One practice that many families continue to have is the ‘growth chart’ inscribed on one of the walls at home. The ceremony is simple – at a particular time in the year all the children in the house are stood against a wall, heels into the skirting board. A mark is then placed on the wall at the top of their head to show how tall they are. On moving away from the wall they can look for the previous mark to see how much they have grown. It’s amazing how much you can grow some years, and how little other years – until the point where you get to your adult height. But, of course, we continue to grow, even if not in stature – in knowledge, in understanding, in wisdom, in maturity, and so much more. Its when growth slows down or stops that we know all is not well.
And Spiritual Growth is the same. When we become Christians we are like Spiritual ‘babies’ – new creatures, now very much alive in Jesus (2 Cor 5:17), utterly saved, fully redeemed, eternally His. And His Spirit in us (John 14:16-17) starts a process of transformation (Roms 12:2) in which we become more and more ‘godly’ – that is, more and more like Jesus. This Christ-likeness is to be seen in our thinking, behaviour, responses, in every part of our lives. We are to “grow into Jesus who is the head” (Eph 4:15). This is the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit’s work (Gal 5:19-23).
If there is no growth, there is a big problem. Jesus (Matt 7:17-19) said that we know a tree by it’s fruit, and a healthy tree will grow good fruit – in other words, the Spirit of God within must produce the life of God within. Failure to grow is both contrary to the presence of His Spirit, and a sign of our own active resistance to Him (Gal 5:25-26). Just as a parent would be massively worried by lack of growth in their child, so failure to grow spiritually should be a big concern to us. It was with distress that the writer to the Hebrews noticed that they needed “milk, not solid food” (Heb 5:11-6:3). David was so concerned about this, so passionate about ensuring He was walking with God and growing in Him that, in Psalm 139, he invites God to examine him deep within, to “see if there be any wicked way in me”. And, it’s therefore also appropriate that, like a child, we do a ‘growth chart test’ … we ask God to examine us, and examine ourselves, to see if we are growing in Christ (2 Cor 13:5).
Wonderfully 2 Pet 1:3-8, in describing Spiritual Growth, emphasises that in Christ “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”. If we find that we have not grown much, we are not condemned by failure! In fact, He has already given us all we need to grow in godliness. The passage goes on to tell us that this growth comes “through our knowledge of Him” – knowing God better by hearing from Him, learning of Him in His Word, and letting Him apply His word into our lives by His Spirit (see also 2 Tim 3:16-17).
We’re going to start 2023 in our morning sermon series by looking at what it means see continuous Spiritual Growth. Accompanying our sermon series, on our website (https://www.cambray.org/resources/spiritual-growth/) is an expanding set of resources to help in our Spiritual Growth. Maybe, at the start of New Year, this is a good time to do a ‘Growth Test’, to see if you are growing spiritually. Maybe God is prompting you to take seriously your own Spiritual Growth. Wouldn’t it be amazing if, for person upon person within Cambray, 2023 was a time of significant and dramatic growth in the Lord!