How to Actively Grow Spiritually

Posted On July 10, 2024

Written by Dr. Matthew Dudreck, associate professor of New Testament

If you google spiritual growth, you’ll find a lot of suggestions that are not helpful and fairly mixed in quality, likely due to the ambiguous meaning of the phrase. After all, what makes someone “spiritual,” and in what way can this quality “grow”? If we’re not clear about what we mean, at best, we’ll be confused in our pursuits, and at worst, we might be led astray.

For the Christian, spiritual growth is the progressive increase in both the inward enjoyment and outward manifestation or use of all the benefits of redemption that we possess in our union with Christ by the Holy Spirit through faith for God’s glory. This means that any active pursuit of spiritual growth must be an application and outworking of what we have in Christ by the indwelling Spirit through faith in Christ’s person and work.

What then does this look like practically so that we may cultivate spiritual growth? Through what are often called the “ordinary means of grace,” two well-known Reformed catechisms capture this application and outworking of faith:

Heidelberg Catechism Q. 65. It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?

A. The Holy Spirit works it in our hearts, by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Practically speaking, the pursuit of spiritual growth for the Christian is the use of these ordinary means of grace that Christ has ordained for the Spirit to work faith in the hearts of His people. For example, we can actively use the means of grace to grow spiritually by:

  • Hearing the gospel proclaimed.
  • Sharing the gospel with others.
  • Reading Scripture.
  • Listening to Scripture read out loud.
  • Transcribing Scripture by hand.
  • Reading or hearing teaching on Scripture.
  • Teaching or sharing Scripture with others.
  • Gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day.
  • Reserving the Lord’s Day completely for enjoying God’s goodness and grace together.
  • Receiving baptism once as a sign and seal of God’s salvation.
  • Witnessing the baptism of others.
  • Mutually encouraging each other every day in reflecting the cleansing and new life that baptism signifies.
  • Teaching children the meaning of baptism and how they receive the benefits signified and sealed in it by faith.
  • Partaking of the Lord’s Supper in recognition that Christ is the source and sustenance of our life in Him.
  • Keeping watch over our hearts and repenting of sin in preparation for the next time we share in the Lord’s Supper together.
  • Praying at different times and in all kinds of circumstances for ourselves, other Christians, and those who have yet to turn to Christ in faith.

This list is a sample and could be expanded even further to illustrate how the ordinary means of grace are used for spiritual growth in the Christian life. However, what is central to observe is that active spiritual growth for the Christian is the pursuit of the Spirit’s ordained work to apply inwardly and manifest outwardly who we are and what we have in Christ by grace through faith for God’s glory.