Archive for February, 2010
Next Saturday, a good chunk of us will be going through a seminar on How to Read and Understand the Bible. As I prepare for it, I’m trying to get a clearer grasp on what challenges we face in reading and understanding Scripture. Can you help by taking the poll below?
Here’s a link to this book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.
Today’s Spiritual Growth Principle: Develop spiritual friendships for encouragement and accountability.
Lone-ranger Christians are defeated Christians. You need people in your life. Otherwise, the Bible makes it clear that you will be in danger of falling prey to the deceitfulness of sin:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
How have you seen God work in your life through other people?
Today’s Spiritual Growth Principle: Repent.
One major thing that prevents spiritual growth is sin that we don’t deal with. Wayne Grudem defines repentance as “A heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Are you harboring some kind of sin in your life? Is there an area of disobedience that you are unwilling to deal with? David describes the life-sapping nature of holding onto sin:
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknow¬ledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:2-5)
How have you seen repentance be a catalyst to spiritual growth?
Today’s Spiritual Growth Principle: Increase your spiritual risk level.
People who put themselves in more spiritually challenging situations often find that they are more aware of their need for God and his work in their life. Do you need to start serving on a Ministry Team at church where you’ll have to sacrifice and rely on God’s help to use you? Do you need to start serving needy people outside the church? Do you need to share your faith with more non-Christians who will ask you tough questions? Do you need to give more financially in a way that causes you to be increasingly dependent? Do you need to take a role where you are leading or teaching others? People who put themselves in risky, uncomfortable, and sacrificial situations often find that it is a significant catalyst for growth.
How have you seen God work in your life through risk? What risks could you take for the kingdom?
Today’s Spiritual Growth Principle: Spend regular time prayerfully reading Scripture.
A secular research company recently did a survey of thousands of people from dozens of churches and found that the most catalytic activity that drove spiritual growth was personal time reading the Bible. The company came to the churches and said, “People need to be reading their Bibles!” We agree. (Click here for a related post on this research)
As you read, ask the following questions and, if possible, write down the answers: What does this passage teach me about God? What does it teach me about humankind and me? How would my life be different if I applied these truths to my life? (Thanks, Susan!)
Need help deciding what to read? See Justin Taylor’s blog for some helpful Bible reading plans:
Once you’ve read some Bible truths, don’t stop there! Pray to God about the things he has revealed through your reading. Share with him the struggles and triumphs you have. Ask for his help in your life to apply his word. Praying people are growing people.
What else helps you prayerfully study God’s Word?
Today’s Spiritual Growth Principle: Grow in your understanding of the gospel.
We believe that the gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of the Christian life, but the A-to-Z of the Christian life. The gospel is the good news that God has sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to 1) rescue us from judgment for sin, 2) give us a new life of friendship with him, and 3) ultimately restore creation so that we can enjoy him forever. You should constantly dwell on this amazing truth that God loved you at your very worst and saved you by sheer grace.
Some resources that will help you grow in the gospel:
- “The Gospel: A User’s Guide” (article) by Tim Keller
- The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, (book) by C.J. Mahaney
- The Prodigal God (book) by Tim Keller
- The Gospel for Real Life (book) by Jerry Bridges
- “Gospel-Centeredness” (sermon) by Luke Simmons
What else has helped you grow in your understanding of the gospel?
In the last post we looked at what spiritual growth is. Today we’ll shift toward looking at how it happens.
Like most significant things in life, there are no shortcuts to Christlikeness. There are no “magic” ways to grow spiritually. However, many Christians through the ages have found the principles that we’ll talk about to be important components of spiritual growth.
Today’s Spiritual Growth Principle: Make sure that you have spiritual life.
This may seem obvious, but there can be no spiritual growth without spiritual life. Are you confident that you are a Christian? Have you been born again? Do you truly have a relationship with God through Christ? These are important questions that you must wrestle with before you will experience spiritual growth. The book of 1 John was written so that Christians would know they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Therefore, 1 John would be a good book to read as you try to discern whether you are spiritually alive. If you come to the conclusion that you are not yet spiritually alive, cry out to God and ask him to forgive your sin through Jesus’ death on your behalf and to give you a new heart that treasures him.
What are some indicators that a person truly has a relationship with Jesus?
Each week at Second Mile’s worship gathering, individuals have the opportunity to mark on their communication card that they would like information on “Growing in My Faith.” This has led us to create a resource that explains what spiritual growth is and how it happens. Today begins a series of posts on How to Grow in Your Faith.
What is Spiritual Growth?
Before we discuss how to grow spiritually, we have to consider what spiritual growth is. Spiritual growth can ultimately be described as becoming more like Jesus. The Scripture continually affirms that God’s goal is for his people to become like his Son, Jesus:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9–10)
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Theologians have used the word “sanctification” to describe this process of spiritual growth. Wayne Grudem defines sanctification as “A progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actual lives.” This definition is helpful because it tells us that:
(a) Spiritual growth is a process that takes time. Though we would like to be instantly changed in all the aspects of our character, this is not how the process works.
(b) Spiritual growth is a work of God and of man. This means that there will be no spiritual growth without God’s help and there will be no spiritual growth without our effort. If we try to grow apart from God’s help and grace, we will fail. If we do nothing and simply assume that growth will “just happen” we will not experience much change. This process is described well in Philippians 2:12-13, which says that Christians should “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [our part], for it is God who works in you [God’s part], both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
(c) Spiritual growth always involves increasing freedom from sin. There is one primary obstacle that prevents us from fully enjoying God: sin. Therefore, it does not matter how much Bible knowledge we acquire, how much volunteer work we begin to do for the church, or how spiritual we feel—if we are not becoming increasingly free from sin, we are not really growing.
(d) Spiritual growth is becoming like Christ. Jesus not only avoided sin, but he also lived a life of righteousness and blessing to those around him. True Christlikeness is not just avoiding sin, but also loving God and people like Jesus. True spiritual growth always makes us more loving.
Is there anything we’re missing? Anything you’d add?