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What is Spiritual Growth and How Does it Happen?

April 26, 2007

I’ve been asked to give a lecture on this subject this afternoon to the students in the Personal and Spirtual Formation class at Urbana Theological Seminary.   Here’s my outline:

I. What is Spiritual Growth?

Spiritual Growth is the progressive transformation of a Christian into the image of Christ by the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 8:26-30.  

            -Spirit in us intercedes “according to the will of God” (26-27)

            -God works all things “according to his purpose” (28)

            -That purpose is our conformity to the image of his Son (29)

            -sanctification is stage one of our guaranteed glorification (30)



II. How does it happen?

Through Union and Communion With Christ

A. Union

            -John 15:5

            -Romans 5:17, 21, 6:1-4.

                        Paul’s argument in Romans 6 against the objection that the gospel of grace will lead to an increase of sinning is that our union with Christ guarantees our progressive sanctification.  Our sanctification is inevitable…but not automatic.


B. Communion

            -We grow in Christlikeness as the fact of our union with Christ is experienced as communion with Christ.

            -One answer often given to the question of how we grow is spiritual disciplines.  But the disciplines only work as they are means of communing with Christ.


            1) Faith

                        -Galatians 3.5 Spirit is supplied through hearing with faith

                        -2 Peter 1:4 we escape lust through the promises of God

                        -John 16:14, 1Cor 2:12, Ep 1:17. 

                                    -Spirit makes known to us all that is ours in Christ.

                        -2 Cor 3:18 we are transformed from beholding the glory of Christ

            2) Repentance.

                        -James 4:1-10

                                    -our adulterous/idolatrous desires (1-4)

                                    -God’s jealousy and God’s grace (5-6)

                                    -our response: repentance (7-10)

                        -It is a sight of the glory of Christ that turns us from idols

7 Comments leave one →
  1. egana permalink
    April 30, 2007 9:29 am

    That looks really interesting… how did the lecture go?

  2. egana permalink
    April 30, 2007 9:51 am

    “-One answer often given to the question of how we grow is spiritual disciplines. But the disciplines only work as they are means of communing with Christ.”

    The whole spiritual disciplines thing has been a big issue for me. Not because I disagree with them, but when I am feeling distant from God, the last thing I want to do is one of those crazy spiritual disciplines. It seems as though the Spirit has to revive me a little first, and then I have the desire and the strength to pursue prayer or fasting or Bible reading or worship or whatever, and then I am even more hungry for Him, and pursue Him more, etc.

    But when I am dry and dusty and my mind is filled with “natural” unspiritual things, the disciplines just look like more pointless work.

    It seems as though God must be giving me faith to believe that He can satisfy me, that He can make me happy when I am convinced nothing can. And then I pursue Him in response to His work in me. It is as though he holds out a green leafy veggie to me, an exhausted sheep sitting in the middle of the desert, and then I pursue him out of desire for that leafy green crunchiness, His offer creates and stirs up my desire.

    An easy way for me to get a taste of His leafy green goodness is to have a CD player in the kitchen, with a sermon CD in it already, so that all I have to do is push “play.” Pushing play is alot easier than following a Bible reading system or faithfully inhabiting my prayer closet, etc. And I am so weak, that I really need something easy. Then, He meets me and satisfies me and strengthens me for the rest of the good work He has planned for me.

    All that to say that I think it must be the Holy Spirit that stirs up my desire to pursue the Lord, because I can’t seem to stir myself up, even though I KNOW He is good and leafy and crunchy-satisfying when He is found. It must be Him at work in me, and that is comforting, since I can trust Him to be faithful and cause me to persevere, instead of worrying that I am not doing enough to earn His favor.

    So, in reponse to your statement quoted above that the spiritual disciplines are a means of communing with Christ, I think somehow Christ reaches out to me first, revives me a little, so that I begin to want to commune with Him again. Left on my own, I don’t think I would be able to remember that He is as great and available as He is. So, can this “communion with Christ” thing be a response to His faithful, continuous calling of me? Or am I misunderstanding the theological terminology?

  3. April 30, 2007 9:54 am

    you didn’t give me a heads-up on the lecture?! I feel so out-of-the-loop. What have I done to move out of the position of toady? What must I do to do the works that you require?

  4. May 1, 2007 8:45 pm

    I too ask, how did it go?

  5. May 1, 2007 10:53 pm

    It went very well. I think I’m going to give it again at Free Life Thursday night, so those of you who don’t live in Florida have another chance to hear it.

  6. egana permalink
    May 2, 2007 7:59 am

    Us toadies want to know when and where!

  7. May 2, 2007 9:26 am

    Thursday, 7:30pm, at Ramonat’s place.

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