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Summary: Every Christian desires to grow and mature in his or her walk with Christ. This sermon, which is the first of a series of sermons, introduces the keys to spiritual growth.

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While searching this week for a story to introduce my new series of sermons, my eye caught the following headline: “Man Lives in a Tree after Fight with His Wife—50 Years Ago!”

I suppose I was drawn to this story because my first counseling assignment as a freshly-installed Associate Pastor was to go and counsel a man who had been kicked out of his house by his wife. It was the middle of winter, and there was about 2 inches of snow on the ground. I found the man in a tree house in his back yard. So I climbed up the tree and joined him in his tree house. And there we sat, cold and shivering, for my very first counseling session! But that’s a story for another occasion. . . .

It turns out that Gayadhar Parida of India, who is now 83-years old, has spent the last 50 years of his life living in a tree house. He has repeatedly turned down pleas by his wife and children to return home.

Parida’s wife said: “We quarreled over a tiny issue and that is why he left me and promised not to live with me and return home until his death. I have tried a lot and forced him to come back, but he has refused all the time.”

Parida’s strange home is a makeshift shed on a tree, located about half a mile from his actual house. For many years Parida lived in a mango tree, but was forced to move to his new tree after his old tree collapsed in a storm.

Now, one might wonder, what in the world does Gayadhar Parida hope to accomplish by living in a tree house?

Parida claims that the unusual lifestyle has helped in his spiritual growth and in overcoming tensions after the estrangement with his wife.

I don’t think that Parida’s approach is working, do you?

But how does one grow spiritually?

That is the subject that is going to occupy our attention for the next few weeks. As we prepare to embark on a Capital Stewardship Campaign in the fall, we need to understand that what we do with our financial resources is just one part of our spiritual lives. And so I want us to look at the larger picture of using the means of grace in order to grow spiritually.

With that in mind, let’s read the exhortation from the apostle Peter to grow spiritually in 2 Peter 3:18:

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen" (2 Peter 3:18).

Introduction

Every Christian desires to grow and mature in his or her walk with Christ. But our desire does not always match reality.

And so, beginning today, I would like to look more closely at the word of God in order to learn how we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Lesson

Today’s message is an introduction to the keys to spiritual growth. I would like us to consider briefly some important matters about spiritual growth, such as:

1. The priority of spiritual growth,

2. Observations about spiritual growth,

3. A definition of spiritual growth,

4. The master key to spiritual growth, and

5. The progression of spiritual growth.

So with that outline in mind, let us begin our study today.

I. The Priority of Spiritual Growth

First, be aware of the priority of spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth is one of the most important subjects a Christian can study in the word of God. The apostle Peter ended his practical letters with an exhortation for Christians to grow: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Spiritual growth is essential to the life of a Christian, just as physical growth is essential to the life of a child.

Because God commands us to mature spiritually, we need to understand how that happens.

II. Observations about Spiritual Growth

Second, let’s make some observations about spiritual growth.

It is important to understand several concepts that are not the primary issues in spiritual growth.

A. It Isn’t Necessarily Related to Time

First, spiritual growth isn’t necessarily related to time.

Some people have been Christians for a long time and have grown little spiritually, while others have been Christians for a short time and have grown much spiritually.

Your commitment to growth is what matters, not the amount of time elapsed from your conversion. Spiritual maturity cannot be measured by the calendar.

B. It Isn’t Necessarily Related to Knowledge

Second, spiritual growth isn’t necessarily related to knowledge.

The issue is not knowledge alone but what you do with what you know. The Bible says that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Knowledge can make you proud and actually retard spiritual growth. Only when knowledge conforms you to the image of Christ does it help you grow.

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