Everybody wants to grow. Those who don’t know Christ might call it “self-improvement” or “personal growth”. We Christians call it “sanctification” or “bearing fruit”. Whatever the case, nobody wants to stay where they are.
Now, there are many things that you can and should do to grow in the image of Christ: Reading and meditating on Scriptures, praying, listening to good sermons, reading some good books or articles, and sharing your faith. Those are all great things we can and should do.
But I want to give you one better—a summary. In fact, this is the main thing you need to do to grow spiritually. Are you ready? Here it is:
You need to obey.
One of the most well-known texts about spiritual growth is Hebrews 5:14, which tells us that “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (ESV). Similar to Paul with the Corinthians (1 Cor 3), the author of this letter is frustrated with his readers’ lack of maturity, which led him to return over and over again to the basic principles of their faith (the milk). They couldn’t handle the steak. But notice how they got to maturity: the mature person is he that has trained his powers of discernment…by constant practice!
I love theological education and teaching. In Latin America, where I minister, we are in dire need of theological institutions and have a staggeringly low number of churches that are committed to teaching their members the whole counsel of God. And yet, the truth is that neither seminary or theological knowledge necessarily equates to a healthy life. The letter to the Hebrews shows that we need good teaching, and how dangerous it is to believe false gospels. So we need to come to the Word daily, like newborn infants. But that’s not the only thing we need to grow. In order to mature, we need to practice. We need to train. We need to apply.
Our fruit is proof of growth.
In order to be fruitful, we need to obey. We are saved by pure grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9); and we are saved for good works (Eph. 2:10). Christ died to redeem a people who are eager to do good works (Titus 2:14), and he has given us his Holy Spirit so that it might be so. Of course, we need him to obey him (John 5:15). But by bearing fruit, we are proof that we are truly near him and growing in his image.
So, as we’re looking to read some excellent books, what areas in our life have we noticed are not submitting to the Lord? As we try to understand this hard passage in Ephesians, what easy verse have we understood but are not putting in practice? As we pray and strive to be closer to the Lord, who do we need to forgive (or ask for forgiveness) so our prayers aren’t hindered?
If you want spiritual growth, obey the Lord today. Don’t wait.