Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Spiritual Growth

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
It is natural for fish to swim in water and for birds to fly in the air. Likewise, it is natural for a child of God to grow in grace. By regeneration the Lord has given a new nature that cannot be content with the way life was before. That new nature desires after God and it is characterized by a thirst for the living God. The new nature cannot be content with the old way of life. There is so much to be discovered in God and so much to be enjoyed in Him. There is also much indwelling sin present in the life of a believer. Indwelling sin is an affront against the Lord and detrimental to salvation. The regenerated sinner desires and strives to become more Christ like. This is what is involved in growing in grace.

It is Scriptural
That the regenerated sinner is to experience spiritual growth is clearly spelled out in Scripture (e.g. Psalm 92:13; Hosea 14: 5-6; Malachi 4:2). The Lord exhorts His people to grow spiritually. ÒBut speaking the truth in love, may [you] grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even ChristÓ (Ephesians 4:15). We read in 1 Peter 2:2, ÒAs newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.Ó Peter admonishes us in 2 Peter 3:18, ÒBut grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.Ó The apostle Paul describes it this way in Philippians 3:12: ÒNot as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.Ó

In Mark 4:28 the Lord Jesus illustrates spiritual growth by referring to a plant. ÒFor the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.Ó A seed planted in the soil will grow until it has brought forth a new plant that bears fruit with new seeds. A child of God will also grow and desire to increase in the Lord until he will be with the Lord in glory.

What is Spiritual Growth?
Spiritual growth is a gracious work of God in the regenerate whereby they increase in the knowledge of God and of themselves in conformity to Christ.

Spiritual growth is a work of God. He causes people to be born again and He also causes them to increase in grace. Without the Lord Jesus they can do nothing (John 15:5). Paul says in Philippians 2:13, ÒFor it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.Ó

Some Christians will experience more spiritual growth than others. Some remain weak and feeble while others increase greatly and become mature Christians. It can also happen that in old age, when there is a decrease in alertness, backsliding takes place, so that a certain resistance to sin is given up. Just think of the cases of Gideon, Solomon, David and Hezekiah. Others proceed steadfastly in their growth in grace until the day of their death. ÒThey shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishingÓ (Ps.92: 14).

Increase in Spiritual Light
Growth consists of an increase in spiritual light. In the outpouring of spiritual life the Lord gives light. Growth in grace means to receive more light as happened to the blind man healed in Mark 8. He first saw men walking as trees but afterwards saw every man clearly. Matters are seen more clearly than before. The regenerated person realizes more clearly who he is in himself and who God is. The light of GodÕs Spirit is poured into his soul and provides clarity and warmth. It also promotes true zeal for the Lord and His service. More sin is seen within and more abhorrence of self takes place. This also entails an increase in humility. Because I see more clearly who I am, I become less in my own estimation before God.

Likewise, due to the increase of light in the soul, there is a higher view of the Lord Jesus Christ. Subsequently, there is also an increase in the knowledge of Christ. There will be more leaning and resting on Christ alone. ÒAs ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgivingÓ (Col.2:6-7).

Because of this light, one also becomes more aware of GodÕs will. The result will be that by the grace of GodÕs Spirit, one is led into a more dedicated walk in conformity to GodÕs will. We become more concerned about how we behave ourselves. Brakel says:

We shall then find no delight in our conduct if it be not
governed by a holy objective, not having ourselves in view, but
doing all to the honour of God (1 Cor.10: 31), in the presence of
God (Gen.17: 1), in obedient submission to God and His will
(Eph.6: 6), in love (1 Cor.13: 1), in the fear of God (Job 31: 23),
and in believing union with Christ and through Christ with God
(Heb.1: 6). We shall thus do everything out of God, for God and
unto God. This is what is meant by our deeds being Òwrought in
GodÓ (John 3: 21).

Means Fighting Against Sin
Spiritual growth causes an increase in fighting against sin. God leads His people into spiritual conflicts. GodÕs child becomes aware that sin can break out at any time. The Lord shows that His people even have the ability to sin against love and light. An example of this is the case of Hezekiah, who at the end of his life, after having experienced miraculous deliverances by the Lord, repeatedly begins to succumb to pride and falls into sin. We are also reminded of David when he numbered the people of Israel and Peter who denied his Master. John Newton writes:

I believe many have thus fallen, whose hearts, under a former sense of redeeming love, have been as truly set against sin, as the hearts of others who have been reserved from such outward falls. The Lord makes some of His children examples and warnings to others, as He pleases. They who are spared, and whose worst deviations are known only to the Lord and themselves have great reason to be thankful.

GodÕs child may be kept from outward falling but in the meantime, in his own heart, he will be able to testify of rebellion, ungratefulness, impatience and sheer stupidity within. In this manner one increasingly discovers oneÕs weakness and learns to cast himself more upon the Lord and His grace.

Increase in Love to the Lord
Due to a deeper understanding of our weakness and depravity, the Person of Christ will become more precious to us. Deeper views of the sustaining love and grace of Christ are gained. Accordingly, one sees more of the beauty, fullness and certainty of the holy Scriptures. For they testify of Christ. More insight into the beauty of Christ is gained. Such a person has also a disposition to consider all things mean and vile in comparison to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. In this frame, wealth and glamour do not mean much. A palace is considered to be a dungeon if Christ is not with him; a dungeon is considered to be a palace as long as Christ is there.

Such a person has a desire to be with Christ, not so much to be delivered from strife and spiritual battles, but because of the overwhelming goodness of the Lord. He desires to be loosed from the ties of earth and to be with Christ. At the same time, if this would promote GodÕs honour, he would be quite content to stay here on earth. His aim is that the Lord would receive glory and honour.

Impediments to Growth in Grace
A child of God can be too attached to the things of this world. The world and the Spirit of God are enemies and the one is intent on expelling the other. You cannot make an agreement with both the world and Christ, neither with Belial and Christ. A bird that is tied down to the earth will fall back to the earth when it wants to fly upwards. Those who wish to fly heavenward must divorce themselves from this world.

Many of God's people are hindered in their walk by spiritual laziness. They neglect the use of the means of grace. Effort is needed in prayer, watchfulness and Scripture reading. If we are spiritually lazy, there will be no spiritual growth.

The Means for Spiritual Growth
The Lord uses various means for this growth. Brakel mentions the following:

*The Word of God, the sincere milk of the Word (1 Pet.2: 2). Through daily interaction with God's Word, the soul is led to find more treasures in Christ and one is led to grow in the knowledge of Him.

*Prayer. Through prayer one is led more deeply into an understanding of GodÕs will for oneÕs life. The conscience is sharpened and spiritual battles are fought in prayer before the Lord. Through prayer one receives more rest and peace in the Lord.

*Examples in Scripture show that there are those who had much grace. These examples can be an encouragement to seek more grace in our lives: ÒBrethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensampleÓ (Phil.3:17).

*Trials and afflictions can cause a person to mature in grace. By means of afflictions one sees more of GodÕs gracious outcome and experiences more of His comfort and grace. These trials prune the young plant and cause more fruit to come forth.

*Physical and spiritual prosperity can also be causes of growth in grace. The goodness of the Lord can lead to a greater degree of humility and a greater awareness of the grace that God gives to an undeserving sinner. ÒI am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servantÓ (Gen.32: 10).

The Lord is so worthy to be loved and known. God is glorified in the spiritual growth of His children. The Lord will grant many comforts to those who grow in this knowledge of the Lord. Continually feed upon the Word and pour out your heart before the Lord. Beg Him for the guidance of His Spirit. May His Spirit be our constant aid.

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