Theme of the Week: Christ Formed in You
Bible Verse: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:15 ESV
Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:13-26; 1 Timothy 1:15
The mystery of the Christian life, then, is the mystery of how God’s Spirit works in us and through us. His role is to regenerate us, cleanse us, renew us, fill us, transform us, and strengthen us. Our role is to keep in step with him. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). This passage in Galatians its surrounding context provides a clear picture of what walking by the Spirit looks like and suggests several important insights about the nature of spiritual growth.
My purpose is to briefly discuss today and tomorrow, five characteristics of spiritual growth which emerge from a study of this passage.
1. Spiritual Growth Is Relational
First, spiritual growth always happens in a relational context. Many of the virtues he lists as fruit of the Spirit have a strong relational dimension—love, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. “Spiritual growth is not something that is normally expected to take place in isolation from other believers.”1 So how are your relationships with others? Are you serving others in love? Do you demonstrate patience and gentleness to your spouse and children? Are you kind to strangers? Genuine transformation will always affect how we treat others.
2. Spiritual Growth Involves Conflict
Expect a fierce contest between the Spirit and the flesh (Gal. 5:16–17). No one walks in the Spirit without waging warfare against unruly passions and desires (cf. 1 Peter 2:11). The flesh with its passions and desires must be nailed to the cross (v. 24). The Spirit leads us to put sin to death (Rom. 8:13–14).
3. Spiritual Growth Is Inside Out
Spiritual growth happens from the inside out. Spiritual growth is organic, not mechanical; fruit is grown, not built. The “fruit of the Spirit” (v. 22) is positioned in clear contrast to the “works of the flesh” (v. 19). Think of it like this: there’s a huge difference between a Christmas tree and a living tree. You can hang artificial fruit on a Christmas tree, but that doesn’t make it alive. But a living tree produces fruit by the slow process that supply nutrients to the plants. Bearing spiritual fruit is a similar process, dependent on the Spirit’s work of applying the gospel to our hearts in order to transform our lives.
1 Peterson, p. 135.
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