Growing Plants

Almost nothing brings greater joy to a family than a brand new baby. And in the family of God, a brand new spiritual baby brings joy in the same way. Last week was baptism day at my church, and it was rightfully a time of awesome celebration.

But what happens next? Nothing brings as much pain to a family as a baby who does not or cannot grow and develop. Likewise, it’s at least as great a tragedy if those brand new spiritual babies do not grow and develop in their spiritual maturity.

Are you the same as you were when you first came to know Jesus? Has your character continued to develop? Would others be able to see the difference in you? And what of the other believers you spend time with; can you see any spiritual growth happening in them?

In our recent reader survey many of you expressed frustration at the lack of spiritual development in yourself or others:

  • “We’ve been in spirit filled churches for 13.5 years, yet we struggle with the same issues and don’t seem to walk in maturity.”
  • “I am working hard for the Lord but I find no change in the people, and it frustrates me.”
  • “I’m really bothered by the lack of real LIVING it Christians.”

God is surely as saddened by believers who remain spiritually stunted as any parent whose child does not continue to grow and develop. God desires that each one of His children continue to grow “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

As much as we would all agree that spiritual maturity is a worthy goal, there’s a trap we too easily fall into when we simply try harder. We cannot make ourselves – or others – grow spiritually! Only God can make you grow.  Tweet that.

You will only become frustrated, discouraged, or angry if you try to force or orchestrate your own spiritual development or play Junior Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. That’s why I believe so many Christians become disillusioned with church attendance, Bible study, small groups, etc. – why keep doing it if nothing changes? Those things are important, but they do not constitute spiritual growth. When the focus is on those things too often church becomes a business, or a social club, or a source of entertainment.

Why, then, do some people develop spiritual maturity and many others do not? It can’t be God’s fault; He desires all believers to become like Christ. What CAN we do to help ourselves and others to grow spiritually?

3 Essential Ingredients to Spiritual Growth

Those believers who experience continued spiritual development toward maturity incorporate at least these three ingredients in their life.

  1. Give God permission to change you. True spiritual maturity only happens from the inside out. You cannot change your heart; only God can do that. But He has promised to do so: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Hebrews 8:10) For yourself, out loud, consciously, give God permission to change any part of you that He wants to. For others, point out the Fully Alive kind of life that God has called all of us to, and encourage them by both your words and your example that God is well able to change them too.
  2. Give God access to every part of your life. Because spiritual maturity is not about outward behaviors so much as it is about inner character, we must let God have access to everything. An hour on the weekend and fifteen minutes every morning is only helpful when those spiritual disciplines give God access to the parts of our lives where we need to be changed. Learn to DO LIFE with God. That means Bible study and prayer, but it also means what you eat, how you spend your money and your time, how you treat other people, your sex life, your media consumption, and everything else. Let Him deal with you in all those areas.
  3. Stick around long enough in God’s presence. Trying harder doesn’t work, but staying in God’s presence does. You cannot be with Him for long without being changed yourself. You become increasingly like the One you worship, admire, follow, love, and spend time with. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) Just stick around! And when He speaks, listen. When He moves, follow. When He tells you to do something, do it. You cannot remain unchanged if you keep on doing that over time. And if you want to help others, invite them to experience God’s presence.

Being with Jesus changes you. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

So if you’re not experiencing the spiritual maturity you desire, spend time with Jesus!

Your Turn: What kind of spiritual growth have you experienced in the last year? How has that happened? Leave a comment below.

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  • Spiritual growth doesn’t come by trying harder. It comes by spending time with Jesus.   Tweet that.

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