I have been asking myself this question for 40 years or more. As you look around in the average church, why are there so many professing Christians who are flat out immature…are not growing now and probably have not grown for years? There are numerous passages in God’s Word enjoining us to grow-up in Christ. One of the more well-known verses is 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” My favorite is Philippians 2:12,13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
One of the essential questions is what is God’s role in my ongoing spiritual formation, maturity, transformation, and what is my role. If you separate Philippians 2:12 from verse 13 you get into problems. It is never God’s role or my role, but God’s role and my role. In recent weeks I have been thinking that there are three things to keep in mind if I am to continue to grow in Jesus, of which I am reminded of over and over again in God’s word
As you read through what follows, please, please look up and prayerfully read each passage of scripture mentioned.
- Resurrection-My identity in Christ. Dead to my old self (way of life before conversion) alive in Christ with the Holy Spirit in my life. Romans 6:1-11. I am alive in Him. I have all the power and resources of heaven at my disposal- 2 Peter 1:1-4. Nothing can separate me from His Love-Romans 8:37-39
- Responsibility– Setting up certain crossed-focused, Holy Spirit-led and empowered guidelines regarding what I will not read, watch or listen to; where I will not go. The practice of spiritual disciplines: Word, prayer worship, confession, repentance. Responsibility entails the “putting off and putting on” of Ephesians 4, the “making every effort to supplement your faith” of 2 Peter 1. The do not’s of Romans 6:12-14. As I respond to His ability by The Holy Spirit, I need to continually ask myself:
a. For what purpose?
b. By whose power?
c. For whose glory?
Relationships– Close friends that walk with me with whom I am totally honest and transparent. Who are the one or two who will talk me off the ledge when I am ready to cave and give in to old habits and current temptations.
We need to operate in all three. If I were to draw it out it would be three circles overlapping each other…where they meet is where personal growth, maturity and transformation takes place.
Here are a few observations:
- Resurrection without responsibility/relationships can lead to pacifism
- Responsibility without resurrection/relationships can lead to independence
- Relationships without resurrection/responsibility can lead to co-dependency
- Responsibility and relationships without resurrection can lead to moralism
I groan along with Paul when he says “My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ be formed in you.” Gal 4:19
Just this week one of our pastors made the comment that perhaps 20% of those sitting in our worship services are truly Christian. That got my attention; could that possibly be true? Another thing that gets my attention is asking myself how many of those who are truly born again of the spirit of God (regardless of what percentage it is) and have been saved by the blood of Jesus are experiencing ongoing spiritual growth and maturity? It not only gets my attention but worries me and discourages me!
I would love to hear your thinking on this!