Spiritual growth is not automatic with the passing of time, either. The writer of Hebrews sadly noted, “. . . though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again” (Heb. 5:12). Millions of Christians have grown older without ever growing up.

The truth is this: Spiritual growth is intentional. It requires commitment and effort to grow. A person must want to grow, decide to grow, and make an effort to grow. Discipleship begins with a decision—it doesn’t have to be a complex decision, but it does have to be sincere. The disciples certainly didn’t understand all of the implications of their decision when they decided to follow Christ; they simply expressed a desire to follow him. Jesus took that simple but sincere decision and built on it.

Philippians 2:12–13 says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Notice that it says “work out,” not “work on,” your salvation. There is nothing you can add to what Christ did for your salvation. Paul is talking in these verses about spiritual growth to people who are already saved. The important thing is that God has a part in our growth, but so do we.

Becoming like Christ is the result of the commitments we make. We become whatever we are committed to! Just as a commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great church, it is also the way to grow a great Christian. Without a commitment to grow, any growth that occurs will be circumstantial, rather than intentional. Spiritual growth is too important to be left to circumstance.

Spiritual growth that leads to maturity begins with the kind of commitment described in Romans 6:13 (LB): “Give yourselves completely to God—every part of you—for you are back from death and you want to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good purposes.” Later, I’ll explain how to lead people to make this kind of commitment. — Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth without Compromising Your Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).

This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

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