Growth: How is this done spiritually?
This is probably the most important question a believer can ask. But before I give an answer to it, I need to address another one. What do I mean when I speak of one being a believer? In case you don’t know, I’m talking about a person who is Heaven-bound. This would be a person who has accepted what God has said one must believe to enter Heaven. All too often people have been led to believe that they must DO something or a combination of things to merit salvation and entrance into Heaven. Instead, we should all be glad to know that salvation and entrance into Heaven is free. That’s why the meaning of the word gospel is good news. There’s nothing ANY of us can do that would merit entrance in Heaven. That is because we are all so unworthy of it and there’s not even one thing that we could ever do to make us worthy of it. Furthermore, there are no exceptions to this. The Bible is quite clear about the status of all unbelievers and believers. That’s right! Even Heaven-bound Christians commit sins to make them unworthy.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The next verse in that passage tells us about our situation on this.
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]
Being justified speaks of gaining the righteousness God expects us to have for entry into Heaven. When it speaks of “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” it is talking about what Christ has done to pay the penalty for our sins when He died on a cross to make this possible for all of us.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For he [God, the Father] hath made him [God, the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
It is when someone accepts this work He accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection that this occurs. All one must “do” is believe it! Yes, you read that right. Just believe it! That’s why Christians are often spoken of as believers. Salvation is not something we could ever earn or deserve. We simply had to believe in what God did through Christ to provide a way for it. The Bible tells us it is provided for us by God’s grace through our faith alone.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
Other passages of Scripture written by our apostle Paul tell us this same thing.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]
Who are the ungodly he speaks of? That’s ANY person who has not accepted God’s means for their salvation. No matter how good someone thinks they are, it isn’t good enough. To be acceptable to God, one must have perfection. No one can acquire that on their own, but God freely credits the perfect righteousness of Christ judicially to any person who accepts Him as their Savior. The moment they do that they are then said to be saved, that is, delivered permanently from the condemnation of God. From that point of salvation on, a believer’s number one objective in life should be to grow up spiritually. The very last recorded words we have from the apostle Peter exhorts all to do this.
2 Peter 3:18
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]
Some of the last recorded words of the apostle Paul tell us something similar.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
For information concerning what is meant by “rightly dividing the word of truth,” please go to my article that addresses this. Here’s the title of it.
4Us2U: What does this mean?
Just put “4Us2Us” in the search box on the website and press your enter key. It should then take you to it and other articles and videos related to that subject.
Growing up spiritually is something every believer should give great attention to daily. Just as the human body needs daily nourishment to grow and be healthy, this is true in a similar way with spiritual growth and development.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]
During my life I’ve learned that there are many people who have read the entire Bible multiple times, but still feel like they’ve not learned much that they fully understand. And even though some may feel they know as much as most people, they still feel inadequate in what they know about the Bible. Why do these people feel this way? It is to a great extent because the Bible must not just be read, it must be studied. Just reading it typically won’t get the job done. And as per the 2 Timothy 2:15 passage I just mentioned, this studying of the Bible takes diligence. What exactly does that mean? Merriam-Webster Dictionary says diligence is steady, earnest, and energetic effort: devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking. Question: Is this how most believers approach the Bible? Answer: Not most of the ones I’ve been around to observe! But this is exactly the way believers should be “studying” the Bible. This diligence in studying it needs to be a believer’s top priority.
Truly the hardest work in life involves thinking. I learned a long time ago that this is why so many quit school too early and take a job. The studying just seemed to be too much work. Yet that’s where the greater opportunity was. So, it is even more so with one’s study of the Bible. There’s simply nothing you’ll ever do that is more important because it even has eternal value. Whatever reward we as believers will have in Heaven will be determined by our faithfulness to learn and apply God’s Word day-to-day. So, how’s this objective of growing to spiritual maturity coming along in your life?
2 Corinthians 5:10
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. [Emphasis added]
Always realize that you can’t apply what you don’t know. It is for this reason that your intake of God’s Word is your first step toward acquiring maximum reward you’ll get to enjoy forever. If you’ve been negligent in this, don’t you think it is time to make some changes in what you’re doing with your time? The writer of the book of Hebrews makes some comments for us about this. Like so many people, these Hebrews had been neglectful in their spiritual growth.
11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
12 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 [LOGION = utterances] of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat [speaking of hard food] belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. [Emphasis added]
Have you been developing your senses so as to know that which is good and evil, and pleasing to God? The contrast here is between what may be called human viewpoint and divine viewpoint. Note what Paul had to say to the Corinthian church about this. They, too, were immature [or carnal] in their thinking and their actions.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal [SARKIKOS = governed by human nature], even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? [Emphasis added]
When he speaks of them as ones who walk “as men,” he’s saying their actions were like those of unbelievers, doing whatever came naturally. No one would be able to tell the difference. Isn’t this true of so many believers in our time? They blend right in with the unbelieving world. Why does this happen? It is because the world at large hates truth and those who manifest it. This has always been the case and it will continue. Note what our Lord told the apostles about this during His earthly ministry.
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me [Jesus Christ] before it hated you.
19 If ye [the apostles in this case] were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you [addressing the apostles] out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. [Emphasis added]
This is why God’s people in every generation don’t stand strong for the truths of Scripture. They simply don’t want to have to deal with the opposition. And we are warned that many times those in opposition to us are people in our own household. Note what Jesus said to warn His apostles about this.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [Emphasis added]
All you have to do is start learning and applying the Word of God and such as this will happen spontaneously in your relationship with a variety of people you know. Family members are by no means an exception to this. In fact, often they are a believer’s first area of testing when they decide to get serious about studying and applying God’s Word. Therefore, this is something most believers will have to deal with if they wish to grow spiritually. It is a matter of deciding Who and what means the most to you.
The process of growing spiritually typically takes the same course. The only difference being the personalities involved. What follows is the process that typically takes place when someone is on the road to spiritual maturity.
–Accepting the authority of Scripture as the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [Emphasis added]
–Learning that all Scripture is FOR us but not all TO us or ABOUT us.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = Be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
—Learning the features and details of our gospel message revealed through the apostle Paul.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
—Learning the way of life for believers given in Paul’s thirteen epistles.
2 Timothy 3:10
10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, [Emphasis added]
—Anticipating the blessed hope of our Lord’s coming [the Rapture] for the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:51-57
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added]
—Living to please our Lord and to be rewarded.
1 Corinthians 15:58
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. [Emphasis added]
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. [Emphasis added]
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. [Emphasis added]
—Making prayer a wonderful habit.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
17 Pray without ceasing. [Emphasis added]
As you learn more and apply these things you will grow strong and mature spiritually. But everyone must begin this process where they are spiritually. If you’re a new believer or haven’t grown significantly since you became one, the Bible speaks of you as a babe in Christ, as we noted in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. As an infant you must begin with the elementary points of doctrine spoken of as the milk of the Word. Eventually you’ll move on to the solid food. Then after more time of study you can become a fully mature and highly productive believer, making you an adult spiritually. But you need to always remember that you still have to deal with what Scripture speaks of as the world, the flesh and the devil. So, beware! The fall to the bottom is much quicker than the rise to the top. Even mature believers who were once progressing can fall quickly. The Bible is full of examples of such people.
1 Timothy 1:19-20
19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
These are people we might speak of as casualties in the Christian life.
20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. [Emphasis added]
But even if you start into retrogression, your salvation will always stay intact. It cannot be lost. That is something you’ll never be denied no matter how far you digress.
2 Timothy 2:13
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. [Emphasis added]
Because we have become permanent members of the Body of Christ, He may deny us reward, but never our relationship with Him in salvation. We are one with Him forever. Again, our salvation today is perfectly secure. It was sealed by the Holy Spirit when we were first saved. We may [and will by our sins] grieve the Spirit of God that dwells in us, but our salvation is perfectly sealed.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [Emphasis added]
Even if we become foolish enough to deny our Lord as the apostle Peter once did, He remains faithful to us.
Again, 2 Timothy 2:13
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. [Emphasis added]
Again, we are said to be intimately united with Christ as members of His body. That will never change regardless of any spiritual failure on our part! Yes, that’s a part of what salvation by grace is all about. We didn’t DO anything to gain it and we can’t DO anything to lose it.
One of the things that’s very helpful in progressing spiritually is getting involved in helping others to grow spiritually. You need to be doing personal evangelism, that is, giving out the gospel message, but you also need to be looking for opportunities to help or somehow contribute to the spiritual growth of other believers. It is normal to feel unqualified for such, but you need to begin this with someone. I’ve found through the years that the people who grow most are the people who are working hardest to help others grow. Spiritual growth is always a team effort for all of us. While the apostle Paul got special revelation from the Lord, something we don’t get today, he was always working to teach and mentor others. We even have some of the names of these people in Scripture. I’ll give these alphabetically—Aristarchus, Barnabas, Erastus, Gaius, John Mark, Luke, Silas, Timothy, Trophimus, and Tychicus. There were probably more but these are some who are named as people Paul mentored who became his co-workers. Then, too, there were those he discipled for a while who later fell into some form of distraction [like Alexander of 2 Timothy 4:14]. These people remained saved, of course, but became casualties spiritually.
The Bible tells us that there’s a transformation in the thinking of people who grow spiritually. We’re commanded to make that happen as believers.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. [Emphasis added]
As you grow in your knowledge and application of God’s Word, you are transformed in your thinking and, therefore, in your way of life. Here are some examples of these signs of transformation and spiritual growth.
You now understand what a person must believe to be saved.
You have peace of mind concerning where you’ll spend eternity.
You begin to have an appreciation for the Bible like never before.
Your understanding and appreciation for God’s grace continues to grow.
You’re beginning to understand the right division of Scripture.
You now have some new and different interests and concerns.
Your habits and values begin to change.
You no longer enjoy being around certain people.
You separate yourself from people and things that hinder your progress.
You begin to associate with spiritually-minded people.
You begin to have a concern for the spiritual welfare of others.
You begin understanding things in the Bible that you didn’t before.
You have different and far better goals and objectives than ever before.
You have a genuine love and concern for saved and unsaved people.
You sometimes initiate conversations about spiritual things.
You’re not ashamed to speak out with truth on spiritual matters.
Your standards in every area of life are changing.
You are more self-disciplined than you used to be.
You are more concerned about doing the right things the right way.
You are more aware and sensitive to the sin in your life.
Your decision-making improves as you grow wiser from Scripture.
You have peace of mind and no longer worry about certain things.
You pray about things rather than worry about them.
You begin to see God working out the details in your life.
You have a gentler spirit that people around you notice.
You may have anger, but it is about things you should be angry about.
You have an inner sense of joy about your new life in Christ.
You have a sense of peace and confidence about the direction of your life.
Your goals are no longer for only temporal matters and objectives.
You look for opportunities to be of service in the things of the Lord.
Your life expresses meaning and purpose like never before.
Your stability in these things steadily gets better and less erratic.
Again, this is just a checklist of some examples that could be cited about this. As you may have noticed, all these things I’ve listed are manifestations of the Spirit of God working in your life. These things are commonly referred to as the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. [Emphasis added]
Beware that you’re always just a decision away from all this moving in the wrong direction. The only thing that’ll keep that from happening is your decision each day to take time to study, pray, and work toward applying God’s Word in every area of your life. There’ll never be a day in this life when you don’t need to keep doing this. So much of how life turns out for you or anyone is about priorities. Furthermore, life is about choices, not chance. Luck has nothing to do with your future because there’s no such thing.
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. [Emphasis added]
You will surely reap what you sow. When, not if, you make bad decisions, just move on, learning from all the experiences. As children fall often before they can walk and run, so it is with growing up spiritually. There too, maturity doesn’t happen overnight. In the years to come you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made and realize that there will be more of that in the future. Others will begin to see that you’re truly a new and different person.
What better goal could you have in life than to dedicate time each day to grow in your relationship with God to become a mature believer? The apostle Paul makes an important statement about this. I hope you’ll take it to heart. He tells us that though he has come a long way in his spiritual growth, he knows there’s still much more room for growth.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]
Then Paul makes another statement about this in his letter to the Ephesians.
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. [Emphasis added]
This is one journey you’ll never regret. As I’ve already said, spiritual maturity is a goal worthy of dedicated pursuit by all of us. We, too, can then look forward to hearing those famous words spoken long ago.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. [Emphasis added]