Do you want to grow in your spiritual life but don't know how? Check out this spiritual growth paradigm from Peter the apostle himself. You can read it in its original form at 2 Peter 1:1-11.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
Peter begins by pointing out that God has given us all we need to live a life in harmony with himself. Nothing is missing. This is important because sometimes we feel as though something is missing in our walk with God. But whatever is missing, its not from his end, its from ours. God has called us but he also equips us for the call. But what exactly is it that he gives us that's supposed to help us grow?
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
The promises of God are the first practical thing Peter mentions in his letter. These promises are recorded all over scripture and it is these promises that enable us to overcome - or transcend - the corruption in this world. This corruption is caused by human desires which means the corruption is caused by our own selves. But the promises of God, says Peter, enable us to "share his divine nature". This means that through them we no longer are left to our nature alone. Instead, we are connected to God in such a way that we are enabled to escape the controlling power of our own corrupt nature. This doesn't mean that we never sin again or that we are perfect, but what it demonstrates is that true authentic faith-living happens when we are connected to God via his promises. As we read, meditate on, and live out his promises to us we are enabled to live lives of authenticity in a corrupt world.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.
Peter goes on to use a bad word in Christian circles: effort. Many are so focused on not being "legalistic/rule driven/ do's and dont's/ my own works" type of Christians that we end up completely forgetting the role of personal effort in spiritual growth. Gods promises are powerful life-altering truths. But we can only experience their power when we apply them in real time.
Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence.
Peter continues by calling us to supplement our faith. As James put it, "Faith without works is dead." Those who claim to have faith but whose faith does not translate into practical every-day choices have a dead faith which is equivalent to no faith. So Peter calls us, in our journey of spiritual growth, to supplement our faith with moral excellence. In other words, we are to choose, through the power of God, to live morally just lives in harmony with his law of love. He then goes on by saying:
- and moral excellence with knowledge,
- and knowledge with self-control,
- and self-control with patient endurance,
- and patient endurance with godliness,
- and godliness with brotherly affection,
- and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
Notice the progression here. Peter is mapping out a practical road for spiritual growth. True spirituality and faith is not about hiding in some monastery and transcending yourself. True faith-growth is about embracing and responding to God's promises so that we can, in the midst of a corrupt culture, live lives of moral excellence. As we do this, we are called to grow in our knowledge (1) of God and as we grow in knowledge of him we grow in love which enables us to control (2) our selfish impulses, desires, and natures.
However, this process is not about reaching some sort of finish line. It will last as long as life lasts. As a result, this journey challenges us to develop patience and endurance (3) so that we continue to press on despite our shortcomings and failures. But this patient endurance is not used as an excuse for sin in our lives. Instead, it pours us deeper into godliness (4). And true godliness is about growing in love. Therefore, as we grow in godliness we grow in our affection toward those around us (5) and our love for everyone (6).
Peter then goes on to say:
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Being a Jesus-follower is not about having useless knowledge. This knowledge of Jesus leads us to be more productive and useful in this corrupt world. By living like Jesus in our homes, work environments, cities, and places of influence we impact the world around us in eternally significant ways. And that's the real goal of spiritual growth: to get to the place where our faith-journey becomes about others not just ourselves.
But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So there you have it. How to grow in your faith from the pen of Peter the apostle himself - a swearing fisherman who was rude, self-centered, and violent and who, for the sake of self-preservation ended up denying Jesus in his hour of greatest need. It is this same Peter who discovered a new way through the promises of God and calls each of us to join him on the journey of spiritual growth. But before you embark on this exciting journey, do not forget that the finish line is not in this world but in the world to come. So long as we live in this world we will have set backs and battles to fight.
Some people erroneously view the process of spiritual growth as the picture below.
But reality is a lot more like the picture underneath this one. There is a finish point (second coming of Jesus, heaven) but the journey there is anything but smooth. This is why spiritual growth is all about God's promises and not our own. Don't trust in yourself. Trust in him!
In the end, its really simple: Know God. Enjoy the journey. Trust his promises. Remember its not about being perfect. Jesus is perfect and he covers you with himself. And with that promise in mind thirst after more and more of Jesus. Delight yourself in him. As you do he will mold you into his image - a life characterized by selfless, other-centered love.
That's spiritual growth.
Note: If you want to learn more about spiritual growth check out our Bible class called "Jesus Culture".