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?
- 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 wrote, 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 this time last year? How you answer that question will tell you a lot about your spiritual direction.
Application / Challenge
In order to grow in 2015, make sure you’re cultivating the following spiritual disciplines:
- Worship— expressing gratitude to God for his greatness, mercy, love and provision.
- Regular personal Bible study with an emphasis on application.
- Prayer (Just talking with God throughout the day).
- Serving God by serving others.
- Giving generously and sacrificially out of your God-given resources to help others.