Satan uses lies to attack disciples. Not only is he the father of lies (John 8:44) he also accuses disciples day and night (Rev. 12:10). We overcome lies by first uncovering and then standing on the truth. We’ve already uncovered these lies:
1. I can’t make a disciple, that’s God’s job.
2. My call isn’t to make disciples it’s to…
3. I can’t disciple someone because I’ve never been discipled.
4. We can’t know if we’ve made a disciple.
5. Disciples are best made by community.
Today we tackle a lie that’s extremely prevalent even amongst devoted Christians. The lie? All growth is God’s growth.
Is All Growth God’s Growth?
Growth is one of the great idols of the contemporary American church. It’s become the end after which churches drive. It’s eclipsed love as the force that drives decision-making and evaluation. To many, if a church doesn’t have growth then it has nothing—no matter what impact they are making on individuals or the broader community. Conversely, churches assume that growth always indicates God’s blessing. It’s not until later—when growth slows or stops—that leaders begin asking questions of effectiveness.
The church’s infatuation with growth has infected individuals. Many Christians can’t get enough opportunities to “grow.” They get involved in multiple Bible studies, Sunday school, small group, a men’s/women’s group, and then work through a couple of books on their own. The message they’ve gotten is that involvement equals growth and growth equals God’s blessing. So, if a person feels like they’re growing from all of this and they want to do it, what’s the problem?
The problem is it’s not Biblical and it’s not working. The growth idol produces ragged disciples instead of robust disciples. Rather than growing in Christlikeness those that buy into this lie soon find that they have grown isolated from the people God has called them to reach. Unfortunately, most don’t seem to notice.
This lie is tricky. When Christians are overcommitted they feel like they are growing. Indeed, they are learning a lot, but it’s normally not what they need to learn and it’s not applied to their life. Such unfocused and unbalanced growth is unprofitable in the Kingdom of God. It distracts us from God’s vision for maturity and the call He’s given each one of us to fulfill. Unaimed growth leads us away from the fruitfulness of maturity, not towards it. It’s a truth that Jesus knew. He told the Sadducees that their study of the Scriptures wouldn’t lead them to eternal life, because they wouldn’t come to Him (John 5:39–40). Paul knew it too. He told the Corinthians, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1–3).
To avoid being trapped by this lie, individuals must evaluate growth opportunities by asking, is it aimed, is it even, and does it strengthen?
God’s Growth Is Aimed at God’s Purpose
When growth isn’t aimed it primes us for pain. A disciple’s growth should revolve around God’s agenda not our own. Jesus had a clear target for the disciples’ growth. It was that they become fishers of men (Matt. 4:19), fully equipped (Luke 6:40), and that they bear lasting fruit (John 15:16). In nature, the purpose of growth is always survival and reproduction. Wild growth keeps a plant from its potential. Such growth is taken into the hands of a caring gardener and cut-off.
When we believe that all growth is God’s growth, then we are likely to pursue growth that fits our own purposes instead of God’s. Some pursue knowledge so that others will give them respect and esteem. We can expect the Master to find such growth worthless and to prune it. That pruning is painful indeed.
God’s Growth Is Balanced
Unbalanced growth threatens survival and reproduction as well. Growth is meant to be balanced. It’s why Galatians 5 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit not the fruits of the Spirit! Paul used the singular form of “fruit,” because he knew they grew together, like a cluster of grapes. For example, true growth in joy means growth in patience as well.
Imbalance results in weakness; much like a bodybuilder who builds one part of his body and not another. Over time the weak muscles will cause a breakdown to the entire body. Dawson Trotman illustrated this truth in The Wheel illustration. When it comes to the life of a disciple, she is to maintain a balance in the basics. When the spokes get out of balance the entire wheel is at risk of being deformed and not rolling well.
When we believe that growth doesn’t need to be balanced, then we tend to pursue growth that fits with our natural personality or interests. The imbalance results in a weakness much like a bodybuilder who builds one part of his body and not another. Over time the weak muscles will cause a breakdown to the entire body. This happens both in churches and individuals.
God’s Growth Strengthens the Whole
When it comes to living things, growth is not just meant to be aimed and balanced, it’s also meant to strengthen the whole. This goes hand in hand with the previous two. Since growth is to be aimed at God’s purposes and comes in a balanced fashion, it also strengthens the whole. A body that is strong all over is ready to thrive over the long haul. In order to grow in such a way, a disciple must have awareness of his growth needs. It’s not enough to simply join one study after another or to read book after book. He must take ownership of his development. Most importantly he must apply what he’s learning.
The truth is that not all growth is good. Some growth causes imbalance, some growth leads to pruning. Growth that’s good is growth that’s aimed at God’s purposes of survival and reproduction. That kind of growth is always balanced. That kind of growth always strengthens the whole.
Are the spiritual things you’re giving yourself to leading to that type of growth?
By Justin Gravitt
Used by permission. Originally posted here: