BY PASTOR T.O. BANSO
Every Christian, at the new birth, is like a newborn baby. However, a baby is expected to grow gradually until he becomes an adult. That’s why the Bible says as newborn babes, we should desire the sincere milk of the Word of God so that we may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2). Hebrews 5:14 says strong meat belongs to them that are mature. God wants us to grow into maturity spiritually.
Every mother whose baby is not growing normally is usually troubled – no mother whose six-month-old baby looks like a one-week-old baby will be happy. The same thing applies to spiritual growth. In this regard, Paul said in Hebrews 5:12-13, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (NKJV). After you’ve given your life to Jesus, your spiritual growth is very important.
The Holy Spirit has helped me to identify some indicators of spiritual growth. These will help you to evaluate if you’re growing spiritually. There’s nothing really like spiritual stagnancy. It’s either you’re going forward or backward. I pray you’ll never go backward in Jesus’ name.
1. Increasing love for God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (NKJV). This is also stated in the New Testament in Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27. Those who are growing spiritually have increasing love for God and the things of God.
If you’re growing spiritually, you’ll thirst and hunger more for God by devoting yourself especially to more private prayers and study of the Word of God. You will want God more and other things less. Your heart will pant after God; nothing else will satisfy you. The psalmist said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2 NLT).
Many years after walking with the LORD, Paul cried, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11 NKJV).
A growing Christian is never satisfied with his current spiritual position; he is not complacent. He makes every effort to grow in his knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:5-8). Part of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was that they would keep on growing in their knowledge and understanding so that they would understand what really mattered thereby living pure and blameless lives until the return of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).
Growing spiritually means having deeper fellowship with God, privately and publicly, and with fellow believers. 1 John 1:3 talks about two types of fellowship – fellowship with believers and fellowship the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:25 warns against forsaking assembling with fellow believers.
If you are growing spiritually, your love for God will increase; you will not love the world (the corrupt value system of the world, which is opposed to God). The world is passing away and the lust of it (1 John 2:15-17). Those who are growing spiritually hold on tightly to the things of God but lightly to the things of this world. They don’t misuse this world because they know the form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).
They know they are in this present world temporarily. They know they are strangers and pilgrims on earth and look forward to a better country that is heavenly (Hebrews 11:14-16).
They know they’re not citizens of this earth but of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21). Therefore, they set their minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2-4).
They enjoy the good things of this world but don’t let them become their god because they know an end will come to everything one day – death or rapture. And ultimately, they’ll face eternity either with God or in hell-fire. They, therefore, lay their treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21).
2.Increasing love for fellow human beings. This manifests in doing good deeds, showing compassion, forgiving offences, and living in peace with others. Leviticus 19:18 talks about loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV). But Jesus went further to say that we should also love our enemies (Matthew 5:43; Luke 6:27). The apostle Paul said love does no harm to a neighbor and, therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).
Are you growing in love? The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Dear brothers and sisters, we always thank God for you, as is right, for we are thankful that your faith is flourishing and you are all growing in love for each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3 NLT). Christians who are growing spiritually notice that their love for people is increasing. They have minimal relational problems because they show love and compassion, do good deeds, easily forgive those who offend them. They live in peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14). Galatians 6:8-10 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (NKJV). In 1 Peter 3:8, the Bible tells us to, among other things, have compassion for one another. Jesus spoke a lot about forgiveness (Matthew 6: 12-15; 18:21and -35; Luke 6:37; 11:4; 17:3-4).
3. Bearing much fruit of the Spirit. John 15:8 says, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (NKJV). And according to Galatians 5:22-25, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. Verse 24 says those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. To be able to bear the fruit of the Spirit, you must live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit (Verse 25).
Bearing the fruit of the spirit is manifesting the character and attributes of God in our lives. As we grow in the LORD as children of God, we are supposed to resemble or look like Him more and more. Ephesians 5:9 says the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is the direct opposite of engaging in the works of the flesh (different kinds of sin), which will lead one to hell-fire (Galatians 5:19-21). A Christian growing spiritually, therefore, dies daily to these works of the flesh (1 Corinthians15:31) and godly character is built in him (2 Peter 1:5-9)
4.Continuous walking in the light of the scriptures and unwavering commitment to holy living. That is talking about obeying the truths of the Word of God without which there cannot be holy living. Without holiness, no one shall see the LORD (Hebrews 12:14). The LORD tells us to be holy for He is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16).
According to Psalm 119:160, the entirety of God’s word is truth. Therefore, obeying the Word of God is walking in the truth. His word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105). There will be prompt obedience to the Word of God and the Spirit of God if you’re growing spiritually. As John the beloved said, walk in the truth (3 John 4). God says if anyone is willing and obedient, he shall eat the good of the land; but if anyone refuses and rebels, he shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 1:19).
5. Growing hatred for sin and prompt repentance in the case of committing a sin. A growing child of God loves righteousness and hates iniquity. He does not practise sin. 1 John 5:18 says, “We know that those who have become part of God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot get his hands on them” (NLT). He does not play with sin because he knows the consequences. He knows the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). He knows sin is a destroyer; it inflicts guilt on one; it robs one of peace and the joy of salvation; it hinders one’s fellowship with God. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8 NKJV).
If you read Psalm 51, David’s prayer to God after the prophet Nathan had confronted him with his sin of sexual immorality with Bathsheba, you’ll see the reason a child of God should run away from sin. A Christian growing spiritually knows sinning is nailing Jesus to the cross again (Hebrews 6:6).
However, a growing Christian is not perfect. He is working towards perfection. He may, sometimes, slip into sin but he does not tolerate or rationalize it. He repents, promptly and sincerely, and asks for forgiveness. “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts” (1 John 1:8-10 NLT). Whoever covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
6. Greater dependence on God rather than increased independence. In natural growth, maturity means less dependence on one’s parents but in spiritual growth, the opposite is the case. Growing spiritually means you become more dependent on God as you daily see your emptiness, your weaknesses, your insufficiency, and your need for God. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:5-7 NKJV). Jesus depended on His Father when He was on earth. He could nothing without Him (John 5:30). You should depend on God too.
Paul knew he was nothing without God. He said by the grace of God he was who he was (1 Corinthians 15:10). He acknowledged his insufficiency; he said his sufficiency was from God (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Concerning a thorn in his flesh, the messenger from Satan given to torment Paul, he had to continue to depend on the grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). If you’re growing spiritually, you, too, will discover that you need God more.
You’ll depend on God daily for strength, direction, wisdom, protection, provision, etc. You won’t lean to your own understanding but you’ll acknowledge Him in all your ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).
7. Unashamed identification with Jesus. This has to do with freely sharing your faith with others (Mark 16:15). It also includes enduring persecution and suffering the trials of faith without denying Jesus.
A growing Christian endures persecutions and afflictions because the Christian’s reward comes with persecutions! (Mark 10:29-31). The early church endured suffering and persecutions (2 Thessalonians 1:4). That is how the gospel was advanced.
Christians, who are growing spiritually, suffer persecutions but it doesn’t stop them from preaching the gospel or make them renounce their faith in Jesus. As good soldiers of Christ, they endure hardship (2 Timothy 2:3). They know that if they endure hardship, they will reign with Jesus but if they deny Him, He will deny them (2 Timothy 2:12).
Paul downplayed his series of suffering, calling them a light affliction, which was for a moment but was working for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). He took pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 12:10).
As you’re growing spiritually, you’ll experience trials, but don’t deny Jesus. Carry your cross daily, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Follow Him in prosperity and adversity. Job said though He slew him, he would trust Him (Job 13:15). He said he knew that His Redeemer lived (Job 19:25). Be a faithful disciple; identify with Jesus, no matter what happens. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2 NKJV).
Conclusion: Spiritual growth is a must for a child of God. It is continuous. No room for complacency. You were born again to grow and be fruitful. You’ll grow and keep growing in Jesus’ name. The LORD shall deliver you from anything hindering your spiritual growth.
If you are not born again, kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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