The Evidence of Spiritual Growth
Growth in any scenario aims at a supreme model. For instance, physical growth aims at building a healthy body while academic growth aims at the highest academic achievements. Those who strive to build a career aim to climb to the top of the career ladder. In sports, one tries to be the best of its kind. All these pursuits are motivated by human attention towards the highest good. In each case, people resolve to pursue those goals because the supreme model captured their attention. Similarly, human spirituality also operates on attention. However, its goal is not material benefits but rather moral refinement and becoming a better person. Unlike other religious traditions, Christianity offers Christ as the supreme model of spiritual growth. Christ caught human attention because he is incarnated God who opened a new and living way through the curtain of his body (Heb. 10:20). In Peter’s words, he has given us a new birth into a living hope. Thus, Christ, as the supreme model, provides a well-defined and attainable spiritual goal because he became one of us and tasted human experiences from birth to death.
S. Lewis, a great Christian thinker and philosopher of the past century, succinctly pointed out the essence of spiritual growth in one of his classic works, Mere Christianity, “Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look to yourself, and you will find, in the long run, only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look to Christ, and you find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in.” In his book, he looks beyond the creed, denominational boundaries and doctrines and presents the very core of Christian spirituality rooted in the person and teachings of Christ. His statement underscores four crucial principles of Christian spirituality, namely, gaining by losing; living by dying; perceiving one’s own personal malevolence and finally, finding the perfection in Christ in an ascending order pointed towards the highest good in Christ. Lewis’s statement summarizes Jesus’ teaching on discipleship. Jesus expected that his disciples might be fully ‘trained’ to become like him. He clarifies it in Luke 6:40, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” During a private conversation with the disciples, Jesus asked them a series of questions “do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” (Mark 8:14-19).
Once the disciples focus their attention on Christ, they are expected to have an understanding and inference about His life and teachings to become like Him. As his questions suggest, it involves ‘seeing’, ‘hearing’, and ‘remembering’. Today Jesus is not present in the world in person. However, we can understand Him through regularly studying the Word of God, focusing on His person, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Thus, evidence of growth involves losing and dying of the self in pursuit of becoming like Christ.
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