So with a principle and a dynamic in place, today I'd like to clarify the goal of spiritual growth. There are plenty of things that substitute for spiritual growth that might be related to spiritual growth but are not the essence of it.
Theological or spiritual knowledge is one of those substitutes. The more theologically astute, the more mature, right? Well, not really. In fact, a lot of my YRR friends can learn from this critique (and if you don't know what YRR is, don't worry about it - seriously). Theology matters, don't get me wrong. But a heart formed by that theology matters even more because that is where character resides.
Spiritual competencies is another substitute and can go one of two ways. They can reflect spiritual growth as in the case of blessing those who curse us or praying for those who persecute us. They can also help us get to spiritual growth, as in the case of the spiritual disciplines. But neither are spiritual growth.
Lastly, spiritual activity can also be the reflection of spiritual growth. But it can be a cover up for the lack of it as well. The person who has the busiest church-life calendar may indeed be the least Christlike.
And there's the goal - Christlikeness.
Consider Ephesians 4.13: ...until we all reach 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...
Are you kidding me?
God gives gifts to the Body of Christ (v.11) to train the Body to minister to one another (v.12) so that we can grow up into that? Who in the world can grow up into that? What kind of goal is that? How insane is that?
But that is God's goal for us. There is no other way to define it, no wiggle room out of the huge, transforming goal.
You may get smarter. You may get better. You may do more. But becoming like Him is the only goal.
So what does Christlikeness mean?
You will become like Him in His character, quite literally taking on His holiness, mercy, righteousness, etc.
You will become like Him in His thinking, seeing and interacting with the world like He does.
You will become like Him in His actions, doing what He'd do if He were in your shoes.
You don't do this solo. But you can't settle for any other goal.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...