How do we get more of the Holy Spirit’s inﬂuence in our inner being? The Spirit works at his own initiative. Yet there are certain activities we can undertake on our own to open ourselves more fully to his work. These historically are called spiritual disciplines. Forty years ago, Richard Foster recast disciplines for Protestants in his popular work Celebration of Discipline (1978). Also very popular is Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines (1988).
My eﬀort is to summarize these disciplines around the acronym of GROWTH:
Go to God in worship and prayer
Read God’s Word for you
Opt for self-denial
Give Witness to your experiences
Trust God in a new venture
Humble yourself before God
Three practices are basic: Go to God in worship and prayer are the same activity, with public worship happening among many believers and personal prayer done alone. Read God’s Word has also been basic; the addition here is to read it for what it means for you personally today. Humble yourself before God; being full of yourself leaves little room for the Spirit.
Three practices will stretch your faith: Opt for Self-Denial, Give Witness to your experiences, and Trust God in a new venture. Each of these will be featured in blogs that follow.
The challenge in Spiritual growth is that God through his Spirit does the growing. Paul explained that clearly when he noted to the Corinthians that he planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow (1 Corinthians 3: 6). The seed is God’s kingdom planted within each believer. Growth is his reign taking over more of a believer’s life until he or she reaches the full stature of Christ. We are transformed as the Spirit produces more of his special fruit in us, like love, joy, peace, patience and hope.
Yet because God gives the growth does not mean that we remain passive. Think of short Zacchaeus who climbed a sycamore tree to better see Jesus coming. Jesus saw him and invited him for meal fellowship. If you want to grow in the Spirit, ﬁguratively climb a tree to put yourself in the Spirit’s path and invite him into your life.
Another image is to put yourself into the Spirit’s workshop. Martin Luther was very clear that the Spirit gathers believers into fellowships and through these, he teaches and preaches the Word. “Through churches the Spirit creates and increases sanctiﬁcation, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in the fruits of the Spirit.”
If you want to grow in the Spirit, put yourself into a fellowship of the Holy Spirit, that is a Christian congregation, and seek even closer fellowship with a smaller grouping within the congregation.
Go to God in worship and prayer. Getting up Sundays and going to a worship service is a decision you can make and do. Joining others in prayer is a decision you can make and follow through on. Yes, you can worship and pray on your own. But the Spirit works best when you are with others who can model new insights.
Read God’ Word for you. Exposure to God’s word is basic. You can study it for information about God. But the key is applying biblical truths to your personal life and relationships.
Humble yourself before God. The Spirit can work dramatic conversions. But routinely he is blocked by excessive pride in a person who is full of him or herself. True humility is a fruit of the Spirit.