Spiritual growth is all about being transformed into the person God envisions you to be. Confessing your sin and shortcomings is a part of this process of transformation. Whenever you confess your sin and shortcomings’your anger, lust, addiction, selfishness’whatever it is’you can have full confidence that God will forgive you, give you the power to change, and transform your life.
The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes’ (Ephesians 1:4). God desires to make you holy’that is, to form his character in you. Looking through the eyes of love, he already sees you as you will look when his work is done. Spiritual renewal is the process of correcting your life to match what God envisions it to be. The Bible tells us God’s discipline is always right and good because it means we will share in his holiness. It is God’s will for you to be made holy.
When you ask God to develop such holiness in you, he eagerly responds to your request. The apostle John wrote, ‘And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for’ (1 John 5:14-15).
Are you facing a strong temptation? Interpersonal conflicts? Difficult circumstances? In the Bible the apostle Paul uses the analogy of armor and warfare to teach about the equipment that’s essential for standing against temptation and spiritual attack.
First, he encourages you to put on the belt of truth. Satan is the father of lies. He’s constantly trying to deceive and trap you. In contrast, all of your armor is held together by truth, which comes from the Father of Truth.
Next, you need to put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. Though there are many levels of meaning to this phrase, the primary one is that you’re forgiven and accepted through faith in Jesus Christ alone. You’re not protected by your own righteousness; you need the righteousness of God.
Next, you’re called to put on the shoes of peace and carry this Good News to people everywhere.
You’re also given a shield of faith to protect you against Satan’s accusations and persecutions. Prayer leads to faith. It keeps your vision clear when circumstances cloud your way.
The helmet of salvation is next on Paul’s list. In addition to protecting the wearer, the helmet identified a soldier’s allegiance. You belong to the company of Christ.
Finally, you’re armed with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The sword is your only offensive weapon.
God never leaves his men behind in battle. Read Paul’s warfare prayer from the book of Ephesians 6:10-18 for help.
Spiritual growth is a fragile process. Without vigilance and encouragement from others, you live with the prospect of slipping back into sin. In the face of this, you need help from others who have courage and sensitivity toward your situation. Harsh condemnation will not help you, but neither will friends who flatter you with falsely positive words. Working with faithful support is what you need.
Consider John’s short letter in the book second John. In this letter, John balances condemnation and encouragement, proving himself to be a wise counselor and a great example to us. Recognize the past successes of others and affirm your brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, be willing to point out hazards ahead when you see them. Share your hard-won wisdom with warnings when necessary. Pointing out the obstacles ahead and encouraging others to be careful is the loving thing to do.
Loving one another is the most basic act of obedience to God. It’s also an essential element in your spiritual growth. At times, you may tend to focus inward and become self-centered. We live in a dog-eat-dog, every man for himself world. But that’s not Christianity. Remembering to be loving toward others will not only please God, but it will also help you to think of others and build good relationships.