The secret to spiritual growth is in your focus. C. S. Lewis, in his book Surprised By Joy, told of his search for joy. Every once in a while joy came to him. Sometimes it would come when he listened to a particular piece of music. But joy never came when he intentionally looked for it or tried to bring it about deliberately. The joy always came from outside of himself.
The same holds true in your spiritual growth. You cannot grow spiritually through self-effort. Maybe you can live a cleaner, more moral life for a time, but spiritual growth is not about that. It is about becoming one with Christ (John 17:20-23), reflecting Him and building your relationship with Him. Self-effort causes you to reflect your own corrupt sin-nature, because what comes out is what you put in. Focus on Christ, and you will grow:
- Your understanding of God’s word will grow by reading the Bible to know the Author, not just to know about God.
- Your faith will not grow by believing “harder”, but by focusing on the One in whom you believe: Jesus Christ.
- Spiritual fruit will not be produced by trying to be more loving, more gentle, etc. It will come by focusing on the source of your spiritual growth: Jesus Christ.
- Revival will happen, not when you focus on revival, but when you seek Christ, confessing and abandoning all that hinders your relationship with Him, and turning your will over to Him.
Introduction to Discipleship
- All Christians are called to be disciples. In the early church, the two words were considered synonymous.
- Discipleship is about commitment to becoming like Christ, glorifying God, seeking to follow God’s will over your will, knowing God on a personal level, and building up the body of Christ.
- Study to know the Author, not just to increase your head knowledge.
- Spend time every day to study your Bible in a systematic way. Studying is about in-depth understanding, not just reading.
- Ask God, the Author, for understanding.
- Try reading a book multiple times before studying it to familiarize yourself with it. Study everything in context. Pay attention to tenses and meanings of words.
- Quiet time is about spending time alone with God, letting Him speak to you through His word.
- First thing every morning is the best time. Find a place where you won’t be distracted.
- Include some “canned” devotionals with your Bible reading such as Our Daily Bread and/or My Utmost For His Highest for fresh perspectives. Use ones that focus on building your relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Pray without ceasing. You always have access to God because it is on Jesus’ merits, not yours.
- Pray in faith, and be persistent, but remember to leave room in your requests for God’s will. He may answer yes, no, or wait, but whatever His answer, it is always the best.
- Confess your sin, otherwise it will hinder your prayers.
- Pray for others, even your enemies.
- Always be willing to take an active part in being an answer to your prayer.
- Fasting is for specific spiritual goals: repentance and seeking God’s favor, protection, and direction. It is not for physical benefits, learning self-discipline, manipulating God, or appearing self-righteous.
- Use fasting time to seek God in prayer and Bible study / meditation.
- If you’re new to fasting, start with short daytime fasts.
- The strength of faith is not in yourself (i.e. how strong you believe or how sincere you are) but in God, the object of your faith. Even a tiny faith is effective, but faith must be put into practice to be real.
- Faith is like a sixth sense that allows you to “see” spiritual things (Hebrews 11:1). This cannot be understood intellectually – only by experience as faith is exercised.
- Because faith is absolute trust, growth in faith is quantitative, not qualitative. It is seen in the number of areas of your life that you commit in faith to God, with the ultimate goal of trusting Him in all areas, regardless of circumstances or what common sense says.
- Faith is resting (simple absolute trust) in the promises of God. Faith is not concerned with the “how” of how God is going to fulfil His promises. The way to increase your faith is not to “believe harder”, but to know God better and obey Him more. Obedience is the primary way to build your faith.
Sin & Temptation
- Sin hinders your relationship with God. Avoid sin for this reason. It offends the One you love.
- Temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin when you entertain the thought or take action.
- Confess your sin right away. Keep short accounts with God.
- Resist temptation by recognizing that sin is a choice. Prepare yourself by being strong in the Lord and putting on all of your spiritual armor. Consider yourself dead to sin, and alive in Christ and the Spirit.
- Act out of love for others. Don’t let your freedom become a stumbling block to someone else. If someone sins, remember the goal is restoration in humility and love.
- If forgiveness is to be given only when it is deserved, then nobody would be forgiven because nobody “deserves” to be forgiven. Therefore forgive whether you feel it is deserved or not.
Walking In the Spirit
- The secret to overcoming the flesh and living an upright, holy life is not focusing on law-keeping but on Christ. Walking in the Spirit is letting God work through you, not struggling in your own strength.
- Walking in the Spirit leads to glory to God, edification of the body (i.e. the church), the spread of the gospel, and spiritual fruit.
- Spiritual fruit is produced naturally when you regularly spend time in God’s word, pray, confess your sins, and learn to listen for and follow God’s leading.
Living for God’s Glory
- God’s glory is the revealing of His character and nature so that man understands and appreciates Him better.
- Bringing glory to God is His work. Pray that He do so through you in your daily life.
- Everything you do should have as its ultimate goal the glorifying of God. Seek to do so in whatever you do. If you can’t, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Personal & Corporate Worship
- To worship is to express by words and lifestyle (service) how much and why you value God. It is focusing on who God is and what He has done. It should be an expression of love.
- Worship’s focus is God. It is therefore not primarily an experience.
- True worship is from the heart.
- Use your talents and gifts to worship God.
Finding God’s Will for Your Life
- Surrender your will to God. Seek His will with a commitment to follow it unconditionally even before you know what it is.
- Obey God in the areas that He has already revealed Himself. Study the scriptures to find His revealed will for all believers, and to understand how to recognize God’s specific will.
- Pray for God to reveal His will to you. If God’s will remains hidden, wait patiently, trusting in His guidance anyway. He is able to guide you without your awareness. Don’t force God’s hand.
Building Up The Church / Spiritual Gifts
- The church is the body of Christ and is made up of all those who have placed their trust entirely in Jesus Christ for their salvation. The church represents Christ on earth.
- All believers have a responsibility to help build up the body of Christ.
- The way we are to walk towards both believers and non-believers can be summed up in the word Love. Unconditional and self-less love is the identifying characteristic of the Christian (John 13:35). We are to love just as Christ loved us, who died for us even while we were still enemies.
- When we truly love others, we will humbly seek their good, and bear with their faults and weaknesses.
- All believers have at least one spiritual gift, given by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of building up the body. Spiritual gifts are to be used for the body, not the individual. Spiritual gifts are distinct from natural talents.
Evangelism & Discipling
- Witnessing is telling what you have personally experienced. Witnessing’s purpose is to provide an opening to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Evangelism is the primary mission of the church. We should all make it our business to spread the gospel by telling others about what Jesus has done to save them, and supporting those in the mission field.
- Discipling is mentoring younger believers so that they grow in Christ. It is done by teaching doctrine and leading by example, just as Jesus did. Its goal is spiritual maturity so that the believer develops his or her own personal relationship with God, not needing to rely on other believers for spiritual progress. It is also to train the new believer to disciple others.
A person who is “born again” starts a new life similar to that of a newborn infant. Seven rules that promote good health in babies can be adapted and applied to a Christian’s spiritual growth.
1. Daily Food. Take in the “pure milk of the word” through study and meditation.
2. Fresh Air. Pray often or you will faint. Prayer is the oxygen of the soul.
3. Regular Exercise. Put into practice what you learn in God’s Word.
4. Adequate Rest. Rely on God at all times in simple faith.
5. Clean Surroundings. Avoid evil company and whatever will weaken you spiritually.
6. Loving Care. Be part of a church where you will benefit from a pastor’s teaching and Christian fellowship.
7. Periodic Checkups. Regularly examine your spiritual health.
Two professed Christians worked for ten years in the same business office. Over the years, neither of them knew that the other was a Christian. Said one of these men to a minister one day, “Wasn’t it funny that Bill and I were so intimately related to each other in business, and neither of us knew until today that the other was a Christian!” “Funny?” sadly questioned the faithful minister. “Why, that’s not funny! it’s tragic! In my opinion neither of you have ever experienced the miracle of regeneration. Let us get down on our knees and let us both ask that God will make you a new creature in Christ Jesus.”
– Dr. F. B. Meyer