I recently read a book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, that talked practically about spiritual maturity, godliness and how to attain it.
Whitney identified three different ways that God helps us grow spiritually to be more like Christ.
He identifies the people God brings us into contact with as a way God changes us, as the Bible says iron sharpening iron. If we spend time with godly people who are more mature than us, something rubs off on us.
The circumstances that come into our lives, particularly the difficulties and challenges that we face are also a means of growth. None of us wants hard times, but my experience of the challenges of the last few years, I realise, has helped me grow. I am a better man because of them.
In many ways, we have little choice regarding the people and circumstances God brings into our lives, but the third means of growth is much more in our hands, discipline. As Whitney says, in my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline…….we can decide, for example, whether we will read the Bible or fast today.
Spiritual maturity therefore happens when the efforts of a Christian and the work of God come together. In his letter to the church in Colossae Paul writes of his labours to help believers become “mature in Christ,” declaring, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). The desire and the power for them are produced by the grace of God. But Christians themselves must practice the Disciplines.
To make the impact that we believe God wants to make in Luton and further afield we need to grow in maturity as individuals and as a church. We must become more Christlike, godlier if we want people to see Christ in us.
Despite the example of Jesus and the teaching of the New Testament about Christianity as a life of disciplined spirituality, many professing Christians are spiritually undisciplined and seem to have little Christlike fruit and power in their lives.
Physical fitness comes through the discipline of exercise, going to the gym, a walk or a jog. Spiritual fitness comes through spending time studying the Bible, praying, reflecting on what God is doing in our lives.
As we approach a new year, and with it new challenges and opportunities, may I encourage you to toil with all his energy to grow in spiritual maturity. Invest time in it, time reading the Bible; time praying; time reading Christian books; time listening to sermons; time trying new things e.g. if you have never fasted try it; time with more mature Christians.
God spokes to me early in my Christian life – he told me that I wanted to be used by God, but he wanted to make me useable. I think that is still true.
Written by Tony Thompson