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  • In chapter 3 of How to Grow, author-pastor-planter-trainer Darryl Dash builds on the previous chapter where he laid out a foundation for the concept of growth in the life of a disciple of Christ. This chapter sees Dash clarify what growth is and one way he does this is by indicating what growth isn’t. It isn’t the only way he brings clarity but it is part of the picture. You might say, “Dash’s clarification of spiritual growth is more than just declaring what growth isn’t, but it’s not less than that.” I know that is a bit awkward, but I used that phraseology for a reason.

    I used that awkward wording because that is the method Dash uses as he explains in more detail what growth looks like. Consider this excerpt:

    We often set our sight too low. When we aim for growth, we often settle for more knowledge. Of course, knowledge is essential. Jesus, after all, included teaching in his final commission to us (Matt. 28:18-20). We must learn the contours of the gospel story, mastering all that God has revealed to us. But we should not only learn facts and stories; we must be mastered by the biblical story so that it becomes our story. Knowledge is essential, but it’s not enough.

    Let me paraphrase: Spiritual growth is more than gaining knowledge, but it is never less than that. Gaining knowledge is essential as Dash notes. But it’s not enough. The “more than but never less than” is a helpful distinction to make in regards to our growth. The Bible is clear on the necessity of knowledge as can be seen when we consider a passage such as Ephesians 4:11-14:  

    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (ESV, emphasis mine)  

    There are many other Scriptures enjoining the importance of knowledge. But we also know from Scripture that even the demons and Satan himself have knowledge of Christ. So knowledge is essential but not exhaustive when it comes to growth. Dash takes the same approach with our actions and living out our Christianity.

    When it comes to evaluating growth, a flourishing faith is more than just outward obedience, but it is never less than outward obedience. Dash is clear, stating, “Obedience, like knowledge, is important. … Both teaching and obedience are essential. They’re just not enough.” We need to be obedient. We need to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Eph. 4:1). The fruit of our lives is an indication of our inner life (Luke 6:43-45). But outward actions, though essential, are not exhaustive. We have all met people who appeared to live godly lives—attending church, giving to needs, helping others—who eventually demonstrate the error of our thinking through their words or deeds which don’t align with those of a sincere disciple. A person can profess faith and practice Christianity and still be unregenerate. Godly growth is more than outwards actions even if it is never less than those things.

    In my life, I want to grow in knowledge of God and his Word. I want to conform my behaviour becoming more and more Christ-like as I grow in my faith. Right knowledge and right behaviour are important things, but they’re not everything.

    So where does Dash go from here? Let me finish with his own words:

    Our views of growth are often too small. We think about learning more and changing our behavior. Growth isn't less than that, but it's much more. God wants to restore us and to give us joy The happiest people, it turns out, are the holiest people. He wants us to change our desires.

    Our plan for growth must take this into account. If we needed only to learn, we could simply go through a class or read a book. If we only needed to change behavior, we could apply behavioral modification techniques or try to build up our willpower. We'd be frustrated, though, because we could never learn enough or manage our behavior well enough to be satisfied.

    We need more than knowledge or behavior change. We need a change of heart. God has given us exactly what we need. In Jesus, we not only have a new heart but the power to change.

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