Broken Bread

Dimensions of Spiritual Growth: Going Beyond Metaphocal Language

As thousands turn to Jesus Christ, worldwide, true discipleship is the need of the hour. We need to unpack biblical metaphors to help each Christian understand vital spiritual principles.

What is spiritual growth? How can a grown man grow any further to attain the “full stature” of Jesus Christ? How tall is Jesus? Imagine a child asking her father these questions. The answer would probably sound like this: “To grow spiritually is to grow spiritually. You will understand it when you grow up.” This might sound funny, but it is a sad reality. Some Christians find it hard to restate biblical truths in simple language. We like metaphors. They help us visualize an abstract concept. When we discuss spiritual “growth,” it is almost impossible to avoid a picture of physical growth. Similarly, most Christians cannot but visualize parts of Roman military armor when they think about spiritual battles. We have grown so accustomed to these metaphors that we lost sight of what they signify. Flowery language is like ornate packaging; it sometimes causes us to overlook the true nature of the gift inside the box. We do not care to go beyond these metaphors to “unpack” these lofty literary

devices. We hardly ever express vital spiritual concepts in simple, practical terms, at least for the sake of our children.

What does it mean to “grow spiritually?” How do I know I am “growing” in my spiritual life? I shall describe a few dimensions of “growth.”

LOVE:If you know (experience) God’s love more than what you have experienced yesterday, it shows you are growing (Eph. 3:18-19). As a result, you love your fellow beings all the more – in word and deed – more than you did yesterday (2 Thess. 1:3; 1 John 3:18). Your focus is now on things that benefit others, not on things that make you happy (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:2-

FAITH/TRUST:If your dependence on God is stronger today than yesterday, it is a sign of growth (2 Cor. 1:8-10). You are more aware of your weaknesses, poverty, illness, and helplessness. But you know that the weaker you are, the stronger you are in Christ. The poorer you are, the richer you are in Christ (2 Cor. 12:8-10)

HUMILITY AND GRATITUDE: Greater your trust in God, the greater your humility. You are not ashamed to request prayer. When God answers the prayers of your friends, you abound in gratitude (2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 6:19). You know very well that everything you have is a gift from God (1 Cor.4:7)

HOLINESS:Today, if God has greater ownership over your body and mind, time, wealth, speech, abilities, and choices than He had yesterday, you have grown!

KNOWLEDGE OF GOD: You have grown a little if you know God better today than you did yesterday. Today, you know a little more about the nature of God. You understand what makes God happy. (Eph. 1:17; 5:10,17; Col. 1:10; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 3:18). You are a careful student of the Word of God (Col. 3:16). No one can deceive you with false teachings (Eph. 4:14).

BOLD WITNESS:If you are bolder as a witness who shares the Gospel with outsiders without fearing persecution, it shows you have grown a little. This is the clearest sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in you (Acts 1:18).

ENDURANCE AND CHARACTER:The more you suffer for Christ, the more you learn perseverance and patience. Patient endurance creates a godly character within you (Rom. 5:3). Your behavior and attitude increasingly resemble those of Jesus. That is a sure sign of spiritual growth.

If you are not growing, you are “shrinking” spiritually. The Christian life is like being on an escalator going down. You have to work hard to go up. If you stand still, the escalator will take you down!

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.  Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NLT)

PHILIP P EAPEN <br> Cochin, India

Cochin, India

Pastor Philip Eapen and his wife, Dr. Jessimol, are based in Kochi, India.
Visit Twitter: @ppeapen

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