I think the answer to these questions is yes. The Apostle Peter certainly was very comfortable speaking about practice as tending toward growth in Christian discipleship. He writes: “For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith. . . . For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful. . . . Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fail” (2 Peter 1:5–10). Likewise, the Apostle Paul often used metaphors of growth and fruit bearing to describe the Christian life:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:9–10)
The more we give ourselves over to those things that are good and right and true and beautiful and lovely, the more they take root in us and shape us. In a strange way, we become them by doing them. Philosophers and theologians alike have recognized this. The psalmist presents this principle when he speaks of those who worship idols: “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 115:8; see 135:18). This is just the way we as humans were made to learn. More than we realize, our lives our molded by the rituals, the liturgies, and the things that we frequently give ourselves over to. It’s in this light that the wisdom of Proverbs makes good sense: “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Prov. 22:24–25). This is certainly what is behind the old axiom that bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor. 15:33).
In a strange way, then, those things we give ourselves over to shape us and make us, usually into their own image. One theologian gets at this when he notes the way worship transforms humans and how we become what we worship:
God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation. . . . What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.
The more we give ourselves over to the virtues of the Christian life and the more we practice the ethics of the kingdom of God, the more those virtues and ethics will take root in us, the more they will shape us, and the more they make us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who was perfect in every way.