In part one, I explained the incredibly simple and somewhat shocking assessment Jesus uses to evaluate our spirituality: Have you been born again?
God isn’t impressed by our righteous deeds, our acts of sacrifice, or our intellectual understanding. What moves His heart is our willingness to put all of our hope and trust in His perfect Son as the sole basis for our spiritual life. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good – He came to make dead people alive to God!
Theologians call this justification – it’s the perfect legal standing before God that Jesus places on us the moment we put our faith in Him. But justification leads to sanctification – the theological description of the daily process of becoming more like Jesus.
So how can we tell if we’re growing? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it can help give us a sense of how we’re doing.
1) Am I hungry for God or am I disinterested?
You don’t have to tell a baby to eat. When a child loses their appetite, it’s a clear sign something is wrong. In the same way, when someone gives their life to Christ, they’re eager to spend time in His presence, to learn of His ways, to worship and to pray. The good news is Jesus said that everyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be filled.
2) Am I making progress or am I stuck?
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he challenges one of the youngest leaders in the early church to be diligent in his development and to wholly devote himself to the process in order that his spiritual growth would be obvious to those around him(1 Timothy 4:15). This is great advice for every follower of Christ.
3) How do I respond to failure?
We all have dry seasons. We all have moments where we struggle and miss the mark. But in those moments, our response is telling. Mature Christ followers respond to setbacks by running TO God, not away from Him. They repent quickly and whole-heartedly. How we deal with personal failure speaks volumes.
4) Do I know where to find peace?
Fear, anxiety and worry surround us. They’re waiting for us in the morning on our social media channels and by the end of the day we’ve learned of another impending danger. We don’t have to search for reasons to be afraid – they come looking for us. The question is not, “Will we be afraid?” The real question is, “What do we do with our fear?” Christ followers know where to find peace – not in their circumstances, but in the presence of God.
5) Do I love/add value to others?
Jesus makes this the benchmark of spiritual growth. Just days before His death, He told His disciples the way the world would recognize them was by the way they loved one another. In Matthew 22, He sums up the law in the prophets in two phrases: love God, love people. Growing closer to God always leads to loving, serving, and adding value to others.