We often measure ourselves and others by the wrong standard. Where I live, our corn grows tall. Often well over seven feet. That growth is a combination of good seed, good soil, and good conditions. But the height of the corn doesn’t really matter. What does matter are the ears of corn each stalk produces. How many ears? How big are the ears? Are they well filled out with large kernels? There have been years where the stalks look fantastic, but the harvest was light. There have also been other years where the stalks are looked troubled, but the harvest was fantastic. Neither can we measure our growth in Christ by our stature or status.
It’s a common mistake to measure ourselves by external evidence. It is even easier to focus on those external things and assume that we’re growing in our faith. It may seem that to be a good Christian, a healthy follower of Christ, we must adopt certain habits, put on a certain culture, and perform certain religious activities. But that is backward and wonky.
As we grow in Christ, our habits, culture, and religion do change. But seldom does one truly grow in Christ by striving to change our habits, culture, and religious practices into an assumed mold. Let’s take for example the habit of Bible reading. That is a fantastic habit to have. But if we only read our Bible to meet a duty or requirement, then we miss the whole point. It doesn’t matter if you read the Bible in a year, six months, or five years. What matters is you prayerfully read some of it often while letting it speak to your heart.
The same is true with church culture and religious practices. It’s easy to adopt those to fit in. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But measuring our growth in Christ by how accepted we are in any given congregation is a wrong measure. We should be involved and even changed by the folks we worship with, but that change does not necessarily indicate real growth.
So how do we measure our growth? Jesus explained, “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:23, NLT) Our growth in Christ is measured by the fruit produced as we take God’s Word to heart. But a quick warning, someone who does a thirty-fold return is not any less saved that than the one who produces a hundredfold. Growing in Christ is NOT about earning or keeping our salvation but about working or walking out our new life in Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn’t explain what was increased, maybe because the answer is too easy. Seeds always multiply their own kind. The Seed is the Word of God planted in our hearts, and the harvest is an increase in the Word in our lives. As we hear God’s Word, apply it to our lives, and share it in some way with others, we are producing a harvest. That could mean introducing someone to Jesus for the first time. But it could also mean being salt and light in a flavorless and dark world simply by loving God and loving others.
A Final Word
This is our last entry for our Start Here / Grow Here series. There is much more to learn and grow into. In fact, Christ-followers never stop growing in Christ. There’s always something more to learn and do. Our hope is that this series helped prepare the ground of faith in some way. Where you go from here is up to you and the Holy Spirit.