Some think that Christian growth is a matter of trick. Just pull a couple of strings here and there: pray a bit, say “Praise the Lord!” once in awhile, give an offering or two and you’re done with it! Others believe that growth is a singular act of God which does not require anymore a Christian’s hand of cooperation or partnership. Still others treat it as something as a kind of a secret buried in mystery, which only a few blessed souls can uncover its deep spiritual meaning.
But is the path towards “Christ-likeness” this vague and confusing? How about those “babes” or those we regard as “weak” in the faith, are they going to remain stagnant in their walk with God? What does the Bible really tell about “growing” in our walk with God?
Before discussing the method of growth, it is necessary as well that we understand first our need of it. We cannot appreciate something, let’s say, a car, if we do not first see our need of a vehicle. Similarly, we cannot realize our need to become like Jesus Christ in our daily lives, if we don not understand for ourselves our need to grow in our faith in Him! Now let’s see what the Bible says about Christian growth.
In John 15:16, it is very clear and definite what God’s destiny for every Christian is. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” God, through His words, has appointed that each one of us His children will “go and bear fruit.” God didn’t say that we will remain unfruitful or stagnant in our growth as Christians. Rather it is His divine purpose that we who were made to belong to Him who was raised from the dead, none other than Jesus Christ, will bear fruit to God (Roma 7:4). How assuring, isn’t it? God didn’t say that we will remain unfruitful and dead. Rather He appointed it that we as His children, will go and bear fruit in praise of His glorious name! and so given this wonderful provision of God to us, we have no reason then to be afraid that we will remain dry, fruitless and stagnant in our service to Him!
Any Christian, either, newly-baptized or a seasoned one, can testify to the fact that it is an uphill battle to grow in one’s faith. Struggles and hindrances of every sort stand along our way towards maturity. Thus, the persistent question of many Christians today. “How can we grow in our faith in God?” Again, just as the will of God regarding our growth is no secret, so is His way in order for us to achieve it.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). Jesus Christ considers every Christian a branch. And He is the vine from which we draw our strength and life from. Just like a branch that is separated from the vine, no Christian can sustain growth all by himself. He must abide or remain steadfast in God’s words and presence, otherwise, he will suffer dryness, deterioration in his life as a Christian. Alone, any Christian is helpless in his meager resources.
But how, in practical terms, we can “remain” or abide in fellowship with Jesus Christ when He is no longer among us in a physical sense? Also if it is impossible that we cling to him in a literal sense, where then must we be found “rooted and built up” as directed in Colossians 2:7?
In the book of Acts, the first century Christians provide us a good example how we can remain in Christ Jesus in practical terms. “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer?” (Acts 2:42). It is clear from the example given to us by the early disciples that Christians must remain devoted in the teachings and fellowship of the sent ones of God, none other than the apostles.
But why in fellowship and devotion to the teachings of the apostles? Can’t Christians just believe on anyone who clutches a Bible or preaching it? Paul, in his letter to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, tells us the reason behind why in the apostles’s teaching only we must devote ourselves into. “Which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). Again the Bible is explicit that it is through His sent ones, particularly the apostles and prophets, the Lord reveals His plans to the church. Apostle Peter confirms this great apostolic trust when he says, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it…” (2 Peter 1:19). So if ever there are people who possess the understanding of the mind of God and have the full capacity to teach it to Christians, it is the apostles and their fellow workers.
Aside from the teachings of the apostles, where else should we remain committed and devoted to as Christians desiring to remain in God’s will? Again in the book of Acts, we can observe that the early church under the stewardship of the apostles, but they also remained committed to their responsibilities as members of the church. But why in the church? What is it that makes the church indispensable in order to remain fruitful in Christ?
“And he is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18). “…for the sake of his body, which is the church” (v.24). Based from these two passages, we see that the church is not just plain organization or assembly of people which some religious groups believe it to be. But essentially speaking, the church is the spiritual, living body of Christ. We can say therefore, that a Christian who doesn’t continue in the church, the only place where all the life of Christ flows through, he cannot guarantee himself of his constant spiritual growth. Instead, his faith will soon get weakened by the ravages of Satan’s attack and ultimately, die.
Another equally important aspect of remaining in Jesus Christ is our diligent attendance in church services, particularly those special church occasions. The reason why we should always try to be present in these church fellowships is the opportunity for us to be able to feed on God’s words which only these kind of occasions present. In Hebrews, the author admonishes each of us “…not give u meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). And so as we immerse ourselves upon the words of God, that’s the time we will experience spiritual cleansing. It is also the time we will continue gaining faith which is necessary for us to live victoriously in our battle against sin. The Bible declares,” So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Indeed, growing in Christ is no easy task to accomplish. But it doesn’t mean that God has never promised that we will not achieve growth and maturity in our faith. He does! And this can only be done if we will only abide and remain steadfast in our fellowship and communion with Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the church!