Spiritual Growth

Some aspects of spiritual growth are the same as physical growth. Spiritual growth requires food, exercise, and time -- just like human physical growth. God's Word is spiritual food, and acting on God's Word exercises the human spirit.

Mental knowledge of God, and His Word, are not necessarily indicators of spiritual growth. You can know much about God without knowing Him. Mental knowledge indicates mental growth -- not spiritual growth.

1 . . . Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

The human spirit is the part of us that is born again. What is born of the Spirit of God is the human spirit -- which is the real you.

JOHN 3:6-7 NKJ
6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 ". . .`You must be born again.'

You are a spirit-being, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). You live in a body, and you have a mind. And you can develop in each area -- spirit, soul, and body.

23 . . . may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord. . . .

Measuring Spiritual Growth

Spiritual growth is measured in the physical realm by the existence of spiritual fruit -- the fruit of the spirit. You cannot see the wind but you see the effect wind produces (John 3:8). Things of the spirit are similar to wind.

Miracles, or gifts of the Spirit, are not reliable marks of spiritual growth. God can give someone spiritual gifts, or a miracle ministry, at any stage of spiritual growth.

The larger and more abundant the fruit of the spirit, the stronger and more mature the spirit (person) is.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. . . .

Although the word "spirit" in Galatians 5:22 is capitalized in most Bible translations -- giving us the idea the Holy Spirit is meant -- that is not necessarily right. Capitalization in English Bibles is not inspired, but is the translator's choice. Greek manuscripts of the New Testament are written either in all capital letters or in all small letters.

Clearly, Galatians 5:22 refers to the human spirit, as the context contrasts the works of the flesh with what the spirit produces.

Plastic Fruit

Do not be deceived by "plastic fruit," produced by will-power independent of spiritual life. The human soul produces these, not the spirit. Fake fruit may look the same as the real thing, but when tested -- utterly fails the test. Real spiritual fruit stands up under the toughest test.

Real spiritual fruit is not dependent on other people and their actions, but is produced as the result of God's life within.

A quick glance at the "fruit" in someone's life can be deceptive. Fake spiritual fruit reveals itself when under pressure in the heat of trials. Real fruit tastes even better after extreme heat is applied. Plastic fruit melts and disappears.

Only as life flows through the branches, does fruit grow. Fruit does not ripen overnight, and cannot be manufactured.

How We Can Know

How can we detect whether someone is spiritual? How can we know we are growing spiritually?

We know by the presence of the fruit of the spirit, control of the tongue, being led by the Spirit of God, and becoming like Christ. We consider each of these in more detail below.

MATTHEW 7:15-18,20 NKJ
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16 "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
17 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
20 "Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Judging according to what we see in the flesh can easily deceive us. Even seeming results, such as success at evangelism, or the evidence of spiritual gifts, can deceive us.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. . . .

24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Words Tell

2 All of us often make mistakes. But if a person never makes a mistake in what he says, he is perfect and is also able to control his whole being.

Galatians 5:23 tells us self-control is a fruit of the spirit. The words people speak measure their spiritual maturity. Jesus told us in Matthew 12:34 that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Unless you are with a person a great deal of time, you probably will not have opportunity to listen to them when their guard is down.

Many people, through self-will, are able to control their words, and put on a false front for a while. But, when trouble or stress comes, and they drop their guard, what comes out of the mouth reveals their spiritual condition.

MATTHEW 12:33-34,36-37 NKJ
33 ". . . a tree is known by its fruit.
34 "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
36 "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Led By Spirit

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

The Greek word for "sons" in Romans 8:14 is not the only Greek word translated as "sons" in our Bibles. The one used here means more mature sons, not babies. Being led by the Spirit of God is something you get better at as you grow up spiritually.

Christ Formed In You

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,

20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. . . .

13 till we all come . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
15 . . . may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ --

The more we grow spiritually, the more like Christ we will become.

Christians Grow

3 . . . your faith grows exceedingly. . .

15 . . . having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,

Faith increases, or grows, but faith is difficult to measure. Comparing people -- saying one has greater faith because of their possessions, or what they have accomplished -- is a mistake. Measuring faith may be useful for self-examination, but not for comparison between people.

15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ --

2 PETER 3:18 NKJ
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . . .

19 . . . all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase which is from God.

Babies Are Carnal

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;
3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

Carnal, or sense-ruled, people are not spiritual. Carnal refers to the flesh -- where the five senses operate. Where there is envy, strife, and divisions, people are carnal. Carnality marks baby Christians.

God Prunes

JOHN 15:1-2,5 NKJ
1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. . . .

Healthy growth often requires pruning, or cutting back in some areas. Jesus said the Father prunes fruitful believers.

God Trains His Children

HEBREWS 12:5-7,11 NKJ
5 . . . "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The word translated "chastening" in the above verses means child-training. These verses clearly reveal God's training program for our spiritual development will not always be fun. But, God's training will be good for us. Our walk is by faith and not by sight, so we will not always understand everything happening -- but it will become clear later.

How Can We Grow Spiritually?

ACTS 20:32 NKJ
32 ". . . the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Spiritual food and spiritual exercise cause spiritual growth. God's Word is our spiritual food. We can feed ourselves, or let others feed us God's Word by listening to teaching and preaching.

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
14 that we should no longer be children. . .
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ --

Ephesians 4:11-15 indicates others in the Body of Christ will nourish us. God intends for us to receive from others. We will never grow as God planned unless we are teachable and receive instruction from others.


2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

Peter wrote down the above scripture. Two other New Testament verses, written down by others, refer to milk and growth. Peter is saying something more than that just babies eat milk. He is saying we grow by what we get from the Word of God.

The "milk" of the Word, what the Word provides as we feed on it, causes spiritual growth. To get "milk" from the Word often requires more than just reading the Bible. To really digest the Word, you need to meditate on that Word. Then your spirit will be strengthened.

2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

These previous two scripture passages talk of milk as food only for babies. Obviously, some spiritual food is more difficult to swallow and digest -- which is not suitable for baby Christians.


Acting in obedience to God's Word exercises your spirit. Whenever you follow your spirit -- instead of letting your flesh or reasoning dominate -- you exercise your spirit.

13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Praying in tongues requires the exercise of faith, and builds you up spiritually.

20 . . . building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself. . . .
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays. . . .

Anytime you use faith, you exercise your spirit. For with the heart you believe (Romans 10:8-10).

JAMES 1:2-4 Phillips
2 When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives. . . .
3 Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.
4 But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots.

Look To Jesus

Just as a tree does not seem to grow while you are watching, so we must not constantly try to measure our spiritual growth. Instead, we should look away from ourselves, and keep our attention fixed on Jesus.

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. . . .

JOHN 15:4-5 NKJ
4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

18 But we all . . . beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image. . . .

We are transformed as we behold the Lord. Focusing our attention on ourselves, whether our successes or our shortcomings, will retard our spiritual progress.

20 . . . Christ lives in me. . . .

27 . . . Christ in you, the hope of glory.

A spiritual, mature believer realizes they are nothing without Christ, and so allows Christ to live in them.

Let Jesus Christ live His life in and through you, by being continually filled with His Spirit, and walking in the spirit, obeying God's Word.

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