Sometimes women come for care because they feel stuck spiritually in their Christian lives. They tell me their faith has grown stagnant and they are struggling with the “want to” of the Christian life. This is problematic because as Christians, we are to constantly be growing and changing; progressing in sanctification to become more and more like Christ (1 Thess. 4:1,10; Eph. 4:15). We will never be finished growing in this life and we must be intentional as well as diligent in pursuing opportunities to grow in our faith and relationship with God in Christ.
Holy Spirit’s Role
It is important to recognize the Holy Spirit’s role in our spiritual growth (progressive sanctification). Often, the answer I get from a counselee when I ask what she has done about a problem is, “Pray.” While prayer is essential, many Christians don’t understand the transformation process . One reason I heavily emphasize the importance of the heart as the center of thoughts, beliefs, and desires, is because the Bible is very clear that true change begins in the heart. From the heart it overflows out into our lives through new words, actions, attitudes, and who and what we worship.
The Bible is clear that God is not only interested in what we do, but is also interested in the heart behind what we do. Real change is motivated by the Holy Spirit acting on the heart; that He is the Agent of Change in the Christian (Phil. 1:6). Our transformation is His responsibility and He will do the work deep within us to assure it will come to fruition (1 Thess. 5:23-24).
Grace-based theology is very important to me. I spent the first 15 years of my Christian life in a fundamentalist church that threatened God’s wrath and displeasure for my sin, even as a Christian. While sin never pleases God, His grace allows me to process changes from the heart rather than outward conformity that is Pharisaical (Luke 15). I believe that grace is abundant and I do not have to live in fear of damnation as I learn, grow, and change. On the other hand, grace is not to be abused. It is not acceptable for a Christian to live as he or she pleases, abusing this wonderful gift of God (Rom. 6:1). God expects us to “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:12).
Freedom in Christ
It is pure freedom to know that in Christ, God will never love me any more or any less than He does right now. In Christ, I am righteous and holy before God (Phil. 3:8-9), and that causes me to fall on my face in worship. My desire to live righteously before God is a response that proceeds from the knowledge of what a great sinner I am and how much I have been forgiven. I respond to God out of gratitude rather than out of a sense of duty.
Spiritual disciplines are certainly important. Many Christians do not see the importance or the need for regular Bible reading, memorization, and private prayer. In our busy world, these critical practices have been substituted with 5-minute devotions (in the bathroom of all places!), electronic Fighter Verses (at Desiring God.org) and quick prayer for a need or problem. We truly need lengthy time with God in prayer, worship, reading and memorization of the Scriptures. This is critical to our ongoing sanctification.
The goal of all we do as Christians is the worship and glorification of God in our lives. We are to showcase the Lord Jesus Christ as He works in us and through us to those around us. Whether He is visible in our acts of service or in our corporate worship, we are to be revealing His life in our lives. Living to glorify God is to be our primary goal in this life as we prepare to worship and glorify Him in eternity.