EXPOSE | Growth is Not Optional
“Because you are already new in Christ, be about becoming what you are… Don’t ever think spiritual growth is optional or marginal in the Christian life.” – John Piper
EXPLORE | Not Self-Improvement or Sin Management
It’s a New Year… and? What are you going to do with it? Will it be better than the last? How?
Sorry, didn’t mean for all the pressure. But, whether you’ve decided to establish a New Year’s vision, or, the annual attempt at resolutions, hopefully your intending for some new, better, or more right things to happen this year.
With self-improvement getting such attention this time of year, it might be too easy to hear ‘spiritual growth’ and think ‘self-improvement’. Our ‘being better’ is not spiritual growth. And, it probably doesn’t mean ‘doing more.’
Then there’s this issue of control. We may be tempted to think that we just need to be more in control of what we do: doing more of what is right and less of what is wrong. Yet, ‘sin management’ doesn’t quite get at the heart of it either.
If Piper is right, and we’re not to treat this with passive indifference, what exactly should we be looking for? A non-stop, fiery passion? Superior recall of obscure verses from the Old Testament?
The risk here is to get formulaic or throw a checklist or two together, but spiritual growth is first, and perhaps primarily, a question for the heart.
EXECUTE | From a Flicker to a Flame
In order for their to be spiritual growth, there needs to be a spiritual foundation. That is, you truly have this new relationship with God. With that in place, we need to “be about becoming what we are” as Piper prescribes above.
But as I just mentioned, this isn’t a time for a checklist. To help curb that tendency, consider asking yourself this series of questions–aimed at the heart–to establish a working understanding of the make up of spiritual growth. Are you: desiring, discerning, docile, dieting, doing, or displaying?
Desiring. Are you fanning the right flame?
Whether or not you’re willing to ask the question about spiritual growth should give you a clue. Where do your desires lie? Do you truly want to grow, or are you just guilt ridden over feeling that you should? Forcing yourself to be honest with your answer allows the heart to soften, where God can begin to fan into a flame, what at the moment may only be a flicker of desire for what is crucial to our spiritual growth.
Discerning. Do you know why you’re doing what you do?
It can be so appealing to just run the table on Christian activity. Surely doing so will at some point, in some way, meet most expectations God would have for us. But alas, becoming a blur of activity at church will only temporarily fool some of the people.
“The power lies not in what you’re doing to follow Jesus but in why you’re doing it. The gospel invites us to receive, embody and proclaim the truth that Jesus died to save a wretch like me; it invites us into the freedom and joy of Kingdom life.” – Alan Briggs (Here’s What Spiritual Growth Looks Like)
Docile. Are you teachable and obedient?
By docile, I don’t mean domesticated. But that you’re submissive in a way that promotes learning and receptivity to instruction. As Alan Briggs succinctly points out, “disciples learn the desires of Jesus and obey.”
“The pathway to maturity… is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person…” – John Piper (The Key to Spiritual Maturity)
“Where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move… I will follow you…” – artist Chris Tomlin from his song “I Will Follow You”
Dieting. What are you consuming?
Is there a maturity and discipline about what you allow into your life? Is (real) prayer a priority? What is bookmarked in your browser? How many apps to you have to view your favorite shows vs. apps to read the Bible, or devotionals, etc?
“Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” – Hebrews 5:14
Doing. Are you actively participating in what God is doing?
God doesn’t call us to be innovators. We shouldn’t view spiritual growth as a challenge to come up with a new thing. He has a plan that He desires us to be part of. The groundwork has been laid, the mission is clear; now report for duty.
“In the roughly 50 commands Christ gives throughout his ministry, he never asks us to start new things… The disciples weren’t entrepreneurs; they were servants… There’s no need to try to start a movement; just join one.” – Alan Briggs (Here’s What Spiritual Growth Looks Like)
Displaying. Are you known by your love?
If a poll were taken and people were asked to describe what you were known for, how do you think they would answer? And, if they mentioned love–love of what?
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35
This series of questions will help unveil not only what spiritual growth looks like, but where you are on that trajectory. Because growth is not optional.