How does God “grow us up” as his disciple? We want to make it complicated, but it really is very simple. The fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives is the evidence of true discipleship: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. These characteristics can only be produced by total surrender to God. We cannot manufacture them ourselves. They are the fruit of shachach and proskuneo, falling before God every day in total submission.
Discipleship is the ongoing process of maturing as a child of the Father. He calls us into relationship by the power of his Son. He leads us into discipleship through the presence of the Spirit. He grows us into spiritual maturity as the Spirit applies his Word to our lives. Discipleship is a process empowered by spirit and truth. The Bible calls it sanctification—being set apart and re-made as God’s own. “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6, HCSB).
How can God take an immature and selfish spiritual child like me and recreate me in his image? In their book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, Pete Scazzero and Warren Bird identify the levels of Christian spiritual maturity from infant to child to adolescent to spiritual adult. As a loving earthly father raises his children, so our loving heavenly Father raises us spiritually. He grows us through a maturing process that Jesus outlines in the Beatitudes. God’s goal is to mature us to the point where we can inherit the family business—his mission of redeeming the world. To do this we must grow to be spiritual parents, able to lead others to be born again and lovingly grow them into spiritual maturity. In this way, we make disciples who make disciples.
Through his discipling process, God nurtures us to trust and obey him as our Father. Affection, discipline, teaching, and accountability all flow from that relationship. God, our Father, has appointed his Word as our textbook and the Holy Spirit as our tutor in the maturing process.
In chapter five of Matthew, Jesus gathered his new followers to teach them how God grows disciples. Join me here in the coming weeks as we study the discipleship process Jesus presented in the Beatitudes. Don’t miss a week! And may we apply the process weekly to our own lives. Are you ready? 1-2-3 GROW!
— Mark Powers