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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Growing Up

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5, NIV)

You probably already know that I like my electronic toys but one of the best inventions to come around is the digital camera. Talk about instant gratification! On my computer I have over 7,000 pictures that go back to 2003. Sometimes, when I am looking for a certain picture I will scroll through the thumbnail size pics and it is like watching my kids evolve right before my eyes. Being with them each day, I tend not to notice the subtle changes but when I look at them over time, I am amazed at how they are changing.

When we look at all the things that God has created and designed to grow, unless you are a fly, growth takes time. If you are a fly, your whole life is going to be experienced in 15 to 30 days, as long as you don’t meet a fly-swatter! For the rest of us, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth takes place over years and we often have a hard time seeing the changes.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, God expects us to grow up. Accepting Jesus in our life to save us and lead us is just the beginning of being the person God created us to be. To be that person, we must intentionally engage in the activities that contribute to growth.

Through the centuries of people following God, there have been developed a number of practices to facilitate spiritual growth. They are commonly referred to as Spiritual Disciplines but I like to think of them as Spiritual Habits. At the core of these habits are a few essentials that foster having a growing spiritual life. All followers of Christ are called to consistently and regularly practice, at a bare minimum, a life of worship, Bible reading, prayer, and reflection in community with others. Of course, the spiritual life is like all else, doing the minimum may maintain where you’re at but it rarely moves you beyond that!

Growth as a Christian is ultimately about one thing - we would more and more abide in Jesus so that we are transformed. When we grow we are becoming more like Jesus in the way we think, the way we talk and the way we act. So the goal of growth is not that we would just know more but that we would be more.

Author and Professor Dr. Dallas Willard says it this way:

“The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life--and, specifically, in the following of Christ--is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all. This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the "old man" and putting on the new, "renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us..." (Col. 3:10)” (Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul)

Spiritual growth should be seen in the same light of why we bother to eat food each day. Most meals are not gourmet affairs – peanut butter and honey sandwiches aren’t very sophisticated! But as we eat healthily each day it provides fuel for our bodies so we can meet the challenges of the day. The daily feeding of our souls through practicing spiritual habits brings the growth that will make us disciples of Jesus. Jesus described that as living life to the full. As a Christian, that is what we should long for most.

"In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so." (Hebrews 5:12-6:3, NIV)

NEXT: The Importance of Connection

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

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