How Do We as Christians Grow in Christ?
By Pastor Ron Jones, D.D., © The Titus Institute, 2004
I. To grow in Christ means to grow in our faith in Christ which results in growth in our obedience to Christ.
Our relationship with Christ is all about faith (Gal.2:20). We grow in
our faith in Christ by allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds through
the Word of God. As our minds are renewed, our beliefs and values in Christ
(the mind of Christ in us) become stronger and more pervasive in our lives,
which motivate us to trust God even more. Therefore our faith grows. When
we trust Christ more, we will obey him more because we will have grown in
our awareness of the true value of knowing and following Christ (Phil.3:8).
This process of growth in our values and beliefs and in our faith is transformation
by the Holy Spirit.
II. To grow in Christ we need to renew our minds.
What does it mean “to renew our minds”? How does the Holy Spirit renew our minds? In 1 Cor.2:16 Paul says that we as Christians have the “mind of Christ.” That means that at the moment of salvation we have been given the “beliefs and values” of Jesus Christ planted in our minds. These “beliefs of Jesus” consist of the basic truths of the Christian faith, which are centered in the true identity of Jesus Christ and His work of redemption. Godliness results from understanding these truths. Implanted in our hearts through the Spirit is the same beliefs that Jesus has about Himself and how one should live according to the Father’s will.
In Tit.2:11-14 Paul tells us that the gospel brings not only doctrinal truth, but practical truth. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
2 Tim.3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.”
As the Scriptures above tell us, the “beliefs of Jesus” involve both knowledge and behavior. We are not only given the “beliefs” of Jesus, we are given the “values” of Jesus. From the moment of salvation we value what Jesus values. These “values of Jesus ” consist of valuing these truths above all else. We value how God wants us to live. That is part of the mind of Christ in us. When we are exhorted in the Scriptures to follow Christ, we value following Christ. All Christians have Christ’s values in them. Christ’s values are revealed in the Scriptures.
This is important because as human beings we live by our beliefs and values. This is what ultimately motivates us. If someone is motivated about something you can be assured that they believe it is true and they value it in their lives. So the Lord, at the moment of salvation, implants in us the “mind of Christ” by the Holy Spirit. The mind of Christ are the beliefs and values of Christ which are revealed in the gospel pf Jesus Christ.
This is the anointing of the Spirit! 1 Jn.2:20 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because no lie is of the truth.”
But we need to be continually strengthened in the beliefs and values we hold, the “mind of Christ” in us. 2 Pet. 3:18 says, “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “
We are to grow in experiencing God’s grace in our lives (living by the faith) and grow in our knowledge of Christ (knowing more about him intellectually and experientially).
We grow in God’s grace as we increase our faith.
How do we do this? By continually renewing our minds through the Word.
III. To renew our minds, we need to read, understand, and trust the Word of God.
Renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God strengthens our beliefs (convictions) and values in Christ which turns our thoughts, attitudes, words, actions toward Christ and into godly ones and not sinful ones which causes an emotional shift in our lives (we are emotional about what we believe and value)
Work on your beliefs, convictions, and values for the long run. Work on your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions for the short-run.
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your service of worship and do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. “
What does Paul mean when he says we are to “renew our minds”?
“To renew your mind” means “to bring your mind into greater conformity to the mind of Christ.” It means to bring your beliefs and values into greater conformity to the beliefs and values of Christ.
In Rom.12:1 Paul says that we are to offer to God our bodies as spiritual sacrifices - that means that if you really want to worship God - offers yourselves to Him in obedience and righteousness which means to make a commitment to follow Christ, to trust and obey him according to his Word.
In v.2 Paul says that we are not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world - the pattern of this world is the way the world does things - the way those who do not know Christ live and think and act, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
When you do that you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will, that is, how you can trust and obey the Lord in your daily life (by reflecting his beliefs and values in your life).
How do we renew our minds? How do we bring our minds into greater conformity to the mind of Christ? How do we bring our beliefs and values into greater conformity to the beliefs and values of Christ?
Through reading, understanding, and trusting the Word of God.
We will be motivated to trust and submit to Christ and his word on a daily basis when we are regularly focused on Christ through his Word.
This renews our mind.
IV. As we read, understand, and trust the Word of God, we need to regularly focus on Jesus Christ.
“…let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Our Christian lives are like running a race and what we focus our lives on determines how we well we run the race.
“Focusing on” means to keep our attention on Jesus, his beliefs and values, his thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.
Jesus is the model of a God-honoring life for humans. He was human and provides the pattern of life humans should follow. We need to look carefully and regularly at how Jesus lived and follow his example.
We need to understand Jesus’ beliefs and values, his attitudes, words, and actions.
1. We will regularly focus on Christ through His Word when we “let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.”
Col.3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
v. 16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”
Again, Paul gives another command. This is our responsibility.
The results of “letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you” are given in verses 16 -4:1
v. 16 1. Teaching and admonishing one another 2. Singing with thankfulness
Then Paul gives a series of commands, which can only be performed when a Christian allows the word of Christ to dwell within him.
1. Doing all for the glory of God with thankfulness 2. Wives— 3. Husbands— 4. Children— 5. Fathers— 6. Slaves— 7. Masters—
The Holy Spirit does the actual work in our lives while our focus is on Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you?”
V. 16 “Word of Christ”
This is the objective, special revelation that comes from and is centered on Jesus Christ. This is the Bible, the Scriptures, which has Christ as its source and as its theme.
We are to let the word of God which is centered in Christ dwell within us richly.
v. 16 “dwell within” means to inhabit, or live-in
The Word of God is to live in us, to inhabit us.
Ex. Think back to when you moved into an empty house. When you come to live there and settle yourself down there, you spread yourself throughout every room. Pretty soon, the house begins to take on your characteristics. The house can tell people a lot about you. Are you extremely neat or messy or in-between?
It is like that spiritually for the word in the mind of the believer. The spiritual house of the believer is his mind. He is to fill his mind with the word of Christ. He is to think read it, understand it, and trust it so that his mind is filled with it.
This means making growth in understanding God’s Word a top priority of your life.
The command to let it dwell within is in the present tense, which means it is to be done regularly as a commitment of life.
v. 16 “richly” totally, fully, abundantly
We are to fill our minds with the Word of God regularly like filling our house with our possessions.
When we regularly think read, understand, and trust the so that our minds are filled with it, the Word will affect our beliefs and values, and then our thoughts, attitudes and actions through the Holy Spirit.
And the believer will continually turn toward trust and obedience and thus live by the Spirit.
Because the Bible is the mind of Christ; it reflects His beliefs and values, His thoughts, attitudes and actions.
When you fill your mind with the Scriptures, you are filling your mind with the thoughts, attitudes and actions of Christ himself. We will then be influenced dramatically to believe what Christ believes and to value what Christ values. Then we will think like Christ thinks, desire what Christ desires, act like Christ acts which is to walk by the Spirit.
This is how we become Christ-centered.
This filling our minds with the Word of God is not learning Bible facts or memorizing Scriptures as fast as we can without understanding them.
It is reading and studying the Scriptures so that we might understand Jesus Christ, God the Father and God the Spirit so that we might trust and submit to our Lord and live out a life of faith in Christ (Gal.2:20.)
All of the Scriptures reflect who Christ is. It doesn’t have to directly speak of him, but rather the whole Bible reflects his beliefs, values, thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
The Bible is not an academic book about historical facts. It is a book about the character and nature of God, how he relates to us, and how he wants us to relate to him and to each other. It is a book about Jesus our Savior and Lord.
The Bible helps us to:
1. Understand the nature of God and His Son Jesus Christ, in all their majesty and power
2. Understand the incredible blessing that he brings to us who have become his children
3. Understand our identity in Christ and how God desires to work in our lives.
4. Understand how God is working out his redemptive plan in the world and how he will bring it all to completion.
Heb.1:1 God spoke so we might know his Son, the radiance of his glory and about him.
Rom.15:4 The Scriptures are a book of hope. 2 Tim.3:16-17 They teach us how to live. Prov.1:1-7 This is a book of wisdom about life.
The Scriptures reflect Christ. They do not have to mention Christ or refer to Christ on each page of the Bible, but each book of the Bible as a whole reflects his character and nature.
We need to approach the Word with the attitude that it reflects Jesus Christ who reflects God the Father (Col.3:15).
Focusing on Christ through the Word is a perspective not an activity. The Word reflects Christ and we follow Christ and live for Christ.
If we think about some truth from the Word everyday and how it reflects the character and nature of God the Son and if we follow the example of Christ by trusting and obeying him and his commandments, we will be filled with the Spirit, renew our minds and grow into greater conformity to Christ!
As this Word fills us then the Holy Spirit uses it to renew or transform our minds and conform us into the image of Christ (which is the fruit of the Spirit).
The Holy Spirit transforms our minds so that we take on the characteristics of the very being we are growing in our understanding of. It causes our minds to think differently about life.
This also keeps us motivated to grow in Christ.
So much of life is motivation.
Have you ever noticed that when we are motivated to do something we do it? When we are not motivated to do something we can do it for a while out of sheer self-discipline, but eventually we will end up not doing it anymore.
So how do we get motivated and stay motivated over a lifetime? Let the
Word of Christ dwell in us richly.
How do we practically fill our minds with the Word?
1. Study the Word as a book from your Father all about him and you and everything he wants you to know.
Simple method I used when I was working in a non-pastoral job.
Gen12: life of Abraham
Get a commentary and go paragraph by paragraph
Read the Biblical text and a couple of verses explaining it and ask yourself three questions.
Ask yourself three simple questions, “What does this passage tell me about God or Christ who loves me?”
“What does this passage tell me about how I should relate to him?”
“What does this passage tell me how I should relate to others?
2. Commit yourself to trust God and what He says in His Word and submit to Him, that is, to what God says in His Word.
As you trust, pray. Speak to God. Petitioning God is the way we express our dependence on God.
Focus on speaking to God as your Father who loves and cares for you as his child, not as a subject speaking to his or her king. He wants to hear you speak to him because he loves you. Speak to Christ directly as well as your spiritual big brother who shows you how to follow the ways of God.
Begin by confessing any known sin to God your Father. 1 Jn.1: 9
Spend some time praising God for who he is and what he has done in your life and in the lives of others. Ps.103
Spend some time giving thanks to God for who he is and what he has done. Ps.136
Ask God your Father to meet your needs in whatever area you are concerned about. Phil.4: 6-7 Matt.6: 9-13 Lord’s prayer
Ask God your Father on behalf of others that you are concerned about. Eph.6: 18
Finish your requests by praying in Jesus’ name This phrase means that you acknowledge to God that you are speaking to God your Father based on what Jesus has done on the cross for you. You are not speaking because of your own right and authority to address God. It is a reminder that prayer is a privilege based on God’s grace, not a formula.
This approach is meant to be helpful, not a legalistic formula. God is more concerned with your heart than with exactly what you say or how long you spend saying it.
3. Commit yourself to follow the clear commandments of Christ in the NT and to stay within the boundaries that God set.
Jn.17 Be in then world, but not of it Tit.1 Love what is good in our culture and society and turn away from the bad.
I. To grow in Christ means to grow in our faith in Christ.
II. To grow in Christ we need to renew our minds.
III. To renew our minds, we need to read, understand, and trust God through the Word of God.
IV. As we read, understand, and trust the Word of God, we need to regularly focus on Jesus Christ.