What Constitutes Spiritual Growth?


In a discussion I had earlier today, I asked how we measure spiritual growth.

Of course, the standard is that someone grows into the image of Christ, but is this measurable in any way?

The Bible says this:

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
—2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

For those of us who have a Christian education background, what test do we use to measure the change from one degree of glory to another?

This is an important issue for us as we seek to make disciples. A few attempts to standardize a test exist, but usually some group of people winds up being underserved by the application of the test.



See also this follow-up:

Is Spiritual Growth Measurable?

4 thoughts on “What Constitutes Spiritual Growth?

  1. Don’t know, Dan; but I have no background in this, of course. My personal measure of a Christian’s spiritual progress is: are they attempting to live their everyday life with integrity, hard work, and honest self-examination? Do they review themselves in prayer – take an honest inventory and humbly ask God to remove their failings and shortcomings? Do they have more forgiveness than hatred and try to amplify the forgiveness? Do they know what the virtues are (courage, prudence, justice, temperance, faith, hope and love) and look to practice them as best they can? I could go on…

    But I’d be very interested in the comments, experience and knowledge of others.

    Yours in Christ,

  2. Glen

    2 Peter 1:2-12
    2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
    3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
    4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
    6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
    7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
    8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
    10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
    11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
    12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.

    Heb 5:12-6:3
    12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

    13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

    14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    Hebrews 6

    6:1 The Peril of Falling Away

    Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

    2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

    3 And this we will do, if God permits.

    These are a couple scriptures dealing with the maturity of the follower of Christ, but I think this is a matter of seeing what Jesus really looks like. An elder and wise brother always kept pointing me back to the Gospels, not just to read the words, but to look at Jesus. Israel had the law which reflected the righteousness of God, but they could not know God through the Law. We cannot know God merely through the printed word. The Living God is not a deduction from a text. So then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

    Heb 1:3-4
    3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

    4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

    Jesus said to Thomas, if you have seen Me you have seen the Father. Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s nature and we are to be “partakers of the divine nature.”

    One of the ways God enables us to see Christ in us is by allowing us to see and experience just how depraved our sin nature is without the restraint of the Holy Spirit.

    In The Inner Life, Francois Fenelon, a 18th century brother, said the following:

    The work of grace, in detaching us from self and destroying our self-love, could not be otherwise than painful, without a miracle. Neither in his gracious nor providential dealings does God work a miracle lightly. It would be as great a wonder to see a person full of self become in a moment dead to all self-interest and all sensitiveness, as it would be to see a slumbering infant wake in the morning a fully-developed man. God works in a mysterious way in grace as well as in nature, concealing his operations under an imperceptible succession of events, and thus keeps us always in the darkness of faith. He not only accomplishes his designs gradually, but by means that seem the most simple, and the most competent to the end, in order that human wisdom may attribute the success to the means, and thus his own working be less manifest; otherwise every act of God would seem to be a miracle, and the state of faith, wherein it is the will of God that we should live, would come to an end.

    This state of faith is necessary, not only to stimulate the good, causing them to sacrifice their reason in a life so full of darkness, but also to blind those who, by their presumption, deserve such a sentence. They behold the works of God, but do not understand them; they can see nothing in them but the effects of material laws; they are destitute of true knowledge, for that is only open to those who distrust their own abilities; proud human wisdom is unworthy to be taken into the counsels of God.

    God renders the working of grace slow and obscure, then, that he may keep us in the darkness of faith. He makes use of the inconstancy and ingratitude of the creature, and of the disappointments and surfeits which accompany prosperity, to detach us from them both; He frees us from self by revealing to us our weaknesses, and our corruptions, in a multitude of backslidings. All this dealing appears perfectly natural, and it is by this succession of natural means that we are burnt as by a slow fire. We should like to be consumed at once by the flames of pure love, but such an end would scarce cost us anything; it is only an excessive self-love that desires thus to become perfect in a moment and at so cheap a rate.”

    If that doesn’t show how dumbed down our current writings are I don’t know what would. I submit that one of the greatest hindrances to understanding Christlikeness is a Christian education background. Christian education is just that – education. It can be useful education except when it considers knowledge to be the end result. I believe the only useful purpose of knowledge is to equip the Christian to better receive revelation by the Holy Spirit.

    Jesus told Nicodemus, who was well grounded in religious education, “if you do not understand earthly things, how can I speak to you of heavenly things.” If one has never seen or read about vineculture the similitude of the vine and the branches means nothing. The problem arises when the one trained in religion mistakes his knowledge for maturity. This is easily disproven by the large number of PHD’s in theology who deny the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, and/or His resurrection from the dead. Since they are clearly not born again, all of their knowledge is of the flesh and in many of them it is considerably greater than most Christians. Yet are these wise and learned men mature in Christ? Of course not. They are not even infants. If we thought for a moment, this should give us pause when we find teachings they accept to be conventional wisdom in the church.

    But as a start let us look at the pattern Son. We see Jesus healing the leper by touching him. We see Jesus, a guest at the wedding at Cana, not sitting in the seat of honor, but hanging out in the kitchen with the servants. We see Him weeping over Lazarus and the lost multitudes. We see Him standing fearlessly against the Pharisees and their questioning. And, then we see Him in His passion. It is in these encounters with people and situations we begin to see the character and nature of God and with the power of the Holy Spirit He will begin to give us eyes to see Him working in this world just as we see Him in Acts. If we are willing to count the cost. For He will not do this to entertain us.

    John 7:17
    17 “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself

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