Archive

Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

But Grow!

October 10th, 2018

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)

The Spirit works in our lives instantly if we are believers. One second of surrender brings instant transformation, the type that recreates the personality of God. We receive this new nature at the new birth, as we read: “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

This being true, what need do we have of a doctrine of spiritual growth? If we receive everything instantly upon complete and total surrender, then that takes away the need for strivings and moanings and groanings and effort.

There is a teaching among some Christians that says exactly that, that all we need to do is to “let go and let God.” We should die to sin and to self, “reckon yourselves dead and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11), and simply surrender our hearts to Him. Some have likened this teaching to some type of “spiritual magic” that instantly transforms us without our own thoughts being involved.

But though the Bible does teach transformation by the Spirit, it never removes this issue of growth. And, in fact, because the work of the Spirit in our lives is a living work – Christ came to bring us life – we will by the very nature of all of life be constantly growing. That which is alive grows and that which does not grow is dead.

Instant receiving, yes, but coupled with that is constant growth. The thing we receive is life and life must always grow. And growth takes time. Miles Stanford wrote:

It seems that most believers have difficulty in realizing and facing up to the inexorable fact that God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working from and for eternity! So many feel they are not making progress unless they are. swiftly and constantly forging ahead. Now it is true that the new convert often begins and continues for some time at a fast rate. But this will not continue if there is to be healthy growth and ultimate maturity. God Himself will modify the pace. This is important to see, since in most instances when seeming declension begins to set in, it is not, as so many think, a matter of backsliding.(from The Principles of Spiritual Growth)

In an idyllic setting we may experience a sudden gift of grace that instantly changes everything about us. We may feel that we are one with the Lord and nothing will ever be the same again. But then we leave that setting eventually and go back into the world, or into a carnal Christian environment. There we need the solidifying growth that comes through constantly focusing on Christ and on His grace.

The scriptural illustration of this is when Jesus and the inner circle of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, were on the Mount of Transfiguration, experiencing the vision of Christ’s holiness. But then they left the mountain and went down into the valley where the other disciples were dealing with a demoniac, and not doing a very good job of it, by the way. (Matthew 17:1-20). Most of us can identify with both of these experiences.

The Holy Spirit by Peter commands us not to grow around the grace of God, not to try and bypass the need of God’s strength and grace in order to grow by our own wits or efforts. Rather He commands us to grow “in the grace” of God. The Transfiguration experience was never downplayed, rather it was seen for what it was – a grace experience that began this work of God in the lives of the three disciples. Peter wrote about it in the very epistle that our text above comes from and says, “We were eye witnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter. 1:16). It was a grace experience and they grew in that grace.

And that is how we are to grow. We are to take the knowledge of God and the ministry of the Spirit in our lives and treasure them. We are to grow in His grace – unmerited favor. We do not earn our spiritual growth. We receive it by grace and it is our part to be constantly and regularly connected to Him and to His love. We grow in our awareness of our dependence on Him, in the distrust of ourselves and our sinful nature, and in the confidence that He fulfills His promises to us.

This should be the passion of our lives – not the receiving of human recognition, or positions and respect by others, but the knowledge of our own hearts that we are being transformed into His likeness. Like the rings of a tree, the quick “summer growth” is wonderful to receive, but it is the tougher “winter growth” that hardens our souls and makes us resilient and strong. But it is all by grace, by remaining attached to Christ, and not to trust in ourselves.

 

Daily Devotions, Spiritual Growth

The Higher Rock

July 20th, 2018

From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

The wise man feels his need for the Lord’s strength, guidance, and help. God rescues us both from within and without. He leads from within by the act of transformation, leading us to be patient and kind, instead of reactionary and uncaring. He leads from without by changing circumstances and delivering us from overwhelming temptations. Many shut doors are not cruelly closed by God, but in love He is removing from us circumstances for which we are not ready.

Lead me

We must be led by God to search for what is greater than we are in ourselves. God creates a thirst for something better and greater than we have in ourselves. Failure and setbacks and frustrations are God’s way of teaching us to search for something greater. He leads us to higher rocks by showing us what we are not yet but would like to become.

The first three attributes of the Spirit’s fruit is “love, joy, peace.” This triad shows three things that we all want. God begins his work in us by giving us what we do not have and in measures that we do not experience in life – endless love, boundless joy, immeasurable peace. These make us want to thirst for more and more of God and from God. And surely if we do not have more, these will not last.

To the Rock more patient than I

Peace will not last where there is no patience. We need to draw on the Lord’s patience when we have none in ourselves. When we are discouraged with circumstances and people, when we are out of endurance and patience within us, then it is we need to lean more heavily than before on the strength and patience of Christ. Oh, for the patient peace of Christ that would allow me to sit quietly in meetings without impure or angry thoughts crossing my mind!

To the Rock more kind than I

Kipling aspired to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run” and we need to do more than merely endure. We must also in the midst of frustrating circumstances convey a message of love and hope. It may feel like victory if we merely keep quiet, but we need to do more than that. We must be kind and caring. In the fruit of the Spirit, “patience” is followed by “kindness” and “goodness.” We will only be as patient as we are kind and only be as kind as we are good.

To the Rock that is stronger than I

And “goodness” is followed by “faithfulness” and then by “gentleness” or “meekness.” These two traits are more than mere attitudes that we try to put on. They are the transforming work of Christ in our lives that He achieves by His Spirit. We are weak in faith but God always is confident in what He is doing. When we seek to be strong in ourselves we will stumble over the plan and means of God. But if we can be meek and gentle and surrender to Him, then He can change us.

To the Rock that is more disciplined than I

The final attribute of the Spirit’s fruit is self-discipline, or “sound mindedness.” It is on the list, but it is the last on the list. Think how differently this passage would read if it were first. Though a result of the work of the Spirit, if it were first on the list, then we would take credit in ourselves for everything else. But though it is on the list, it is last on the list.

Divine love makes for more discipline in life, more control over sinful urges. The divine love of God let’s us know that we can trust our souls to Him, that we can open our hearts all the way and lay them before Him. We will find grace and patience and love and acceptance in Him. The sin He forgives and cleans away, and He reshapes us into people of eternal hope.

When you feel weak, turn to God in prayer. Admit your weakness and surrender to Him. Allow Him to do in you what only He can do! He is the Rock that is higher than you!

Psalms, Spiritual Growth