The Keys to Spiritual Growth

The Keys to Spiritual Growth
By John MacArthur
Crossway, 2001, 196 pp.

5 Stars

You’ve just accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and have been spiritually reborn as a child of God! Now what? It’s very helpful for new believers to read a good book on the basics of spiritual growth. It’s also helpful (and needful) for “seasoned saints” to periodically “go back to Bethel” for personal reexamination and encouragement. This book on the keys/basics to spiritual growth by Pastor John MacArthur is an excellent resource. If you’re one of those “seasoned saints,” pass it along to a new believer after reading it yourself.


  1. The Master Key – A Presupposition
  2. The Master Purpose   – The Glory of God
  3. The Master Plan – How to Glorify God
  4. Obedience – Unlocking the Servants’ Quarters
  5. The Filling of the Spirit – Unlocking the Power Plant
  6. Confession – Unlocking the Chamber of Horrors
  7. Love – Unlocking the Bridal Suite
  8. Prayer – Unlocking the Inner Sanctum
  9. Hope – Unlocking the Hope Chest
  10. Bible Study – Unlocking the Library
  11. Fellowship – Unlocking the Family Room
  12. Witnessing – Unlocking the Nursery
  13. Discernment – Locking the Security Gate

Thanks to Pastor Jimmy at The Domain for Truth for alerting us to free downloads of this book from Crossway Publishing here.

What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit?

The older I’m getting, the more I enjoy and count on a slower-paced routine. The last couple of weeks have been a bit frazzled, so I thought it might be a good time to get caught up on a few of these short, Spotlight on Scripture booklets from John MacArthur that I’ve accumulated over the last several months rather than dive into another thick book in the queue.


What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit?
Spotlight on Scripture
By John MacArthur
Grace to You, 2016, 11 pp.

I enjoyed this short booklet, which expounds on the meaning of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Of course, our Pentecostal and charismatic brethren have built an entire belief system based on the experiential “gifts of the spirit” (glossolalia, healing, prophecy). MacArthur is an outspoken cessationist when it comes to questions about the apostolic gifts, but he only briefly alludes to that controversy in this booklet.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:18-21

MacArthur states that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a conscious choice on the believer’s part to yield moment by moment to the leading of the indwelling Spirit (p. 3) and that this involves three facets:

Pressure – Illustrated by wind billowing the sails of a ship, a yielding believer allows the Holy Spirit to move/carry him/her in the proper directions.

Permeation – A yielding Christian allows the Spirit to work in all aspects of their being like an Alka Seltzer tablet completely permeates a glass of water. The more we study and prayerfully reflect on God’s Word, the more the Holy Spirit can make the Word a part of us.

Domination – A Spirit-filled Christian allows the Spirit to control and direct every emotion, thought, and act of the will.

Practical consequences of being Spirit-filled as stated in our passage and discussed in the booklet include:

  • Singing to the Lord
  • Giving thanks to the Lord
  • Submitting to other believers

This excellent, little booklet challenges us to abandon our claim to control over our life and begin to submit to the filling of the Holy Spirit. You can read the entire booklet for free at Grace to You, here.

Postscript: One thing I’ve learned over the years is the more we know the Lord, the more we are humbled by His holiness and grateful for His grace. The proud, judgmental Christian who believes they’re filled with the Spirit may need the genuine filling of the Spirit most of all.

Searching for my spiritual gift?

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

In regards to spiritual gifts, I offer the following with a great degree of humility, recognizing everything we possess is from the Lord:

My wife and I were reading through 1 Corinthians the past several weeks. As part of that, I did some preparatory study for chapter 12, in which the apostle Paul wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Boy, did that bring back memories, but it also spoke to my walk with the Lord currently.

After my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone back in 1983, we began attending an independent, fundamental Baptist church not too far from our home. The church had several problems, which eventually caused us to leave in 1991, but there were also several positives associated with our time there.

The pastor used an expository style of preaching. He would select a particular book of the Bible and, over time, preach on the entire text, from the opening verse clear through to the last verse. With three different books being studied each week (Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night), we got A LOT of Bible and some very thorough teaching.

I can vividly remember the pastor studying through 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.* His message was that everyone had a spiritual gift and it was up to each person to determine their particular gift so that they could use it to minister to the rest of the body of Christ. For several weeks afterwards, we had members asking each other what their spiritual gift was. Argh! It reminded me of kindergarten class. I felt a bit lost because I didn’t know what my gift was. I taught Sunday School class for primary children (grades 1-3) for about four years and was also a deacon for one year, and, although I was very blessed by both ministries, I felt like a fish out of water.

After I returned to the Lord after my long prodigal “season,” the Lord put it into my heart to reach out to Roman Catholics with the Gospel of grace and to confront the error of ecumenism within the church. For those reasons, I started this blog almost three years ago and I usually post something every day except for Sundays. However, as I wrote my posts, I often became frustrated as to why my brothers and sisters in the Lord didn’t see the obvious dangers of ecumenism as I did, until it struck me; the Lord blessed me with a degree of discernment regarding Catholicism and ecumenism, a gift which many do not have, even pastors and theologians who have a lot more training and familiarity with God’s Word and church history than I do. I don’t state that with any degree of pride. The Lord bestows His gifts upon us differently. But don’t all people who accept Christ and come out of Catholicism also have this gift? No, I’ve noticed that many ex-Catholics have a tolerant “it didn’t work for me, but whatever works for you” attitude. Am I and others who have the gift of discernment always right? Ugh. Hardly. I am not infallible and NONE of us minister in our gifts perfectly. Only Jesus is perfect. But, when I read 1 Corinthians 12 now, I am not frustrated about what my gift is as I was thirty years ago. I know exactly what it is.

Scripture exhorts ALL believers to study God’s Word to show themselves approved unto the Lord, so that they are able to discern false teaching, but many believers are forfeiting their individual responsibility and buying into the ear-tickling, topical, doctrine-lite, and even false teaching that’s increasingly prevalent in hip mega-churches.

Below is a helpful, three-part article from Tim Challies about the gift of discernment.

The Gift of Spiritual Discernment, Part 1
The Gift of Spiritual Discernment, Part 2
The Gift of Spiritual Discernment, Part 3

“Where God has given a gift, we can expect that He will also give passion…Those who look for their gifting should look to what interests them and what makes them feel passionate. As they look to their passions they may just find their gifts.” – Tim Challies

I don’t believe Christians need to wring their hands and anguish over what their spiritual gift (or gifts) is as our old pastor had directed us to. As we follow the Lord and seek His Kingdom, He will put a desire in our hearts to serve the body in the way He desires.

*Full disclosure: When it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I’m a “cessationist,” meaning I believe the showy gifts (healings, languages, raising the dead, handling poisonous snakes, etc.) were meant to demonstrate the authority of the apostles and to establish the church, and ended after the apostolic age following the establishment of the New Testament.

Something we don’t like to talk about

“I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” – Psalm 101:2-3

Many, many years ago, I was involved in a small Bible study group with two other men. I was about thirty-five-years-old at the time, Scott was around twenty-nine, and young Chris was maybe nineteen or twenty. At one of our sessions, Chris shared that he was struggling with addiction to pornography and asked that Scott and I pray for him. I thought that was very brave of him. Most Christian men won’t open up and share something so personal. We prayed for Chris, but there wasn’t any follow up. Our small group ended shortly after that. This memory is from twenty-seven years ago, but the temptations have increased exponentially in our culture since then with extremely easy access to porn via cable television, tablets, and smart phones.

I mentioned a few weeks back (see here) that surveys show many Christian men struggle with pornography and undoubtedly feel defeated by this sin.

Understand that engaging in impurity isn’t harmless. Impurity is like an addictive drug. The neurons of your brain are conditioned/mapped by the behavior and capacitate future behavior. The more you keep plowing the same field, the deeper the furrows become. It will damage your relationship with your spouse, perhaps severely, and leave you with a guilty, defeated conscience before the Lord.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28

I don’t believe a Christian can declare outright victory over sin this side of glory, but I do have a few suggestions that may prove helpful if you’re fighting this temptation or addiction:

  • Pray to the Lord for His help.
  • Plant God’s thoughts about purity in your heart, including the verses above and other verses listed here. Memorize them. Make them your armor and shield when temptation comes.
  • Ask yourself if you could ever engage in sexual sin in front of your mother? No? Obviously, you would NEVER do such a thing in front of your Mom, so then why do you behave in such a way before the Lord, who lives inside of you and sees all? How real is the Lord to you? Is He as real to you as your mother? Deepen you relationship with the Lord. Seek intimacy with Him. Allow Him to be as palpable in your life as the next breath you take. Offer up to Him dominion over every fiber of your being. The deeper your relationship with the Lord, the less you will cave to these kinds of temptations.
  • Some brothers need an accountability partner in this battle. Talk to your pastor, a church elder, or a trusted Christian friend.
  • Run, don’t walk from temptation. Remove temptation from your house, if possible. Sin usually starts out small. A little compromising usually leads to bigger things.
  • Ask the Lord to help you see these “productions” as He sees them. Not visible on the computer or television screen, but constantly present, are the crew and technical people helping to bring these “fantasies” to life. The entire cast and crew are slaves of an exploitative, sin-promoting industry that claims to gross $14 billion annually worldwide.
  • If you fall to temptation, go to the Lord for forgiveness. He is a good Lord and He will help you break the chains of addiction if you are truly seeking His will for your life.

There are several good books available to help you in this struggle. See here for one example.

Postscript: I referred to sexual impurity from a man’s perspective in this post, but I realize many women also struggle with this sin. Reading a graphic “romance” novel is no less sinful than watching a porn movie.

Why is sexual purity so important?