How to Grow in Your Faith: Defining Spiritual Growth

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?

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  1. #1 by Cooper Wright on February 8, 2010 - 2:18 pm

    Hi Luke,
    Please forgive my question if it sounds heretical, however I wonder if spiritual growth could be defined as “Growing into a Christ-like lifestyle of worship and obedience to the Father”.

    Your definition of “becoming more like Jesus” covers a broad spectrum of aspects, and in my tendency to over-think most things, I find myself wondering, “Does God want our personalities become more like Jesus? Our sense of humor? Our leadership skills? Our intrinsic characteristics to change to be more like Jesus? Surely we can’t have everyone running around teaching and leading. There has to be listeners and followers as well.”

  2. #2 by lukesimmons on February 8, 2010 - 6:28 pm

    Hey Cooper, I think you’re right. If I were to get more specific, I’d probably want to include the Spirit in there as well. Maybe, “Growing into Christ-like character of worship and obedience to the Father through the power of the Spirit.”

    Thanks for the input and clarification.

  3. #3 by Jeffery on February 9, 2010 - 2:41 pm

    Luke–

    There is also an “application” function operating here: Christ not only saves us FROM; he also saves us FOR something: Eph. 2:8-10. As we grow, the predestined good works become “realized,” that is, “doable” in God’s provision by His Spirit. In this sense, we show ourselves “justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Jas. 2:24).

  4. #4 by Aryne Enerio on January 5, 2013 - 8:58 pm

    thanks for this definition !.it helped me .God bless you ..

  5. #5 by Ram on July 5, 2014 - 6:55 pm

    very well said.
    Do see this
    http://bit.ly/1taiuih

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