What Is Spiritual Growth?

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Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

Have you ever wondered what spiritual growth is? As believers, we may have heard people mention spiritual or Christian growth. But what is Christian growth?

The matter of growth is a tremendous subject in the Bible. But in this post, we’ll look at a few key verses in the New Testament to get an overview of the growth that God desires to see in us believers.

What is growth?

Both the tiniest insect and an enormous whale grow and develop according to their species. How is that possible? They both have life. No matter how beautiful a rock may be, it’s lifeless and can’t grow. Growth only occurs in things that have life. 

And according to the Bible, the growth of believers in Christ is also entirely a matter of the growth of life. But what does this mean?

Growing in the divine life

To answer these questions, we must realize what happened when we first repented and believed in Jesus Christ. We were forgiven of our sins and saved from eternal judgment. But that’s not all. Something monumental took place within us: we were born again of the Spirit of God in our spirit, the deepest part of our being. This birth brought the very life of God into us.

John 1:12-13 says:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name, who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Since we were begotten of God with His life, we became children of God. What a wondrous thing this is! But we shouldn’t remain as children. The life of God in us must grow and increase. This is true spiritual growth.

Our dear Father God wants to see all His children grow by the increase of His life in us. We need to grow day by day, year after year, until we reach maturity. This is how His great plan for us is fulfilled.

Spiritual growth according to the Bible

The apostle Paul addressed the need for believers to grow in the divine life in several places in his epistles. In fact, the life we received when we were born again is a wonderful Person, Jesus Christ. So Paul spoke of growth as being the increase of Christ in us.

For example, in Galatians 4:19, Paul wrote:

“My children, with whom I travail again in birth until Christ is formed in you.”

Paul had traveled through Galatia on one of his gospel-preaching journeys. As a result of his labor, some there believed in the Lord Jesus and were born again. Later, he wrote this epistle to the Galatians. In this verse, Paul indicates that being reborn was only the beginning. He continued to labor so that Christ would increase and grow within them.

Note 4 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version explains:

“When the Galatian believers were regenerated through Paul’s preaching of the gospel to them the first time, Christ was born into them but not formed in them. Here the apostle was travailing again that Christ might be formed in them. To have Christ formed in us is to have Christ fully grown in us. First, Christ was born into us at the time we repented and believed in Him, then He lives in us in our Christian life (2:20), and, finally, He will be formed in us at our maturity. Christ’s being formed in us is needed that we may be sons of full age and heirs to inherit God’s promised blessing, and that we may mature in the divine sonship.”

This note helps us to see that we shouldn’t be content with just having Christ born into us. We need to experience Christ living in us daily until Christ is fully formed in us, that is, fully grown in us. As Christ grows in us, we express Him through our living instead of ourselves.

We all have to admit that Christ hasn’t yet been fully formed in us. Our thoughts and viewpoints are often still our own, not Christ’s. Our feelings about people, our desires, and our reactions are still mostly not Christ’s. And too many of our aims, intentions, and decisions are our own. As a result, how we live in our daily life falls very short of expressing Christ to others. 

So Christ needs to increase, that is, to grow, in all these areas of our being so He can be fully formed in us. The increase of Christ in us is the growth God wants to see.

Growth requires nourishment

How can Christ grow in us? Nourishment is a necessity for any form of life to grow.

For instance, a baby’s primary need is nourishment. Almost immediately after birth, a baby begins to eat. By being nourished, it grows a little each day. And as the child grows, it doesn’t ever “graduate” from eating. 

The apostle Peter connects spiritual nourishment and spiritual growth in 1 Peter 2:2:

“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.”

The Word of God isn’t just for our knowledge. Actually, Peter’s thought here is that the Word is nourishing milk for us to take in so we can grow.

Certainly, we should know and even study God’s Word, but our greatest need is to be nourished with the Word. Every day, we need to long for and feed on the milk of the Word, so we can grow until Christ is fully formed in us.

Note 4 on grow in the Recovery Version explains this succinctly: 

“To grow is a matter of life and in life. We received the divine life through regeneration, and we need to grow in this life and with this life by being nourished with the milk conveyed in the word of God.”

Just as the food we eat builds up our bodies, the spiritual milk of the Word will cause us to grow in the divine life.

Growing day by day

Seeing that God’s life in us must increase helps us realize the importance of taking the time to feed on the Word of God as our spiritual food

A good way to begin our day is to eat a hearty spiritual breakfast. We can also feed on the milk of the Word during our lunch break and at night before we go to bed. Being nourished regularly strengthens us to live a healthy Christian life and gives the Lord a way to grow in us.

Of course, many other factors also affect our spiritual growth. But being nourished by the Word of God is absolutely crucial. So let’s come to the Bible daily to feed on the milk of the Word. If you live in Australia, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here.

To get a more detailed view of spiritual growth in life, we also encourage you to read The Knowledge of Life. You can download this free e-book here from anywhere in the world.

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