Are You Growing as a Christian?
- Aaron D'Anthony Brown Contributing Author
- 2021 29 Oct
Are you growing as a Christian? That question popped into my mind on a recent fall afternoon. I listened to a relative criticize people who claimed to be believers. By his standard, they presented themselves as Christians, while advocating for ideas that were unbiblical. He wasn’t necessarily wrong, but is he allowed to determine who is or isn’t Christian? Is he the standard by which we should measure our faith? As I listened, I thought about him, a Christian who doesn’t read the Bible, serve at church, someone who isn’t challenging his own ideas. If he was a better Christian than them, was I a better Christian than him?
Then that got me thinking – if I’m having these thoughts about him, who’s having these thoughts about me?
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There is no surprise that some of the negative stereotypes for Christians are judgmental, self-righteous, and haughty. We could easily dismiss these ideas for ignorance, but all stereotypes begin in some basis of truth. In my twenty-seven years of life, most of the hateful things said about Christians have been spoken by other Christians. The issue could be that we spend so much time trying to perfect our faith, that putting others down makes us feel secure, right, and in line with God.
But there’s a problem, two actually.
If we believe that faith in Jesus is all we need for salvation, why are we so critical of other Christians? And if we are all sinners, why do we feel the need to exalt ourselves?
These are questions we all need to consider, lest we act like the crowd trying to punish the adulteress in John 8. This passage provides a great example of people self-aggrandizing while dishing out judgment. However, none of them were sinless enough to cast stones. They couldn’t condemn her, and neither did Jesus.
So, who is allowed to cast blame, to put others down while exalting themselves? Who among us is the real Christian?
Maybe all of us, maybe only a few. Maybe none. One thing that we can certainly do with the life God has given us and the faith we have, is to grow. To grow is to acknowledge that who we are today can be improved. To grow is to believe that there are more ways God can shape us into Jesus. I don’t know what a real Christian is, but at the very least, growth will improve our ministry, our faith, and ourselves. If you’re ready and willing, here are 5 ways to grow your faith as a believer.
1. Read the Bible
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
There’s a saying, that if you don’t like to read, then you just haven’t found the right book. The same could be said about the Bible. Sometimes books like Numbers are more dry and factually based than the dramatic emotions of Psalms. Whatever passages we gravitate toward, engaging with God’s Word gives us insight into His character. As we learn more about who He is, we discover more of who He wants us to become.
He does want us to read. Why else would we have a book, and a large book at that? His Word has stood the test of time – no surprise – and the wisdom within its pages remains relevant.
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what the Bible says. Read for yourself and build your understanding of who God wants you to be. Not what someone else simply tells you, but what God tells you Himself.
2. Bible Study (with Others)
“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Iron and iron, two similar or exact things. They come together and grow together. That’s what we do when we gather in the company of people, those who are similar enough to offer affirmation, but different enough to challenge how we think.
A mistake Christians often make is thinking that they have the entire Bible figured out. They know what’s required of them and they’re good to go. This leaves no room for being admonished by other people. Some justify sins, and others stand for bad ideologies. If we allow ourselves to be sharpened, we can have these behaviors corrected.
There’s a reason Christians are on different sides regarding race, abortion, capital punishment, the existence of ghosts, and other ideas.
Putting ourselves in an echo chamber with other believers will lead to ruin, our own and theirs. Thus, we should seek differences. Dissent can be productive, but only when we engage in dialogue with varying ideas. The ways in which you can grow are seemingly limitless, but how you grow is certainly up to you.
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3. Go to Church
Church is a sure weekly way we can all engage with God’s Word. We arrive at the appointed place at the appointed time, hoping to hear a predetermined sermon for the day. This is fine and dandy, but we can take things a step further. Outside of listening to the usual voices at our church, we can visit other churches to hear from pastors we would otherwise not encounter. Likewise, many churches post their sermons online in video format or as podcasts.
These are great ways to hear different perspectives – since every preacher doesn't say the same thing. Even if your mind isn’t changed, which sometimes it shouldn’t be, you can better understand why some Christians think differently from you.
4. Ask Questions
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
When we want wisdom, we can seek God. We can also seek other people. Sometimes, and unsurprisingly, we even find wisdom from people who aren’t Christian.
Asking questions is the first step to finding out something we don’t already know. This is also the way we understand how other people think – we ask them about their ideas.
What do you think about this?
How did you come to that conclusion?
Have you considered this idea?
One thing that has gotten me in trouble with fellow believers is asking questions that challenge their preconceived beliefs.
What does salvation look like for uncontacted tribes who have no Bible, or babies and children who die without hearing the Gospel?
We should ask questions like this ourselves and encourage them from others. However intimidating, we learn when we ask. Isn’t that why we tell kids and students to ask questions when they want to know something?
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Wrong
I remember being in Bible study one night, and I responded to a question. In my answer, I spoke on various events that happened on Mount Sinai. One of the things I mentioned was that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount at that particular place. I was confident, loud, and wrong – at least that’s what I was told. My correctors said he preached that sermon at the Mount of Olives, though there is no data to prove such. Nonetheless, I was completely okay with being wrong. Everything I believe today is not true, some things are, hopefully most, but not everything. There’s no way a twenty-seven-year-old has figured out all the keys to life. And there’s no way any of us have or ever could.
So, if we find that we’re wrong, that just means we’ve discovered something to learn.
As Christians, we seem to set standards for how a Christian should act, but we forget we don’t check off all the boxes someone else has made. So, who is really a Christian? The answer may be more complex than we want to believe, but Jesus knows.
Whether young or old, believers can stand to learn something new. We all have room to grow.
If we can grow, we are bound for change. How we look changes, and so should how we think. Growth keeps us in line with the times, but more importantly, growth moves us closer to the truth. Not subjective truth, but the truth. God’s truth.
As we grow in our wisdom and maturity, we will be well-equipped for whatever the future holds. Society changes. Culture changes. Ideas change over time. Maybe one day we’ll be listening to a preacher explain UFOS and what that means for the faith, or race where that idea first started. Stories like Jesus and the adulteress did not begin in accepted Scripture but came about later. Will new books and stories ever be added to the Bible? Will interpretations change in time?
What will the Christian faith look like a hundred years from now? Five hundred? A Thousand? Who will you be in the future? Of course, you don’t have the answer right now, but the choice for tomorrow begins today.
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