Like so many other phrases commonly used in churches today (missional, contemporary worship, post-modern, coffee bar…), do we really know what that phrase means?
Sure, there are many ways to define what spiritual growth is. And many of the definitions are simply other ways of saying essentially the same thing. But I believe definitions matter and some definitions resonate more readily within my heart than others do. For example, one definition of spiritual growth that I’ve heard and read more recently is that spiritual growth is “becoming God’s best version of you.” I get what it’s saying, but I don’t like the way it says it.
I’ve been doing some digging lately on the topic of the Holy Spirit. I mostly grew up in traditions where the Holy Spirit was at best that unfortunate uncle whom the entire family simply tolerated at family gatherings. You know what I’m talking about! The odd thing to me is that I even spent time around the gospel according to Paul (you know the one – “if Paul didn’t write it, we don’t read/preach about it”) and Paul talks an awful lot about life in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit as opposed to walking in the flesh.
A couple days ago, as I was reading, this thought occurred to me:
SPIRITual growth is nothing more than learning how to walk and live in the SPIRIT.
If that is the case, how can we expect to experience spiritual growth without understanding and getting to know the Holy Spirit?
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.
Paul in Galatians 5 from The Message