Spiritual Growth for the New Year
by Skip Heitzig
Christmas is over and the new year is here, and if you're like a lot of people, you might be thinking of resolutions. But let me suggest that you start with your spiritual growth before turning to diets and exercise plans.
Growth—including spiritual growth—is a normal part of healthy living. In these final days of the year, I encourage you to meditate on John 15 as we look at three things that demonstrate your growth—or lack thereof—in the Christian life.
The first demonstration of this growth is being fruitful in life. Reading through John 15, you'll notice the word fruit comes up over and over again. That's because Jesus used the analogy of fruit growing on a vine to describe Christian growth: "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" (v. 5).
There are a few obvious characteristics of fruit—namely, it's natural, noticeable, and nourishing. You don't have to have an advanced degree in botany to tell that a vine is growing grapes—and the vine doesn't have to sit there straining hard to produce the grapes. It's a natural unfolding of life that brings nourishment to others. And so it is spiritually.
Though each believer's output of fruit will vary, at some point the fruit will show, whether it's the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23), people you win to Christ, living a holy lifestyle, your giving, or your praise. All of these things visibly demonstrate that growth is happening in and through you as you abide in Christ and seek Him.
The second demonstration of growth is being powerful in prayer. As John 15:7 says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." With a promise like that, it's a wonder more Christians don't pray! Could it be because we just haven't seen results?
I believe there's a reason for that: there are conditions to this promise. First, you must abide in Christ; second, He must abide in you; and third, His words—Scripture—must also abide in you. It's then that your desires will become His desires, and then "you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
Here's the third demonstration of spiritual growth: being joyful in spirit. "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full" (vv. 9-11)—turned up to the max, cranked up to ten. True, lasting, authentic joy is one of the things this world craves the most—and it's the very thing Jesus promises you. The question is, are you willing to go God's way to get it, growing and abiding in Him?
In closing, here's the thing about spiritual growth I want you to understand: you can grow as much as you want to. All the resources you need have already been given to you, and you can either employ them or let them lie dormant. As 2 Peter 1:3 says, God's "divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us."
I pray that the truths of John 15 would soak into your heart and flow through your life today, and that in this new year, you would be as verdant as the man described in Psalm 1—"planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (v. 3).
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