Continuing our series on Church Clichés, for an explanation on why we are doing this series please read it here:
Series: Against Common Christian Clichés
Link to Podcast for this episode: https://castbox.fm/episode/Cliche-Six:-Spiritual-Growth-doesn’t-Happen-through-Methods-id2800003-id268182615?utm_source=edm
This cliché falls within the topic of growth. People are often willing to accept that a Christian should grow in general but when you begin to discuss specifically how in general believers can grow people will often say a few different things to dismiss the idea that you can codify how to help someone grow a few of these ways are:
- Spiritual things don’t operate in a logical way (operate on a different set of rules)
- “Faith is the opposite of logic. In all the Bible stories where there was great faith, logic was disproved. There is no room for logic where mountain-moving faith exists. Faith takes over where logic can no longer tread.” (Quote from this article: https://www1.cbn.com/Devotions/faith-starts-where-logic-fails)
- “The goal is to create love and generosity (or something like that) they are abstract unmeasurable ideas”
- “Head knowledge can’t cause heart change”
- God will just do it!!! Don’t need to check
- Its not humble to check up on yourself
Is Faith against Logic?
To assess this claim we first need to examine what logic is, Merriam-Webster defines logic as: “a proper or reasonable way of thinking about something”
Thus in order for spiritual things or faith to be the “opposite of logic” it would mean that they couldn’t be thought about, that there isn’t a way of thinking about the components of what goes into faith or a way of thinking about how we can express faith. That is not true, in fact there are 66 books in the Bible and some of them go into enormous depth in talking through the elements of the Christian life and how we should pursue God. Jesus Himself in the great commission gave us a couple of logical clear statements on Christian growth that we should 1. Baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and 2. Teach others to obey His commandments. While I like a lot of things about CBN this assertion is just unfounded. Faith is a process of putting our trust in God and while we may not always be able to work out all of the details of what that means we do know enough to know we can trust Him, that’s why the ancient Israelites were told to look back and remember what God really did for them in the past and knowing that they could place their trust in God.
Can Abstract Ideas be Taught?
One example Anne pointed out here is that there is in scripture a precedence that endurance in doing good produces abstract virtues, for example Romans 5:4:
“and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”
When we train ourselves through repetition in getting to know God through His word and time with Him (2 Tim 3:16), when we routinely practice choosing to follow Him when its hard we are taking actions that through the power of the Spirit have a real result of producing the fruits of the Spirit in us.
In fact there is also statistical evidence for this. In a study done by the Center for Bible Engagement (found here https://www.centerforbibleengagement.org/). It was found that those who spend at least 4 days in God’s word have a 57% lower likely hood to engage in porn, gambling or sex outside of marriage.
Does only God have a Role in our Spiritual Growth?
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
What we see from Phil 2 above is that both we and God have a working role in our spiritual growth journey. God is working in us, yet we are to work and to work hard! With fear and trembling Paul says. An imperfect example is the idea of a leaf blower or some electronic equipment, we may be able to plug it into the wall for power, and without the power we could not accomplish the task. Yet we still need to do the task itself after receiving power. The same is true of pursuing Christ, we are responsible for taking steps to grow, step by step pursuing Christ.
Pride is a huge area of sin, Jesus talked about it a lot, C.S. Lewis even called it the chief sin. In a previous post/podcast we discussed the true idea of humility which is taking a true account of yourself good and bad. While it is true that we should avoid boasting about our spiritual status, producing false humility is not a way around pride, real humility is.. humilty needs an honest assessment and that means we have to look at the progress we have made as well as the sinful areas we still need to grow in and we need to have a hard look at them and how we can go on pursuing growth.
An Example in Psalm 1:
One of my favorite examples of this idea of a growth process is in Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
There are two things the Psalmist does that directly impact their growth.
- Not walking in the way of sinners, or avoiding sin.
- Meditating on God’s Word daily
I often draw a picture for people here. On one side I draw a list, on the other a tree. The tree has roots that go down and touch a stream. The Psalmist here draws the mental picture of that stream being time with God regularly. Now it is not through following a list of dos and don’ts that we grow, instead it is by delighting in the Lord and letting there be some regular good practice in our lives. When we spend time each day in God’s Word we receive strength and nutrients that will lead to real spiritual fruit. The promise we have from God is that if we delight ourselves in Him (taking real steps toward Him), He will give us the desires of our heart (namely knowing Him).
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