Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, NIV)
There is such a thing as growth in grace
What is not meant by “growth”
- A Christian can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes.
- The justification of a believer is a finished, perfect, and complete work; and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest.
- Our election, calling, and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increase, or diminution.
What is meant by “growth”
- An increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart.
- His sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked.
- He experiences more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.
- This is what is stated in the Bible:
…you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more… (1 Thessalonians 4:10, NIV)
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, (1 Peter 2:2, NIV)
- The graces which the Christian received when he was justified in Christ are the same in principle, but they have grown and bear fruit
True grace is progressive, of a spreading, growing nature. It is with grace as it is with light: first, there is the day-break; then it shines brighter to the full noon-day. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth, (Isaiah 61:3; Hosea 14:5.) A good Christian is not like Hezekiah’s sun that went backwards, nor Joshua’s sun that stood still, but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.– Thomas Watson, Minister of St. Stephen’s Walbrook, 1660. (Body of Divinity.)
- Growth in grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and prosperity
- Growth in grace is one way to be happy in our faith
- Growth is one secret of usefulness to others. Our influence on others for good depends greatly on what they see in us.
- Growth in grace pleases God
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)
- Growth in grace is not only a thing possible, but a thing for which believers are accountable.
“Christian, as ever you would stir up others to exalt the God of grace, look to the exercise and improvement of your own graces. When poor servants live in a family, and see the faith, and love, and wisdom, and patience, and humility of a master, shining like the stars in heaven, it draws forth their hearts to bless the Lord that ever they came into such a family. – When men’s graces shine as Moses’ face did, when their life, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, is a very heaven, sparkling with virtues as so many bright stars, how much others are stirred up to glorify God, and cry, ‘These are Christians indeed! these are an honour to their God, a crown to their Christ, and a credit to their Gospel! Oh, if they were all such, we would be Christians too!” – T. Brooks, 1661. (Unsearchable Riches.)
There are marks by which growth in grace may be known
- Increased humility. The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfection, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections. The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn, he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his light, the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart.
- Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Growing in grace makes the Christian sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed. His love and power – His heart and His intentions – His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd, and Friend, unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner.
- Increased holiness of life and conversation. The Christian is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making “Higher!” “Upward!” “Forward!” “Onward!” his continual motto.
Brothers and sisters, 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 (Philippians 3:13, NIV)
- Increased spirituality of taste and mind. The ways, and fashions, and amusements, and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as down right sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections, and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes.
- Increase of charity (love towards others). His love will show itself actively in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathising, thoughtful, tender-hearted, and considerate.
- Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year. One of the surest marks of spiritual decline is a decreased interest about the souls of others and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.
The means that must be used by those who desire to grow in grace
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)
- Cast away for ever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault.
- The use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him: private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self-examination. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through!
- The use of public means of grace: regular Sunday worship, the uniting with God’s people in common prayer and praise, the preaching of the Word, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign of bad health when a person loses enjoyment for his food; and it is a sign of spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace.
- Watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life. When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the bad result is first seen at the extreme end of the little branches. We must aim to have a Christianity which, like the sap of a tree, runs through every twig and leaf of our character, and sanctifies all.
- Caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form. Disease is infectious, but health is not.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)
- Regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus. It is possible to have “union” with Christ, and yet to have little if any “communion” with Him. The names and offices of Christ, as laid down in Scripture, appear to me to show unmistakably that this “communion” between the saint and his Saviour is not a mere fancy, but a real true thing. Between the “Bridegroom” and his bride – between the “Head” and His members – between the “Physician” and His patients – between the “Advocate” and His clients – between the “Shepherd” and His sheep – between the “Master” and His scholars – there is evidently implied a habit of familiar intercourse, of daily application for things needed, of daily pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
- Do you know anything whets0ever about growth in grace? Awake before it be too late; awake, and arise from the dead, and live to God.
- Have you made little or no progress since you were first converted? Does it seem that you have “become complacent?” (Zephaniah 1:12.) Are you going on from year to year content with old grace, old experience, old knowledge, old faith, old measure of attainment, old religious expressions, old set phrases? You are living far below your privileges and responsibilities? Resolve this very day that you will find out the reason of your standstill condition. Probe with a faithful and firm hand every corner of your soul.
- You might be really growing in grace, but no even know it. We can never have too much humility, too much faith in Christ, too much holiness, too much spirituality of mind, too much charity, too much zeal in doing good to others. Then let us be continually forgetting the things behind, and reaching forth unto the things before. The best of Christians in these matters is infinitely below the perfect pattern of his Lord. Whatever the world may please to say, we may be sure there is no danger of any of us becoming “too good.” At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last. Let us not be surprised if we have to go through much trial and affliction in this world. Sickness, and losses, and crosses, and anxieties, and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful, and spiritual-minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine, and the refiner’s furnace to the gold.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, NIV)