spiritual growth, like physical growth, is a very long journey that requires patience, perseverance, mentors, correction, and lots of encouragement. Surround yourself with people who are spiritually mature – allowing their practices to become your practices – and you will notice growth in your life almost immediately. That is why God places his newborn children in a spiritual family! Healthy individuals who are having Christ formed in them, create a healthy church family where others learn to walk with Jesus. Are you noticing the signs of maturity in your life? If not, it may to time to give more attention to growing up in Christ!
- Kenny Payne