God intends for us to grow. Peter reminds us that, “like newborn infants,” we should “desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Growing from infancy to maturity is how the Bible portrays God’s work in your life (Eph 4:13-16). He begins our new life in Christ and nurtures us to grow into mature Christians. But how do we grow? Telling someone they need to grow up without telling them how is not helpful. God, thankfully, tells us how. He equips us with certain habits, which some call spiritual disciplines or means of grace, to help us grow.

Practice Makes Progress

Paul tells Timothy to keep three habits in his life and ministry: teaching, public reading of Scripture, and exhortation (1 Tim 4:13). As Timothy practices these habits, Paul expects his “progress to be evident to all” (1 Tim 4:15). With practice, he makes progress. Here is God’s growth plan in action. By committing to practical habits, Timothy makes visible progress in godliness. Whether you just began or walked with the Lord for years, you can make progress.

What habits should we commit to? David Mathis answers this question well in the book Habits of Grace. He arranges habits for the Christian life in three areas: Hear God’s voice by engaging with God’s Word, have God’s ear in prayer, and participate in Christ’s body in the local church. However, the nuts and bolts that fit together in your life, engaging God’s Word, God’s ear, and God’s people, are essential for making progress.

Eyes on the Goal

Why do we want to make progress? What is the finish line we fix our eyes on? Our aim is not simply to become better people. Nor to read the Bible more, pray more, and so on. The goal of our progress is gaining Christ. Paul says, “I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). We make progress in Christ, through Christ, for the goal of knowing Christ. “I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil. 3:8). Nothing is more valuable than knowing Christ and being known by him. Press on and make progress to that end.

Spiritual growth and self-improvement are not twins. Christians are called to grow “in Christ.” Growing up means growing deeper with Jesus. The Christian life is a relationship to be cultivated, not a manual to be memorized. Growing in Christ is not about mastering a habit but deepening our love for God and our delight in God (Psalm 1:2). I love how Darryl Dash puts it in his book How to Grow. He says, “The power of a spiritual discipline isn’t in the discipline itself, after all. The disciplines exist to bring us to Jesus and to put us in the path of His grace.” As walking strengthens our leg muscles, our spiritual muscles are strengthened as Jesus walks with us on the path of grace.

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