Do We Measure Spiritual Growth Superficially?

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Do we measure our spiritual life in superficial ways?

This question, written by John Ortberg, is one that I continually have to ask myself. And I think it’s one every believer needs to consider.

So let’s think about it. How do you know if you are growing spiritually? Does it mean you read the Bible every day, write in a journal, and pray for your family and neighbors? I do believe praying and reading the Bible are important, I’m not saying they are not, but is that the end goal?

John Ortberg writes…

For many years I thought about [spiritual growth] only in terms of a few special activities. If someone asked me how my spiritual life was going, my first thought would be how I was doing at having a quiet time–praying and reading the Bible each day. If I had prayed and read the Bible for several consecutive prior days, I was likely to say that my spiritual life was going well. If not, I was likely to feel guilty and downcast. So prayer and Bible study became the gauge of my spiritual condition. As long as I did those two things I could go though the day confident of God’s approval (The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 42-43)

Our spiritual life should not be measured, therefore, by our reading the Bible through in a year or praying for 30 minutes a day. “The real issue,” writes Ortberg, “is what kind of people are we becoming.” “Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important” continues Ortberg, “not because they prove how spiritual we are, but because God can use them to lead us into life.”

The question we need to be asking ourselves is: “Am I growing in love for God and people?”

I’m always reminded of my grandfather when I think about loving God and loving others. His motto was: “You gotta love people!” No doubt he read the Bible and prayed, but it wasn’t his Bible reading plan that had a huge affect on me. It was his life. I’ve had the opportunity, because of seminary, to read much more theology and Biblical studies than my grandfather ever did, and yet, I still have so much to learn from him in regards to loving others.

Don’t misread what I’m writing here. I think one ought to spend one’s life seeking to understand the Bible. If you have opportunity, read theology and anything else that will help you to grasp God’s Word. I think my grandfather loved others because of the impact of Scripture upon his life. It was through God’s Word that he arrived at a deep understanding of the grace of God. But let’s be careful in assuming that our knowledge of Scripture, along with our daily Bible reading and praying, are marks of our spiritual maturity.

We do well to constantly remember the words of Jesus…

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt. 22:36-40)

Are we growing in our love for God and others? It is this question that should provide the mark for our spiritual maturity!

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