Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.
They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is that they never intended to grow.
Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing. Discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ – always begins with a decision.
Jesus calls us, and we respond:
‘Come, be My disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed Him. – Matthew 9:9
When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: Decide to become a disciple.
Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you.
Tell me what you are committed to, and I’ll tell you what you will be in twenty years. We become whatever we are committed to.
It is at this point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives. Many are afraid to commit to anything and just drift through life. Others make halfhearted commitments to competing values, which leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and end up disappointed and bitter. Every choice has eternal consequences, so you had better choose wisely. Peter warns,
Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! – 2 Peter 3:11
Christlikeness is the result of making Christlike choices and depending on His Spirit to help you fulfill those choices. Once you decide to get serious about becoming like Christ, you must begin to act in new ways. You will need to let go of some old routines, develop some new habits, and intentionally change the way you think. You can be certain that the Holy Spirit will help you with these changes. The Bible says,
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. – Philippians 2:12-13
This verse shows the two parts of spiritual growth: “work out” and “work in.” The “work out” is your responsibility, and the “work in” is God’s role. Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit works with us, not just in us.
This verse, written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say “work for” your salvation, because you can’t add anything to what Jesus already did. During a physical “workout,” you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body. When you “work out” a puzzle, you already have all the pieces – your task is to put them together. Farmers “work” the land, not to get land, but to develop what they already have. God has given you a new life; now you are responsible to develop it “with fear and trembling.” That means to take your spiritual growth seriously!
Christianity is not a religion or a philosophy, but a relationship and a lifestyle.
The core of that lifestyle is thinking of others, as Jesus did, instead of ourselves. The Bible says,
We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them. Even Christ did not try to please Himself. – Romans 15:2-3a
Thinking of others is the heart of Christlikeness and the best evidence of spiritual growth. This kind of thinking is unnatural, counter-cultural, rare, and difficult. Fortunately we have help:
God has given us His Spirit. That’s why we don’t think the same way that the people of this world think. – 1 Corinthians 2:12a
Excerpted with permission from Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Copyright Zondervan.
* * *
Have you decided to be a disciple of Jesus? To get up and follow Him and Him alone? What are you committed to? Have you decided to grow? Are you making an effort to grow, or persisting in growing? Are you beginning to act differently? Join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear your story about how you are growing up! ~ Devotionals Daily