Levels of Spiritual Growth
Nancy T Warner
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us:
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Salvation is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We realize that we have all sinned, coming short of the glory of God in our lives (Romans 3:23). But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (John 1:9).
Through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ we are reconciled, or brought back into right relationship with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). This is the greatness of God’s love toward us!
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7
Works, or what we do is important, not a means of salvation but as evidence of our faith. Faith, if it does not have works is dead, being alone (James 2:17). By works, or as we live out what we say we believe, our faith is made perfect, or comes to maturity (James 2:22). James speaks of faith and actions working together that faith might be made complete by the choices we make, or the things we do. (James 2:21-23)
Choices! We all make them, every day of our lives. It is through these choices that our faith grows and comes to maturity, as it is being worked out into our everyday life. Character, or who I am, is a result of choices I have made day after day, year after year. As I come to know the Lord and receive His grace into my life, I begin to choose the Lord and His ways. As I do His nature and character is formed in me. I am brought into the position where I can say “it is no longer I, but Christ that dwells in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that hears the word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:23
As I begin my walk with the Lord, I may not be yielded to the Christ within me one hundred percent of the time yet, but as I grow, I am coming to the place where now at least some of the time it is Christ being glorified in me. As I continue to grow there is an increase in my yieldedness to the Lord. Now more than half the time it is Christ being seen and glorified in me.
Still, I continue growing, pressing toward the high calling of God, that Christ might be seen and admired in me all the time, in every place and circumstance. I continue to press toward this goal, not as though I had already attained, or were already made perfect! But I press for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
How does this process begin in my life? It starts with my salvation. Titus 3:4-7 explains that I have been born again through the regeneration or the renewing of the Holy Spirit, that act by which God imparted life into me as I set my faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. Following my salvation experience, the regeneration of the Holy Spirit in me, the Bible tells me that “as newborn babies,” we are to desire the sincere milk of the word that we might grow. (I Peter 2:2)
As we feed on the Lord and His word, applying it to our lives, a process of growth begins which continues through the process of time and choice. A baby does not become twenty-one over night!
All life begins in seed form. Nothing is birthed in its fully mature state. Within the seed is the full potential from conception to full maturity. Yet the development or maturing of that seed is dependent on the environment it is placed into. The same quality seed will produce different fruit in different environments.
Matthew 13 speaks of a sower who went forth to sow. Jesus, the word of God, has been imparted into our lives through the Holy Spirit. But now the ground has to be properly maintained for that seed to come forth in its fullest potential. Wayside speaks of those who have no spiritual understanding.
They hear the word, but it does not impact their life in any way. Stony ground speaks of those hear the word with joy, but there is no depth in their life. They allow offences to harbor in their heart. Rather than dealing with problems rightly, their ground becomes stony, hindering the seed from coming forth.
Thorny ground speaks of those who hear the word, but they are just to busy to cultivate a spiritual walk and relationship with the Lord. The cares of this life, and the desire for the things of this world fills up their calendar and the seed they have received gets choked out with the busyness of a carnal life.
Choices and priorities! We all have them. Each of these types of soil are in the garden of our own lives. Yet we can recognize this and begin to garden with tender care, that the seed can come forth in its fullest potential. I recognize my need for greater spiritual understanding, and begin to pray like Paul, for the spirit which is from God that I might know and understand spiritual things (II Corinthians 1:9-12) I deal with offences as they come into my life, allowing God to work in me, and change me as I forgive. (Matthew 6:12)
I make time for the Lord in my own personal prayer closet as well in gathering with other Christians as the word instructs me I am to do (Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 10:25). I seek first to please the Lord in all I do (Matthew 6:33). The Lord becomes my first priority in life (Psalm 27:4)
I am saved by grace, but I grow through the choices I make. Philippians tells us that we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Through choices the very nature of the Lord Jesus Christ is being formed in me, thirty fold, sixty fold, one hundred fold, depending on my yieldedness to the working of the Lord within, and my willingness to cultivate the soil of my life.
As I yield to the Lord, through the process of time I will grow. We may not always realize it, but change is taking place in our lives. It is like a child, you do not realize he has grown until you try to put a piece of clothing on him he has not worn for awhile. It does not fit!
“And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knows not how. For the earth brings forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” Mark 4:26-28
Spiritual maturity takes time. I may not feel like I have much. But though the seed that I have received into my life may be as the least of all seeds, when it is grown it becomes a mighty tree, where others can come and find refreshment from the Christ in me.
“Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” Matthew 13:31-32
Something Walter Beuttler once said has had a great impact on my life - “If we will build the Lord a house of devotion, He will build us a house of ministry.” If we can keep our focus on the “coming” and “being” rather than being distracted by the “going” and “doing, ” the reproduction of Christ within our own lives will bring forth the true life and ministry of Christ imparted by the Holy Spirit first changing us, then flowing through us to touch others. This is the transforming power and presence of God we so desperately need in our midst today!
Key to our spiritual growth is spiritual hunger. Through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit we have been given a hunger as a part of our new birth experience. A baby is created with hunger. That hunger is a gift from God. A baby is created with hunger because without that hunger the baby would not eat. Food is necessary for life. It is up to us to nurture the hunger God has given us, developing an appetite pleasing to the Lord, and conducive to our spiritual growth, that we might continue to grow in an experiential knowledge of God.
2 Thessalonians 1:10 speaks of the Lord coming to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe. What a glorious calling! That Jesus would be seen and admired in me. In every circumstance. In every place, that I can be a witness to Him. (Acts 1:8)
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” II Thessalonians 1:11-12
Lord teach us to make right choices, that we might maintain the soil of our lives carefully, that You might come forth in us, Your will, Your desire, Your very nature. We want You to be seen and admired in us, not just some of the time, but always, in every situation and circumstance.
Thank you Lord for making us a part of that holy tabernacle Your presence dwells in today. We treasure Your presence in our lives. By Your grace we covenant with You to press on toward the mark for that prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Cause us to become a part of that harvest that resembles Your Son!