However, we do not always take in what is good for us or what is truly life-enhancing. For example, a glazed donut and a rich, bold cup of coffee gives a surge of life, but the subsequent letdown lets us know that some “life sources” can be specious. Nevertheless, as long as we’re alive, this fundamental process of drawing life from outside of ourselves never ceases. We’re continually taking in either healthy nourishment that promotes life and growth or imbibing harmful toxic material that leads to sickness and death.
This reality in our physical life is equally valid in our spiritual life. Understanding this truth is vital for understanding our spiritual growth. We are continually assimilating from our environment either true life from our Creator/Redeemer, or counterfeit “life” from the Deceiver, which is no life at all. As we will see later, it is the very nature of our heart — our inner person — to be open to outside influence that shape and form who we really are. It is no wonder that Scripture urges us to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).
Growth in the Life of God
But what does this spiritual growth in our new life look like? How do we know if we are really growing? Are we growing in our spiritual life when we gain more Bible and theological knowledge? Does growth mean increased faithfulness in Christian practices – Bible reading, church attendance, witnessing, good behavior, loving actions and so forth? Or does spiritual transformation mean more religious feelings, more zeal and passion in worship, or more “spiritual” experiences?
All of these things may be evidences of growth. But they also could be of our own doing rather than actually flowing from our new life. Genuine spiritual growth is an increase in the experience of the new life of which Jesus spoke when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (NASB) or “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10 GNT). Or as Paul described it, “life indeed” (1 Tim.6:19 NASB) or “that which is truly life” (ESV).
This new life is the indestructible life of the living God himself. It is Christ’s life lived in us as our own life – this is what the apostle had in mind when he wrote “Christ, who is our life” (Col. 3:4) and said of himself “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). In short, it is Christ’s life produced in us by the “Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2; cf. 8:6; Gal. 6:8).
Our natural human life manifests itself in thoughts, feelings, and actions. The more we think, feel, and act, the more we are alive. These same capacities are also the means through which our new life is expressed. Our new life in God is also evident in thoughts, feelings, and actions that are according to the pattern of God’s life. Instead of confused thoughts, feelings, and desires that are corrupted by the patterns of this world and complicated by the burden of guilt and depression, in our new life in God, we think Christ’s thoughts, feel his emotions, and live our life as it was designed by our Creator.
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