Thursday, April 7, 2011

Grace and Growth

I would maintain that growth in Christ is a process that takes place through all of life (Philippians 1:6; 3:11-14; Colossians 2:19). Scripture also pictures this as a process of discipline (1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:13,14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). But this does not conflict with the fact it is God who is at work in us to accomplish these things (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29) and apart from His work in us we can do nothing (John 15:5; Romans 8:8; 7:18). Nonetheless, while God is at work in every believer, we need to respond to this working rather than oppose it (Galatians 5:16; Colossians 2:6,7; Romans 12:1,2). Now all of this takes place within the context of grace (Romans 5:1,2; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14), motivated by God's love for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Luke 7:36-50).

Does this then mean we can excuse disobedience on the grounds we have not grown that far yet? The standard has  always been the righteousness of God and we are required to stop at nothing less (Matthew 5:48; Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). Now there is a careful balance here. We are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) who have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:24-26; Colossians 2:13-14). But we are required not to rest until we have put to death those things in us which are contrary to God's commands (Colossians 3:5-11; Ephesians 4:17-24; Matthew 5:29,30). A helpful passage is 2 Corinthians 7:10, which speaks of sorrow for sin and says that godly sorrow leads to repentance and putting our sins behind us and going on with God.

Now we need to avoid either being satisfied by where we are spiritually or being devastated by our current imperfection. But it is generally the attempts to shorten the process that end up lowering the bar. If we want to believe we can attain to some high level of spirituality immediately, we will either convince ourselves we have obtained it or become discouraged that we will ever attain to it. This can lead to either complacency or giving up. Both of these can be roadblocks to continued growth in Christ. Rather, it is better to have the attitude that we are on the way but not there yet. Now there can be, and frequently are, major turning-points along the way of growth, where we decide to get serious with God or to trust Him rather than ourselves or simply to deal with that particular thing we need to deal with in our lives. But this should be seen as a stage in the journey and not the final destination.  Therefore, we should not be comfortable anywhere except conformed to the righteousness of Christ. But we must trust in God working in us (Proverbs 3;5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Hebrews 11:6) and that His grace forgives our past sins (Romans 8:33,34; John 3:18; Hebrews 8:12) to avoid pride or discouragement .


  1. "we are on the way but not there yet"

    I sometimes think that the point of our regenerated life is to feed and exercise our inner man so that it is stronger than our outer man and able to subdue it.

  2. I like the picture. It seems like we have a choice each day which man we feed and exercise and which ends up stronger and which weaker.