Christians should earnestly desire to grow. If we aren’t becoming more like Christ, we’re defying what Scripture plainly teaches about the Christian walk: “For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
Christian growth involves transformation from our old way of life into a new and upward Christlike trajectory of change—increasing strength and effectiveness as servants of Christ. That’s exactly what Paul describes in Romans 12:2 when he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
And yet, as every Christian well knows, the old mind is still there with its habits of self-preoccupation, cravings for sensation, vain imaginations, and its appetite for what is cheap and gross. The old mind is the culprit that keeps us going back to the spiritual junk food. The old mind is the subtle enemy that keeps us feeding only on milk when we should be going on to meat. The old mind is what keeps us from being transformed and more committed to Christ and His Word. Many believers find themselves in a seeming holding pattern as they struggle with the besetting sins of their former lives. That’s because the key to breaking the cycle is often hidden right under our noses.
Lifting the Veil
Paul gives a beautiful explanation in 2 Corinthians 3:13–18. As he describes the glories of the new covenant that Christians have with God, he goes back to the time of Moses and the Israelites. At one point, after being in God’s presence, Moses’ face shone with such brilliant glory that he had to put a veil over it in order not to blind his people. But as glorious as Moses’ ministry of the law to the Israelites was, Paul says that it does not compare with the surpassing glory of the gospel of Christ and the new covenant that He installed with His death and resurrection (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:7–11).
And Paul adds that since we have such a wonderful hope in Christ, we can be very bold.
[We] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted. (2 Corinthians 3:13–14)
What Paul is simply saying here is that the Jews of his day who didn’t know Christ remained with their minds veiled. They could not see the Lord because the veil of the old covenant—the Law—stood in the way. Paul says that the veil,
Remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:14–17)
And then Paul comes to the thought that I am most concerned with: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). So Paul tells us that we can be changed into the image and glory of the Lord. It is very simple, he says. We don’t change ourselves. We just stand staring into the face of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God does the transforming for us!
The Solitary Source
But you may feel there is just one hitch. You may be saying, “If I’m supposed to look on the glory of the Lord, where do I find it to look upon?” And, of course, the answer to that is in God’s Word.
If you keep learning and beholding the glory of God in His Word, the Spirit of God will transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. It is just that simple (and just that difficult). So many Christians are seeking some shortcut to growth—naming and claiming their victory; watching Christian television; having the hands of “anointed prophets” laid on them. But the shortcut simply doesn’t exist.
The greatest thing that ever happened in my life, next to my salvation, was the day I learned to study and feed on God’s Word. I find that the longer, the more intensely, and the more devotedly I look into the glory of Jesus Christ through the pages of Scripture, the more the Spirit of God changes my life into the image of Christ. There are no shortcuts. If I am to grow, to mature, and to finally be transformed, I must feed on the Word of God!
The Growing Christian
Lack of growth is a sad thing to see in anyone or anything. It is especially tragic in Christians. And unfortunately too many believers don’t seem to be growing in their faith. The major cause is always a failure to be feeding on God’s Word.
In 1 Peter 1:23–2:3, the great apostle compares God’s Word to two things that are vital for life and growth: an imperishable seed and the milk of the Word. As Christ taught in His parable of the sower, God’s Word is like a seed that brings about the new birth. Just as a seed contains the power and energy of life, so too does God’s Word.
Before the Christian can get the most from feeding on God’s Word, he needs to get rid of the toxins that are still present in his life because of the lingering old nature. Peter describes these poisons as the evils of worldly malice, the guile of deceitfulness, the phoniness of hypocrisy, the self-centeredness of envy, and the slander of gossip. If we want to watch our diet, we should start with the sincere milk of the Word of God, and we are guaranteed to grow.
Our goal is to become fully mature and Christlike through feeding on the more solid food to be found in Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah described that process beautifully in Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”