What is the meaning of personal growth in a Christian context?
What is personal development for Christians?
Christians are in the process of being changed into the image of Christ, from glory to glory [2 Corinthians 3:18].
2 Corinthians 3:18
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory ...
Surely that means that Christians are making upward progress, that they are growing and developing? In fact, it does not. It means that we are being reduced, while He becomes greater – as in the words of John the Baptist [John 3:30].
Are we playing with words for the sake of argument?
The answer is no. Humanistic psychology, which affects Christians through its influence in entertainment, education, politics and commerce, would have us believe that we should aspire to our highest potential – to become the best, and most successful, that we can be.
The problem, as the Bible sees it, is that we are already too full of ourselves. We need to replace the reign of self with the reign of Christ. We need humbling.
The apostle Paul had this experience.
Early in his ministry he called himself the least of the apostles [1 Corinthians 15:9].
1 Corinthians 15:9
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
Later, he called himself less than the least of all the saints [Ephesians 3:8].
“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ ...”
And towards the end of his life he called himself the worst sinner in the world [ 1 Timothy 1:15].
1 Timothy 1:15
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”
As the apostle Paul grew in faith he saw himself as less and less.
When we study the lives of God’s people who have made progress in the spiritual life, we note that what marks them is the recognition that they are fading out of the picture, while Jesus Christ takes the foremost place.
This should make sense of the words of Jesus when He said that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains a single seed, but if it dies it will bring forth much fruit [John 12:24-25].
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”