Purpose #3 – “Grow-Up”
Your third primary purpose in life is to “Grow-up” spiritually. Think of it like this – similar to parents who want their children to grow-up to be physically and emotionally mature, God wants you to grow-up to be spiritually mature. Specifically, God wants you to become more like Jesus, not to become a ‘god’ – but to become more godly in your virtues and to live your life more fully and abundantly here on earth.
It’s important to understand that becoming more like Jesus does not mean losing your personality! God created you with an amazing, one-of-a-kind personality, and He has no intention of changing it. Rather, becoming Christ-like is all about transforming your “character” and not your “personality.” What’s fascinating to note is that a person can be an “adult” physically speaking, while at the same time be a “baby” spiritually speaking. This scenario occurs when a person does not become a believer in Jesus (adopted into God’s family – see Purpose #1) until he or she is an adult. This special moment-in-time event is known as the person’s “spiritual” birthday (as he or she is re-born spiritually), and they are in essence a new-born believer.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13, NLT)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
Metamorphosis … Transformation … New Birth
As denoted above, the Bible describes this “new birth” as a transformation. In fact, this “transformation” (from “old” to “new” self) is often compared to a caterpillar’s “metamorphosis” into a butterfly. Webster’s dictionary defines metamorphosis as “a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means” or “a striking alteration in appearance, character or circumstances.” Through metamorphosis, the caterpillar becomes a totally new and much more beautiful creation.
Metamorphosis compares nicely to the process of change that people undergo when becoming God’s adopted children as well as the subsequent spiritual growth process. As mentioned earlier, when we are reborn spiritually, we are not simply reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated, but we are re-created (as a new creation) living in divine union with Christ. As amazing and wonderful as that process is, we need to realize and remember at that moment-in-time, we are still baby believers. We still need to grow-up to become spiritually mature so we can soar in life for ourselves, God, and others.
“The Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:18b, GNT)
“…Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (Ephesians 4:13, CEV)
It’s important to note that while “physical” growth occurs automatically over time, “spiritual” growth is not automatic. To grow up spiritually, intentional effort, discipline, and commitment are required. [Point of clarification: While effort has nothing to do with your salvation (which is all by faith and God’s supernatural grace – Ephesians 2:8-9), effort has much to do with your spiritual growth.] Unfortunately, many people do not put in the effort and discipline required for spiritual growth (reading God’s Word, praying diligently, attending church, obeying God’s commands, etc.). Consequently, their mind and emotions think and feel no differently because they have not yet been transformed.
“Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2, NLT)
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a, NIV)
“Sanctify (transform) them by the truth; your word (the Bible) is truth.” (John 17:17, NIV)
“May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23b, NIV).
The Bible speaks of nine amazing Christ-like characteristics we receive when we are adopted into God’s family: 1. Love, 2. Joy, 3. Peace, 4. Patience, 5. Kindness, 6. Goodness, 7. Faithfulness, 8. Gentleness, and 9. Self-Control. These life-changing and life-enhancing qualities are referred to as the “fruit of the Spirit,” which the Holy Spirit brings as gifts when He indwells within us.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, BSB)
So how exactly does the Holy Spirit produce these nine fruits in your life? Does He produce them instantaneously? In other words, will you simply wake up one morning with these characteristics fully developed within you? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just like physical fruit takes time to ripen and mature, spiritual fruit also takes time to ripen and mature. But these amazing characteristics are so incredibly beneficial its well-worth the wait and the effort involved. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want to have fully mature LOVE, JOY, and PEACE in their lives (and this is only 3 of the 9 divine fruits)? These heavenly attributes will make your lives sweeter and more gratifying beyond your wildest dreams.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, NLT)
The good news is that the Holy Spirit acts as your “personal trainer” and equips you with the power and discipline to gradually mature through strengthening and growing these new Christlike traits. These collectively form and define your new character muscle. To continue the spiritual growth process, you must have a healthy spiritual “diet” combined with healthy spiritual “exercise.”
God transforms us to grow-up spiritually by putting us in the exercise room called “life.” Specifically, God uses our everyday activities, successes, and stresses as strengthening workout opportunities to help us develop spiritually. Think of your life here on earth as an “80-year bootcamp” because every day of your life you are in training whether you realize it or not.
God uses his divine gym consisting of various training mechanisms, exercise routines, diets, and drills to help develop your spiritual muscle to be more like Christ. There are 5 primary trainings in God’s gym. We refer to them as the five training T’s or the “5Ts”:
- Truth (God’s Word)
- Talk (Prayer)
- Troubles (Trials, Tests, and Tribulations)
- Temptation (to Sin)
- Tribe (People)
Truth (God’s Word)
To a large extent, growing up spiritually involves replacing the world’s “lies” with God’s “truth.” Reading, studying, and feeding on God’s Holy Bible is critical training to help make that happen.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT)
“Sanctify (transform) them by the truth; your word (the Bible) is truth.” (John 17:17, NIV)
Unfortunately, many people do not have a daily diet of reading the Bible and, consequently, suffer from spiritual weakness and malnutrition. To grow up spiritually, you must feed your spiritual muscles with spiritual nourishment. God’s Word feeds your soul and is referred to as spiritual milk, living water, heavenly bread, and sweet dessert. Your divine diet of consuming God’s Word should accompany the workout drills of reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible.
“And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35, NKJV)
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8, NIV)
Finally, reading God’s Word is important because faith (the key ingredient to salvation and all God’s promises) comes from hearing and reading the Bible. Therefore, it is important to feed your faith by staying in God’s Word.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV)
God is your divine “coach” who trains you to become the best “player” you can on His team. When you talk and pray to God, He will reveal deeper truths to you, which in turn will further transform your character, your choices, and your spiritual growth process. Training yourself to talk and pray to God takes daily discipline.
Similar to talking to friends and family throughout your day, God wants you to exercise the talking-to-Him routine throughout your day. This includes talking to God even while you are performing your daily activities (work, school, hobbies, errands, etc.). Whether you are praying to God on your knees in your closet or talking to God while in your car, God wants to communicate with you!
“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, NIV)
All healthy conversations involve talking and listening; therefore, after you are done talking to God don’t forget to do listening drills. Generally speaking, there will be many “voices” inside your head competing for your attention. Theses voices include:
- The voice of your sin nature
- The voice of the world (social media, news, friends)
- The voice of Satan
- The voice of God
The way to tune into and clearly discern God’s voice is to assess whether the idea or thought aligns with God’s truth (the Bible).
Finally, just as you have daily hygiene to keep your physical outer body clean (showering/bathing), it’s important to come to God in prayer to keep your spiritual inner being clean (heart, mind, body, soul, spirit). Taking a “spiritual shower” involves confessing your sins to God. When we do, God promises to forgive and cleanse us from all the filth that sin creates.
It’s important to clarify that the on-going confession of sin to God is not for salvation-related purposes (as you obtained your ticket-to-heaven the moment you accepted Jesus in your heart which also forgave all your past, present, and future sins), but rather to keep you humble, to clear your conscience, to seek His strength (to defeat future temptation), to remind you of the importance of spiritual growth, and to maximize your fellowship and joy with God each day.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NKJV)
Troubles (Trials, Tests, and Tribulations)
Okay, this gym workout is arguably everyone’s least favorite! These are intense workouts that live up to the adage of “no pain, no gain.” Troubles are unwelcomed workouts because they cause stress, pain, anxiety, suffering, despair, and even torment. Unfortunately, none of us can escape these painful life drills.
“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b, NIV)
That said, God has given us an extraordinary promise that states He will use all our troubles and all our pain for our good! Say what? That’s right, if you are a child of God (see Purpose #1), He will make all your pain and problems be profitable to you! He will take your burdens and make them your blessings! This promise is a marvelous and comforting truth that we all need to know in our hearts and to continuously cling to.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
So, where exactly do our troubles come from? To no surprise, the super-majority of our troubles come from Satan and from sin. Satan, who’s a professional trouble-maker, continually lurks around to steal, kill, and destroy us. Sin is also continuously wreaking havoc on our lives based on our own poor choices as well as the bad decisions from others (yes, we can get tangled into the adverse circumstances and consequences of other people’s sins). And if Satan and sin were not enough, simply living in a broken, cursed, and fallen world also cause us to fall prey to distress and difficulties (e.g., tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, sickness, war, etc.).
“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV) [NOTE: Parentheses were added.]
The good news is the Bible states we can avoid many troubles in life by simply choosing to do what’s right versus doing what’s wrong. In other words, when we play in the darkness (with sin and the devil), trouble and painful consequences will generally follow.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NIV)
“…and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27, NIV)
It’s important to note that while Satan brings trouble to discourage, deceive, and destroy you, God utilizes those same troubles (and perhaps even some of His own initiated trials) to teach and train you to grow-up spiritually and build your character muscle. If we were to compare two fathers, who do you think loves his child more – the father who allows his child to do whatever they want even when it will harm them; or the father who corrects, trains, and even punishes their child to help him or her learn what is right and to avoid harm? We would all agree that it’s never pleasant to be corrected and disciplined. However, we can also agree that when it’s well intended, out of love, and in our best interests, we should embrace it. This is exactly what God wants us to understand. He wants to correct and discipline us, but only out of His deep love and concern for us. We may not agree or embrace all this, but we must remember that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV)
Every trouble, trial, and tribulation can become growth opportunities. However, to reap the benefits you must remain in the gym-of-trouble and persevere by fully completing and maximizing the workout! This involves seeking God throughout the process (His revelation, teaching, healing, help, strength, peace, protection, provisions), staying in His Word, and casting your cares to Him. Too often, people leave the gym-of-trouble early (by turning away from God in anger and bitterness); and consequently, do not get to experience the gains (spiritual muscle growth as well as increased intimacy with God) from the intense workout.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s might hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NIV)
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
In summary, it’s helpful to keep the following “troubling” truths in mind:
- Every pain/problem has a purpose.
- Every pain/problem can make you better or bitter.
- Every pain/problem is an opportunity for spiritual growth.
- God will use all your pain/problems for your good (if you are in His family – see Purpose #1).
- Your future reward is eternal life in heaven where no pain/problems exist!
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1a, NIV)
“He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, NIV)
Temptation (to Sin)
There are three main sources that tempt us to sin:
- Flesh (our sin nature).
You can think of these three sources as the “evil” trinity. Let’s begin with Satan. Just like Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil, we are too! Satan has had thousands of years perfecting his deceptive attacks, which ultimately are lies and twisted truth. His goal is to deceive you, destroy you, and to keep you from God.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT)
In addition to Satan being our tempter, we are also tempted by the “world” – i.e., our culture and other people. Unfortunately, our world promotes, values, and glamorizes sinful and unrighteous behavior (sex, drugs, money, materialism, fame, pride, self, etc.). Unless you are mindful of the world’s ways and its temptations, you can easily fall victim to it.
“For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (2 Timothy 3:2-4, NIV)
“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV)
Finally, we are also tempted by ourselves (our sin nature). In other words, even though we may be adopted into God’s family along with a new spirit, we still continue to live inside our old/existing bodies (our “flesh”). And it’s our flesh that still contains that annoying, active, and power-hungry sin nature.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh (body) is weak.” (Matthew 26:41, NIV)
The good news (if you are a child of God) is you have the Holy Spirit within you who possesses the power over sin. Therefore, when temptation knocks, you need to train yourself to not only exercise self-control, but also to yield to and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes daily discipline, but you can have victory over even your most stubborn, habitual sins. Each and every time you have victory over sin (choose not to sin and do good), you are building your self-control and other spiritual muscles.
Here’s some more good news! God our Father will only allow you to be tempted (whether caused from Satan, the world, or our flesh) to a certain degree, and He will also provide you with an escape route. God wants you to live victoriously over sin and to grow-up spiritually. Finally, you must know that God will never tempt you to sin as it goes against His holy nature.
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT)
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” (James 1:13, NIV)
God uses all the people in your life (family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and enemies) to help in your development and spiritual growth. Through your encounters with various individuals, God will provide growth opportunities for you to exercise the fruit of love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, etc. This development will require the power and prompting of the Holy Spirit within you. So, begin making it a practice of viewing your relationships and encounters with people (good, bad, or ugly) as divine workouts and opportunities for spiritual growth.
As discussed in Purpose #2, other people-related disciplines for spiritual growth include attending church, participating in a small group Bible study, and fellowshipping with others.
A Common Thread
As we wrap-up your third primary purpose in life, it’s important to note that a common thread in all of these divine diets and drills is that they all center on the discipline of making right choices: what to think, what to say, how to react, what to do. Deciding to make the right choice begins in your mind, which is often referred as your control tower. Your thoughts drive your emotions, which ultimately determine your words and actions. Therefore, to change your life and grow-up spiritually, you must start with your ‘control tower’ and gradually work towards changing the way you think.
“Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)
In summation, when you put your full trust in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, God (via the Holy Spirit) indwells you and helps transform your life to become more Godlike. Over time, you begin to develop new perspectives, passions, possibilities, and pursuits. More importantly, you transform from being “self-focused” to being “God-focused.” You transform from the old-self caterpillar that is completely self-absorbed and obsessed with consuming food and destroying plants, to the new-self butterfly that sails through the air contributing to life by pollinating flowers and beautifying the earth. So, begin soaring today!
The below infographic summarizes the key aspects of your third purpose in life.