Growing in Christ is about deepening our relationship with God. In the natural realm we have many different relationships. We have friends, colleagues, spouses, children, mentors, teachers, students and so on. If we share a mutual desire to deepen a relationship with someone, then we invest more into the relationship. We put more time, energy and resources into that relationship, and we reap the reward of having a deeper relationship with that person. By investing more in the relationship we experience greater growth, connection, fulfilment and intimacy.
The same is true for our spiritual relationship with God. If we know how to invest in our relationship with God, then we will find a greater sense of connection and intimacy with God. With this in mind, in this article we will briefly look at a few keys for individuals and groups to grow spiritually in God. Click the title of each section to read the full text.
1. Hear God
John 18:37b “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
It is a promise of God that when we give ourselves to the truth, the Spirit of Jesus will speak to us. We will hear Him.
The Holy Spirit is given to us as the voice of God. He wants to teach us how to hear Him and know His voice. We simply need to share His desire and learn how to listen. Then, as He speaks to us, we will know His voice and experience the growth that comes from clearly and consistently hearing God speak.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the [spoken] word of Christ.
Faith comes with hearing the voice of God. So as we hear His voice with greater clarity, we increase our capacity for faith.
Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV emphasis added) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Through faith we access grace and experience reality. So as our faith grows, so does our spiritual experience. Thus to grow faster and deeper into Christ we need to start by seeking the Holy Spirit to bring greater clarity to the voice of Christ that we may know Him better and experience Him more.
Like the widow seeking justice or the neighbour seeking bread, we need to persist and not give up. We need to seek God until we can hear His voice with confidence and know real faith. (See the Spoken Word study in Series One for more on hearing God).
2. Foster a Passion for both the Word and Spirit of God
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The living word of God is awesome and powerful. As we experience the living word of God, we receive His power to bring that word to pass in us. But how does the word come to life?
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
All life flows from the Spirit of God. Our spiritual life in Christ is sourced in and sustained by the Spirit of Jesus. The same is true of the word. The word of God only comes to life when the Spirit gives it life. The Spirit of God also performs the word, bringing the reality to pass in our lives. He is the active power of the word. So as we unite the Spirit of God with the word of God we enter into a new realm of spiritual experience. The word of God comes alive to us, and the Spirit of God becomes active in us through His word. Through the word and Spirit we enter deeper into the reality of Christ and grow closer to Him. Our goal in combining the word and the Spirit is to get a balance of an abundance of both. If we have been previously focused on the word, we can take time to focus on the Spirit, being filled more with His presence and life. Then we can focus on experience more of the Spirit of God in union with the word, bringing life to the Scriptures. Conversely, if we have previously preferred the Spirit to the word, then we can dive into the word of God, seeking the Spirit to bring His life, insight and revelation to His word.
3. Prepare the Heart; Protect the Word
Matthew 13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
The word of God is like a seed. It gets sown in us with the potential to bring life and abundance to us. In the parable of the sower, the condition of the heart relates directly to the life of the seed. If we have good hearts, the seed will mature, bear fruit and multiply. If our hearts are not in good condition, we will miss out.
As we grow in Christ, the Spirit of God will constantly sow seed into our hearts. Every word we hear from God has the potential to take us into the reality of that word. For example, if the word of peace is sown in our hearts, we can reap a harvest of peace within us, which in turn can produce more seed to sow into others. The seed of love can bring a harvest of love. The word of joy leads us to experience a harvest of joy and so on. The degree of the harvest all depends on whether or not we prepare our hearts and nurture the seed.
To prepare our hearts we need to seek God to humble us and break up our hardened hearts, making us sensitive to His Spirit and word. We need to repent of all the things that we have let take root in our hearts that are not of love. As we repent, we need the Spirit of God to overcome those aspects of our hearts that would choke the life out of His word. We need Him to make our hearts spiritually stable, filled with love, focus, grace and resolve.
Just as the Spirit of God will constantly sow the things of Christ into our hearts, so the enemy will also try to constantly sow his seed into us. Through media, people, news, books, magazines, movies and the internet, the enemy will use any means possible to sow his seed in us. If we let this seed take root, it will also bear fruit and draw us away from God and into a life of worldly pursuits, isolation, emptiness, lust, greed, vanity and fantasy. The point here is to choose your seed.
Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
The springs of life flow from our heart. Thus we need to cultivate a heart that is receptive to God and fortified against our enemy. We need to guard our hearts against the enemy by being discerning in the things we take in. This kind of discernment includes sensing the life of the Spirit in things. If what we read or watch has no life in it, then it will not lead us closer to God. In these situations, we should not waste our time on these things, but rather let the Spirit of God lead us to take in those things that contain real life and draw us closer to God. (See Series Three (when it is finished) for more on the Seed of the Word of God).
4. Get Revelation
Ephesians 1:17 …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.
Revelation only comes from God, so we need to seek Him to give us revelation. We need to call on the Spirit of God to establish His truth deep in our heart. As He reveals His love, nature and will for us, we will know what to focus on in our spiritual growth. For example, when the Spirit gives us a revelation of the humility of Christ, it is because He wants to form His humility in us. As we receive the revelation, we can then have faith in the power of God to humble us and lead us deeper into the reality of humility. In this way, getting revelation from God is a key to growing in Christ and staying in step with the Spirit. We learn what He is doing, receive His faith, and join Him in His work in us. (See the Revelation study in Series Two for more on Revelation).
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
It really goes without saying that prayer is a key to spiritual growth. But as this verse shows, effective prayer achieves much. So what is effective prayer? How is it different from ordinary prayer?
In his book called Spiritual Progress, Francois Fenelon notes that true prayer is an expression of our hearts’ desire:
“True prayer is only another name for the love of God. Its excellence does not consist in the multitude of our words; for our Father knows what things we have need of before we ask Him. The true prayer is that of the heart, and the heart prays only for what it desires. To pray, then is to desire—but to desire what God would have us desire. He who asks what he does not from the bottom of his heart desire, is mistaken in thinking that he prays. Let him spend days in reciting prayers, in meditation or in inciting himself to pious exercises, he prays not once truly, if he really desires not the things he pretends to ask.”
With this in mind, effective prayer starts with true desire. So what is our heart’s desire? What do we really want of God? Once we know our own desire, we can test to see if it is from God. If our desire is not born of God, then we will be praying out of our will rather than God’s will. Yet if God’s desire is established in our hearts, we can pray with passion and confidence, knowing that He will fulfil His desire in and through us.
In His Name
John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
Whatever we ask in Jesus’ name, He will do. So what does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Jesus was named Jesus, because He was to save people from their sin. Literally Jesus means Yahweh saves (or Yahweh is salvation). Jesus’ name is a reflection of His call, purpose, and nature. He is Emmanuel because He is God with us. All the names of God express the different aspects of His nature. Thus in Scripture, a person’s name represents their nature (see also 1 Samuel 25:25 where Abagail says of Nabal that “as his name is, so is he).
So to pray in Jesus’ name is to pray according to His nature. It is to have His nature formed in us and to speak to God from His nature. Our words will then be expressions of His love nature and within us. When our prayers flow from His nature within us, they will release the Spirit of God to fulfil His will. This is the effective prayer that achieves much; it is prayer that is made according to His nature, love and will, which is born from His desire and faith within us.
6. Get Together
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
All through nature we can do things to stimulate growth. In plants we can add fertilizer and water, reduce competition, and increase exposure to light. As we do these things, the plant growth will naturally be faster and greater. To grow more in Christ, we can also stimulate each other. As we connect with others who share the same heart, who simply want to know, love and experience Jesus, we can share in each others growth. We can sow spiritual things into each other, help to tend those things, and then reap a harvest together.
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
When we gather in Jesus’ name, He will be in our midst. As we have learned, Jesus’ name is His nature. It is His character, heart, life and being. So when we meet together, we need to meet in His name. We need to lose our self-centeredness and seek to connect with others in the nature of Christ. We need to relate to people in love and grace, entering into the heart of Jesus for them.
As we meet with pure hearts, Jesus will be there. It’s a promise. He will minister to us and He will meet our needs Himself. He will also minister through us, pouring out His life and Spirit into others. In this way, as we meet together, we can spur each other on to love and good works. We can propel each other into God, who is love, and into good works, which is the outworking of His love. When our heart and focus is right, we will see some great growth together.
7. Minster and be Ministered to Often
1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
When we come together, each person will have something to contribute to others. If we are meeting with others and have no opportunity to contribute, then we are not really meeting in a Scriptural sense. Being a spectator at a church is not the fulfilment of what it means to assemble together. The assembling of God’s people in Scriptural terms is meeting where we can connect together, invest in each other’s lives, minister and receive ministry. It is belonging in a family. It is knowing others and being known. It is being connected to the body of Christ.
If we are not in such a group, then we need to seek God to lead us to join in with others who share a heart to love Christ (or to start such a group). The main thing here is to be led by the Spirit of God. Once we are in such a group, then we can start to function as a body, letting the Spirit move from person to person, allowing each to contribute and edify everyone present.
If we are hearing the voice of God with clarity, ministering to people is easy. We simply wait to sense God’s heart for the person and listen for any words He may want to speak. If God does not speak, we can’t make up anything, for our words would be dead and produce no good fruit. So we give the Spirit complete liberty: if He wants to minister through us, He can. We are available. It’s His call.
When we first start to minister to others it can be a little daunting. We can make mistakes. We can get it wrong. We can mishear or misunderstand God. We can hurt people or be hurt. We are not super-Christian ministry type people, so how could God want to minister through us?
If we are thinking these sorts of thoughts and asking these sorts of questions then we need to repent. Our eyes are on ourselves, our own inadequacy, our fear of failure, and our false humility, instead of Jesus and His love and ability. Our focus needs to be on God. We need to wait on Him and see what He wants to do.
As we minister to each other we need to have love and grace. We need to let others speak into our lives, knowing they could make mistakes. So we let each other know that it is ok to make a mistake. We need to be free to make mistakes, so we can grow in ministering to each other.
Making a mistake in ministry is not the end of the world. Why? Because each one of us can hear from God and let Him confirm His word to us personally. If God doesn’t confirm a word, vision, prophecy or so on, then we are under no obligation to give it a second thought. We simply ignore it and move on with what God is saying to us.
If someone in our fellowship is young or weak in hearing God and in discernment, then we need to recognize that they are vulnerable and treat them with greater respect, love and kindness. We need to encourage them to seek God to teach them to hear His voice and help them to learn to hear Him. As they hear God, they can start to minister to others in accordance to His will and with faith. Then their ministry will be powerful. It will release the power of the Spirit to fulfil His word through them.
Thus ministry is great for helping young or struggling Christians to become stronger and more stable in Christ. We can release the Spirit of God to heal, nurture, protect and grow each other in Christ. Yet ministry is not just about the mature blessing the young or the weak. Those who are doing well or spiritually prospering also need to be ministered to. Wherever we are spiritually, we can always grow more and go deeper into Christ. The harvest of 30 can become a harvest of 60 or 100. So we need to always be receptive to ministry, maintaining a heart that always wants to grow closer to Christ.
The more we practice prayer and ministry, the more natural it will become. As such, we should take every opportunity to pray for each other.