How Do I Grow?
How Do I Grow?
“For I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20).
When we look at our lives and consider the spiritual growth and fruit we want to see, it begs the question – How does it happen? How do I grow? There are two common approaches to Christian growth in our culture. The first is to just focus on behavior (What am I not doing? Or what am I doing but not enough?). The second is to just focus on feelings (How can I change my attitude? What can make me feel better about my circumstances and myself?). Yet both of these fail to get to root of the problem. We need to get beneath our behavior to our belief and beneath our feelings to our faith. In essence, we must go beneath our actions and attitudes to where we are not believing and applying the gospel in our lives.
We see in the end of Gal.2:20 that Paul continued to live his life in light of the truth of the gospel. For Paul, the gospel was never something that he “got over;” it was always something he saw himself growing in. So how do we grow? “By faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.” In other words …
Believers Grow by Believing the Gospel: Believing the gospel is tied to three things: The principle we live by, the place we live in, and the person we live for.
1. What We Live By: “... and the life I now live … I live by faith …” Paul understood that beneath all sin was unbelief (cf. Rom.14:23b). Therefore, we are not only justified by faith alone, but we are also sanctified by faith alone (cf. Acts 26:18, Rom. 1:16-17). Growth isn’t going to first come by behavior modification, but by belief modification - a perpetual and particular faith in the Son of God. We must live by the principle of faith that Christ can carve out a far better future in our obedience than we could carve out for ourselves in our disobedience. We then see our circumstances through the lens of the cross where the gospel becomes not only a truth that we look at, but also a truth that we look at our world through.
2. What We Live In: “… in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Where does your heart hang out? Where does it abide? If we want to grow, we must abide in the love of Christ. Jesus said, “Abide in me … for apart from me you can do nothing.” This means that in prayer, reading the Bible, Sunday worship, etc., we must lay our hearts upon the love of Christ and rest in it. We must put our hearts under the love of Christ and receive from it. And we must preach to our hearts about the love of Christ and by faith respond to it.
3. What We Live For: “… If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). We all live for something and whatever we ultimately live for ultimately controls us. For example, if I live for the approval of people, then I’m controlled by their opinions. All our actions and attitudes come out of what we’re living for. Beneath every sin is an exchange of living for the glory of God for the glory of something else. But now because of the gospel we are free to live for the only Master who will satisfy our souls, for in Him we have everything we need. So how does this work out on a daily basis? …
5 Steps in Applying the Gospel for Spiritual Growth.
Step 1) Recognize
First, recognize your helplessness, hopelessness, and spiritual poverty apart from Christ. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt.5:3). In other words, until we recognize and admit that without Christ we are spiritually bankrupt, we won’t know what it means to live spiritually wealthy. Recognize that apart from Him you can do nothing today, and ask for His grace and fullness.
Step 2) Remember
We are prone to forget who God is for us in Jesus and who we are in Him. The only command in all of the first 3 chapters of Ephesians is the one word ‘remember’ (see Eph 2:11-12). Its as if Paul knows we can’t live the fruitful life if we live the forgotten life. Peter says the same thing. In 2 Peter 1:9 we learn that if we’re finding ourselves ineffective and unfruitful its because we’ve forgotten something … we’ve forgotten that we’ve been cleansed from our former sins. Remember who God is for you and what He has done for you and in you. This doesn’t mean just recalling it, but setting our minds upon it.
Step 3) Repent
“It is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance” (Rom.2:4b). Biblical repentance involves three things – 1) Seeing our sin, 2) owning our sin, and 3) turning from our sin back to God. By remembering all that God is for us and what in Christ He has accomplished for us, it should turn us away from trusting in our own strength, wisdom, and understanding and turn us back to lean on Him for everything we need and every decision we need to make for the day.
Step 4) Remain
What consumes our thoughts? What do we meditate on? In other words, where do our hearts and minds remain? God wants us to remain in the love of Christ, to set our minds on things above. To rest there. To receive there. To daydream there. We are never called to produce fruit. That’s not our job. Our job is to bear fruit and we do that by the Holy Spirit bringing us again and again back to Christ so that by abiding in Him in thought and in deed, the fruit will occur naturally. Or should I say, supernaturally.
Step 5) Respond
We must respond to the God of the Bible with faith. Faith that the God who met my ultimate needs at the cross can meet my immediate needs today. Faith that the God who had a plan to send Christ in the fullness of time to die for my every sin, also has a plan for my time today and every situation. Faith that the God who gave His best while I was at my worst cares more about me and my circumstances than I do about Him. Faith that the God who raised Christ from the dead, is good and faithful. Obedience may cost me, but what I will lose is far little to what I will gain. Obedience from faith will only end in a resurrection of true joy. So the question of our spiritual growth becomes … where are we not believing the gospel?