When we join the body of Christ we are told that we ought to grow in grace and that we should become spiritually mature. But the truth of it is, many times the speaker has no additional information to impart. They can’t tell you the keys to spiritual growth.
They have no clue about what spiritual maturity looks like and are unable to guide you on how to grow in Christ. So, what’s a girl to do? Should she just give up? In the words of Paul, “God forbid!”
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I would like to share what I believe are the keys to spiritual growth. But first, let’s look at what maturity is outside of the church. A person is considered mature when they behave in a manner consistent with their age. As people grow older, they are expected to behave more responsibly. We wouldn’t expect a fully-developed teenager to behave like a toddler any more than we would breastfeed a fourteen-year-old teen.
In a similar manner, when we join the body of Christ we are considered to have been born-again. Does it mean that we become a child again and act in the same manner we did as when we were children? No. It means that we access the keys to spiritual growth when we choose a new way of doing things. We become spiritually mature when we turn our backs on the ways of the world and seek to emulate Christ.
As new believers in Christ, we may find that a key element of our spiritual growth is that we have to learn to speak, dress, act and even eat in a new manner. We may have to seek new relationships while letting go of people we had clung to in our old lives. The process of becoming spiritually mature is tied to learning these new skills.
Maybe you’re familiar with Peter’s famous statement:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (I Peter 2:2 NIV).
But you may wonder what it has to do with personal spiritual growth. Let’s think of it this way: just as a baby has to learn new skills, so does a believer in Christ. To continue the analogy: if a child who is 3-years-old has not started speaking or walking, his parents would become concerned because it could be an indication that the child is not developing at the expected pace. If we expect this in the physical realm, why should it be any different spiritually?
It is expected that a believer in Christ will show the fruit that comes from being connected to the Great Vine. Just think, suppose everyone who became in a Christian remained the same after their conversion? It means there would no pastors, Bible teachers or Christian mentors, or at least, there wouldn’t be any good ones because we’d all have exactly the same amount of knowledge. How sad. The point of growing spiritually is for us to become more like Jesus.
It is an ongoing process—just as a child does not become an adult overnight, a believer does not become a giant of faith in an instant.
It takes effort—no one has ever accomplished great things without some effort. If you want to grow in your faith you have to do the work. That means spending time in prayer communing with the Heavenly Father and time spent wrestling with Scripture (even the hard parts). It means serving others even at a cost to ourselves.
It has nothing to do with how long you’ve been a Christian—I hate to break it to you but spiritual growth has nothing to do with how long you’ve been a part of the body of Christ. Someone who has been in the church thirty years can still be a spiritual baby, while a new convert experiences strides in their faith. Spiritual growth has a lot to do with the amount of time and level of effort we are willing to put into it.
You may be wondering about the importance of spiritual growth? And when are you going to get to the keys of spiritual growth that you promised? I’m getting to that (right after we understand why we need to be spiritually mature).
The last words spoken by Jesus before His ascension were: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).”
If we are to carry out this Great Commission, we have to focus on our personal spiritual growth so that we will have something to share with others. If we don’t understand the message of the gospel, how can we share it with another person? If we have no clue what the Bible teaches, how can we make disciples? What kind of disciples would we make?
A sure sign of spiritual growth is the willingness to share one’s faith and the ability to share it well. That’s why Peter was so upset with the early church. He couldn’t believe how little they understood after all the time they had been in the church. And that’s a lesson for us—we need to make an effort to grow in Christ when we align ourselves with His people.
So, how we become spiritually mature?
As I’ve said before, spiritual growth is a process—one that requires time and effort. The Christian who wants to grow in Christ must be willing to take the necessary steps.
The first step to spiritual growth is a willingness to study the Bible. ‘But Ami,’ you may be thinking, ‘it’s so hard.’ I know. But never before has it been so easy to study God’s Word. We have a large variety of translations of the Bible in English (with new ones added each day). If English is not your primary language, the Bible has been translated into more than 670 languages.
We have access to commentaries, sermons, video teachings, and Bible study books at the click of a button. Besides, we have the very best Teacher in the whole world. The Holy Spirit is willing to help us to understand more about God and what He expects of us.
As we settle in to study Scripture, we should remind ourselves of 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This will help us to push through even the things that are at first difficult to understand—like Leviticus.
Have you ever had someone try to convince you that something was in the Bible but you felt instinctively that it wasn’t? We each need to get to a place where we know what the Bible says about everything. Paul said the Bereans “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
We ought to be like the Bereans—not only should we be excited to hear the Word of God, we should be willing to do the work and study it for ourselves. Do not take anyone as the final authority on what the Bible says. God gives us access to His Word and will help us to understand it.
James tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God who gives generously to all without showing partiality (James 1:5-6). I'm encouraged when I read that verse because it means I have access to the Smartest Person in the universe and He will not discriminate against me for any reason.
Jesus, while He was on earth, modeled what our prayer life should look like. We have to spend time with our Heavenly Father so that we can have the ability to do what He has asked us to do.
Let us ask God for the wisdom to grow spiritually. Let us ask Him for the ability to understand His Word and His will for us.
Jesus reminded His disciples before His crucifixion that if they abide in Him they would bear much fruit (John 15:5-7). Let’s look a little bit at the word translated as “abide”.
The original Greek word was menō which could have been translated as to sojourn, tarry, not to depart, to continue to be present, to be held, kept, continually.
I like the phrase “to continue to be present” because it reminds me that when I become a believer I am present with Christ. It also reminds me that I have a responsibility to continue to be present.
I will not grow in my faith unless I keep showing up and putting in the effort that is required—even when it’s hard and I’m tempted to give up. I have to keep pressing on. Maybe that’s why Paul wrote: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14 NIV).”
My friend, let us continue to strive towards personal spiritual growth. The reward at the end of it will be glorious. I would love to hear what you consider the best ways to grow spiritually.