What Is Christian Growth?

How do we grow as Christians? Is it by accumulating more Bible knowledge, or accomplishing more Christian works? Perhaps it’s by developing our Christ-like virtues. These may be our concepts about what it means to grow as a Christian, but Christian growth according to the Bible is not a matter of knowledge or self-effort. It’s entirely a matter of the growth of life.

Specifically, this life which must grow is the divine life, the life of God. When we first turned to God and believed in Jesus Christ, we were not only saved from judgment, but even more, we were born again in our spirit with the life of God. Now, in addition to our human life, we have the very life of God in us.

Being born of God, we became children of God, as John 1:12-13 tells us:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name, who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Just as the birth of a child is only the beginning of a life, and he continues to grow in that life until he reaches maturity, our being begotten with the life of God is only the beginning. God wants to see His children grow in His life.

To grow as a Christian is not the development of our natural, human life; it is the growth of the life of God in us.

Christian growth in the Bible

What does the Bible say about the growth of God’s life in us? Let’s look at two verses:

  1. The apostle Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7:

    “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. So then neither is he who plants anything nor he who waters, but God who causes the growth.”

    Then in verse 9 Paul said,

    “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s cultivated land, God’s building.”

    The words planted, watered, and cultivated land all refer to things of life. God’s life, like a seed, has been planted in our spirit. This seed needs watering to grow, and as the seed of God’s life grows in us, we become His cultivated land, His farm. Paul uses not the picture of a school with classes and studying here, but the picture of a farm with planting and watering to describe the growth of the divine life in us.

  2. Colossians 2:19 says this:

    “And not holding the Head, out from whom all the Body, being richly supplied and knit together by means of the joints and sinews, grows with the growth of God.”

    Note 6 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version helps us understand what “grows” means:

    “Growing is a matter of life, which is God Himself. As the Body of Christ, the church should not be deprived of Christ, who is the embodiment of God as the source of life. By holding Christ, the church grows with the growth of God, with the increase of God as life.”

    In Himself, God is perfect and complete. The growth of God, therefore, doesn’t mean God in Himself grows; it means God grows, increases, in us. To grow as a Christian means the life of God grows in us.

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The need of nourishment for Christian growth

Any kind of life needs nourishment to grow. Children grow not by being taught but by eating. A mother feeds her child nutritious food, and by eating it, the child automatically grows. Instead of teaching her child to grow, a mother urges her child to eat, and as he eats, the result is gradual, normal growth.

In speaking of our growth in life as believers, the apostle Peter ties spiritual nourishment and spiritual growth together in 1 Peter 2:2:

“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.”

Notice that Peter didn’t say “long for the doctrine of the word” or “for the knowledge of the word.” He exhorted us to long for the milk of the word. Milk nourishes. Certainly it’s necessary to study God’s Word, but our greatest need is to take in the Bible as milk to nourish us. If we want to grow, we need to hunger for the milk of the Word, just as a newborn baby longs for milk.

Growth occurs only with the addition of a nourishing element. When we eat a meal, the food nourishes and builds up our body. When we feed on the milk of the Word, the life of God grows, increases, within us.

Taking the Word of God as spiritual nourishment

To take the Word of God as our nourishment, we can prayerfully read the Bible. As we open our Bible, we can begin with a simple prayer: “Lord Jesus, I come to Your Word as my food. Nourish me as I read and pray.”

Then as we read the Bible, we can focus on feeding on the Word by praying. We can pause to “chew” the words by praying with them. We don’t need to pray long prayers; we can respond to the Lord in a simple way as we read. As we feed on His Word, we will be nourished and satisfied. And the greatest result is that we will grow in Christ.

Not remaining little children

A baby is wonderful to his parents, but if he doesn’t grow normally, his parents would worry. Parents feed their children expecting them not only to grow but to eventually reach maturity.

Our Father God is also concerned that we would grow normally. He’s not satisfied to see any of His children remain the same year after year, with no increase of His life in them.

As Christians who want to grow in our Father’s life, let’s practice to feed on the milk of His Word every day.