Since we are mandated to live at a ‘social distance’ I’m spending every evening at home. On some of those long nights, I pulled out albums and boxes of old photographs. Last week I found grainy black and white pictures from 1956 of a toddler. Further searches turned up pictures of once skinny kid, a gangly teen, and a newly in love young man. Each photo marked a time along the road to maturity. This time of disruption of life has also provided me an opportunity to think about another kind of growth in my life.
I may have reached physical maturity a long time ago, but I intend to keep growing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as long as God gives me breath. How about you?
Peter puts a warning and a call in one short passage. After speaking of God’s faithful promises, he says “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..” (2 Peter 3:17-18, NIV) In the flow of life we cannot stand still. We must ‘grow on’ or we will die by inches.
So what does it mean to ‘grow in grace?’ Grace is one of those rich words of the Bible, meaning ‘a gift.’ In the larger context, grace speaks of the overflowing life of the Spirit, the beauty and joy to be found in His favor. Peter is not inviting us to join a small elite group with ‘insider’ knowledge, nor is he asking us to enter into a pinched, joyless life of deprivation. Often Christian growth is mistakenly turned into mastery of fine details of theology or a life that is closed to anything resembling happiness or pleasure. In truth, maturity brings a steady kind of character, a deep and unmovable faith, a life of worship and service that appears almost effortless because it flows out of a heart that is full of the gifts of God’s Spirit.
Growth is a deep work of the Spirit that reveals the unchanging God to us in ways that transform us. When we walk with Him He meet us at the point of our need with the Truth that brings hope. That person who is led by the Spirit, who has allowed the experiences of life – good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant – to strengthen faith is a resource to the Body of Christ, one who increases faith and offers loving wisdom because he has learned to discern right and wrong, best from better.
If you are full of anxiety, fearing that you might fail, or the ‘collapse’ of your life in this crisis, pray to grow, focused on the processes of maturity. Let God turn these days into a time of anticipation of what can be discovered as the ‘normal’ is removed, the assumptions about what is true and right challenged by this confusing, disruptive experience.
Spiritual growth does not ‘just happen.’ Some Christians are in a state of ‘arrested development.’ Consider this – “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right. So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again.
Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.” (Hebrews 5:12-6:1, NLT)
Little children need black and white rules. In their immaturity they cannot grasp the importance of a good diet, of proper rest, why they need to brush their teeth, or the value of doing their math homework. So they have parents who provide boundaries. A wise parent knows how to encourage maturity by appropriately relaxing the rules and encouraging experiences that create character and the strength to think beyond today in decision-making. Grown up Christians move beyond the ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do that’ kind of Christianity that is spoon-fed to them by their teachers, developing the depth of character of Christ that lets them live securely, joyfully, and in the beauty of heart holiness.
Paul teaches us that person who is growing in the Spirit is forward looking, able to let yesterday’s failure and success go, a person ‘in process.’ “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,(complete or whole) but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15, NIV)
Whether you’re 18 or 81, growth is happening. There truths to discover about the Lord that wait just around the next corner in life. The Gospel of Christ, while unchanging in Truth, is constantly adapting to the world in which it is proclaimed. You can look back on yesterday, paralyzed by regret or fond remembrance, or you can pray, “Lord, take me deeper still!”
The word from the Word is a restatement of that passage where we started today. Meditate on it. Prayerfully invite the Spirit to lead beyond apathy and arrested development into the ‘grace’ of mature spiritually.
“So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is: salvation. … But you, friends, are well-warned. Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers. Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. Glory to the Master, now and forever! Yes!” (2 Peter 3:14-18, The Message)
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name
Christ alone cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior’s love
Through the storm He is Lord
Lord of all
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil
He is Lord Lord of all
When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless stand before the throne
Edward Mote | Eric Liljero | Jonas Myrin | Reuben Morgan | William Batchelder Bradbury © 2011 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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