Teaching, Helping and Encouraging Spiritual Growth

Principles of Spiritual Growth 1

Hello, Everybody! I will be posting a series on spiritual growth that I have been working on for a number of years. If you have an interest in growing in your faith and getting closer to God, I hope you will invest a little time and read these posts each week.

I just returned from Zambia in Africa where I taught this course to 42 pastors, teachers and church leaders. What an experience! What wonderful people! I would like your comments about each post. It will help me as I continue to teach this material to help God’s people get stronger in the faith and become the best disciple of Jesus possible! God bless, Dick

Welcome to this series on how to become a disciple of Jesus!

This is a big deal. The process of becoming a disciple of Jesus is what changes you from what you were like before you knew Jesus to actually becoming like Jesus. This process transforms you completely. In this process, God recreates you in the image of Jesus. You become God’s handiwork as He crafts you into something new and prepares you to live out His good works that reveal the love, character, values and virtues of Jesus.

This is what God planned for you to do before time. This is your purpose. You are to be a disciple of Jesus and do the very same good works He did. Doing these good works of Jesus is the role that God has given you to present the message of salvation to your world. This is your predestined and predetermined purpose for existing.

Ephesians 2:10 AMPL For we are God’s handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us, that we should walk in them – living the good life which he prearranged and made ready for us to live.

You may be a newer Christian who wants to know how all this works and how to grow spiritually and get closer to God, or you may be a believer who has been a Christian for a long time, but there are still questions and perhaps uncertainty about what your specific role is in God’s overall plan. Perhaps you have never been discipled and you were left to sort it all out for yourself.

This study is about answering the questions you may have about your role in God’s plan and how God prepares you to be able to fulfill your role. If you take God’s instructions to heart and follow His plan to become a disciple of Jesus, you will be transformed in ways you never even considered possible. God will change you.

Let’s start at ground zero. You may have questions like:

“How does growing into a disciple of Jesus work?”
“What does God do?
“What does God want me to do?”
“What is my role in God’s plan to reach the lost?”
“What is God’s plan to make this happen?”

In this study, you will learn what God’s plan is for you to become a valuable disciple of Jesus that fulfills His purpose for you. Our guide for this study will be 2 Peter 1:3-11. In these Scriptures God lays out His complete plan for spiritual growth that leads to a complete, mature faith. These verses are your GPS system to fulfilling your ultimate purpose of becoming a disciple of Jesus.

A disciple is built STEP-BY-STEP.

It’s like going to college. In your freshman year you take classes that are foundational to the next class you are to take. Each class you take prepares you for the next level of teaching that will come in the next class. They build on each other. As you go through each of these classes over the four years of college you get a complete education in the subject that you want a degree in.

In the same way, following God’s orderly plan will educate and equip you over the course of time to achieve your ultimate purpose of becoming a disciple of Jesus.

Romans 8:29 AMPL For those He foreknew – of whom He was aware beforehand – He also destined from the beginning to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness].

It is God’s predetermined purpose and intention to “mold” every believer into the image of Jesus. He wants you to share in the inward likeness of Jesus. God wants you to share in Jesus’ personality, character, attributes, attitudes, virtues, values and purposes. In other words, God wants you to be like Jesus.

How is this done? How do you go from what you are now to what God wants you to be? How does God “mold” you into the image of Jesus? Where does the process of becoming a disciple of Jesus begin?

The very first thing God wants you to know is that it is God who wants you to be a disciple of Jesus and the process of building you into a disciple begins with HIM. It is God who prepares and equips you to develop into a disciple by giving you everything you need to do this.

2 Peter 1:3 NLT By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us by his marvelous glory and excellence.

How do you receive the power to live a godly life? That power comes from
God. This power comes to you when you “come to know Him.” When you received
Jesus as your Savior the Holy Spirit entered you, and so did the power to become a disciple of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the engine that makes becoming a disciple possible. It is the Holy Spirit that influences, inspires, motivates, compels, guides, directs, instructs, convicts, empowers and enables you in every way to grow into a valuable, effective and fruitful disciple of Jesus. This divine influence is called GRACE. Grace comes from God.

(Read chapter 1 in GBIG for more on why God did this for us.)

God gave you His divine power so that you could fulfil His purpose for you to become like Jesus and do His good works in your daily life. As you conform to the likeness of Jesus the people in your world see firsthand who Jesus is and what He is like by watching how you live. How you live is one of the most powerful ways to share the saving gospel of Jesus. As you consciously and deliberately practice being like Jesus you become a “living letter” that people can read. This is your roll in presenting the saving message of the gospel to those who do not know Jesus.

You are not on your own in doing this. God is with you and provides all the things necessary for you to actually live like Jesus. God knows that you cannot be like Jesus without His help so He promises to help you by equipping you with two essentials.

2 Peter 1:4 NLT And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

God makes two very important promises in this verse that are necessary to being like Jesus.

First, God promises to “enable you to share in His divine nature.” In order for you to be like Jesus you need to have His Spirit and nature in you. God made this possible by sending Jesus to the cross to pay the debt for your sin by giving His life for yours. This happens the moment you receive Jesus as your Savior. God’s divine Spirit and nature are implanted in you.

In doing this, God makes it possible for you to share the very nature of Jesus so that you can think like Him, speak like Him, act like Him and be like Him. God places His nature in every believer in order that they would be able to do the good works that come from God’s Nature that He has preordained that you should do. These are the good works that were predetermined for you to do on God’s behalf before time began. So, the first essential to becoming a disciple of Jesus is having His divine nature in you that is the source of all good things needed to conform to the likeness of Jesus.

God also makes a second promise. God promises to “enable you to escape from the grip of your sinful human desires and cravings.” This is the second essential to being like Jesus. If you are going to be a disciple of Jesus, then you cannot be controlled by your sinful nature. You must be controlled by God’s nature that resides in you, like Jesus was.

In other words, you need to be equipped to deal with the desires and cravings for sin that come from within. This was what the cross was all about. The grip of sin had to be broken. The power of man’s sinful nature had to be crushed and defeated.

God did this by sending Jesus to the cross to defeat the power of sin once and for all, and by this one loving act God gave every believer the power to resist and defeat sin. Because of Jesus, you do not have to sin. You are no longer a slave to sin. You have the freedom and power to resist and defeat the sinful cravings of your human nature. You can put a stop to it. In this way God has made it possible for you to “escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

God knows that sin has a powerful appeal to all people, including Christians. He also knows that you cannot overcome these powerful sinful desires and cravings in your own power alone. The help needed comes from the Holy Spirit in you.

Sin is a very tough adversary and you really need God’s help when facing the powerful temptations of sin. You also need God’s help to free yourself of certain sins that have a stronghold on you. With the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance, you can take control of all those sinful desires and cravings and shameful habits that have a death grip on you. How? God’s solution for dealing with your sinful cravings is to let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Galatians 5:16 NLT So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

God tells you that when you are tempted to sin to rely on the Holy Spirit for help. When tempted, quickly reach out to God for help. The Holy Spirit will help you.

Being tempted is not a sin, but entertaining temptation is. Entertaining a sinful thought will lead to the breakdown of your human will to resist and leads to committing the sin.

James 1:14-15 NLT Temptation comes from your own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Here is the process of how sin happens. All sin has its origins in your human nature.
All sin begins in your thoughts. When a sinful thought comes into your mind is when you are tempted. When you are tempted, the Holy Spirit is there to alert and warn you of what is happening. This is when you must “let the Holy Spirit guide you.”

When you feel the Holy Spirit alert and convict you, pay attention! Listen to His voice. Submit yourself to Him! Let Him guide you! Follow His leading! He will help you deal with the thought and restore your thought life to where it should be. If the thought of the sin is not quickly taken care of and dismissed, and is given a chance to develop, it will entice you to sin (even over the Holy Spirit’s objections) as your will weakens. At this point the temptation overpowers you and you commit the sin. And then the consequences of the sin set in. You have guilt, sorrow, regret and remorse to live with.

If you listen to the Holy Spirit and respond to His guidance and obey Him, you will not fall to the temptation to sin. God has given you this power.

So, God enables you to become a disciple by placing His nature in you that inspires, enables and motivates you to do His good works and God places the Holy Spirit in you who helps you resist temptation and defeat the sinful cravings that come from your human nature.

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