Updated: Mar 17, 2021
A question that has been rolling around my mind lately is how to advance, or grow, in the Christian life. And that\’s exactly the question that we\’ll be answering today. Before we ask how to grow, we must ask what and why we grow in the Christain life. So here\’s my first question to you all: in your own words, what does it mean to grow as a Christian? You can phrase it a number of different ways:
To grow as a Christian is to become, in everyday life, all that you are in God-holy, blameless, loving, gracious, merciful, etc.
To grow as a Christian is to become more like Christ.
To grow as a Christian is to become increasingly more obedient and submissive to all the teachings and commands of Scripture.
Or, to grow as a Christian is to increase in the godly nature that God gave us when He regenerated us; (when He gave us new birth) (John 3:3).
And you all can pick whatever definition that you prefer I just like to try and define things is manners that I can understand and easily apply to scripture and my own life. So now that we have a grasp on what it means to grow as a Christian let\’s look to 2 Peter 3:13-18 and discuss more on why we grow and how we grow. 3:13-14 So what does Peter say we\’re waiting for here? We are waiting for the end of history when God renews all of the fallen creation and makes everything perfect and in harmony with Him. Do you all know why we are waiting on God for this to happen? IE What is stopping God from just renewing everything right now? Look at 3:8-9. Here Peter is saying that the Lord is patient in not ending history right now it is His story and more people (more of the elect) are to repent and come to Him. God is kind to all of us in not ending history right now because He is giving us more time to preach the Gospel and, through us, bring others into the faith. 3:15 There are two things that I want to point out in this verse before we begin to answer the topic of this study. Notice that Peter is telling us to count, or consider, the patience and kindness of God as salvation. If we wake up again tomorrow it is a day of salvation. It is another day, another blessing or grace of God, to do the work of God yet again. Christians view all of history in this light. As long as there is a today God is at work in the world to bring about His people to salvation. What a blessed, and encouraging, truth to be reminded of right when we first open our eyes in the morning. Also, notice the language that Peter uses here of Paul, \”our beloved brother\”. Did Peter and Paul get along well? Not always no. In Galatians, Paul speaks of his open, and strong, rebuke of Peter for teaching that the Gentiles must be circumcised before coming to Christ. This is not so. The only barrier that exists between the sinful man and the Gospel is the sinful man\’s heart; God does not add to such a weighty burden nor should we. For our Lord bids us, \”Come to me, all who labor and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.\” (Matthew 11:28-29). Peter, here, models for us how we should receive our brother or sister after they have rebuked, or corrected, us in the faith-with great, brotherly affection. According to this verse, how did Paul gain his wisdom? It was given to him. Meaning, that his letters are divinely inspired and therefore trustworthy. 3:16 I know we haven\’t been through all of Paul\’s writings but from what we have gone through, and what you all have read or know about them, what did you all find in those letters that were hard for you to understand? Just because those things are hard to understand, does that give us a license to just not understand or ignore those teachings? By no means! Peter says they\’re difficult to understand; not impossible. Moreover, if everything in the book of God were simple and easy then I would say that this book is not from the perfect and highest being in existence (God). We should expect to deal with hard things from His book and handle those hard matters honestly and humbly-with an open bible on our knees in prayer before Him. And, as I said last week, don\’t feel like you have to figure it out on your own; if you want help understanding a passage we\’re happy to help! Moreover, the Bible is the center of the Christian life because it is from God. And it is also the reason why the pulpit is at the center; because the Bible is at the center. The preaching and teaching is useful, or powerful, insofar as the preacher and teacher agree with the Scripture. Even though this book of God is from God it is not always easy to understand. Because the Scripture is from the mind of God, which vastly greater than my mind, I shouldn\’t expect it to be simple and easy but sometimes complex and hard. The Scripture is difficult to understand thus the continual selection only of what is simple in the preacher or teacher is a sin in the preaching and teaching of the Church. Indeed, doing so stunts our growth in the faith as Hebrews 5:13 says, \”…for everyone who lives on milk (the simple things of the Bible) is unskilled in the word of righteousness since he is a child (immature).\” The word of God is sometimes difficult; thus, the preacher and teacher of the word will be demanding on the hearts and minds of the hearers. The mis-interruption of Scripture leads to destruction. The proper interruption of Scripture is a life and death, joy or despair, honor or dishonoring matter. Our Religion and our book of God are serious business. What does Peter say the cost of being \”ignorant\” and \”unstable\” of these matters is? The cost of ignorant and instability of the book of God is destruction as they do with \”the other scriptures\”. Please note that Peter puts Paul\’s writings in the same category as the OT scriptures. And the \”twisting\” of his teaching would lead others to destruction; further proving that the apostles were aware that they spoke and wrote the word of God, as surely as did the OT prophets. What is the destruction that Peter is talking about? The complete loss of eternal life. IE The antithesis to being build up in the faith. Our theology is a matter of life or death. Who is Peter talking about here? Who was twisting the scriptures in his day? The Judaizers and possibly the Gnostics. The Judaizers claimed that in order to come to Christ one must become a Jew. The Gnostics claimed to have special, or secret, knowledge of the mind of God that was contradictory to what the apostles taught; thus they were not of God. What sort of people are twisting the scriptures today? Judaizers and Gnostics still (but they may not look the same today as they did back in NT times), heretics (though that goes without saying), and perhaps the most predominate of the day-the prosperity preachers-who claim that Christ died so that you can be healthy and wealthy and rob the ignorant of there peace with God and their money. Their destruction is sure and soon. Peter goes on to warn us of these people in 3:17. What does it mean for them to be \”lawless\”? Meaning, disobedient to the commands (laws) and teachings of the scripture. All our doctrine that we learn in study, or church, or private devotions (if it is true doctrine) must be applied doctrine. God did not just give us His book for information but transformation-to transform our desires, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. 3:18 So what\’s the antidote to destruction? Grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. How would you paraphrase what Peter is saying here in 3:18? We increase in our personal love of Him (knowledge) and outward love like Him (grace). We increase in our knowing of Him (knowledge) and our kindness of others (grace). We increase in our consideration of Christ (knowledge) and our own character (grace) like Christ. Think of Christian growth like this: a diseased or rotting tree is weak, frail and shallow and will be blown down at the storms of life. But a healthy, strong, deep-rooted, rich soil Oaktree will endure and even grow in the storms of life. The diseased tree has not been re-born by God and still has no power to put off the disease (sin) within itself. But this strong healthy tree has not only been reborn by God but is also not alone. In fact, this tree, when it was re-born/re-newed by God, was taken out of the diseased ridden forest of the world and was planned in a beautiful, life-full garden of God called the Church; where all our roots are interconnected to one another so that when one tree becomes weak the other trees can send extra living water to it to strengthen it once more. So it is with you all. You have been planted by God in the word of God and in a community of Oaktree saints and will joyfully bestow you the living water so that you can grow taller and stronger in the faith. You all have been Christians for some time now. What is, at least, one piece of advice that you would give to a new Christian to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ?
Consistently, and diligently read through the word of God. Ideally, invest in a good study bible as well.
Set aside a set time for prayer every day. Have a list of people you know and pray for.
Write in your Bibles. Write down your questions and observations. This will help you to read and engage with the text.
Find a local church that consistently teaches and preaches the whole Bible. The Christian can only grow as tall as he/she is taught the word of God.
After you have found a biblical, local church find a way to serve that particular body of believers. This can be teaching or cleaning up trash after Sunday services or starting a prayer group.
Join a good Bible study (ideally at that local church you belong to). Here you will have some of the best godly friends of your life that you will treasure forever. Consider teaching a Sunday school/Bible study as well.
Find someone who will help mentor (or disciple) you in the faith and hold you accountable to the commands of Scripture.
Now, all this said, are you growing in the faith? And how can we help you grow? Here is are some questions to help you consider this question:
Are you repenting, and fighting off, sin in your life?
Do you have joy in God and the truths of God?
Are you praying? And when you pray are you mostly asking for worldly, or selfish, things? And are you praying for others; particularly those closest to you?
Do you love those closest to you?
Are you quick to forgive as God is quick to forgive you?
Do those around you find you to be a benefit, or a joy, to their faith or a detriment?
How do you spend your time? Do you spend more time enjoying media or enjoying God?
In your daily interactions, are you more focused on how people perceive you or see Christ in you?
All this to say, we are never done growing. We will always have some new godly questions, thoughts, and ideas and new sin to uproot in our lives. No matter the storms of life or the snares of sin, if we are constantly seeking and honoring God privately and serving Him publically we can not go wrong. The goal of God in our lives, and the saints around us, is that Christ be glorified now and forever.