Christian Growth

Topicalbiblestudies.com started as an opportunity for personal growth. Once I started conducting personal Bible studies and teaching Bible classes, I quickly learned that the best way to grow as a Christian is to teach. Since then, I have realized that there is nothing that can compare to the spiritual fire inside being fanned and fueled. The only fuel for that fire is growth in the work of the Spirit, the word of God.

What is a house like that hasn’t been inhabited for fifteen years? The hardwood floor is buckling. There is moss growing on the roof. The porch swing has fallen and broken. Termites are eating the foundation. Vandals have broken the windows. You probably couldn’t notice these things due to the overgrown bushes in the front and the field of grass for a front yard. Does anyone with any sense expect a car to start that has been parked in a field for twenty years? I doubt it.

When Jesus addressed some distressed Christians in Smyrna, He said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10b). He also said to the church in Sardis, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5). It is obvious that Christ wants His people to continue in the Christian faith until death. How does a car stay on the road in good, working order? The owner must be diligent to give it regular maintenance. He must not neglect it, but drive it often.

There should never be any such thing as a “stagnant Christian.” Water becomes putrid if left to stand still outside. Meat will rot if left out and never cooked. Our bodies will die if they do not get proper nourishment on a regular basis. If that is the case, why would anyone do that to his or her Christian life?

Paul told Timothy, “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). Like I said above, one of the best feelings I have ever experienced, and am still experiencing, is the fanning of the spiritual flame inside. What about a Christian who has “lost” his or her flame? Notice what Christ had the angel write to the church in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16). Jesus claims that a “lukewarm” Christian will be spat from His mouth! I cannot imagine anyone desiring that. The flame must exist and grow! If you have lost your flame, you must “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you!”

The author of the Hebrews epistle was hoping to teach his audience about an advanced Christian subject (the high priesthood of Christ). Unfortunately, those Christians had not grown in their faith the way they should have. Hebrews 5:11-14 states, “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

There are some parts of the Bible that are obviously more difficult than others to understand. For instance, 1 Peter 3:19-20 is a little bit more difficult to explain than 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Do you long to understand a certain Bible passage? You must first graduate from the milk stage of your faith to the solid meat part. When does that happen? I couldn’t tell you. I still need spiritual milk from time to time. A Christian never ceases being a student of the Word. However, there is a time in a Christian’s life when he or she gains the ability to teach as well as learn (Heb. 5:12).

We must remember the purification of the blood of Christ in our lives! How do we do that? By remaining diligent in the faith! Notice what Peter writes: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Pet. 1:5-9). Growing in our Christian faith will help us to be useful and fruitful in God’s kingdom. Lacking in these qualities will produce the opposite result, and Jesus said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 7:19). We must grow and bear fruit!

Be warned, though. Yes, growing in knowledge and faith will help you to produce fruit for Christ, but He also says, “[E]very branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (Jn. 15:2). Many of us want to bear fruit for God, but are we ready for God to prune us? Sometimes the only way to grow is to persevere through tough times. Always remember, however, the advice from the Spirit of God: “[L]et him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:12).

It should be every Christian’s goal to always become more Christ-like. If that is the case, let us remember, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk. 2:52). His promise to you and to me is, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10b). If you have forsaken your duty as a Christian to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and fear of the Lord, pray with David, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation" (Ps. 51:12).

Tips for Spiritual Growth

Study God’s word every day. Yes, some of these tips may be cliché, but they are traditional for good reasons- they are biblical, and they produce the correct result, which is spiritual growth in a Christian’s life. Reading God’s word is giving God an opportunity to communicate to the reader. The apostle Peter commands, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). It is impossible for physical bodies to grow without food. Likewise, it is impossible for us to grow spiritually if we do not regularly feed off of the “milk of the word.” Don’t just read your Bible. Study it. A lot of people make it a goal to read through the entire Bible in a year. That is a great goal, but if reading through the entire Bible in 365 days is too fast-paced for you, change your goal to something more reasonable. For instance, you could aspire to read through the New Testament twice in one year. Take your time through Scripture. If you see a footnote, take time to explore it. If you come across a word you do not understand, stop, figure it out, then read the passage again with your newfound knowledge. God’s word will only produce fruit in your life if it sinks into your heart and grows roots (Lk. 8:11-15)!

Pray every day. Studying God’s word is giving God an opportunity to communicate to you. Prayer, however, is taking the opportunity to communicate back to God. In prayer, you have an occasion to open your heart up to God, and put your burdens in His hands. Don’t worry; He can handle them. We are commanded to humble ourselves and cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). What a blessing! Although God has allowed us to come to Him with our troubles, we are also to come to Him with joy and thanksgiving (Phi. 4:4-7). Pray to give homage to God. Pray for yourself. Pray for others. Pray for God’s will to be done in your life and others’ lives. Pray several times each day when possible. Some people have found keeping a prayer journal helpful. Perhaps you could too.

Worship God on a regular basis. When one takes the time to truly appreciate the love of God in the cross of Christ, to worship the All-Creator is a natural desire. If we want to worship God correctly, we must worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24). Of course, worshiping according to truth means worshiping according to His word (Jn. 17:17). Worship in spirit means pouring your heart into worship as much as possible (Mk. 7:6-8). Worship is, among other things, exalting God to His proper place. Paying attention to the words we sing and pouring out our hearts in prayer can only produce positive, spiritual results.

Participate in Christian fellowship as often as possible. God has set up the church as a family. God is our Father, and other Christians are our spiritual siblings. We are reminded in Scripture, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Of course, the opposite would remain true. When we spend time in good company, we are encouraged to “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (1 Jn. 5:7). The next time you finish worshiping God with other Christians, don’t just shake a few hands and go home. See what your brothers and sisters are doing for lunch or the rest of the day and week. See if you can join them in what they’re doing, or invite them to join you in your plans. Develop deep, meaningful relationships with those who share in your love for Christ.

Serve others daily. You have probably already experienced the paradox. Very often when one person serves another, the one doing the serving leaves with a larger reward. Please do not serve in order to feel rewarded. That defeats one of the main purposes about serving, and it contradicts Scripture (Phil. 2:3-11). However, it is the Lord who claims, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts. 20:35). Christians are called to serve in many ways, such as feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the captive, befriend the lonely, and teach God’s word (Mt. 25:34-40; Acts 8:4), to name a few. When your ultimate goal is for others to glorify God with you, serving others works tremendously for humble, spiritual growth (Mt. 5:16).

Teach according to your knowledge and ability. This tip should not be introduced without a warning. Pay attention to James: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1). Yes, it is God’s will that we grow to the point to be able to teach others (Heb. 5:12). However, teaching others is a major responsibility, and has enormous repercussions. However, when teaching is respected and treated carefully, it can be the most rewarding talent that can be developed. Many people, when they think about teaching the Bible, think about public preaching. Preaching surely is an effective (and commanded) way of teaching God and His will; however, it is not the only way. Some other options are writing articles, composing blogs, conducting one-on-one studies, and hosting small group studies. Like mentioned above, one of the best ways to learn and grow as a Christian is to teach someone else what you have discovered about Scripture. It challenges you to learn the material better and more permanently since you must convey it to others in a way they can understand. Take your time and only teach according to your knowledge and ability.