The Christian life is meant to be one of progress and growth. 2 Peter 3:18 says: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How can we know if we are making real spiritual progress, and not merely deceiving ourselves with spiritual activity? You are growing as a Christian if you are becoming more Christ-like in how you think and in how you behave. Are you making progress in your spiritual walk? As you compare where you are now, with where you were last year this time, have you made any progress? Have you become more like Christ this past year?
1. Is your thirst to know God greater today than it was this time last year? Despite his obvious spiritual maturity, and privileged spiritual experiences, in a letter Paul wrote toward the end of his life, he said: “I want to know Christ…” (Phil. 3:10). What was Paul talking about? Didn’t he already know Christ better than most of us ever will? Of course he did! But the more he got to know Jesus, the more he wanted to know him. The more he progressed in his spiritual walk, the thirstier he became! Is that your experience? Do you have a growing desire to know Christ better? Do you yearn to experience more of his grace and love? If so, that is a sure sign that you are growing as a Christian.
2. Are you more loving today than you were a year ago? In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that all of our Christian duty can be summed up as: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Can you point to some specific areas where the love and grace of God are more evident in your life today than they were a year ago? Do you frequently sacrifice your preferences, your plans, your rights, or your expectations, for the benefit of others? Are you consistently gracious toward others?
3. Are you governed more and more by God’s Word? It is from the Bible that we develop an accurate portrait of who God is, and what he is like. It is from the Bible that we get an accurate picture of who God created us to be, and how all of that went wrong. It is from the Bible that we discover God’s plan to redeem us by sending his Son Jesus into the world to be our Savior. It is from the Bible that we learn how we are to lovingly relate to one another. It is from the Bible that we gain wisdom and direction for living.
4. Are you more and more willing to forgive others? Ephesians 4:32 says: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Forgiveness is one of the hardest and most unnatural things we could be asked to do. But the more we become like Christ, who forgave even those who nailed him to a cross, the more we will be willing to forgive those who have wronged us. Have you forgiven any longtime hurts during the past year? If so, then you have made a measurable advance in Christian maturity.
5. Are you becoming more and more aware of your sin? Well, when you come to faith in Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live within you, and one of his ministries in your life is to make you more sensitive to sin. And while it is true, that the more you grow as a Christian, the less you sin, it often seems as though you sin more, because your sensitivity to sin is greater. Are you more sensitive to sin today than you were this time last year? How you answer that question will tell you a lot about your spiritual direction.
These questions aren’t intended to make you feel guilty, but to help us grow. But growth in Christlikeness doesn’t happen automatically. It has to be intentionally pursued (1 Timothy 4:7b-8). As we begin a new year let me encourage you to cultivate spiritual disciplines that will help you grow in Christlikeness. I’m thinking of spiritual disciplines such as:
- Bible Study—make it regular, personal, and with an emphasis on application
- Prayer—just talk with God throughout the day
- Service—to others in your family, neighborhood, and church
- Fellowship—spend time building up God’s people
- Worship—express gratitude to God for his greatness, mercy, love and provision
If you will cultivate these disciplines, you will grow spiritually. And this time next year, you will see marked progress in godliness.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
In order to grow in 2021, make sure you’re cultivating the following spiritual disciplines:
- Bible Study—make it regular, personal, and with an emphasis on application (Talking Points Walking Points, Community Groups, PointMan, TCCWomen)
- Prayer—just talk with God throughout the day (Prayer)
- Service—to others in your family, neighborhood, and church (Serving)
- Fellowship—spend time building up God’s people (Community Groups)
- Worship—express gratitude to God for his greatness, mercy, love and provision (Worship)
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)