Now, here’s a thing – I have been reading a book about Thomas Paine, the 18th century American thinker and writer. It is no exaggeration to say that without Paine’s writing there would not have been an American revolution and that without his further input the rebellion would have collapsed. History would have been very different.
Paine was always interested in religion. When he wrote his early works he drew liberally upon the Scriptures to support his arguments for American independence (and other causes). But the truth is he was not a Christian but rather a Deist (someone who believes in God in some form, but denies the scriptures as the word of God). In truth, Paine’s anti-Bible attitude got stronger and stronger, culminating in his ‘Age of Reason’ in which he explicitly stated a belief in God but a denial of the truth of the scriptures and a belief that the established churches were largely corrupt (then, as now, an allegation with some truth in it).
All this led me to think about the importance of remaining consistent in our beliefs whilst at the same time being open to new ideas and learning and developing. We need to get the balance right – God does not want closed minds but neither does he want us to go off the rails in the way that Paine did. What we need to have, is spiritual growth. What does that consist of, and how do we get it?
The website ‘All About God’ has a helpful article on Spiritual Growth. They say that
spiritual growth requires:
- True spiritual life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:11-12) and the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17)
- Continued learning through reading and applying God’s Word, which teaches, corrects, rebukes and trains (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Walking in the Spirit, so as to control our natures and sinful desires (Galatians 5:16-18, 24-26)
- Consciously choosing by faith, to be dead to sin (Romans 6:11-14); and
- To live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4.1).
If we pursue spiritual growth that will show itself in our lives by the fruits of the Spirit –
“… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”(Galatians 5:22-23)
Notice that it is the Holy Spirit who produces the fruit in us. Be aware also that we should not compare ourselves with other people. Different people grow in different ways. Some people grow rapidly, while others grow slowly, but steadily. Either way, we should continue to grow – “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:23-24).
Tom Paine, a man of great
intellect and a wonderful gift for writing never understood that we need to
grow in spirit and in truth, not away from it.‘…but
grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be
the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.’ (2
‘Spiritual Growth’, All About God.com, https://www.allaboutgod.com/spiritual-growth.htm
Accessed 3 May 2020. I found this article helpful but this is not an endorsement of everything on that website (although it seems okay!) – ‘Test everything’ Paul says in 1 Th.5.21