What Seventh-day Adventists Believe About Christian Growth

Christian growth is the experience of allowing Jesus Christ to work in our lives through the Holy Spirit and restore in us the image we were designed for—God’s image of selfless, other-centered love.

See, Jesus chose to die for us to save us from the ultimate consequence of sin: death (Romans 5:6-8).

But He does more too! He gives us a new life in Him (Romans 6:3). A life that releases us from burdens that dominated and oppressed us before. A life of Christlikeness.

But that new life will look different for each individual, depending on the person’s background. We each go through a unique experience of growth in the Christian life (2 Peter 3:18). This post will cover what that growth entails.

Here are four questions we’ll answer:

The concept of growing in Christ is very important to Adventists. In fact, one of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs deals with the topic. Here’s what it says:

“By His death on the cross Jesus triumphed over the forces of evil. He who subjugated the demonic spirits during His earthly ministry has broken their power and made certain their ultimate doom.

Jesus’ victory gives us victory over the evil forces that still seek to control us, as we walk with Him in peace, joy, and assurance of His love.

Now the Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us. Continually committed to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, we are set free from the burden of our past deeds.

No longer do we live in the darkness, fear of evil powers, ignorance, and meaninglessness of our former way of life. In this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into the likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together for worship, and participating in the mission of the Church.

We are also called to follow Christ’s example by compassionately ministering to the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of humanity. As we give ourselves in loving service to those around us and in witnessing to His salvation, His constant presence with us through the Spirit transforms every moment and every task into a spiritual experience.”

Let’s go deeper into what the Bible says on this topic.

What is the experience of Christian growth?

Christian growth, or spiritual growth, is a process that begins when we choose to accept Christ and live our lives as His followers. Through the Holy Spirit, He restores us, step by step, to what He originally designed us to be—people who reflect His character of other-centered love.

The Scriptures teach that we were originally made in the image of God:

“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).

God, at His very core, is love (1 John 4:18), a self-sacrificing and selfless love (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). That is His image.

Unfortunately, that image in humans has been corrupted by sin.

So the idea of the “new birth” (John 3:3, NKJV) is that, through the power of God, we are being recreated—remade into what we were before sin entered.

Let’s learn how this takes place.

How do we grow in our Christian experience?

The power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us transforms us from who we used to be into new creatures in Christ—but not without our permission. Through a daily surrender, willingly giving ourselves to God, we allow Him to show us our areas of growth and then cooperate with Him to follow His Word in those areas of our lives.

Paul makes it clear that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, NKJV).

In Greek, the word regeneration means “born again.” And renewing means “to be new again.”

New, again? Yes, just like Adam and Eve were before they sinned!

But how does this happen?

It’s a process that begins when we come to Christ, receive His forgiveness for our sins, and cooperate with His Spirit to help us obey His will.

He begins working in us, as it says in Philippians 2:12: “It is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (NKJV).

God is the only one who can change us. Our role is to remain connected to Him moment by moment (John 15:4) and allow Him to work in us.

The Bible puts it this way:

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24, NKJV).

As we spend time contemplating who He is, He is renewing our minds, and we’re becoming more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).

But Satan is still hard at work. He constantly tempts us to place our own self interest above God and others and to break our connection with God.

At this point, we need to cling close to Christ and pray that He “delivers us from the evil one” (Luke 11:4, NKJV).

If we keep our eyes fixed on Him and remember His love for us that led Him to die for us, He will preserve us (Jude 24–25). Looking unto Jesus, we are safe from temptation.

And even when we do give in to temptation, the Bible is clear: Jesus forgives!

The Bible says:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).

Notice these encouraging words from an Adventist author, Ellen White:

“Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding Him, we ‘are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18.”1

But as we’re seeing, this process doesn’t happen overnight. We’ll look at why next.

How long does the process of Christian growth take?

The process of Christian growth doesn’t have an exact timetable. It’s an experience of a lifetime. So we shouldn’t become discouraged if we feel we’re not moving along fast enough. God has promised to complete the work He has started in us (Philippians 1:6).

Jesus once told a parable to illustrate the growth process of His followers:

“The kingdom of God is like this…. A man scatters seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, although he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the full grain on the head” (Mark 4:26–28, CSB).

You wouldn’t expect a corn seed to produce an ear of corn without going through its stages of growth.

The perfect little seedling matures into a full-grown plant as the gardener cultivates the soil, weeds around the plant, waters it, and provides it with nutrients.

Similarly, growing Christians go through stages of growth that look different for each individual—because we all have different backgrounds and areas that need development. Someone raised in a Christian family may have a different journey than someone who has experienced a complete turnaround later in life.

But regardless of where people are in their journeys, some common elements help in that maturation process.

How to grow in Christ in practical ways

Christian growth is about deepening our relationship with Christ and learning to love Him more each day. And that can’t happen without our willingness and cooperation.

Just like a relationship requires nurturing, growing our walk with God requires the same: getting to know Him, communicating with Him, spending time doing things He would do, and more.

Here’s what these look like in practice:

Getting to know Him in His Word, the Bible

In 1 Peter 2:2, Paul encouraged new believers to grow by God’s Word—but this advice applies to the rest of us too!

The Bible says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NKJV).

Scripture shows us who God is. And it also gives us lessons on Christian living— “training in righteousness.”

Studying the Bible, especially the life and teaching of Jesus, allows us to get to know Him and all that He wants to tell us. All the Scriptures point to Him (John 5:39).

Think of the Word of God as a message from Jesus that shows you His heart.

And remember, what we see about Jesus is also true of God the Father because Jesus was God “made flesh” (John 1:14; 14:9).

Paul tells us that as we spend time viewing God’s glory (or character), we become changed into that image (which is the goal of Christian growth, right?):

“But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV).

And the place where the “glory of the Lord” is most powerfully revealed is His Word.

If you were trying to develop a friendship with someone, you would need to learn about them—by listening to them, observing them, reading a book they wrote, or even looking them up online.

With Jesus, the best way to know more about Him is through the Bible. And not just by a quick reading of a passage or devotional—instead, take time to contemplate the words of Scripture and what God is telling you.

It’s the truths we find there that change our lives. That’s why Jesus prayed:

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV).

The word sanctified comes from the Hebrew word qadash, which means to be set apart or consecrated. In other words, God uses the Scriptures to set us apart as His special people who are loyal to His ways.

Communicating with Him through prayer

A woman kneeling in the snow and praying as she seeks spiritual growth

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Prayer is simply talking to God.

You can tell Him everything—what makes you happy, what saddens you, what pains you, the little details in your life, and the large events. He wants to hear all about it!

And by talking to Him, you learn to recognize His voice speaking back to you through His Word and the Holy Spirit’s impressions on your conscience (John 10:27). This leads to an ever-deepening knowledge of Him and, eventually, growth in faith.

Paul urges us to pray about everything:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, NKJV).

Ellen White, the Adventist writer we referenced earlier, beautifully summed up the daily connection we can have with God through prayer when she said,

“Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’ This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.”2

Giving thanks and praise to God

A woman raising her hands to God and praising Him

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Since Jesus has won the victory over sin and evil for each of us personally, we can rejoice in that victory and claim it for ourselves.

Paul rejoiced in this victory when he penned:

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15, NKJV).

And no matter who we are or what our trials are, we all have something to be thankful for.

Over and over through the Bible, we are invited to remember these things, thank God for them, praise God for them, and dwell on them.

The Bible writers who knew pain, suffering, sickness, loss, and alienation could still exclaim,

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34, NKJV).

In fact, the Bible is filled with praises to God, as seen in the following verses:

“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” (Hebrews 13:15, NKJV).

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1–2, NKJV).

And through this outward expression of thankfulness to God, our trust in Him strengthens, and we become more deeply settled in our loyalty to Him.

Spending time with God in nature

A woman sitting on a grassy hillside that overlooks the ocean and spending time with God in nature

Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

Though the world has been corrupted by sin, we still see incredible evidence of God’s love and power in the created world. Through them, we get glimpses of who God is.

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:7–10, NKJV).

Jesus Himself recognized the many lessons in nature and used them often in His parables (see, for example, Matthew 13).

The mere fact that we exist and this world exists is evidence of a loving Creator.

But even after thousands of years of sin, creation still proclaims His love. Every flower, every grain of wheat, and every juicy piece of fruit are messages from Him.

Flowers blooming, birds singing, new life—they are all miracles. Miracles that reveal the intentionality of a Creator who also wants to work His miracles of growth in our lives.

Connecting with a community of believers

Another way of connecting with God and becoming more like Him is through spending time with His family—called the body of Christ.

Notice this instruction in Hebrews 10:24–25:

“Let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (CSB).

Being part of a community allows us to see more of God’s heart and learn His ways of relating to people. We get to experience discipleship—teaching and mentorship under godly leaders. And we’re able to help provide discipleship for other believers.

It’s true that doing life with others, even those who are sincere Christians, can be messy.

But as we face challenges, it pushes us to seek God more deeply. We learn to give His grace to others and receive that when we make mistakes. Talk about steep learning curves—but ones that are so worthwhile!

Sharing in what moves God’s heart

When you spend time getting to know someone, you are drawn to what makes them tick—the things they love to do. And as we get to know Christ, we are also drawn to what moves His heart—compassionate ministry to others.

He wants us to join Him in ministering to the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of those around us.

That’s what Jesus did during His time on earth.

And in giving of yourself without asking or expecting anything in return, we will be overwhelmed with a sense of God’s love because this is what God’s love is all about.

Paul encouraged us in this when he said:

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4, NKJV).

To give of ourselves for others is a powerful way to grow in God’s grace because it meshes us together with His mission.

Christian growth is about building a relationship with God

Though Christian growth may seem overwhelming, the Bible encourages us that it’s a natural part of following Jesus and building a relationship with Him.

It’s ultimately about loving Him more and more each day until He becomes your best friend—a friend who shows you how to live out other-centered love.

And the best part is that He is the one who gives you the power to do that.

As you grow in Christ, you have the privilege of walking with Him as your best friend in this life, even as He prepares you to live with Him for eternity!

Ready to give it a try? It doesn’t have to be complicated. And chances are, God has already had you on a growth journey. Now, you have the opportunity to cooperate with Him.

Start by reading a couple of verses in the Bible and contemplating what they teach you about God. Tell Him your thoughts through prayer.

As simple as it sounds, that can be the beginning of the most rewarding experience of your life. The experience of getting to know God for yourself.

  1. White, Ellen G., Steps to Christ (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1892), p. 72. []
  2. Ibid., p. 70.  []

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