An ABC for spiritual growth

Spiritual growth is a process. Just like fruit go through various stages before they are ripe, there are different phases of spiritual growth. First comes the blossom or bud, which is the phase in which you become aware of your lostness, of the only Name by which you can be saved, and of God’s love. From the bud grows the tiny fruit. Just like the blossom dies when the fruit starts growing, you die of yourself when you grow in spirit.

As your life progresses in Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you ripen and grow more beautiful and serviceable spiritually. Your spiritual colour and fragrance deepen. The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility and selfcontrol – are unmistakable. Everybody can see that you belong to Jesus Christ and are growing because you are rooted and anchored in Him.

An ABC to grow spiritually

Alone-meetings with God. Jesus says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:6)

Ask God to fill you with his Spirit. Jesus says, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luk 11:10-13) Billy Graham explains our life with the Holy Spirit as follows: “One baptism (with our conversion), many fillings.”

Ask yourself in each situation: What would Jesus have done? You grow in spirit when you ask yourself all the time how Jesus would have handled your neighbour. And what kind of behaviour He expects from you, his image bearer, under these circumstances.

Avoid any form of dependence and selfrighteousness. Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (Jn 15:4-5).

Avoid everything that makes your conscience uncomfortable. We can bring grief to the Holy Spirit by stubbornness and disobedience: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30)

Be a believer who is living with his/her eyes on the second coming of Christ. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Mt 24:43-44)

Bear witness to Jesus Christ and to the salvation that He has brought about: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9)

Become part of a congregation, domestic devotional group or cell group. Spiritual growth develops best where believers gather in earnest. Through this togetherness we experience support and frustration, love and misunderstanding, compassion and healing, but also disappointment and disillusionment. But the situation in which we have to work with other people presents opportunities for growth in obedience, growth in forgiving, for growth and stronger growth.

Believe in the power of the blood of the Lamb. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:23-24). Bear witness to the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, so that you can gain spiritual victories: They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Rev 12:11)

Break with every sin you are aware of. Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Rom 6:1-2)

Choose purity. Spiritual growth involves a rational choice to be pure of heart and guard over the contents of your thoughts and your mind: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is high, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9).

Christ must become greater, I must become less! (John 3:30)

Consider each situation an opportunity for growth. In a world full of confusion and problems Romans 8:28 is an anchor to hold onto: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Consult and study the Word so that you are able to distinguish between truth and lie. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (Jn 17:17)

Do not allow anyone or anything to steal something of the joy that Jesus gives you. You will discover that spiritual growth and joy go hand in hand. Pray for a faithful, pure heart and a spirit full of joy. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (Jn 15:11).

Drink the Word like a newborn baby drink its mother’s milk. Live in adult innocence: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual mind, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1 Pet 2:1-2)

Hand the controls of your life over to the Holy Spirit. The fruit that God is looking for cannot develop in any other way but by surrendering to the Holy Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Honour God with your whole being. God cautions those who don’t do it: These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (Matt 15:8)

Identify the problem when you start losing your spiritual enthusiasm. Read Colossians 3. In it you will find the sin in your life that has led to this spiritual failure.

Live in the light. Let go of all hidden agendas; live in honesty before God and before the people. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:5-7).

Live in the love of God yourself, live the love of Jesus Christ. Appreciate and encourage others. Stop criticising and judging. Answer love shown you with overwhelming love, and malice with goodwill. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friend, but leave room for God’s wrath … (Rom 12:17-19).

Live in the victory of Jesus Christ. Accept that life will have its share of problems, but believe that Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit is with you, there where the car engine ceases, there where you stand looking at your car without wheelcaps. Jesus Christ said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33).

Make sure that you have experienced a shift in priorities. Make sure that you can say with Paul: But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ … I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering … Not that I have already obtained all this … but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:7-14).

Oppose the devil. The devil turns our attention away from the absolution of God and the love of God for his children. He never ceases to remind us of our failures. Then we don’t focus on Jesus Christ any more, but on our own failures. The magnitude of his attack becomes clear when we read about the final victory over Satan in Revelation 12:10: “For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” So we must do what the Word commands: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Pe 5:8-9)

Pray for other believers whose spiritual gifts are different from yours. Carry them in your prayers. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire, the Word cautions us (1 Tess 5:19). And, From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph:16).

Pray that God will renew your mind. Then you will think about people, about everything you do and about each word that leaves your mouth in a new way: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:2).

Pray the Lord’s Prayer when doubt and despair threatens to overwhelm you. This prayer of Jesus is perfect for every circumstance and each crisis: This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one . (Matt 6:9-13).

Private religion is out. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. (Jn 20:21). We are not allowed to see our spiritual life as a private affair. Not only do we grow in our faith by a public commitment, but we spread the pleasant gospel of joy.

Put on the correct clothes for spiritual war-fare. Expect opposition and conflict. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. (Eph 6:13)

Remember and rejoice in the fact that you have been baptised with the Holy Spirit when you were converted. Don’t allow others to lead you to despair. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor 12:13).

Run in the spiritual race. Focus on Christ alone. Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Cor 9:24)

Stick to what the Word teaches you. Obey only the Word. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrows; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12) Strive for holiness and peace. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Heb 12:14-15)

Study and love the Word. Faith is made up of knowledge and trust. Trust we receive through the Holy Spirit, but knowledge means studying God’s Word with Him. The more we study the Word, the more we confirm Psalm 119 and the more we trust God.

Take to heart the words of Jesus Christ. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (Jn 14:23).

Wear the full armour of faith. The devil is trying to make every believer doubt. “You are not good enough,” he tells us. “How often do you stumble?” Put on the full armour of Ephesians 6:10-18 in faith. And keep on wearing it.

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