‘…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…’ Romans 12:2 NKJV
Are you wrestling with a personal problem, thinking, ‘If I can just overcome this I’ll be all right?’ Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that by God’s grace you can overcome it. The bad news is that when you’ve overcome this particular problem, another one is waiting to take its place. You’re always going to be working on something. Spiritual growth is a work-in-progress. And it doesn’t come through human effort, self-condemnation or the white-knuckling works of the flesh. It comes as a result of spending time in prayer and having your mind renewed daily by His Word. As you agree with God, believing what He says is true, change automatically happens. You start to think differently, talk differently, and act differently. Be patient with yourself; it’s a process that develops in stages. Would you think there was something wrong with your child because they couldn’t walk perfectly on the first few tries? No, you’re delighted each time they take a step. When they fall, you pick them up. When they mess up, you clean them up and encourage them to try again. You never stop working with them! And God does the same with us. He’s not angry because you haven’t ‘arrived’, He’s pleased that you’re pressing on, endeavouring to stay on the path. It’s God’s job to ‘…cause [you to] be…governed by the Holy Spirit…’ (2 Corinthians 3:8 AMP) If you could do it by yourself you wouldn’t need Him. So instead of driving yourself harder and harder, start leaning on God more and more and you’ll ‘…go from strength to strength…’ (Psalm 84:7 NIV)
‘Every man shall bear his own burden.’ Galatians 6:5 KJV
Scripture helps us to measure our spiritual growth with this verse: ‘Every man shall bear his own burden.’ The old saying, ‘You’re only young once,’ is true, but you can be immature for a lifetime. Paul writes: ‘I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk… as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature.’ (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT) As a parent, you expect a higher level of responsibility and maturity from your teenager than you do from your toddler, right? And your heavenly Father requires the same of you. If you’re still being defeated by the same habits and hang-ups you struggled with as a new believer, seek God’s help. If you’re to fulfil your God-given destiny, you must grow into maturity. Instead of always having to be ‘carried’, you must get to the place where you can feed yourself spiritually, pray in faith over your own problems, and make Spirit-led decisions concerning your life. God’s growth plan for us is: ‘We will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:14-15 NLT) Spiritual growth must be your priority; otherwise it won’t happen!
‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ Galatians 6:2 NKJV
Scripture helps us to measure our spiritual growth with another verse: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ You must take responsibility for your own spiritual growth, because until you learn to carry your own burdens you won’t be able to help others carry theirs. Remember the old Hollies’ song, He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother? Instead of always having to be lifted, God wants you to lift others. Instead of always having to be prayed for, God wants you to pray for others. Instead of always needing to receive, you should be able to give. Why is it ‘more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35 NKJV)? Because in receiving, the process ends with you. But in giving, you activate the law of reciprocity. Paul says: ‘Every one must make up his own mind as to how much he should give… cheerful givers are the ones God prizes. God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more, so that there will not only be enough for your own needs, but plenty left over to give joyfully to others… Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much… Those you help will be glad not only because of your generous gifts to themselves and to others, but they will praise God for this proof that your deeds are as good as your doctrine.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7-13 TLB) When you’re all wrapped up in yourself, you make a very small package. It’s when you open up and reach out in love to others that you begin to grow spiritually.
‘…In all things grow up into Him…that is, Christ.’ Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically. You must desire to grow, decide to grow, discipline yourself, and delight in spiritual growth. ‘But my life is just too hard,’ you say. A lot of people have had it worse than you and grown into spiritual maturity, and a lot of people have had it better and remained stuck in spiritual infancy. That’s because they doubted their ability to grow, wherever the current took them, or delayed their growth, thinking, ‘I’ll get around to it when things change.’ But it never happens.
Growth always begins with a decision. ‘…Follow Me and be My disciple… So Matthew got up and followed Him.’ (Matthew 9:9 NLT) Matthew didn’t understand all the implications of his decision; he simply decided to follow Jesus. That’s all you need to get started: a decision. Nothing shapes your life like the decisions you make. If you want to know what you’ll be twenty or thirty years from now, examine the commitments and priorities that rule your life. It’s at the point of commitment that most of us miss God’s best. Because we are afraid to commit to anything, we make half-hearted commitments to too many things and end up frustrated because we chose the wrong things. And when we commit to the wrong things we end up living with regrets.
Every choice has consequences, so choose wisely. Christlikeness is the result of making Christlike choices, then depending on Him to help you fulfil those choices. And He will: ‘…put on the new man which was created according to God…’ (Ephesians 4:24 NKJV)
‘Jesus knew what they were thinking… [in their hearts].’ Luke 11:17 GNT
For a spiritual check-up to be effective, you must examine the following three areas: (1) Forgiveness. ‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace…’ (Colossians 3:13-15 NLT) Are you quick to forgive those who have hurt you? Do you try to resolve conflicts as soon as possible? Are you harbouring resentment? (2) Soul winning. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…’ (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV) Do you have a concern for lost souls? Do you seize every opportunity to share your faith? Does your life show what your lips say? (3) Prayer. ‘Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!’ (1 Chronicles 16:11 NKJV) Do you have a consistent prayer life? Do you pray faithfully for the needs of others? Have you learned to pray in faith, standing on God’s Word and believing Him for great things? Do you see the results of your prayer life? Has your prayer life led you to a deeper intimacy with the Lord? If you’re serious about in-depth change, growth in your spiritual walk, and developing a Christ-like character, spend time with the Lord today and say, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my [thoughts]… lead me in the way everlasting.’ (Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV)
‘The weapons we fight with…demolish strongholds.’ 2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV
In Bible times when an attack was launched against a city, a first strategy was to bring in a battering ram, demolish the gates and defeat the inhabitants. Today you are at war with Satan! Only when you recognise that, is victory possible. And the good news is: ‘The weapons we fight with…have…power to demolish strongholds.’ But you must: ‘Put on the whole armour of God…’ (Ephesians 6:11 NKJV) It’s not something you pick up and wear when you feel like it. And you’ve got to keep it on, because the enemy never lets up. He wants you to think he’s equal with God. He’s not! God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; He can do anything, anywhere, anytime. No question, Satan is a formidable foe, but there are limits on what he’s permitted to do (Job 1:12). Your mind is Command Central; it’s where victory or defeat is decided. Paul told the Corinthians, ‘I fear, lest…your minds…be corrupted…’ (2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV) Satan knows Christ’s return is imminent and he’s ratcheting up the opposition (Revelation 12:12). The way you win the battle is through: (1) Praise, the garment that protects you (Isaiah 61:3). (2) Abiding in Christ, your source of spiritual growth and fruitfulness (John 15:8-10). (3) God’s Word, it’s ‘…living…active…sharper than any two-edged sword…’ (Hebrews 4:12 NAS), and it’s designed to defeat the enemy. When Satan comes against you, combat his lies with what God says. (4) Walking in love toward others. It’s impossible to be victorious when you’re wrapped up in yourself.
‘I have…treasured His words more than daily food.’ Job 23:12 NLT
Your quiet time with God is more than just a good idea, it’s vital to your spiritual survival. It’s also essential to your spiritual growth and maturity. You say, ‘But I go to church every week.’ Can you imagine what would happen if you ate only once a week? The patriarch Job said, ‘I have…treasured His words more than daily food.’ Peter described the Scriptures as nourishing milk (1 Peter 2:2), and the writer to the Hebrews called the Word of God solid food (Hebrews 5:14). Your quiet time is also like a spiritual bath. Jesus said, ‘You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you.’ (John 15:3 NKJV) You shower every day to stay clean and avoid body odours. It’s not easy to be around someone who smells badly, and you run the risk of offending them by telling them so. But if you love them you’ll do it. Paul describes the Christian as: ‘…the aroma of Christ to God.’ (2 Corinthians 2:15 ESV) Here’s the bottom line. Unless you protect your quiet time with God: (1) you’ll be cut off from your source of strength, guidance, and wisdom; (2) your usefulness to God will be limited; (3) you’ll be inconsistent in your Christian life. You say, ‘But I don’t have time!’ You have the same 168 hours each week that everybody else has! And how you spend them is determined by what you think is most important. So if you think being in fellowship with God is important, begin to make time for it.