Recently we celebrated my son’s birthday. The night before the party, we shuffled through family pictures. I was amazed to see the way in which he had changed in the matter of a few years. But I wasn’t shocked. Physical growth is expected of small children. If my son hadn’t changed as of late, we would lament his underdevelopment.
It’s strange that we want growth in so many areas, but we often become shortsighted regarding our spiritual advancement. Scripture teaches that progress should be part and parcel of our Christian experience (see 2 Peter 2:18). Such development, however, can seem elusive at times. Some make the matter too complicated, while others settle for mediocrity. What’s involved with the growth God desires? Let’s consider three essential ingredients.
A Gospel Awareness
Blossoming believers have minds which are mindful of the gospel. The goodness of the good news compels them towards new levels of devotion. When Peter encouraged first century believers to grow, he said, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness” (2 Peter 1:5). His command was preceded by a lofty, theological description of God’s redemptive acts (see 2 Peter 1:3-4). He rationalized that the goodness and graciousness of God should motivate God’s people towards new levels of Christian living. How can we stay stagnate in our relationship with the Lord, when He has done so much to secure our salvation? If you’re stuck in your spiritual journey, take a time out and remember all that God has accomplished in your life. How can you settle for so little, when He saved you for so much more?
An Intentional Effort
Salvation is all of grace (see Ephesians 2:8), and sanctification is as well (see 1 Corinthians 15:10). However, when it is properly understood and appreciated, grace will motivate believers to work towards spiritual growth (see Titus 2:12). They will exhibit diligence and intentional effort (see Philippians 2:12-13). Growing believers take the initiative to care for their souls. They are careful to guard what they watch, what they listen to, and the types of conversations they have. They ingest God’s truths and they spend time in prayer. Time is given to serving others and practicing holiness. Sounds like hard work. Right? Well it is. It’s what’s required for the pursuit of godliness and growth. Spiritual growth requires sacrifice.
A Transformed Life
Both Peter and Paul listed numerous virtues which result from a grace-motivated pursuit of growth (see Galatians 5:22-23 and 2 Peter 1:5-7). Such Scriptural lists aren’t meant to be an all-inclusive catalogue of necessary spiritual virtues. We shouldn’t regard them as religious checklists, but they do serve an important purpose. They identify some of the things which appear in the lives of those who are committed to transformation. If we grow, it will show (see John 15:5). Our lives will produce spiritual fruit for others to see. If you haven’t had any incremental change in your life over the past several years, you need to examine yourself. Are you growing? If not, regain a gospel awareness and exert some intentional effort. Make it your aim to be more of what God wants you to be!
Dr. Patrick Latham