Ask almost any Christian believer, and they will say Yes to the question, “Are you interested in becoming more like Jesus?” (See Romans 8:29) That is God’s ultimate purpose for you. But at some point it’s up to you to put what you learn into practice and actually DO what Jesus asks of you. And it’s in this context that loving others changes you.
Recently we talked about the Five Catalysts for Spiritual Growth. Bible reading, prayer, study, and being in relationship with other Christians are indispensable pieces in the process of spiritual transformation. But unless Personal Ministry is included –- you ministering to others who need you -- your spirituality will become self-absorbed and begin to stink.
Think of your heart as a pool of water. You absolutely must regularly take in refreshing nourishment from outside yourself or you will run dry. But if there is no outflow, if you try to keep it all for yourself, you will get muddy and algae-filled, and be of no use to anyone. The only formula for life is both taking in and giving out.
This principle is not unique to spiritual growth. Seth Godin, a premier marketing guru, says that the best way to have someone learn something is to have them do it, and then to teach others to do it. Taking action changes you in ways learning information never can. The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous includes the phrase “we tried to carry this message to alcoholics.” There comes a time when helping others is the only way to move forward.
Andy Stanley in his new book Irresistible asserts that this is the whole ethic of the New Testament, that which Jesus came to call us to. When talking to His followers, Jesus’ “primary concern was not that they believe something. He insisted that they do something. They were to love as had had loved.” (p. 197)