Biblical Keys to Spiritual Growth: The Holy Spirit
The way of spirituality: forsaking 'self'; embracing the Spirit
For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…
We recently began our exploration of what sets Christian spiritual growth apart from other so-called paths of spiritual growth. We found that the foundation of repentance, initial belief in Jesus, and reliance on Him is the only way to begin a relationship with God. According to the Bible, how do we pursue growth in this relationship, progress in our spirituality, and gain maturity in our faith?
A new identity: “born again”
Once people believe in this good news, the Spirit of God dwells within them and empowers them. The Bible teaches that when someone repents of sin and believes in the gospel, the Holy Spirit guides them into all truth and promotes spiritual growth. In the New Testament this is often referred to as “new birth”—so called because of Jesus’ teaching that one must be born of the Spirit in order to receive salvation. (John 3:3) This new birth, generated by the Holy Spirit, not only saves one’s soul but also motivates one to obey God (Philippians 2:13) and thus begin the spiritual journey.
A new character: “fruitful in every good work”
The ultimate purpose of the Holy Spirit’s operation in the life of a Christian is to promote personal transformation—transformation that makes our character more like the character of Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit results in concrete, practical change in us—how we think, feel, and act.
According to the Bible, spiritual growth is exhibited in what is called the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22–23, the fruit of the Spirit is listed as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Pastor Tim Keller describes these characteristics as follows:
- Love: To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.
- Joy: Delight in God and His salvation for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is.
- Peace: Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.
- Forbearance: Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.
- Kindness: Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.
- Goodness (integrity): Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.
- Faithfulness: Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.
- Gentleness (humility): Self-forgetfulness.
- Self-Control: Ability to choose the urgent over the important thing.
A new relationship: “set apart with God”
These are characteristics that Christians strive for and depend on the Holy Spirit to bring about. For this reason, throughout the Bible, Christians are called to walk in the Spirit, (Galatians 5:16), to be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18) and to seek God’s wisdom for direction in everyday life. (Romans 12:2) The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian results in spiritual growth.
The Bible refers to this process as “sanctification.” The term “sanctification'' refers to the process whereby an ordinary person or thing is made holy or set aside for God’s good purposes. Christians are made holy through their relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, simply by virtue of their connection with Jesus, Christians are put in the right relationship with God. They are holy because Jesus is holy, and He shares that quality with them. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” Paul said. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
However, there is also a progressive sense of holiness that is the aim of sanctification or spiritual growth. It is interesting that the Apostle Paul opens many of his letters to ancient churches by addressing the readers as “saints.” As you read these letters, however, you see that these early Christians don’t seem so “saintly.” They are prone to weakness, envy, and strife. They are deeply flawed and broken—just like everyone else. Paul continuously reminds these Christians that they are called to be a holy people. But they continue to struggle to live fully into God’s purposes for them because of the pervasive and insidious influence of sin.
In light of this, the work of the Holy Spirit regarding spiritual growth can be described in two ways. First, the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of their sin and leads them to avoid evil in all forms. Second, the Holy Spirit impels Christians to pursue holiness and virtue. So, when the Bible teaches that individuals are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ, the power for that sanctification comes from the Holy Spirit. According to the Bible, the believer’s growth will cause them to become more and more like Christ until Jesus Himself returns to make all things new.
Pray this week:
Holy Spirit, will you make me more aware of what You want to do in my life, so that I do not resist, quench or grieve You in your work to make me increasingly set apart for God?
Were you challenged by the nine descriptions of the Spirit’s fruit? Click below to connect with a caring volunteer who can give you practical ways to pursue spiritual growth.