A dissection of 1 Corinthians 3
Have you heard of the wordless book? It is an evangelism tool where the basic story of the gospel is told using colors. The book is sometimes converted into bracelets with beads for portability and craft-ability. There is a green bead that represents growth. If the craft store is out of green, the craft isn’t canceled because the story of salvation can be told without understanding growth.
Is it really important? What exactly is Christian growth? What does it look like, and how do we know we are doing it right?
We know where we begin our journey of growth because Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 that we start out on spiritual milk, not yet ready for solid food. We live life in the flesh, still behaving badly. We have jealousy, and we cause strife.
Verse 7 through 9 tell us this, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.”
Only God gives growth. God plants. God waters.
Also, Paul is recognizing that growth requires work on our part. We cannot expect change without engaging in making changes and serving. We cannot expect to learn without listening, reading, and seeking.
Growth is active.
And it begins with a foundation, a foundation of grace that only Jesus could lay. He tells us take care how we build upon this foundation. We are warned to carefully choose our building blocks because they will be tested with fire.
Growth comes from testing.
This has been true in my life. My biggest periods of spiritual growth have been when life has gotten hard. Not if, but when life gets hard, we can choose to stop growth or we can dig into God’s truth, lean hard on God’s grace and grow. To put it another way, we can go on building on our foundation with worldly wisdom or with God’s truth.
Then Paul warns us of the inevitable problem that everyone faces as they grow - pride. He warns us to not deceive ourselves and think that we are wise. He reminds us that the thoughts of the wise are futile, and that we have nothing to brag about.
Growth leads to humility.
When I began the journey of spiritual growth as a teenager, I looked forward to the day that I would have answers, knowledge, and wisdom. But it turns out realizing that I will never have all the answers is the biggest proof that I are becoming spiritually mature.
Humility is the mark of spiritually maturity. Blessed are the meek indeed.
It’s much easier to get excited about the word on a piece of paper, humility, than to experience it.
Summer time has been a huge time of personal spiritual growth for me in the past few years. I’ve served in ministries out of my comfort zone, did Bible studies that made me think and learn, and saw God move in amazing ways.
When I think back to the lessons I have learned they seem to fall into two categories: either times when God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him or times when I tried hard and God let my efforts fail.
Honestly, this summer has felt a lot of failed efforts. Thursday I’ll post Part 2 with some specific examples.
Because I’ve had steady doses of humble pie this summer, I’m taking encouragement from this passage in James. I am growing. I’m learning that ever important lesson of humility. God is showing me that growth doesn’t end. I’m never going to graduate spiritual growth school, not in this life anyway.
Growth is ongoing.
You have the ability to plateau your spiritual growth at any moment. Because growth requires action on your part, it is possible to not act. But you also have the ability to be open to growth by building on your foundation of grace. But don’t miss this fact - every bit of growth comes from God.
Growth is a gift from God.
And that fact leads us back to humility. What can I brag about if I cannot achieve any growth on my own?
That green bead is important, not in explaining salvation, but in explaining our life as a Christian.
Growth is important, and here’s the key to knowing you are growing, what it looks like and when it is done right - humility.
I like to post a song with each blog post because it's fun. This is a near perfect folk song right here. Enjoy.