A growing plant needs proper soil to grow. Similarly, the growth of the “Jesus seed” in our hearts is dependent upon the unique soil we choose to provide. Because of the uniqueness of your life’s journey, you may need to nurture some things in your heart’s soil that others don’t. Others may need to nurture some things you don’t. Spiritual growth is not a color by numbers process. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe for success. Each of us is different. Our life stories are unique. As we join with others in this growth toward Jesus, he will provide people to help us in the things that we uniquely need to grow. Thankfully, however, there are some common principles that help us all grow spiritually to become more like Jesus.
The starting point in our spiritual growth is to recognize the source and power of all godly spiritual growth: the Holy Spirit. In fact, I would prefer for us to capitalize the word “Spiritual” to emphasize this reality — if it didn’t mess up everyone’s spell checker. True spirituality comes from being born of the Holy Spirit and having the Spirit overflow into our lives (John 3:3-7; John 7:37-39). This growth process means that the Spirit leads us in the dance of life (Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:18, 26), much like Jesus was led (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). Like Jesus, we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14; Ephesians 3:16, 20-21).
True growth comes through the transformational work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). The Spirit empowers us to overcome the temptations that are rooted in our old way of life (Romans 8:13). The Spirit helps us take on the character qualities of Jesus as we grow and mature to become more like Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23). But for that to happen, we must be willing to let the Spirit take the lead in our lives (Galatians 5:26).
But how do we allow the Spirit to lead?
- Desire to grow:
This is part of what it means to “follow Jesus” — we want to become like him by growing into a mature disciple who is like his or her teacher (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark; Luke 6:40).
- Focus on Jesus:
We seek after Jesus so we can take on his character and compassion while we lay aside the sin and the past that drags us down (2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 12:1-3; Philippians 3:7-14).
- Open ourselves to the Scriptures:
The Holy Spirit inspired and gave us the Scriptures (what we call the Bible), to help us know the will, character, and compassion of God for our lives (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 2 Peter 1:21).
- Pursue the character qualities God wants in us:
While our efforts can’t make us spiritual, we can commit to pursuing the character qualities of God. This pursuit opens us up to be led by the Spirit both to become more like Jesus and to be productive in our spiritual efforts (2 Peter 1:3-8; Galatians 5:22-26).
- Spend time with other believers:
We engage in spiritual opportunities and relationships for worship to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21). We share our lives with other believers who can encourage us, mentor us, and partner with us in our desire to be a true follower of Jesus (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Hebrews 3; Hebrews 10:19-25).
Let’s get practical!
Jesus didn’t call us to live away from the world but to live his life in the world to be a blessing to the world (John 17:15-18). The Lord wants us to make a difference in the world.
So, it’s fair to ask a very practical question:
Again, a few practical suggestions to help us actually do the spiritual practices mentioned above:
Begin each morning with praise and a commitment to seek Jesus that day.
Meet regularly with a group of Jesus’ followers for worship, encouragement, confession, and friendship.
Spend time in the Bible, especially focusing on the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to be shaped by the life, words, and example of Jesus.
Have others pray with us and for our spiritual growth.