Summary: 1st in a series on Christian Growth
Almost every image used in the New Testament to describe the Christian life suggests growth and development.
• We are to "pursue righteousness" (1 Tim. 6:11).
• We are challenged to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).
• We are to "press on toward the goal" (Phil. 3:14).
• We are to be "built up in Him" (Col. 2:7).
• We are to "build upon the foundation" (1 Cor. 3:12).
• We are told to "long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2).
All of these passages support the same conclusion: becoming a Christian is only the first step in a process of growth and development in our Christian lives. As our text puts it, we are "to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15). The question is, how can we actualize this growth?
Some Christians probably feel like a certain grasshopper who asked the wise old owl how he could weather the winter months better. The owl said, "What you need to do is to change yourself into a caterpillar with all that warm covering." That seemed like a reasonable suggestion. So the grasshopper said, "Okay, but how am I supposed to do that?" The owl replied, "I’ve given you the principle. You have to work out the details."
Some Christians, particularly new Christians, hear preachers tell them they need to grow in their faith, but no one ever tells them how they can do it. Our text for tonight presents the principle. Now, let’s try to work out the details.
How can we grow as Christians?
The beginning point is to understand the models for growth presented in the New Testament. Let me point out four specific New Testament models for growing Christians.
The Concentration Model
The first model is found in 2 Cor. 3:18. I call it the concentration model. The Bible says, "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory." In this model, spiritual growth is defined as "being transformed into the image of Christ."
How are we transformed into the image of Christ?
The key is concentration or focus.
We grow when we CONCENTRATE ON CHRIST.
What we concentrate our attention on will determine what we say, what we do, and eventually what we become. Therefore, when we concentrate on Jesus Christ in our thought life, in our reading, in the company we keep, and by participation in worship and personal study, we will become more and more like Him.
E. Stanley Jones was right when he said, "The process of Christian maturity is the process of the redemption of the imagination ... redeeming it from self-concentration, past-failure-concentration, and sin-concentration ... and concentrating it on ’The Lord.’"
We grow when we COME CLEAN WITH CHRIST.
The Bible says we are to concentrate on Jesus Christ with "unveiled face." What are some of the veils which keep us from concentrating on Jesus Christ? One veil is fear. Another is selfishness. Bitterness is a veil that can distort our view of Christ. Laziness can be a veil which keeps us from concentrating on Christ. Unless we remove these veils, they will divert and distract our concentration on Christ and keep us from growing spiritually.
To implement this first model of spiritual growth, we need to sharpen the focus of our lives so that we can concentrate more clearly on Jesus Christ.
The Addition Model
The second model is found in 2 Peter 1:5-11. The Bible says, "For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these are yours and they abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." In this model, spiritual growth is defined, to put it in positive terms, as being "effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
How do we become effective and fruitful as Christians?
By adding certain ingredients to the foundation of faith in our lives.
We begin with FAITH.
Belief in Christ as our Lord is the foundation for growth. We cannot grow as a Christian until we become a Christian.
We then add to that MORAL EXCELLENCE.
Purity leads to spiritual growth for as Jesus said, it is the pure in heart who shall see God (Matt. 5:8).
Next comes KNOWLEDGE.
The Greek word means insight or understanding. We grow as Christians as we grow in our understanding of the Lord. That comes only as we study.