True Spiritual Growth, part 1: It Comes from God

12/17/2021

The Difference

True spiritual growth comes from God, not the person. False growth comes from the person, not God. Without God, it is hollow religion and shallow morals. With God, it is heartfelt worship and humble godliness.  

The Essence of Spirituality

2 Corinthians 3:18 summarizes the essence of true spiritual growth. 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

There are four components.

(1.) God's Word

First, true spiritual growth begins with understanding and receiving God's Word. The verse begins:

"And we all, with unveiled face,..."

An unveiled face symbolizes a heart that sees and embraces the true meaning of God's Word, centrally the gospel of Jesus Christ. Before we understand and receive God's grace in the gospel, we have veiled faces. It is a spiritual metaphor. We could not and did not grasp the grace and power of God as revealed through Jesus and in God's Word. When we finally grasp it, we have "unveiled face." We see. We believe. We delight in God's truth. This is the beginning of true spiritual growth.

Practical use

Read the Bible with a heart of faith and pray to God for spiritual understanding and growth. 

(2.) Seeing by Faith

Second, true spiritual growth results from beholding God's glory. The verse continues: 

"...beholding the glory of the Lord,..."

The Lord is Jesus who lives and reigns in heaven. His glory is the glory of resurrection life and power. The glory of the sun is light and heat. The glory of the sea is terrifying depth and power. The glory of the risen Lord is the imperishable, heavenly glory of resurrection. We behold His glory by faith in the gospel of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. We see the true glory of the living Jesus, that is, in the gospel. True spiritual growth depends on this.

Practical use

Meditate on the glory of Jesus in the core components of the gospel: His identity as God and man, His perfectly obedient life, His sacrificial death in the place of sinners, and His glorious resurrection and enthronement in heaven. 

(3.) The Likeness of Christ

Third, true spiritual growth results in becoming like Jesus. It continues: 

"...are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." 

As we continue to behold Christ's glory in the gospel, we continue reflect His glory more and more. His glory--the glory of resurrection life and power--shines, as it were, off us. It changes us. It changes us gradually. It changes us to be more like Jesus. We do not transform ourselves, but rather we "are being transformed." We are recipients of heavenly power whose lives are constantly being reoriented and reshaped by that power, the power of Christ. Seeing Jesus by faith bears the fruit of Christ-likeness, also called godliness or holiness. True spiritual growth always results in becoming like Jesus; His transforming power makes it so. 

Practical use

Ask God daily to comform you to the likeness of Christ in heart, mind, words, and will, as is fitting for a child of God. 

(4.) The Spirit's Power

Fourth, true spiritual growth comes from Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. The verse concludes: 

"For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

Who does the work? God does the work. God makes us more like Jesus. And He does this work through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. God gets all the credit, all the praise, all the glory for any true spiritual growth that happens in our lives. Jesus changes our hearts to love sin less and love God more. Jesus changes our hearts to be less selfish and more compassionate, less ungrateful and more thankful, and less like the old "me" and more like Jesus. The examples are too numerous to list. 

Practical use

Study the Bible for specific aspects of Christ-likeness, praying to Jesus for growth:

  • The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12
  • The 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:1-7
  • The Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-26

Conclusion

Do not forget the basics of spiritual growth. It comes from God, not you. It comes by faith, not by working or earning. It is experienced through the power of the gospel, wherein we behold the glory of the risen Christ. Finally, it is inseparably linked to the truth of God's Word. By Word and Spirit, in the power and grace of Jesus, we can truly grow to be more like God and less like our sinful selves. 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 

1 Corinthians 10:31