What is the goal of our Christian lives? It is to become like Jesus Christ. Robert Mulholland Jr. puts it this way: "being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others" (Invitation to a Journey, InterVarsity Press, 1993).
Many have observed that Christians are to be conformed to the measure of Jesus Christ, but few have so explicitly said that our goal is for the sake of others.
Jesus was always concerned about other people. He came to earth and became a human being for the sake of others. He came to seek and to save people who were his enemies, even the people who caused him pain and suffering. He did it for others—for us.
In the same way, Jesus wants us to live to help others—to become less self-centered, more loving. The greatest commandments in the Bible are to love—to live for the sake of others, to help others. That is our calling.
In the past year, have we become less concerned about our own comfort, our own security, our own feelings, our own rights? Have we become more interested in helping others, in their comfort, in their rights, in their feelings? Are we allowing Jesus Christ to live within us, to change our hearts so that we become more like him?
Perhaps you know whether you have grown spiritually in the past year. I certainly hope that you have. But whether you have or not, or whether you just don't know, I suggest a simple four-point plan for spiritual growth:
- Pray. Improve your relationship with God by setting aside time for him, time to discuss life with him. Express your thoughts and feelings. Give him your requests. Thank him and praise him for his greatness.
Question him when life doesn't make sense; complain when you are perturbed. Adore him. Love him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Confess your sins, seek forgiveness and rejoice in his grace. Consciously involve him in all aspects of life. As a child to a father, as a fiancee to her betrothed, build a relationship.
- Study. As part of the relationship, let God speak to you. It takes time, so make time for God to enter your life. Don't let the cares of this life choke the word and make your life unfruitful. Do not harden your hearts, it says in Hebrews, but pay careful attention. Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Be diligent and go on to maturity.
Have you ever read Scripture for a while and soon forgotten what you had read? Sometimes the solution is to think about what we are reading. We need to slow down. We need to give God more time. We need to meditate about what we read; we need to pray about it. As we do this, our study of God's word merges into our prayer life for greater effectiveness.
But the most important key of all is simply to spend time at it. If you love God, make more time for him in your life. This is how we can all grow more in the coming year.
- Meet together. We do not grow spiritually when we are isolated from each other. Not only do we grow for the sake of others, we grow when we are in community with one another. Let us encourage one another, Hebrews exhorts us, let us consider how we may spur one another on to good deeds. Do not forsake meeting together, but encourage one another.
Help one another. Use the blessings God has given you for others. Not only does that help others, it helps us grow spiritually. Jesus, our role model, set an example of close-knit community. The early church set an example of frequent fellowship and mutual service.
- Worship. The greatest commandment—and our greatest need—is to worship God, to fall before him in complete submission, willing to do whatever he says. We praise him for all that he is. We proclaim his worth above all else. The better we realize his greatness, and our weakness, the better we will depend on him for growth.
Without God, life has no meaning. Without God, good is an arbitrary idea. But we are not without God—he is with us, and we are his children, destined to live forever with him. Praise him, and praise Jesus, who makes it possible for us!
Worship, fellowship, study and prayer. We need to do these four points not just for our own good, but for the sake of others.