Growth and Reproduction
In the first birth we receive the gift of bios, biological life; in the second birth we receive the greater gift of zoê, spiritual life. Just as we mature and reproduce on the biological level, God wants us to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1) on the spiritual level. This divinely ordained process of growth and reproduction after our kind is a significant facet of the spiritual life, because it is directly related to God’s purpose for us to become like His Son and to reproduce the life of Jesus in others. He calls us to nurture people spiritually by building into them, feeding them, protecting them, encouraging them, training them, and assisting in their maturation so that they can learn to do the same with others.
A Lifestyle of Nurturing Others
Nurturing spirituality relates to a lifestyle of evangelism and discipleship. When we are part of the process of introducing people to Jesus and encouraging them to grow after they have come to know Him, we discover that our own passion and spiritual vitality is enhanced. Few joys compare with the experience of seeing a friend come to new life in Christ. And one of life’s deepest satisfactions is witnessing the gradual miracle of personal transformation in converts who get serious about becoming disciples. By contrast, the mediocrity of non-discipleship cuts off the fruit of the Spirit and leads to a lack of love, joy, and peace. Dallas Willard puts it this way in The Spirit of the Disciplines:
Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10).
Evangelism and discipleship are concrete expressions of love and purpose. Since the God-infused love of agapê relates to the steady intention of one’s will toward another’s highest good, it chooses to seek the supreme good for both unbelievers and believers. Clearly, the greatest good for those who do not know Christ is to be delivered from the domain of darkness, death, and condemnation and to be transferred to the kingdom of the light, life, and love of God (Colossians 1:13-14). And the highest good for those who do know Christ is to mature into His likeness through growing conformity to His image (Romans 8:29). Thus, nurturing spirituality personally expresses the agapê of God through evangelism (unbelievers) and edification (believers).
The Great Commandment relates to the vertical dimension of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to the horizontal dimension of loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This Great Commandment is like a bow that gives impetus to the focused arrow of the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Our love for God gives us the power to love others as He would have us love them, and this other-centered love is expressed in evangelism and edification. Thus, we are divinely commissioned to display and reproduce the life of Christ in the lives of the people in our spheres of influence.
We are charged to be ambassadors of the King (2 Corinthians 5:14-21), and when we take this commission seriously, we find that our souls are enlarged by embracing a clear sense of destiny and purpose. When we are on the King’s business as agents of reconciliation, we develop a kingdom mentality and order our lives in accordance with our Lord’s purposes.
All of us give our lives in exchange for something, whether this is temporal or eternal. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). If we are wise, we will follow Jesus by giving our lives in exchange for people.
The apostle Paul knew this was the most significant way to live: “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). As Dag Hammarskjold noted, “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”
Taken from Ken Boa's Handbook to Spiritual Growth
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