I was listening to a show on Minnesota Public Radio discussing character development in Young Adult fiction. They said that for a Young Adult book to sell, the character(s) have to experience genuine harm and difficulty, yet show growth in the midst of the trial.
In real life, human beings grow and change. Human nature changes: it’s our nature. To be human is to change. We change our viewpoints and values, concerns and character, and interests and ideas. Unlike God who never changes (Mal 3:6), we change.
But is there a difference between human growth and Christian growth? Or to put the question more personally, am I really growing as a Christian or is the change I see in my life nothing more than human growth?
The answer is that the main difference between human growth and Christian growth (what is called progressive sanctification) is the latter has a concrete standard and objective, namely, Christ-likeness as revealed in the Scriptures. So for the Christian, the difference between human growth and Christian growth is growing to be more like Christ (Rom 8:29).
Thus, the natural question is: what evidences of Christ-like growth do you see in your life? Are you more patient with the kids? If so, this is an evidence of Christian growth because patience is a revealed trait of Christ in Scripture (Matt 26:39-42; Luke 22:32-34). Are you less angry at situations that in the past would have caused you to flare up in outbursts? If so, this is an evidence of Christian growth because Christ was never sinfully angry (c.f. Mark 3:5; 10:14; John 11:33, 38). Do you love your spouse more, finding it easier and more joyful to serve her? If so, you are experiencing Christian growth because Jesus loves his bride (Eph 5:25).
Yes, humans grow and change. But Christians grow and change into the image of Christ.
Pastor Dan Burrus
(For more on Christian growth, see Pastor Dan’s lecture on the topic found here)