I posted this in a Facebook group I’m a part of and I wanted to post it on my blog, but flesh it out a bit more than I did on the initial post.
I think one of the many things we face in Christian circles is this idea of Spiritual Growth, whereby we seek to understand how it is we can grow spiritually. This is often defined as some process by which you become more spiritual in your thoughts, speech and/or behavior. However, the elephant in the room is that the standard by which you can measure your growth is either never defined, or it is defined subjectively, depending on who is doing the defining.
It is easy to think that the more prayer I engage in, the more spiritual I must be. It is easy to think that the more I read the Bible, the more spiritual I must be. Conversely, it is easy to think that the less I attend church, the less spiritual I must be. This mindset just renders Christ to being nothing more than a weekly or daily chore, rather than a Savior to enjoy.
Were we saved by grace through faith just to be turned around into a life of works in the flesh that (as we should know) will invariably come short of His glory? Do we define “spirituality” by a performance in the “flesh”? Does the flesh have any capacity to produce spirituality? The folks who had sneaked into the churches of Galatia and were teaching that their spirituality was a result of the flesh, Paul had words for these folks:
Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
The word ‘perfect’ means to bring to completion. Paul is asking a rhetorical question – if you had received the Spirit by faith, then why would you be brought to completion by the flesh? The obvious point he is making is that you began in the Spirit (by faith) and it is by the same faith that you are brought to completion. Is this progressive completion? No – we are ALREADY complete in Him.
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power
The moment we were saved, we were brought into the person of Jesus Christ and now, as Paul says in Romans 8, His spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed His. Does His Spirit grow? No, it is the same yesterday, today and forever. All that His Spirit was and is and ever will be is defined by His capacity as Redeemer God, Creator of the universe. For the believer, that is the same Spirit we have, and are joined in union with.
If the Spirit of Christ is unchanging and we, being in Christ, are likewise unchanging, then it is impossible for the believer to experience progressive Spiritual growth. All the Spiritual Growth that would happen, happened the moment we were joined in union with Him.
But, doesn’t the Bible speak about growth? Yes, absolutely it does. If we can’t add stature to the Spirit of Christ (since we received the entirety of it, by faith), what growth would take place then? And, what is the catalyst for said growth?
Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Notice growth happens and it happens WITHIN the confines of a CONTAINER. This container happens to be Christ and we can grow up IN Him. Put another way, imagine you had a house with 20 rooms, yet, the only room you had ever known was one of them. After a while, you begin to explore the house and come to understand that there are other rooms. Question – did you exploration of the house cause these other rooms to come into existence (or, to grow)? You might say that the rooms didn’t physical materialize upon their discovery, but your mind certainly grew to understand what was there already, only you hadn’t ventured out to discover it yet.
This is exactly what growing up in Christ is all about. We were given everything in Christ, yet, we often have yet to discover the expanse of His grace towards us. And, we should probably say that we’ll never discover it all, for His mercies are new each morning. But, the point is, when you grow up in Christ, you are growing your understanding of what you ALREADY HAVE. It’s like the kid who gets new shoes that are a little too big and the parents say, “Don’t worry, he’ll grow into them.” He growing into them didn’t grow the shoes, but rather the child grew into what he ALREADY HAD.
But, here’s the catch. You and I have a choice to yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness or unrighteousness. Where we yield ourselves doesn’t determine our ultimate reality and/or destiny, but it does determine what the rules of engagement are and the prevailing wage thereof.
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Romans 6:20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 6:21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We certainly have a choice. We can yield ourselves to righteousness, in which is governed by grace and thereby, we come to grow in our UNDERSTANDING of the PERFECT Spirituality we already have. Or, we can yield ourselves to unrighteousness (as a believer) and therefore limit ourselves in the reign of grace and earn nothing but the fruits of unrighteousness – death. The believer, in other words, has the choice of opening his eyes to the grace of God, or to close them. But, the believer who closes his eyes to what he already has in Christ doesn’t cause him to become less spiritual, but it does cause him to become less in-tune with what is true about him, in Christ.
The believer who yields to righteousness isn’t any more Spiritual than the believer who yields to unrighteousness. Both are EQUALLY Spiritual because both are MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER in the Body of Christ. However, they which yield to righteousness continually have the eyes of their understanding opened to the wonderful truth how just how Spiritual God has made us, while others willfully close their eyes to it in favor of trying to become more spiritual through the works of their own hands.
Are we so foolish, Paul would ask? Know we not that being Spiritual isn’t a result of behavior, but rather is a result of grace through faith? Therefore, grow into what is already yours and enjoy God thereby!