I want to talk to you about a way I think about growth in Jesus; at least, about how spiritual growth has taken place in my life. In describing this, I will use the picture of a spiral.
Picture in your mind a spiral staircase. We actually have one in our church facility! If you have ever been up to our audio-visual control booth, you had to climb a spiral staircase to get there. However, even if you have never climbed that staircase, you are familiar with the idea of a spiral staircase.
Now, picture that staircase as though you are above it, looking straight down on it … like you are looking at a blueprint of the building’s floorplan. Since, I just recently saw one for our facility, I can tell you what it looks like: it looks like a wheel with spokes. The “spokes,” of course, are the steps, and the “rim” of the “wheel” is the handrail. It also looks like a clock face. The steps are like the hands of the clock and the “hand” (which are the steps in the staircase) point to “12 o’clock,” “1 o’clock,” “2 o’clock,” “3 o’clock”… etc.
As you go up the stairs, you pass “12 o’clock” several times. The first time you pass it you are low on the stairs, the next time you are a little higher, and then you are higher yet as you pass it a final time.
This has been a helpful picture for me in understanding how God has grown me in Jesus. The different “o’clocks” I have encountered on the way up are key truths about God and His plan for my life. Things like: God loves me, God is faithful, I must trust Him, Jesus took all my sin, heaven is real, the Bible is God’s sure Word, etc. As God leads me along in spiritual growth, I find myself coming back to truths I have known for a long, long time. Truths in most cases which are quite simple. But now I am at a different place in my life, “higher up the spiral staircase;” that is, God has grown me since I first heard that He loved me and now I am learning about His love in even deeper and broader ways.
Let’s keep going with the truth that God loves me to illustrate further what I mean: God loves me. Well, who, having been raised in Sunday School from childhood, has not known this from earliest memory? One of the first verses we memorize as children is John 3:16, the beautiful revelation of God’s love for the world. And yet the depth of God’s love is something I need to learn more and more about as I walk with Jesus.
A globally known and respected theologian of the last century was asked later in life, “After all your study, what is the greatest truth you have learned?” His answer? “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Those, of course, are lyrics to a simple, well-known children’s Sunday School song.
The Apostle Paul talked about God’s love in this way: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV).
If that is the way it is with God’s love—so deep I need His power to grasp it, then I need to return to it often in my forward and upward progress in Jesus.
Here is my second example. God’s kind and repeated command, “Do not fear.” The fact that God repeats this so many times in the Bible (I have never counted, but someone has said that this word from the Lord is in the Bible 365 times … one for every day of the year), tells me I need to revisit it over and over and over again.
When I first encounter it, my life may be going very smoothly and so I easily, and perhaps glibly, agree … I don’t need to fear anything! But then, later at another point in life, I find myself in circumstances that are generating fear in a whole new way, in a deeper, disturbing way. Now I need to learn more from God about how He helps me with my fears.
This brings me to our last couple of sermons. Last Sunday we studied the well-known account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet in John 13. Christ’s call upon His followers to serve is something we need to revisit over and over as we progress in Christ.
The sermon before that was from 2 Peter 1 where Peter says, essentially, I know you already know all this but you need, desperately need, reminding. Remember to add to your faith the seven key qualities of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Remember.
One way this picture of a “spiritual spiral” helps me is by reminding me that there are not an infinite number of truths I need to know and master in order to mature in Jesus. It seems that there are a somewhat limited number of really basic truths which I need to learn, and then as I come around to that truth again like on the ascending staircase, I learn them again in a deeper and fuller way, and then even more as I come around to them again.
God leads us to revisit fundamental truths about Him and His will for us. And, as we are at different places in our lives with each visit, we learn of Him in new ways. It is like an ascending spiral, the ascending spiral of spiritual growth. He is leading us upward and onward to our final destination—becoming mature Christians who are given a rich welcome into glory to live with Him forever!