Ten Principles of Spiritual Growth
Here we will discuss ten Principles of Spiritual Growth. There are more but lets look at the first ten:
‘without faith it is impossible to please Him’ Hebrews 11:6 and faith comes by hearing the word of God. Again ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ Hebrews 11:1. Based on scripture that is our evidence. This is important to realise as faith is not based on our own impressions or our own consideration of probabilities ! Faith is based on certainty. Faith will be tested as Peter says 1 Peter 1:7. Faith is dependence on God and this can only begin when self-dependence ends. For some this takes grief, loss or pain.
This is based on two questions: a) Does God accept me ? b) on what basis does He do so ? The best answer may be found in Ephesians 1:5,6 ‘ Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise and glory of His grace, wherein he hath made us accepted as beloved’ His peace and acceptance are found entirely on the work of the cross, totally apart from anything from us. God has accepted us in His son and upon that fact we must rest our faith. Our acceptance is by grace alone. Grace once given to us is not withdrawn. In fact to believe and to consent to be loved while unworthy is the greatest secret.
God makes it clear in His word what His purpose for each one of us is. Adam was made in God’s image so that there could be communion , fellowship and cooperation between them but Adam went his own way. God is still carrying out his purpose but not via Adam but via Christ. Being born into Him by faith we become partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4. When we see that all things are working together to make us more and more like the Lord Jesus we should not become frustrated. Failure may even be one gathering to Him. This turns us from ourselves to His source for our life – Christ Jesus ! God is working everyday to His Purpose so that “That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” 2 Corinthians 4:11
The reason our Father creates and allows needs in our lives is to turn us from all that is outside of Christ, centering us in Him alone. ‘Not I, but Christ’ Galatians 2:20. Matthew 5:6 is central to this ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness’ This shows our need. Watchman Nee expresses this well ‘The first thing for which He sets us here is to create in others a hunger for Himself’. In reparation there is tearing down before there can be building up. It takes a man who has discovered something of the measure of his own weakness to be patient with the foibles of others. But our own efforts can in no way prepare us as the distance between God and man is so huge. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can prepare us and we are to accept His Grace. Our preparation is this acceptance.
One of the most important factors in Christian growth is the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the self-life to the believer. We are in fact ‘dead in trespass and sins’ Ephesians 2:1 and ‘thoroughly corrupt before God’ Galatians 5:19-21. Unless we go through this then we can not grow ‘ Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone but if it die in bringeth forth much fruit’ John 12:24. If we despair of our own sins it can actually be a healthy condition just before God leads us into the realms of His grace. The believer who is going through struggle and failure is the Christian who is being carefully and lovingly handled by the Lord in a very personal way.
Man has many ways of seeking to escape the thraldom of self but God has one way. The main man-centered efforts are as follows: 1) Mortification – denying oneself things for a time or ever but it is not scriptural to believe that our old nature can be dealt with in this way. 2) Conquest – more study, more prayer etc but these are insufficient. 3) Training – schools and home training alone can not subdue our old nature 4) Revivalism – in special meetings once or twice a year but the effects are mainly temporary 5) Growth – just keep doing more church activities but just more of the old self. 6) Cleansing – here up to the moment confession and consequent cleansing do constitute a method of dealing with sin as 1John 1:9 shows BUT this does not deal with the sources (self) 7) Experiences – baptism of the spirit and speaking in tongues but all this does not deal with our old self – only the cross can deal with it. It is on the cross of Calvary that God, in Christ, dealt fully and finally with self, the nature from which all our sins flow Romans 6:6. The flesh will only yield to the cross, not to all our resolutions, confessions, self effort on self crucifixion but only in co-crucifixion with Christ. We can receive the benefits of the work of the cross simply by believing in the finished work of the cross.
7) The Cross
Calvary is the secret of it all. It is what He did there that counts and what He did became a force in the life of a Christian when it is appropriated by faith. the second aspect of Calvary is our individual identification with the Lord Jesus in his death and resurrection ‘knowing this that our old man is crucified with him’ Romans 6:6 Through the two aspects sin need have no more power over the believer than he grants it through unbelief. If he is alive unto sin it will be due largely to the fact that he has failed to reckon himself dead unto sin. In a nutshell God’s answer to the source of sin , which is death to self, brought forth from the completed work of the cross. By faith we should reckon our old self to be crucified with Christ on the cross.
A disciple is one who first maintains the fellowship of the cross. Our Lord Jesus was very explicit in this ‘If any man will come after me , let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me Luke 9:23. Taking up one’s cross results in death to self and means life in Christ Jesus. A disciple is one who is free from all old and free for the new or ‘dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God’ Romans 6;11. However, our cross is not necessarily what we think – like bearing certain burdens. In fact the believers’ cross is the cross of Calvary, the one on which he was crucified with Christ Galatians 2;20. We will be ready to take up our cross when self becomes intolerable to us and we ‘hate our life’ Luke 14:26. Our cross, our liberation , our personal finished work held in trust for us so long by the Holy Spirit. Finally prepared by our needs, aware that our bondage was broken in Christ on Calvary, we definitely begin to rely on that finished work – we APPROPRIATE. If we take hold of the great fact of redemption that we have been crucified with Christ – then Christ by the His Spirit takes up the exercise of function of life within us and leads us as his disciples.
The Appropriation of, the resting in Jesus, must be on the basis of faith, not struggle and labour. ‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’ Isiah 30:15. We are told to quietly and steadily look to our father in confident trust and thankfully receive. In fact this resting in faith is vital. We should walk step by step by faith. The rest of faith concerning our justification, the rest of faith concerning our acceptance, the rest of faith concerning our position in Christ Jesus, the rest of faith concerning our identification with Christ in death, resurrection and ascension. In fact although faith begins as a labour Hebrews 4:11 it is consummated in a rest Hebrews 4:3. Paul emphasizes this in Hebrews 4 as he talks about the Sabbath rest for the people of God. ‘Now we who have believed enter that rest’
When we first start out we may be very zealous but as the years go by we need continuance – we should try to remember that ‘ The foundation of God standeth sure having this seal. The Lord knoweth them that are his’ 2 Timothy 2:19. God strips everything away from time to time in order to give us the opportunity of loving and trusting and responding to him just because He is our father. This leads to growth and maturity. Perhaps in the beginning we are mainly taken up by the externals of Christian life and God allows this for a while then in order to get to the next stage so that our Lord Jesus is our all our Father begins to take away much of what we thought we had ! This is the transition – the cross centered transition from ‘do’ to ‘be’. If we want what Jesus wants, all that we are taken through, including desert patches will encourage us. Jesus will lead us on our journey step by step as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ‘We rejoice with you as you continue in Him’
Dr Simon Harding