True spiritual growth

13 12 2011

As Christians, we spend a lot of time focusing on ourselves! The world around us and ‘man religion’ has taught us this selfish attitude. We spend too much time thinking about ourselves: how we are doing, how fast are we growing spiritually, are we doing the right things, to name but a few? We spend a lot of time meditating on our spiritual failures and brooding over our spiritual successes. Somehow we’ve come to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is OURSELF – on the Christian and not on the Christ.

The bible teaches us very differently to this selfish mind-set. There is nothing in the gospel of Christ that encourages me to focus on myself. Nothing! In fact the gospel of Christ teaches us to look to our Deliverer and Saviour alone!!!! Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith and when we look to ourselves we can only but fail! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to fix our eyes on Christ (Hebrews 12:2).

Any version of the gospel, that encourages you to think about yourself, that is your failures or your successes; your good works or your  bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience, is not our Father’s pleasure.

Ironically, the more we focus on our need to get better, the worse we actually get!  Pre-occupation with my performance over Christ’s performance for me actually hinders my growth because it makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective, which is the exact opposite of how the Bible teaches us under grace.

“He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30)

Decreasing is impossible for the person who keeps thinking about himself. Most people spend more time meditating on themselves than on CHRIST.

But what about those passages which seem to encourage us to examine ourselves? Isn’t there a proper time and place for self-evaluation?

Yes.

This is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 13:5 when he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?”

In other words, the goal of self-examination is not to discover my worthiness, strength, or sufficiency. The goal is to discover my unworthiness and Christ’s worthiness; my weakness and Christ’s strength; my deficiency and Christ’s sufficiency. Confidence in my   transformation is not the source of my assurance and growth. ‘

The Holy Spirit is continually turning us to look at the Christ in us – John 15:26. For in Christ  we have victory.

Contrary to what we have typically heard (and been enslaved by), Christian growth is not becoming stronger and stronger, or more and more competent. Christian growth and progress is marked by a growing realization of just how weak and incompetent we are and how strong and competent Jesus continues to be for us. Spiritual maturity is not marked   by our growing and becoming more and more!!!!! Rather, it’s marked by our growing   dependence on Christ’s ‘’fitness for us”. Remember, the Apostle Paul referred to himself as the “least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8) and the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), at the end of his life. For Paul, spiritual growth is realizing how utterly dependent we are on Christ’s cross and mercy. Spiritual growth IS NOT arriving at some point where we need Jesus LESS because we are getting better and better. In Paul’s life, paradoxically, it was Paul’s realization ánd acceptance of his total lack of self-ability and self-sufficiency!!!!

Thankfully, the focus of the Bible is NOT the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. The gospel frees us from ourselves. It announces that we are COMPLETELY dependant on Jesus. The good news is the announcement of his victory for us, not our “victorious Christian life.” The gospel declares that God’s final word over Christians has already been spoken, “Paid in full.”


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