In the last post I discussed the five purposes of small groups at High Point church. Our vision for small groups is for them to be Christ centered, transformational communities. The five purposes and practices of small groups are designed to build these communities.
In part 1 I broke down in some detail the practice of community. The second purpose and practice of small group community is spiritual growth.
1. Spiritual growth does not happen by itself
I wish I could tell you spiritual growth just happens. It doesn’t. Scripture teaches we all are fighting against three things:
- The flesh
- The world
- The devil
That is, there is something wrong with us, there’s something wrong with our environment, and we have an intelligent and superior enemy. Spiritual growth is a little like a salmon swimming upstream – there is a lot flowing against us, but there is a power within us that is even greater.
That greater power within us is not our inner self. When we believe in Christ God promises the internal presence of God the Holy Spirit. He leads us in trusting God, believing the gospel and understanding the Scriptures. And His will combined with our will to give us the power to actually believe and act when we rely on Him.
We have everything we need to grow spiritually once we trust in Christ – but it doesn’t happen on its own.
2. Understanding the gospel is the most basic need for spiritual growth.
Sanctification is the standard word for “spiritual growth.” It comes from an old Latin word meaning “to consecrate” or “set apart.” It just means holiness – becoming like the God who has called, reconciled and saved us.
Justification is the standard theological word that means that through faith in Jesus, we become right with God. Our sin is put on Christ in the cross and his righteousness is credited to us. We stand perfectly just before God.
Gospel driven spiritual growth is explained this way: “Sanctification is just doing commerce with your Justification.” That’s just an interesting way of saying that living in a holy way is mainly about realizing who you are in Christ. Spiritual growth isn’t about what is going to be done, as much as it is about really coming to grips with what has already been done for you through Christ Jesus.
This means the first step towards Christian growth of any kind is to go back to the gospel and realize who you are in relationship to the thing you’re facing. If this is true, no matter how far along you are spiritually, what you really need is a better understanding of the gospel.
3. Knowing the Bible helps us understand the gospel
The Bible is the reliable written testimony of what God has done through his people and in Jesus Christ. That is, it is the stable written source that tells us about the gospel. If we want to know more about the gospel and understand it better, one of our first steps is to turn to the Bible.
The Bible puts the work of Christ in context – morally, philosophically, historically, sociologically, economically…well, you get the point. Scripture claims for itself to be God’s written revelation – that God himself stands behind each human author.
4. Spiritual growth is exercising faith in what God has revealed in the gospel and in the Scriptures, and applying it through repetitive discipline.
Knowledge is not spiritual growth. Knowledge is necessary to create an opportunity for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes by faith. You have to believe what you learn.
We should never confuse our cognitive understanding of the gospel, or our knowledge of the Bible with spiritual growth. It becomes spiritual growth when we believe it and apply it. It’s one thing to be justified, another to learn something about justification, and still a third thing to live justified.
The further down we drill into our sin, and the more we learn about the gospel, the more we realize that every failure is a failure of faith. Beneath every sin as an idol. Every idol is an alternative salvation. Every alternative salvation is something we are trusting in instead of Christ.
That is, all sin is self salvation. All self salvation is a failure to believe the gospel – to live justified. It is to seek our salvation in something other than the righteousness of Christ given to us purely by faith, and by trusting the God who gave us what we needed most to give us everything else we need in his own way.
See the overview video here.