Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spiritual Growth & Development

Season finale of Lost last night (it was crazy!). I'm a big follower. Anyways, here's some thinking on human and spiritual development.

Human & spiritual development
What is the link between human development and spiritual development? Is there a link? Are they connected? Is it possible for a person to develop humanly and not spiritually? How much do these two have in common?

Where God starts in human and spiritual development
In the Old Testament the Israelites demanded a human king to govern and rule them. Saul was their chosen king but God had regrets in giving him that position and even rejected him as king (1 Sam 15:35, 16:1). So, God sent Samuel out to instate a new God-chosen king. Samuel met several fine-looking and well-qualified candidates (e.g., older, strong, wise, good looking, intelligent, men of high stature). Samuel himself was even enthralled by these potential kings. But, God says to Samuel, “You’re making a mistake in judgment. Forsake outer beauty and stature, because I don’t look at that. I look at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, my paraphrase) This advice led Samuel to choose a young shepherd boy by the name of David to become king of Israel.

God reveals to us in this passage of scripture that His greatest area of concern in human beings is their heart. Why is that? Jesus revealed and continues to reveal to us that we live from the heart. His teachings throughout the Gospels (especially the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7) reveal this truth to us. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierces as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NASB, emphasis mine) Christ is the only Being capable of reaching to where we truly live from, the heart. Without Jesus Christ we assuredly will continue to develop (spiritually, mentally, and physically), but it will be as a child not given proper nourishment to grow. Our growth will be stunted, our bodies weak, and we will be lacking something that has the ability to make us complete.

So, what is the heart? The heart, biblically speaking, is the place our daily choices stem from. Heart seems to be used synonymously with will and spirit. All the different aspects of our lives are decisions made from our heart. How we work, how we play, how we interact with each other, how we spend our free time, how we think, and how we feel come from the heart and are a matter of choice. There are outside factors that we cannot control and they can have an influence over us (e.g., our background, where we are born, where our parents choose to live when raising us, who our parents are, how our parents raise us, how and what our parents teach us, etc.), but the choice of who we become is a choice we get to make from the heart. Of course this is a choice that is given to us by God through His gracious gift of free-will. So, you begin to see the intertwining of human development and spiritual development.

Growth & Development
Scripture reveals the link between human and spiritual growth. Luke 2:40 describes the child Jesus as growing strong and increasing in wisdom.
- Growing “strong” requires proper nourishment and activity.
- “Increasing in wisdom” requires proper mental nourishment and activity.

The key word in Luke 2:40 is the word “grow”. This is the Greek word auxano and it means to increase or add to something. Growth we know takes time. Jesus had a tight grasp on this and it is why He spent several years with His disciples teaching them about the Kingdom of God. It rubbed off, because Peter later wrote that we are to crave the spiritual milk of the Word, that by it we may grow (auxano) in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2, my par). He wrote in 2 Peter 3:18 that we should grow (auxanoi) in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (NASB). Paul reminded Timothy to be nourished on the words of the faith (1 Tim 4:6, NASB). Paul also points out in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

As humans, our minds and bodies take time to grow. Should our spiritual side be any different? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:15 that as your faith grows (auxano), we shall be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you. What is constant throughout the Bible is the growth and development spiritually of individuals (bad and good examples are given of this: Contrast Saul with David or Judas with Peter).

After Jesus’ resurrection He sent Another to live in His disciples. Who is this “Another”? It would be the Holy Spirit who continues the role of the master Teacher Jesus in that He continues to teach and guide God’s children (John 16:13, Acts 2) in all Truth. The Holy Spirit ministers to the place where human and spiritual developments take place, the heart. This is why and how God can look at the heart of man and woman.

Why Christian human development and spiritual formation is important
Romans 1:18-32 is a key passage to why an understanding and implementing of Christian human development and spiritual formation is necessary and relevant. As fallen creatures we tend to look to ourselves for the solution and answer to our problem. We end up acting like a broken toy that tries to fix itself, an impossible task. Because of this we have become fools (Rom 1:22). Jesus’ challenge for those around Him and us today is to look to Him for the answer. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He tells us. He is the maker of the toy. He knows how it works and how to put it back together. Paul points out in Romans the danger to follow for those who try and do it on their own and constantly reject God; an unclear and distorted picture of reality. But for those who receive God’s Son reality is tasted and freedom from the chains of sin follows (Romans 8:1-2). One then experiences and grows in the type of life Jesus came to offer to those who would surrender to Him. Using big churchy words we call this “sanctification,” a God-driven process that leads to a better quality of life and allows us to experience life in the Kingdom of God.

No comments: