When it comes to church ministry, the value and necessity of spiritual growth within individuals is of vital importance. When we were created, God made us in his image and like himself – a spiritual person. Since this is who we are, we must therefore recognize that the area of our greatest value, potential, fruitfulness, and life fulfillment will be in the realm of the spiritual. If we deny our spirituality, whether in thought or in practice, we will inevitably become confused and set ourselves up for failure because our basic nature is one of being spiritual persons. Nothing is more valuable for us than spiritual growth and the provision God has made for us to experience this growth.
There is a verse tucked away at the end of Peter’s second epistle that states: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Grace and knowledge are important words that both point to Jesus. Grace refers to all the benefits of being redeemed people; knowledge denotes all the benefits of God’s revelation to us. I want to make a simple yet profound observation of this verse: the word “grow” is a command. It is not optional. It is not something to maybe think about having happen when we get around to it. God insists that we grow. He has made every provision for our spiritual growth and we have been given the ability as God’s redeemed community to do so. So, then, each and every believer in Jesus Christ must face his/her personal responsibility to obey this scriptural exhortation. To do otherwise is to live outside of God’s will.
Sticking with the Apostle Peter’s words, here is another verse of importance for our spiritual growth: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). This verse explains that we are to seek the Word of God with the same kind of intensity that a newly born baby will seek for food. As babies, my girls were barracudas when it came to feeding time. They went at breast-feeding with so much gusto that my poor wife was often left in downright pain afterwards. That same kind of desire for feeding must be present with us as believers in Christ’s church. When we obey this command of Peter and make it a priority in our life, then we will grow.
The problem with this spiritual growth is that we all have a disease-like force in our lives – a destructive tendency toward lethargy and passivity toward spiritual things. It is ironic that people who confess Jesus as Lord can be so determined and attentive about trivial things and yet can, at the same time, be so unconcerned about giving focus to feeding on the Word of God. We cannot go on living like this and expect to be successful in the Christian life.
If we are going to grow spiritually we must be about the business of “speaking the truth in love” with the result that “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). In other words, we are to have an aggressive application of the truth in both speaking and in life that impacts our daily faith walk with Jesus. The only way we are going to grow up spiritually, whether personally or corporately, is through practicing the truths of Holy Scripture. Our priorities, goals, and values need to reflect a solid commitment to fulfill scriptural truth in daily life. We must ask ourselves some penetrating questions:
--Have we humbled ourselves before God and confessed the things we have done and left undone when it comes to God’s revealed will?
--Have we humbled ourselves before one another in the church and asked for prayer?
--Have we read the Bible on the subject of spiritual growth and followed its teachings so we can know the joy and love God has for us?
--Would we be this lethargic and passive about treating a physical cancer in our lives?
God has given believers his Holy Spirit for our spiritual growth so that they might be brought into close fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Once we begin to obey the Scripture in this area of practicing biblical truth we will begin to experience spiritual growth and the joy of the Lord. However, if we allow ourselves to remain lethargic and apathetic concerning spirituality we will never become our true selves. We must choose to make a biblical response both to God and to one another in the church. This is not a matter of personal willpower that can be achieved or cured by our own efforts. We must face our spiritual condition and seek help within the community of the redeemed, the church. Only then will spiritual growth become a reality.