IN GRACE: auxanete (PAM) de en chariti:
(Ps 92:12; Ho 14:5; Mal 4:2; Ep 4:15; Col 1:10; 2Th 1:3; 1Pe 2:2)
(de) (pause and ponder this
term of contrast) counterbalances the "negative" duty of being on guard
with the positive duty of growth in grace. Continuing spiritual growth
is the most effective safeguard against falling. Continued progress in
divine things is a great protection against the peril of false teachers.
I ride bicycles for exercise and have noted that the time when I am most
danger of falling (because I have done so repeatedly!) is when I am "not
making progress," that is, when I am not pedaling forward. The Christian
life is very similar. If you begin to miss time in the Word and time in
prayerful communion with your Lord, you can rest assured (or alarmed)
that you are not far from some "misstep!" Growth in grace and the
knowledge of Jesus is the best defense against going astray.
Barclay - The Christian must
daily experience the wonder of grace, and daily grow in the gifts which
grace can bring; and he must daily enter more and more deeply into the
wonder which is in Jesus Christ. It is only on a firm foundation that a
great building can tower into the air; and it is only because it has a
deep root that a great tree can reach out to the sky with its branches.
The Christian life is at once a life with a firm foundation and with an
ever outward and upward growth.(2 Peter
- Daily Study Bible)
[word study]) means to cause to grow, to increase, to enlarge.
which is a command that calls for this to be the believer's continual
passionate (emphasis on passionate mine) pursuit. Why?
Because if we are not growing, we are ever in danger of being carried by
error that results in further spiritual instability. Trees with shallow
roots are easily uprooted (I am not saying a genuine believer can lose
his or her salvation -- that is impossible [cp Jn 10:27, 28, 29, 30, 1Jn
2:19, 5:13, Jude 1:24-note, 1Pe 1:5-note,
-- but that their roots can become "loosened" and they be easily blown
hither and yon by every wind of doctrine!) The only way to prevent falling is to
grow; the tree that grows will not fall over. As someone has noted...
If you go into a plantation, at a
certain time of the year, you may see a great number of trees that have
no leaves upon them; how are you to know which are alive, and which are
not? Well, you would soon know if you could look at their roots. If a
tree has been growing, if its roots have taken hold upon the soil, yon
may pall it, but you will not stir it. There it stands; and, in like
manner, growth in grace brings fixity in grace. You who have faith, pray
God that you may have growing faith. A living faith is s growing faith,
and a growing faith is a living faith. Pray, therefore, that you may
“grow in grace.”
Auxano - 23x in NT - Mt
6:28; 13:32; Mk. 4:8; Lk. 1:80; 2:40; 12:27; 13:19; Jn. 3:30; Acts 6:7;
7:17; 12:24; 19:20; 1 Co. 3:6f; 2Co. 9:10; 10:15; Ep 2:21; 4:15; Col.
1:6, 10; 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18 and is rendered in the NAS as
causes growth(1), causing growth(1), full grown(1), grew(1), grow(8),
growing(2),grows(2), increase(2), increased(2), increasing(2),
Peter is calling for spiritual growth
to be the believer's lifestyle. This command brings one back to Peter's
charge in chapter 1 where Peter taught that
if these qualities are yours and are
increasing, (pleonazo - abounding;
= continually increasing more and
more) they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (see note
2 Peter 1:8).
present tense calls for the
readers to "keep continually growing in grace". The Christian life
should never be static. A car stuck in neutral does not fulfill its
prescribed function. One must go forward or he will go backward. Harry
Ironside said that continuing growth is "the unfailing panacea for all
Peter used this same verb
auxano in his first epistle to
exhort his readers to "grow in respect to salvation" which he informed
them called for an attitude like newborn babes so that they would "long
for the pure milk of the word" (1Pe 2:2-note).
"this command to keep on growing is an appeal to the will.
But growth, in the spiritual as in the physical realm, does not arise
from an assertion of the will. Yet the human will does play a decisive
part in the experience of spiritual growth. For effective growth we must
will to remove hindrances to growth (cf 1Pe 2:1-note
to the next verse 1Pe 2:2-note)
while actively fostering the conditions which promote growth. When the
individual maintains the conditions for spiritual growth, the divinely
implanted life (cf 2Pe 1:4-note) will assuredly grow and
adds this helpful note:
antidote to deception and destruction is growth in the grace and
knowledge of Christ. The contrast between 2Pe 3:17 and 2Pe 3:18 is between,
on the one hand, a tree which does not grow and so loses its stability
in the earth and is blown over by a wind of false teaching and dies,
and, on the other hand (v18), a tree which keeps its roots planted in
God's grace and so grows and stays healthy and stable and does not get
blown over by false teaching." (Grow
in Grace and in the Knowledge of Our Lord)
C H Spurgeon in his
wonderful devotional Morning and Evening
comments that we are to...
“Grow in grace”—not in one
grace only, but in all grace. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe
the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in
fulness, constancy, simplicity. Grow also in love. Ask that your love
may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every
thought, word, and deed. Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very
low, and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in
humility, seek also to grow upward —having nearer approaches to God in
prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit
enable you to “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” He
who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know
Him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of Him is to
increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ,
knows nothing of Him yet. Whoever hath sipped this wine will thirst for
more, for although Christ doth satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction,
that the appetite is not cloyed, but whetted. If you know the love of
Jesus—as the deer pants for the water-brooks (Ps 42:2), so will you pant after
deeper draughts of his love. If you do not desire to know Him better,
then you love Him not, for love always cries, “Nearer, nearer.” Absence
from Christ is hell; but the presence of Jesus is heaven. Rest not then
content without an increasing acquaintance with Jesus. Seek to know more
of Him in His divine nature, in His human relationship, in His finished
work, in His death, in His resurrection, in His present glorious
intercession, and in His future royal advent. Abide hard by the Cross,
and search the mystery of his wounds.
An increase of love to Jesus, and
a more perfect apprehension of his love to us is one of the best tests
of growth in grace." (Bolding added)
IN THE GRACE
AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD & SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST: en chariti kai gnôsei
tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou
1:3,8; 2:20; John 17:3; 2Co 4:6; Ep 1:17; Php 3:8; Col 1:10; 3:10)
(en) is locative case which depicts the areas (or spheres) of growth -
grace and knowledge of Jesus. The locative of sphere means the
limitations are logical, one idea (growth) being confined within the
limits of another (grace and knowledge). Imagine yourself to be a fish
in a fish bowl filled with "grace" -- you will have great difficulty
living the Christian life (the "Christ" life, the supernatural life)
when you are separated from (eg, by unconfessed sin, grieving of His
Spirit of Grace, etc) the supernatural supply of God's grace.
[word study]) is free and unmerited favor
of God bestowed upon guilty man in and through Jesus Christ.
As Hampton Keathley says
since grace is at the
heart, indeed, it is the very foundation and fountain of true
Christianity, we should have a better grasp of this important word and
its truth.... Furthermore, the doctrine of God’s Grace in Christ is
multi-sided. As a doctrine of the Word it touches every area of truth or
doctrine in one way or another. Every aspect of doctrine is related to
grace. It is no wonder grace is an important word and one that Paul
desires to be experienced by all. It is a fountain from which we must
all drink deeply, but it is one that runs counter to our own natural
tendencies. Rather than drink from God’s fountain, we tend to build our
own broken cisterns. (Jer 2:13)
A Basic Definition—lexical: The Greek word for grace is charis.
Its basic idea is simply “non-meritorious or unearned favor, an unearned
gift, a favor or blessings bestowed as a gift, freely and never as merit
for work performed.”
Expanded Definition—theological: Grace is “that which God does
for mankind through His Son, which mankind cannot earn, does not
deserve, and will never merit”1
Grace is all that God freely and non-meritoriously does for man and is
free to do for man on the basis of Christ’s person and work on the
cross. Grace, one might say, is the work of God for man and encompasses
everything we receive from God. see
Grace and Peace)
I would add given the truth that we
begin this race of salvation by grace, run daily by grace and finish by
grace, it behooves every Christian runner to understand some of these
practical truths about how he or she is enabled to run with endurance
the grace race that is set before us.
Someone has devised the following
acronym which is not a bad "definition" of grace...
G (God's), R (Riches)
A (At) C (Christ's) E (Expense)
Grace is God’s saving love and favor. We deserve God's judgment
but He instead showers favor on those have no way to earn it.
See sermon by Puritan Thomas Watson with 12
excellent applications -
The Beauty of Grace
writes that "God’s grace is his
active favor bestowing the greatest gift upon those who have deserved
the greatest punishment."
emphasizes here that not only do believers need the transforming power
of God's grace but also God's truth. Growth in knowledge obviously calls
for study of and subjection to God's truth, by which believers are
progressively sanctified or set apart, becoming more and more like the
29x in NT - Lk. 1:77; 11:52; Ro. 2:20; 11:33; 15:14; 1 Co. 1:5; 8:1, 7,
10f; 12:8; 13:2, 8; 14:6; 2 Co. 2:14; 4:6; 6:6; 8:7; 10:5; 11:6; Eph.
3:19; Phil. 3:8; Col. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:20; 1 Pet. 3:7; 2 Pet. 1:5f; 3:18
must also take place in the realm of knowledge. and grace.
If we are growing in knowledge, we should also be growing in grace. If
not our "heads" may be growing is size, becoming "puffed up" because of
all the Bible facts we know.
The source and
fountain of both grace and knowledge is Jesus Christ. To
know Christ is to live and to grow in that acquaintance is to grow in
the Spirit (Php 3:10-note).
John Piper adds some practical notes how we grow in
which he first defines as
"the wealth of God's kindness, the
riches of his mercy; the soothing ointment of his forgiveness; the free
and undeserved, but lavishly offered hope of eternal life. Grace is what
we crave when we are guilt-laden. Grace
is what we must have when we come to die.
Grace is our only ray of hope when
the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear.
And how shall we receive this grace?
Where shall we send our roots down? To what sunshine shall we turn up
our leaves? To the promises given to us when the Master bought us by his
death (2Pe 2:1-note). The best
fertilizer for our hope and godliness is the knowledge of our future in
So Peter says, "May grace be
multiplied to you in the knowledge of God," and closes with the command
to grow "in the grace and knowledge of our Lord."
If we but knew a fraction of the future God is making for us; if we
could begin to feel that all our deepest longings will be satisfied,
that every beauty of this world will be preserved and heightened; that
every good affection will soar; that every proper relationship will be
restored forever; that all pain and frustration and ugliness will
vanish; that the fish will bite before the worm hits the water and Jesus
will fill the world with golden light -- if we could believe what no eye
has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has
prepared for those who love him (1Cor. 2:9),
our hearts would be freed from the greed and fears that cause us to sin.
We would escape from the corruption that is in the world and become
partakers of the divine nature
The message of 2 Peter is that the joy of hope is the
power of godliness.
The knowledge of God's promises is the pathway of
(2Pe 1:3, 4-note).
And the promises, the power, the hope and the godliness are all because
of his grace." (Sermon) (Bolding added)
(kurios) means lord, master, owner or the one who has absolute
ownership power. Jesus is referred to as Savior only 10
times but as Lord some seven hundred times! He is the One Who is Supreme in Authority. Kurios
translates Jehovah (LORD in OT) some 7000 times in
puts "Lord" in an interesting perspective noting that...
"The life of Christianity consists of
possessive pronouns. It is one thing to say, "Christ is a Saviour"; it
is quite another thing to say, "He is my Saviour and my
Lord." The devil can say the first; the true Christian alone can say the
rescue from peril > from saos = safe; delivered) refers to the
agent of salvation or deliverance, the one who rescues, delivers, saves
and preserves. Anyone who saves or delivers can be called a deliverer or
rescuer (a soter).
Dictionary notes that
secular Greek usage the gods are deliverers both as helpers of human
beings and as protectors of collective entities (e.g., cities); this is
the case with Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux,
Heracles, Asclepius as the helper of the sick, and Serapis; it is true
also for philosophers (Dio Chrysostom Or. 32.8) and statesmen
(Thucydides v.11.1; Plutarch Cor. 11, also in inscriptions and
elsewhere). In the Hellenistic ruler cult "theos soter" (god our savior)
is attested in writings and inscriptions as a title of the Ptolemies and
Seleucids. Inscriptions in the eastern part of the Empire called Pompey
“Soter and Founder,” Caesar “Soter of the World,” and Augustus “Soter of
Humankind.” Hadrian had the title "Soter of the Kosmos" (Balz,
H. R., & Schneider, G. . Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament.
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans)
soter as a title of divinities such as Asclepius, the god of
healing. Soter was used by the mystery religions to refer to their
divinities. At an early date soter was used as a title of honor
for deserving men, e.g., Epicurus (300BC) was called "soter" by his
followers. As discussed below, soter was used as a designation of the
"deified" ruler, e.g., Ptolemy I Soter (323-285BC).
writes that the name soter...
was given by the ancients to deities,
especially tutelary deities, to princes, kings, and in general to men
who had conferred signal benefits upon their country, and in the more
degenerate days by way of flattery to personages of influence;
used of God as the source of salvation - the Deliverer, the
Preserver, the Protector, the Healer, the One Who rescues man from
danger or peril and unto a state of prosperity and happiness.
used of Jesus Christ as the agent sent by God to bring
deliverance to sinful mankind.
Kenneth Wuest writes that
the name soter
"was given by the ancients to deities, to princes, kings, and in
general, to men who had conferred signal benefits upon their country,
and in the more degenerate days, by way of flattery, to personages of
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
The Romans looked
upon their emperor as a "savior" in that he held mankind together
under the great Roman power, providing peace and order, prosperity and
protection. In the Cult of Caesar, the state religion of Rome, the
emperor was actually known as the "Saviour of the world" (at
least 8 Roman emperors carried this title)! He was a "Saviour" in that
he held mankind together under the great Roman power, providing peace
and order, prosperity and protection. In contrast to the Cult of the
Caesar, was the "Cult of Christ", in which the Lord Jesus was worshipped
as the Saviour God. The former ruled over the temporal affairs of his
subjects and was one of their gods. The latter was Saviour in the sense
that He saved the believer’s soul from sin and exercised a spiritual
control over his life. To recognize our God as the Saviour of the world
instead of the Emperor was a capital offense, for this recognition was a
blow at the very heart of the Roman Empire and explains the reason for
the bloody persecution of Christians.
healed others were referred to in the Greek culture as "saviors".
Human physicians might be able to heal physical sickness but only the
Great Physician can heal sin sickness. As alluded to above, in Greek
mythology various gods were called soteres (plural) an epithet
applied especially to Asclepius, the "god of healing". How tragic to
call mere mortals and figments of men's imagination "saviors". God
pronounced judgment long ago on those who worship these so-called
"saviors" declaring that ''They have no knowledge, who carry about their
wooden idol, and pray to a god who cannot save (Hebrew word is
yasha from which is derived Yeshua the Hebrew equivalent of "Jesus"!).''
is a transliteration of the Greek word
= to anoint, rub with oil, consecrate to an office) which is equivalent
to the Hebrew word which is translated "Messiah",
the Anointed One.
In the Gospels
the Christ is not a personal name but an official designation for
the expected Messiah (see Matthew 2:4, Luke 3:15). As by faith
the human Jesus was recognized and accepted as the personal Messiah, the
definite article ("the") was dropped and the designation "Christ"
came to be used as a personal name. The name "Christ" speaks of
His Messianic dignity and emphasizes that He is the fulfillment of the
Old Testament promises concerning the coming Messiah.
BE THE GLORY
BOTH NOW AND TO THE DAY OF ETERNITY [AMEN]: autôi
te doxa kai nun kai eis hêmeran aiônos:
(Jn 5:23; 2Ti 4:18; 1 Pe 5:10,11;
Jude 1:25; Rev 1:6; 5:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
Peter closes the epistle by giving glory To
specifically addresses this "doxology" to "our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"
(this full title used here in 2Pe 3:18, 1:11, 2:20, 3:2) and as such is the
only NT doxology unquestionably addressed to Jesus Christ. To give Jesus
Christ the glory due Him is to acknowledge He is God. Why? Because the
OT quotes God saying
I am the LORD, that is My name; I
will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images. (Isa
brings the high Christology of this epistle to a fitting climax. To
Christ, the beginning, the process, and the fulfillment of our great
salvation, is ascribed eternal praise for He is God. This is the
ultimate purpose for our existence—to glorify Jesus Chris. Everything
else is designed to that end.
expresses all that He is in His Being and in His nature, character,
power and acts. He is glorified when He is allowed to be seen as He
really is. To be where God is will be glory. To be what God intended
will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory.
[word study]) in this context refers to time, the Greek
literally reading "unto the day of the ages".
Amen or so be it (only in the
KJV - 2Pe 3:18KJV).
Pastor and author
A. W. Tozer observed this about the early church:
Conversion for the early Christians
was not a destination; it was the beginning of a journey.... In [the
early church] faith was for each believer a beginning, not a bed in
which to lie while waiting for the Lord’s triumph. Believing was not a
once-done act. It was an attitude of heart and mind which inspired and
enabled the believer to follow the Lord wherever He went.
Christian life is a journey that begins the day we receive Christ as
Savior, how well we follow Christ after conversion is vital to our
spiritual well-being. Peter’s final instruction to his readers, and to
the church, centered on the importance of a believer’s continued growth
in the faith. (Today in the Word)
Twenty Years? A
teacher with twenty years’ experience was passed over for a promotion.
Going to the administrator, she demanded, “Why did you choose that new
young man who only had four years of experience at this job, when I have
twenty years of experience?” The man answered, “Because you do not have
twenty years of experience. You have one year of experience
times. You’re still teaching the same things in the same way as you did
when you were first hired. You haven’t grown in the job.”
The knowledge of Christ’s love for us should cause us to love Him in
such a way that it is demonstrated in our attitude, conduct, and
commitment to serve God. Spiritual maturity is marked by spiritual
knowledge being put into action. (Edward Bedore)
Those who know God
the best are the richest and most powerful in prayer. Little
acquaintance with God,
and strangeness and coldness to Him, make prayer a rare and feeble
thing. (E. M. Bounds)
The work of
Japanese painter Hokusai spanned many years before his death in 1849 at
age 89. But toward the end of his life, the artist dismissed as nothing
all the work he had done
before age 50. It was only after he reached 70 that he felt he was
turning out anything worthy of note. On his deathbed Hokusai lamented,
“If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real
painter.” (Today in the Word)
Morning and Evening
Spurgeon comments - Heaven will be full of the ceaseless
praises of Jesus. Eternity! thine unnumbered years shall speed their
everlasting course, but forever and for ever, "to him be glory." Is he
not a "Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek"? "To him be
glory." Is he not king for ever?-King of kings and Lord of lords, the
everlasting Father? "To him be glory for ever." Never shall his praises
cease. That which was bought with blood deserves to last while
immortality endures. The glory of the cross must never be eclipsed; the
lustre of the grave and of the resurrection must never be dimmed. O
Jesus! thou shalt be praised for ever. Long as immortal spirits
live-long as the Father's throne endures-for ever, for ever, unto thee
shall be glory. Believer, you are anticipating the time when you shall
join the saints above in ascribing all glory to Jesus; but are you
glorifying him now? The apostle's words are, "To him be glory both now
and for ever. " Will you not this day make it your prayer? "Lord, help
me to glorify thee; I am poor, help me to glorify thee by contentment; I
am sick, help me to give thee honour by patience; I have talents, help
me to extol thee by spending them for thee; I have time, Lord, help me
to redeem it, that I may serve thee; I have a heart to feel, Lord, let
that heart feel no love but thine, and glow with no flame but affection
for thee; I have a head to think, Lord, help me to think of thee and for
thee; thou hast put me in this world for something, Lord, show me what
that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose: I cannot do much, but
as the widow put in her two mites, which were all her living, so, Lord,
I cast my time and eternity too into thy treasury; I am all thine; take
me, and enable me to glorify thee now, in all that I say, in all that I
do, and with all that I have.
Guide me, 0 thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy powerful hand; Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more.
Gradual Growth - I'm
privileged to know several Christians who are recovering from
addictions. One such person feels extremely frustrated over the amount
of time it's taking him to recover and rebuild his life after years of
destructive choices. His reason for such impatience? He says, "I've
already wasted too many years of my life, and I don't want to waste any
more." But is gradual growth ever a waste of time?
The apostle Peter opened his second letter to believers by emphasizing
that it takes time and diligence to cultivate a range of disciplines in
our daily lives (2Pe 1:5, 6, 7, 8-notes). He concluded his letter with this command:
"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"
(2Pe 3:18). Although the Lord's goal for us all is complete perfection, He
doesn't expect the end without the means, which involves our diligence
in the lifelong process of growth.
In his book Psalm 23: The Song of a Passionate Heart, David Roper
Everything worthwhile takes time, but
time is on our side. We have the rest of our lives to grow. God is
wonderfully patient. He will never give up on us until His work is done.
. . . We are unfinished--but one day very soon God will finish. . . .
And that's good enough for me.
Is it good enough for you? —Joanie
Every day more like my Savior,
Every day my will resign,
Till at last Christ reigns supremely
In this grateful heart of mine. --Brandt
There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity
Keep Reaching For The Top -
Jon Krakauer, author and mountain climber, was determined to reach the
“roof of the world,” the peak of Mt. Everest. In an arduous ascent that
killed some of his fellow climbers, he persevered. On May 10, 1996, he
reached the summit.
“I understood on some dim, detached level that [the sweep of earth
beneath my feet] was a spectacular sight,” wrote Krakauer of that
moment. “I’d been fantasizing about this moment, and the release of
emotion that would accompany it, for many months. But now that I was
finally here, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, I just couldn’t
summon the energy to care.”
Temporal goals can never fully satisfy. We see this in the ministry of
Paul. He told the believers in Philippi: “I press toward the goal for
the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14-notes).
It is the goal “for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil.
He will “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His
glorious body” (Phil. 3:21-notes).
That goal can provide the most powerful incentive. It inspires us to
become more and more like Jesus. Every upward step gives us joyful
soul-satisfaction. How diligently are we striving to reach that goal? —
Vernon C. Grounds
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day—
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” —Oatman
Don’t let contentment with earthly goals prevent you from attaining
Growing - Several years ago my interest in flowers had our home
resembling a nursery. There's something about the presence of growing
plants that I find very enjoyable. As I daily inspected their progress,
I gained from my little green friends a new appreciation of the joy and
necessity of the wonderful process of growth.
As Christians, we too are like plants. We should put down our roots,
break up through the earth, spread out our branches, and burst into
blossom. Such a thriving condition, however, isn't always evident in our
lives. It's so easy to become bored and listless in the bland routine of
our daily activities. Often we just hang on and merely exist without
moving steadily toward maturity and fruitfulness.
At such times we are at a spiritual standstill and must allow Jesus the
"Sun of Righteousness" (Mal 4:2) to warm our hearts anew with His love.
We must send our roots deep into the Word of God by meditating on it day
and night (Ps 1:2-notes).
Then we will be like a fruitful tree planted by rivers of living water,
and our branches will extend outward in an ever-increasing influence and
witness. They will be filled with blossoms that reflect the beauty of
righteous living. If we've become dormant, let's get growing! - M De
If God can make a
Into a flower so fair,
What can He make, O soul, of thee
Through study, faith, and prayer? -Anon.
When growth stops,
Get To Know Jesus - In his book The Call, Os
Guinness tells a story about Arthur Burns, chairman of the US Federal
Reserve Board during the 1970s. Burns, who was Jewish, became part of a
Bible study held at the White House at that time. One day, those in the
group listened in surprise as Burns prayed, "O God, may the day come
when all Jews will come to know Jesus." But an even bigger surprise came
when he prayed for the time "when all Christians will come to know
Burns hit on a profound truth we all need to wrestle with. Even if we
claim the name of Jesus Christ, it may not be evident to others that we
really know Him. Do we have a personal relationship with Him? If so, are
we striving, praying, and working to know Jesus more intimately each
Peter, a man who knew Jesus well, said that "the knowledge of God and of
Jesus our Lord" will bring us multiplied "grace and peace" (2Peter 1:2-notes).
Knowing Jesus gives us "all things that pertain to life and godliness"
And knowledge of Jesus will help us develop character traits that show
the world that we are connected to Him (2Pe 1:5, 6, 7, 8-notes).
Can you and I honestly say, "I know Jesus better today than I did
yesterday"? — Dave Branon
No knowledge gained through arduous quest
Has made my heart so free
As this great fact of time and space—
That Jesus died for me! —D. De Haan
The better you know Jesus in your heart,
the more the world will see Jesus in your life.
Measure Me - "Can you measure me today?"
Caleb, our paperboy, asked.
It was not the first time he had made that request. A few years ago I
had mentioned to him how tall he was getting. Since then, we've often
measured his height on the siding of our house. After all this time, he
still wants me to measure him.
Measurements can be indicators of growth. And it's a good idea to
measure our spiritual growth. For instance: Do I spend time reading
God's Word and talking with Him each day? Do I look forward to
fellowshipping with the Lord? What "fruit of the Spirit" is apparent in
my life? Do I talk about Jesus with people who don't know Him? How am I
using my spiritual gift or gifts? Do I have a generous and giving
spirit? How much better do I know God today than I did a year ago? These
questions are good indicators of spiritual growth.
A child seems to grow up all of a sudden, but it's actually a continual
process. Just as Jesus grew in both wisdom and stature, we as believers
are to continue to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ" (2Peter 3:18). We are no longer to be children, but
to "grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ" (Ep 4:14,15-notes).
Have you measured yourself lately? — Cindy Hess Kasper
The child of God who reads the Word
And heeds the messages he's heard
Will grow in grace from day to day
And share with others on life's way. —Hess
Salvation is the miracle of a moment; growth is the labor of a
Goal - What are you living for in your few fleeting years here on
this earth? Anything other than fame, wealth, or influence?
When Thomas Naylor was teaching business management at Duke University,
he asked his students to draft a personal strategic plan. He reports
that "with few exceptions, what they wanted fell into three categories:
money, power, and things -- very big things, including vacation homes,
expensive foreign automobiles, yachts, and even airplanes." This was
their request of the faculty: "Teach me how to be a money-making
That's not exactly
an exalted ambition! No thought of humanitarian service, and no thought
of spiritual values! Yet, what those students wanted was what many
people want -- maybe what MOST people want.
The apostle Paul's overriding ambition was totally different. His
consuming desire was to know Jesus
and become increasingly conformed to His holy example (Phil 3:10-note).
He wanted to serve Him by proclaiming the life-changing good news of
God's grace. What is our highest goal? Do we want to be a
money-making machine, which can never buy lasting happiness? Or do we
want to become more like Jesus? -V C Grounds
His Spirit fill my
His power all my life control;
My deepest prayer, my highest goal,
That I may be like Jesus.-- Chisholm
A wise person sets
his earthly goals on heavenly gains.
How A Tree
Grows - An impatient college student went to the president of the
school and asked if he could take an accelerated course that would allow
him to graduate sooner. "Yes," the president replied, "but it depends on
what you want to be. When God wants to make an oak, he takes a hundred
years. But when He wants to make a squash, He takes 6 months."
Like that student, we sometimes get frustrated with the rate of our
spiritual growth. We'd like to see ourselves a lot closer to maturity
than we are. We're disappointed that we fall back into childish behavior
we thought we had outgrown. We want "school" to be over.
But growth takes time, and it often comes in spurts. Trees grow rapidly
during a 4 to 6 week period in early summer, when woody fibers appear
between the bark and the trunk. During the remainder of the year, these
fibers solidify into the sturdy wood from which furniture is built,
which will last several lifetimes.
Not growing as fast in your Christian life as you'd like? Perhaps you're
"solidifying." It's a vital part of the process that the One who began a
good work in you will bring to completion (Phil. 1:6-note).
Be patient. God isn't finished with you yet. --D C Egner
May I never run on
ahead of Thy plan,
Nor tarry, a laggard, behind.
O order my steps, precious Lord, that each one
With Thy steps may be perfectly timed. --Bowser
How Tall Are
You? - When it comes to how tall we stand, inherited genetic factors
establish a ceiling that limits our height. Regardless of diet and
exercise, physical growth ceases at a certain point. No matter how hard
we may try, when that limit is reached we can't grow anymore (vertically
that is, though many of us have a tendency to continue to expand
Our potential for spiritual advancement, however, is unlimited. How
"tall" we become depends on our own desire and how much we draw on the
provisions of our heavenly Father. We're not held back by the genes we
inherited from our earthly parents. The sky's the limit.
Christian maturity doesn't just happen. Our "diet" has to be right and
we must "exercise" our faith regularly. Unless we feast on God's Word,
there'll be no progress. Unless we obey it, we'll never realize our full
How tall and strong are you in God's sight? How much have you developed
this year? Whatever your answer, you can stand even taller. Remember the
secret of growth control, and then do something about it. The Bible
commands, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ" (2Pe 3:18). --R W De Haan
Dear Jesus, take my
heart and hand
And help me, this I pray,
That I through Your sweet love may grow
More like You day by day. --Garrison
Drawing close to
Christ produces a growing Christlikeness.
A W Pink - I asked the Lord that
I might grow (from his excellent article
Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your
truth and teach me. Psalm 25:4-note,
There are two ways of learning of Divine things. The one is to acquire a
letter knowledge of them from the Bible, the other is to be given
an actual experience of them in the soul, under the Spirit's
Many suppose that by spending a few minutes in a concordance, they can
discover what humility is; that by studying certain passages of
Scriptures, they may obtain an increase of faith; or that by
reading and re-reading a certain chapter, they may secure more love.
But that is not the way those graces are experimentally developed.
Humility is learned by a daily smarting under the plague of the
heart, and having its innumerable abominations exposed to our view. (Ps
Pr 11:2, 29:23)
Repentance is learned by feeling the load of guilt, and the heavy
burden of conscious defilement, bowing down the soul. (1Jn 1:6, 7, 8, 9)
Faith is learned by increasing discoveries of unbelief and
infidelity. (also by Ro 10:17-note)
Love is learned by a personal sense of the undeserved goodness of
God to the vilest of the vile.
Patience cannot be learned from books--it is acquired in the
furnace of affliction! It is thus with all the spiritual graces of the
Ah, my reader, we beg the Lord to teach us--but the fact is, that we do
not like His method of teaching us! (Ed: Amen or O my!) Fiery
trials (1Pe 1:6-note,
, storms of afflictions (Ps 119:67-note,
Ro 5:4, 5-note),
the dashing of our carnal hopes--are indeed painful to flesh and blood;
yet it is by them that the heart is purified (Jas 4:8, Ps 51:7-note,
We say that we wish to live to God's glory--but fail to remember that we
can do so only as SELF is denied and the Cross be taken up. God's ways
of teaching His children are, like all His ways, entirely different from
I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
It was He who taught me thus to pray,
And He I trust has answered prayer.
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair!
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He'd answer my request.
And by His love's constraining power,
Subdue my sins and give me rest!
Instead of this, He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart.
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part!
Yes, more with His own hand, He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe.
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low!
"Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried.
Will You pursue Your worm to death?"
"This is the way" the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and strength."
"These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
That you may find your all in Me!"
The Puritan writer Thomas Watson on growth in grace...
Growth in Grace
"But grow in grace." 2 Peter 3:18
True grace is progressive—of a spreading and growing
nature. It is with grace as with light; first, there is the daybreak;
then it shines brighter to the full meridian. A good Christian is like
the crocodile—which continues to grow as long as it lives. The saints
are not only compared to stars for their light—but to trees
for their growth. Isa 61:3, and Hos 14:5. A good Christian is not
like Hezekiah's sun, which went backwards, nor Joshua's sun that
stood still—but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing
with the increase of God.
In how many ways may a Christian be said to grow in
(1.) He grows in the exercise of grace.
His lamp is burning and shining; therefore we read of a living hope. I
Pet 1:1. Here is the activity of grace. The church prays for the blowing
of the Spirit, that her spices (that is—her graces) might flow forth.
(2.) A Christian grows in the degree of grace.
He goes from strength to strength, from one degree of grace to another.
Psalm 84:7-note. A saint goes from faith to faith. Ro 1:17-note. His love abounds
more and more. Phil 1:9-note.
What is the right manner of a Christian's growth?
(1.) It is to grow less in one's own eyes.
"I am a worm, and no man." Psalm 22:6-note. The sight of his
corruption and ignorance, makes a Christian grow into a dislike of
himself; he vanishes in his own eyes. Job abhorred himself in the dust.
Job 42:6. It is good to grow out of conceit with one's self.
(2.) The right manner of growth is to grow
proportionately, to grow in one grace as well as another.
2Pet 1:5-note. To grow in knowledge—but not meekness, brotherly love, or
good works—is not the right growth. A thing may swell and not
grow; a man may be swelled with knowledge—yet may have no spiritual
growth. The right manner of growth is uniform, growing in one grace as
well as another. As the beauty of the body consists in a symmetry
of parts, in which not only the head grows—but the arms and legs. Just
so, spiritual growth is most beautiful, when there is symmetry
and proportion, and every grace thrives.
(3.) The right manner of growth is, when a Christian
has grace suitable to his several employments and occasions.
When corruptions are strong—and he has grace able to give check to them.
When burdens are heavy—and he has patience able to bear them. When
temptations are fierce—and he has faith able to resist them. Then grace
grows in the right manner.
Whence is it, that true grace must grow?
(1.) It is proper for grace to grow; it is an
enduring seed, the seed of God. 1John 3:9. It is the nature of seed to
grow: grace does not lie in the heart, as a stone in the
earth—but as seed in the earth, which will spring up, first the
blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.
(2.) Grace must grow—from its sweetness and
excellence. He who has grace is never weary of it—but would have more.
The delight he has in it causes thirst. Grace is the image of God, and a
Christian thinks he can never be enough like God. Grace instills peace;
a Christian, therefore, strives to grow in grace, that he may grow in
(3.) Grace must grow—from a believer's
engrafting into Christ. He who is a scion, engrafted into this noble,
generous stock, cannot but grow. Christ is so full of sap, and vivifying
influence, that he makes all who are grafted into him, grow fruitful.
"From me is your fruit found."
What MOTIVES or INCENTIVES are there to make us grow
(1.) Growth is the end of the ordinances.
Why does a man lay out cost on ground, fertilize and water it—but that
it may grow? The sincere milk of the word is given, that we may grow
thereby. 1Pet 2:2-note. The table of the Lord is on purpose for our
spiritual nourishment and increase of grace.
(2.) The growth of grace—is the best evidence
of the truth of it. Things that have no life will not
grow: a picture will not grow, a stake in the hedge will not grow; but a
plant that has a vegetative life grows. The growing of grace shows it to
be alive in the soul.
(3.) Growth in grace is the beauty of a Christian.
The more a child grows, the more it comes to its maturity,
and looks more ruddy. Just so, the more a Christian grows in grace, the
more he comes to his spiritual maturity, and looks fairer. Abraham's
faith was beautiful when in its infancy—but at last it grew so vigorous
and eminent, that God himself was in love with it, and crowned Abraham
with this honor, to be the "father of the faithful."
(4.) The more we grow in grace—the more glory we
bring to God. God's glory is more worth than the salvation of
all men's souls. This should be our design—to raise the trophies of
God's glory; and how can we better do it, than by growing in grace?
"Hereby is my Father glorified—if you bring forth much fruit."
Though the least grain of grace will bring salvation to us—yet it will
not bring so much glory to God. "Filled with the fruits of
righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory." It commends the
skill of the farmer—when his plants grow and thrive; it is a praise and
honor to God—when we thrive in grace.
(5.) The more we grow in grace—the more will God love
us. Is it not that which we pray for? The more growth, the
more God will love us. The farmer loves his thriving plants; the
thriving Christian is God's Hephzibah, or chief delight. Christ
loves to see the vine flourishing, and the pomegranates budding. Cant
6:11: He accepts the truth of grace—but commends the growth
of grace. "I have not found so great faith, no, not in
Israel." Would you be as the beloved disciple, who lay in Christ's
bosom? Would you have much love from Christ? Labor for much growth, let
faith flourish with good works, and love increase into zeal.
(6.) We need to grow in grace.
There is still something lacking in our faith. 1Th 3:10-note. Grace is
but in its infancy and minority, and we must still be adding an inch to
our spiritual stature. The apostles said, "Lord, increase our faith."
Luke 17:5. Grace is but weak. "I am this day weak, though anointed
king." So, though we are anointed with grace—yet we are but weak, and
had need arrive at further degrees of sanctity.
(7.) The growth of grace—will hinder the growth of
corruption. The more health grows, the more the distempers of
the body abate. Just so, in spirituals—the more humility grows, the more
the swelling of pride is assuaged. The more purity of heart grows—the
more the fire of lust is abated. The growth of flowers in the garden
does not hinder the growing of weeds—but the growing of the flower of
grace does hinder the sprouting of corruption. As some plants have an
antipathy, and will not thrive if they grow near together, as the vine
and the bay tree; just so, where grace grows, sin will not thrive so
(8.) We cannot grow too much in grace;
there is no excess there. The body may grow too great, as in the dropsy;
but faith cannot grow too great. "Your faith grows exceedingly." Here
was exceeding—yet not excess. As a man cannot have too much health;
just so—he cannot have not too much grace. Grace is the beauty of
holiness. Ps 110:3-note. We cannot have too much spiritual beauty; it will be
the only trouble at death, that we have grown no more in grace.
(9.) Such as do not grow in grace—decay
in grace. "Not to go forward in the Christian life is to turn
back," Bernard. There is no standing still in piety—either we go forward
or backward. If faith does not grow, unbelief will. If
heavenly-mindedness does not grow, covetousness will. A man who does not
increase his stock, diminishes it. Just so, if you do not improve your
stock of grace, your stock will decay. The angels on Jacob's ladder were
either ascending or descending. Just so, if you do not
ascend in true religion, you descend.
(10.) The more we grow in grace—the more we shall
flourish in glory. Though every vessel of glory shall be
full—yet some vessels hold more than others. He whose pound gained ten,
was made ruler over ten cities. Luke 19:17. Such as do not grow much,
though they lose not their glory, they lessen it. If any shall follow
the Lamb in whiter and larger robes of glory than others, they shall be
such as have shone most in grace here.
Use: Lament the lack of growth. Religion
in many, has grown into a form and profession only; this
is to grow in leaves—not in fruit. Many Christians are
like a body in an atrophy, which does not thrive. They are not nourished
by the sermons they hear. Like the angels who assumed bodies, they
ate—but did not grow. It is to be suspected where there is no
growth—that a vital principle is lacking. Some instead of growing
better, grow worse; they grow more earthly, more profane. "Evil men and
impostors will go from bad to worse." 2Ti 3:13-note. Many grow hell-ward;
they grow past shame. Zeph 3:5. They grow more rotten.
How shall we know whether we grow in grace? For
deciding this question, I shall show:
1. The signs of our not growing;
2. The signs of our growing.
I. The signs of our NOT growing in grace—but rather
falling into a spiritual decline.
 We are a spiritual decline—when
we have lost our spiritual appetite. A consumptive person
does not have that appetite for his food, as formerly. Perhaps,
Christian, you can remember the time when you hungered and thirsted
after righteousness, you came to the ordinances with such an appetite,
as to a feast; but now it is otherwise, Christ is not so prized, nor his
ordinances so loved. This is a dreadful presage that grace is on the
decline; and you are in a deep decline. It was a sign that David was
near his grave when they covered him with clothes, and he got no warmth,
1Kings 1:1. Just so, when a person is covered with the warm clothes of
ordinances, and yet has no warmth of affection to spiritual things, it
is a sign that he is declining in grace.
 We are a spiritual decline—when
we grow more worldly. Perhaps we once mounted into higher
orbs, we set our hearts on things above, and spoke the language of
Canaan; but now our minds are taken off from heaven, we dig our comfort
out of the lower mines, and like Satan, we compass the earth.
This is a sign we are going down the hill apace, and our grace is in a
decline. It is observable when nature decays, and people are near dying,
they grow more stooping; and truly, when men's hearts grow more
stooping to the earth, and they can hardly lift up themselves to
a heavenly thought, if grace is not dead—yet it is ready to die. Rev
 We are a spiritual decline—when
we are less troubled about sin. Time was, when the least sin
grieved us, as the least hair makes the eye weep; but now we can commit
sin without remorse. Time was, when we were troubled if we neglected
closet prayer; now we can omit family-prayer. Time was, when vain
thoughts troubled us; now we are not troubled for loose practices.
Here is a sad declension in piety; and truly grace is so far from
growing, that we can hardly perceive its pulse to beat!
II. The SIGNS of our growing in grace.
 When we have got beyond our former measures of
grace. It is a sign a child thrives, when he has outgrown his
clothes. That knowledge which would serve us before, will not serve us
now; we have a deeper insight into Scripture, our light is
clearer, our spark of love is increased into a flame; there is a
sign of growth. That competency of grace we once had, is too scanty for
us now; we have outgrown ourselves!
 When we are more firmly rooted in piety.
"Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith." Col 2:7-note. The
spreading of the root, shows the growth of the tree. When we are so
strongly fastened on Christ, that we cannot be blown down with the
breath of heretics, it is a blessed sign of growth. Athanasius was
called Adamas ecclesiae [the Adamant of the Church,] an adamant
that could not be removed from the love of the truth.
 When we have a more spiritual frame of heart.
(1.) When we are more spiritual in our principles;
when we oppose sin out of love to God, and because it strikes at his
(2.) When we are more spiritual in our affections.
We grieve for the first rising of corruption, for the bubbling up of
vain thoughts, and for the hidden spring which runs underground. We
mourn not only for the penalty of sin—but for its pollution.
Sin is a coal which not only burns—but which blackens.
(3.) When we are spiritual in the performance of
duty. We are more serious, reverent, fervent; we have more life
in prayer, we put fire to the sacrifice. "Fervent in spirit."
We serve God with more love, which ripens and mellows our duty,
and makes it come off with a better relish.
 When grace gains ground by opposition.
The fire burns hottest, in the coldest season. Peter's courage
increased, by the opposition of the high priest and the rulers. Acts
4:8, 11. The martyr's zeal was increased by persecution. Here was grace
of the first magnitude.
What shall we do to grow in grace?
(1.) Take heed of that which will hinder growth,
as the love of any sin. The body may as well thrive in a fever, as grace
can where any sin is cherished.
(2.) Use all means for growth in grace.
First. "Exercise yourselves unto godliness."
The body grows stronger by exercise. Trading of money makes men grow
rich. Just so, the more we trade our faith in the promises, the richer
in faith we grow.
Secondly. If you would be growing Christians, be
humble Christians. It is observed in some countries, as in France,
the best and largest grapes, which make wine, grow on the lower
sort of vines. Just so, the humble saints grow most in grace. "God gives
grace to the humble."
Thirdly. Pray to God for spiritual growth.
Some pray that they may grow in gifts. It is better to grow in grace,
than gifts. Gifts are for ornament, grace is for
nourishment. Gifts edify others; grace saves ourselves. Some pray
that they may grow rich; but a fruitful heart is better than a full
purse. Pray that God would make you grow in grace, though it be by
affliction. Heb 12:10-note. The vine grows by pruning. God's
pruning-knife is to make us grow more in grace!
How may we comfort such as complain that they do not
grow in grace?
They make mistake; for they may grow, when they think
they do not. "There is that makes himself poor—yet has great riches."
Pr 13:7. The sight Christians have of their defects in grace, and
their thirst after greater measures of grace—make them think they do not
grow, when they actually are growing. He who covets a great estate,
because he has not so much as he desires, thinks himself to be poor.
Indeed Christians should seek after the grace they lack—but they
must not therefore overlook the grace they have. Let Christians
be thankful for the least growth. If you do not grow so much in
assurance, bless God if you grow in sincerity; if you do not
grow so much in knowledge, bless God if you grow in humility.
If a tree grows in the root, it is a true growth. Just so, if you
grow in the root-grace of humility—that is as needful for you as any
J C Ryle has the following chapter related to 2 Peter 3:18
(from his book which I highly recommend
The subject of the text which heads
this page is one that ought to be deeply interesting to every true
Christian. It naturally raises the questions: "Do we grow in grace?" "Do
we get on in our religion?" "Do we make progress?"
To a mere formal Christian I cannot
expect the inquiry to seem worth attention. The man who has nothing more
than a kind of Sunday religion—whose Christianity is like his Sunday
clothes, put on once a week, and then laid aside—such a man cannot, of
course, be expected to care about growth in grace. He knows nothing
about such matters. They are foolishness to him (1Cor. 2:14). But to
everyone who is in downright earnest about his soul, and hungers and
thirsts after spiritual life, the question ought to come home with
searching power. Do we make progress in our religion? Do we grow?
The question is one that is always
useful, but especially so at certain seasons. A Saturday night, a
communion Sunday, the return of a birthday, the end of a year—all these
are seasons that ought to set us thinking and make us look within. Time
is fast flying. Life is fast ebbing away. The hour is daily drawing
nearer when the reality of our Christianity will be tested, and it will
be seen whether we have built on "the rock" or on "the sand." Surely it
becomes us from time to time to examine ourselves and take account of
our souls? Do we get on in spiritual things? Do we grow?
The question is one that is of
special importance in the present day. Crude and strange opinions are
floating in men’s minds on some points of doctrine, and among others on
the point of growth in grace as an essential part of true holiness. By
some it is totally denied. By others it is explained away and pared down
to nothing. By thousands it is misunderstood and consequently neglected.
In a day like this, it is useful to look fairly in the face the whole
subject of Christian growth.
As we consider this subject, I want
to make mention of the reality, the marks or signs, and the means of
growth in grace.
I do not know you, into whose hands
this text may have fallen. But I am not ashamed to ask your best
attention to its contents. Believe me, the subject is no mere matter of
speculation and controversy. It is an eminently practical subject, if
any is in religion. It is intimately and inseparably connected with the
whole question of sanctification. It is a leading mark of true saints
that they grow. The spiritual health and prosperity, the spiritual
happiness and comfort of every true–hearted and holy Christian, are
intimately connected with the subject of spiritual growth.
1. The REALITY of religious growth
That any Christian should deny the
reality of religious growth is at first sight a strange and melancholy
thing. But it is fair to remember that man’s understanding is fallen no
less than his will. Disagreements about doctrines are often nothing more
than disagreements about the meaning of words. I try to hope that it is
so in the present case. I try to believe that when I speak of growth in
grace and maintain it, I mean one thing, while my brethren who deny it
mean quite another. Let me therefore clear the way by explaining what I
When I speak of growth in grace, I do
not for a moment mean that a believer’s interest in Christ can grow. I
do not mean that he can grow in safety, acceptance with God or security.
I do not mean that he can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more
forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he
believes. I hold firmly that 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. I hold firmly that our election, calling and standing in
Christ admit of no degrees, increase or diminishing. If anyone dreams
that by growth in grace I mean growth in justification, he is utterly
wide of the mark and utterly mistaken about the whole point I am
considering. I would go to the stake, God helping me, for the glorious
truth, that in the matter of justification before God every believer is
complete in Christ (Col. 2:10-note).
Nothing can be added to his justification from the moment he believes,
and nothing taken away.
When I speak of growth in grace, I
only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigor and power of the
graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart. I hold that
every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I
hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage and the
like may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may
vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. When I
speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply this—that his sense of
sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love
more extensive, his spiritual–mindedness more marked. He feels 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. I leave it to others to describe such a man’s
condition by any words they please. For myself I think the truest and
best account of him is this—he is growing in grace.
One principal ground on which I build
this doctrine of growth in grace is the plain language of Scripture. If
words in the Bible mean anything, there is such a thing as growth, and
believers ought to be exhorted to grow. What says Paul? "Your faith
grows exceedingly" (2Th 1:3). "We beseech you . . . that you
increase more and more" (1Th 4:10-note).
"Increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10-note).
"Having hope, when your faith is increased" (2Co 10:15). "The Lord make
you to increase . . . in love" (1Th 3:12-note).
"That you may grow up into Him in all things" (Ep 4:15-note).
"I pray that your love may abound . . . more and more" (Phil 1:9-note).
"We beseech you, as you have received of us how you ought to walk and to
please God, so you would abound more and more" (1Th 4:1-note).
What says Peter? "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow
thereby" (1Pe 2:2-note).
"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ" (2Pe 3:18). I know not what others think of such texts. To me
they seem to establish the doctrine for which I contend and to be
incapable of any other explanation. Growth in grace is taught in the
Bible. I might stop here and say no more.
The other ground, however, on which I
build the doctrine of growth in grace, is the ground of fact and
experience. I ask any honest reader of the New Testament whether he
cannot see degrees of grace in the New Testament saints whose histories
are recorded, as plainly as the sun at noonday. I ask him whether he
cannot see in the very same people as great a difference between their
faith and knowledge at one time and at another, as between the same
man’s strength when he is an infant and when he is a grown–up man. I ask
him whether the Scripture does not distinctly recognize this in the
language it uses, when it speaks of "weak" faith and "strong" faith, and
of Christians as "new–born babes," "little children," "young men," and
"fathers"? (1Pe 2:2-note; 1John 2:12,
13, 14.) I ask him, above all, whether
his own observation of believers nowadays does not bring him to the same
conclusion? What true Christian would not confess that there is as much
difference between the degree of his own faith and knowledge when he was
first converted, and his present attainments, as there is between a
sapling and a full–grown tree? His graces are the same in principle; but
they have grown. I know not how these facts strike others; to my eyes
they seem to prove, most unanswerably, that growth in grace is a real
I feel almost ashamed to dwell so
long upon this part of my subject. In fact, if any man means to say that
the faith and hope and knowledge and holiness of a newly–converted
person are as strong as those of an old–established believer and need no
increase, it is a waste of time to argue further. No doubt they are as
real, but not so strong; as true, but not so vigorous; as much seeds of
the Spirit’s planting, but not yet so fruitful. And if anyone asks how
they are to become stronger, I say it must be by the same process by
which all things having life increase—they must grow. And this is what I
mean by growth in grace.
I want men to look at growth in grace
as a thing of infinite importance to the soul. In a more practical
sense, our best interests would be met with a serious inquiry into the
question of spiritual growth.
a. Let us know then that growth in
grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and prosperity.
In a child or a flower or a tree we
are all aware that when there is no growth there is something wrong.
Healthy life in an animal or vegetable will always show itself by
progress and increase. It is just the same with our souls. If they are
progressing and doing well, they will grow.
b. Growth in grace is one way to
be happy in our religion.
God has wisely linked together our
comfort and our increase in holiness. He has graciously made it our
interest to press on and aim high in our Christianity. There is a vast
difference between the amount of sensible enjoyment which one believer
has in his religion compared to another. But you may be sure that
ordinarily the man who feels the most "joy and peace in believing" and
has the clearest witness of the Spirit in his heart is the man who
c. Growth in grace is one secret
of usefulness to others.
Our influence on others for good
depends greatly on what they see in us. The children of the world
measure Christianity quite as much by their eyes as by their ears. The
Christian who is always at a standstill, to all appearance the same man,
with the same little faults and weaknesses and besetting sins and petty
infirmities, is seldom the Christian who does much good. The man who
shakes and stirs minds and sets the world thinking is the believer who
is continually improving and going forward. Men think there is life and
reality when they see growth.
d. Growth in grace pleases God.
It may seem a wonderful thing, no
doubt, that anything done by such creatures as we are can give pleasure
to the Most High God. But so it is. The Scripture speaks of walking so
as to please God. The Scripture says there are sacrifices with which
"God is well pleased" (1Th 4:1-note;
The husbandman loves to see the plants on which he has bestowed labor
flourishing and bearing fruit. It cannot but disappoint and grieve him
to see them stunted and standing still. Now what does our Lord Himself
say? "I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman." "Herein is
My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My
disciples" (John 15:1, 8). The Lord takes pleasure in all His people,
but specially in those that grow.
e. Let us know, above all, that
growth in grace is not only a thing possible, but a thing for which
believers are accountable.
To tell an unconverted man, dead in
sins, to grow in grace would doubtless be absurd. To tell a believer,
who is quickened and alive to God, to grow, is only summoning him to a
plain scriptural duty. He has a new principle within him, and it is a
solemn duty not to quench it. Neglect of growth robs him of privileges,
grieves the Spirit and makes the chariot wheels of his soul move
heavily. Whose fault is it, I should like to know, if a believer does
not grow in grace? The fault, I am sure, cannot be laid on God. He
delights to give more grace; He "has pleasure in the prosperity of His
servants" (James 4:6; Ps. 35:27-note). The fault, no doubt, is our own. We
ourselves are to blame, and none else, if we do not grow.
2. The MARKS of religious growth
Let me take it for granted that we do
not question the reality of growth in grace and its vast importance. So
far so good. But you now want to know how anyone may find out whether he
is growing in grace or not? I answer that question, in the first place,
by observing that we are very poor judges of our own condition and that
bystanders often know us better than we know ourselves. But I answer
further that there are undoubtedly certain great marks and signs of
growth in grace, and that wherever you see these marks you see a growing
soul. I will now proceed to place some of these marks before you in
a. One mark of growth in grace is
The man whose soul is growing feels
his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year. He is ready to say
with Job, "I am vile," and with Abraham, "I am dust and ashes," and with
Jacob, "I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies," and with
David, "I am a worm," and with Isaiah, "I am a man of unclean lips," and
with Peter, "I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Job 40:4; Ge 18:27; 32:10;
Isa. 6:5; Luke 5:8). The nearer he draws to God and the more he sees of
God’s holiness and perfections, the more thoroughly is he sensible of
his own countless imperfections. The further he journeys in the way to
heaven, the more he understands what Paul meant when he says, "I am not
already perfect," "I am not meet to be called an apostle," "I am less
than the least of all saints," "I am chief of sinners" (Phil 3:12-note;
1Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8-note;
1Ti 1:15). 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. When first
converted, he would tell you he saw but little of them compared to what
he sees now. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Be sure
that you look within for increased humility.
b. Another mark of growth in grace
is increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
The man whose soul is growing finds
more in Christ to rest upon every year and rejoices more that he has
such a Savior. No doubt he saw much in Him when first he believed. His
faith laid hold on the atonement of Christ and gave him hope. But as he
grows in grace, he 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. In short, he discovers a suitableness in Christ to
the wants of his soul, of which the half was once not known to him.
Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within
for increased knowledge of Christ.
c. Another mark of growth in grace
is increased holiness of life and conversation.
The man whose soul is growing gets
more dominion over sin, the world and the devil every year. He becomes
more careful about his temper, his words and his actions. He is more
watchful over his conduct in every relation of life. He strives more to
be conformed to the image of Christ in all things and to follow Him as
his example, as well as to trust in Him as his Savior. He 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 (Phil. 3:13-note).
On earth he thirsts and longs to have a will more entirely in unison
with God’s will. In heaven the chief thing that he looks for, next to
the presence of Christ, is complete separation from all sin. Would
anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for
d. Another mark of growth in grace
is increased spirituality of taste and mind.
The man whose soul is growing takes
more interest in spiritual things every year. He does not neglect his
duty in the world. He discharges faithfully, diligently and
conscientiously every relation of life, whether at home or abroad. But
the things he loves best are spiritual things. 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 downright 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.
Spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation
appear of ever–increasing value to him. Would anyone know if he is
growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing spirituality
e. Another mark of growth in grace
is increase of charity.
The man whose soul is growing is more
full of love every year—of love to all men, but especially of love
towards the brethren. 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, sympathizing, thoughtful,
tender–hearted and considerate. It will show itself passively in a
growing disposition to be meek and patient towards all men, to put up
with provocation and not stand upon rights, to bear and forbear much
rather than quarrel. A growing soul will try to put the best
construction on other people’s conduct and to believe all things and
hope all things, even to the end. There is no surer mark of backsliding
and falling off in grace than an increasing disposition to find fault,
pick holes and see weak points in others. Would anyone know if he is
growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing charity.
f. One more mark of growth in
grace is 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. Missions
at home and abroad, efforts of every kind to spread the gospel, attempts
of any sort to increase religious light and diminish religious
darkness—all these things will every year have a greater place in his
attention. He will not become "weary in well–doing" because he does not
see every effort succeed. He will not care less for the progress of
Christ’s cause on earth as he grows older, though he will learn to
expect less. He will just work on, whatever the result may be—giving,
praying, preaching, speaking, visiting, according to his position—and
count his work its own reward. One of the surest marks of spiritual
decline is a decreased interest about the souls of others and the growth
of Christ’s kingdom. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace?
Then let him look within for increased concern about the salvation of
Those high–flying religionists, whose
only notion of Christianity is that of a state of perpetual joy and
ecstasy, who tell you that they have got far beyond the region of
conflict and soul–humiliation, such people no doubt will regard the
marks I have laid down as "legal," "carnal" and "gendering to bondage."
I cannot help that. I call no man master in these things. I only wish my
statements to be tried in the balance of Scripture. And I firmly believe
that what I have said is not only scriptural, but agreeable to the
experience of the most eminent saints in every age. Show me a man in
whom the six marks I have mentioned can be found. He is the man who can
give a satisfactory answer to the question: "Do we grow?" Such are the
most trustworthy marks of growth in grace. Let us examine them carefully
and consider what we know about them.
3. The MEANS of religious growth
The words of James must never be
forgotten: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and
comes down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17-note).
This is no doubt as true of growth in grace, as it is of everything
else. It is the "gift of God." But still it must always be kept in mind
that God is pleased to work by means. God has ordained means as well as
ends. He that would grow in grace must use the means of growth.
This is a point, I fear, which is too
much overlooked by believers. Many admire growth in grace in others and
wish that they themselves were like them. But they seem to suppose that
those who grow are what they are by some special gift or grant from God
and that, as this gift is not bestowed on themselves, they must be
content to sit still. This is a grievous delusion and one against which
I desire to testify with all my might. I wish it to be distinctly
understood that growth in grace is bound up with the use of means within
the reach of all believers and that, as a general rule, growing souls
are what they are because they use these means.
Let me ask the special attention of
my readers while I try to set forth in order the means of growth. Cast
away forever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace
it is not his fault. Settle it in your mind that a believer, a man
quickened by the Spirit, is not a mere dead creature, but a being of
mighty capacities and responsibilities. Let the words of Solomon sink
down into your heart: "The soul of the diligent shall be made fat"
a. One thing essential to growth
in grace is diligence in 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. I include
under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and
private meditation and self–examination. The man who does not take pains
about these three things must never expect to grow. Here are the roots
of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through!
Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to
get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They
read their Bibles but little and with very little heartiness of spirit.
They give themselves no time for self–inquiry and quiet thought about
the state of their souls.
It is useless to conceal from
ourselves that the age we live in is full of peculiar dangers. It is an
age of great activity and of much hurry, bustle and excitement in
religion. Many are "running to and fro," no doubt, and "knowledge is
increased" (Da 12:4). Thousands are ready enough for public meetings,
sermon hearing, or anything else in which there is "sensation." Few
appear to remember the absolute necessity of making time to "commune
with our own hearts, and be still" (Ps 4:4-note).
But without this, there is seldom any deep spiritual prosperity. Let us
remember this point! Private religion must receive our first attention,
if we wish our souls to grow.
b. Another thing which is
essential to growth in grace is carefulness in the use of public means
By these I understand such means as a
man has within his reach as a member of Christ’s visible church. Under
this head I include the ordinances of 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. I firmly believe that
the manner in which these public means of grace are used has much to say
to the prosperity of a believer’s soul. It is easy to use them in a cold
and heartless way. The very familiarity of them is apt to make us
careless. The regular return of the same voice, and the same kind of
words, and the same ceremonies, is likely to make us sleepy and callous
and unfeeling. Here is a snare into which too many professing Christians
fall. If we would grow, we must be on our guard here. Here is a matter
in which the Spirit is often grieved and saints take great damage. Let
us strive to use the old prayers, and sing the old hymns, and kneel at
the old communion rail, and hear the old truths preached, with as much
freshness and appetite as in the year we first believed. It is a sign of
bad health when a person loses relish for his food; and it is a sign of
spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace. Whatever
we do about public means, let us always do it "with our might" (Eccl
9:10). This is the way to grow!
c. Another thing essential to
growth in grace is watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters
of everyday life.
Our tempers, our tongues, the
discharge of our several relations of life, our employment of time—each
and all must be vigilantly attended to if we wish our souls to prosper.
Life is made up of days, and days of hours, and the little things of
every hour are never so little as to be beneath the care of a Christian.
When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the mischief is first seen
at the extreme end of the little branches. "He that despises little
things," says an uninspired writer, "shall fall by little and little."
That witness is true. Let others despise us, if they like, and call us
precise and over careful. Let us patiently hold on our way, remembering
that "we serve a precise God," that our Lord’s example is to be copied
in the least things as well as the greatest, and that we must "take up
our cross daily" and hourly, rather than sin. 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. This is one way to grow!
d. Another thing which is
essential to growth in grace is caution about the company we keep and
the friendships we form.
Nothing perhaps affects man’s
character more than the company he keeps. We catch the ways and tone of
those we live and talk with, and unhappily get harm far more easily than
good. Disease is infectious, but health is not. Now if a professing
Christian deliberately chooses to be intimate with those who are not
friends of God and who cling to the world, his soul is sure to take
harm. It is hard enough to serve Christ under any circumstances in such
a world as this. But it is doubly hard to do it if we are friends of the
thoughtless and ungodly. Mistakes in friendship or marriage engagements
are the whole reason why some have entirely ceased to grow. "Evil
communications corrupt good manners." "The friendship of the world is
enmity with God" (1Co 15:33; James 4:4). Let us seek friends who will
stir us up about our prayers, our Bible reading, and our employment of
time, about our souls, our salvation, and a world to come. Who can tell
the good that a friend’s word in season may do, or the harm that it may
stop? This is one way to grow.
e. There is one more thing which
is absolutely essential to growth in grace, and that is regular and
habitual communion with the Lord Jesus.
In saying this, let no one suppose
for a minute that I am referring to the Lord’s Supper. I mean nothing of
the kind. I mean that daily habit of communion between the believer and
his Savior, which can only be carried on by faith, prayer and
meditation. It is a habit, I fear, of which many believers know little.
A man may be a believer and have his feet on the rock, and yet live far
below his privileges. It is possible to have "union" with Christ, and
yet to have little if any "communion" with Him. But, for all that, there
is such a thing.
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 Savior 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 communion, of daily application for things needed, of daily
pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds. Such a habit of
dealing with Christ is clearly something more than a vague general trust
in the work that Christ did for sinners. It is getting close to Him and
laying hold on Him with confidence, as a loving, personal Friend. This
is what I mean by communion.
Now I believe that no man will ever
grow in grace who does not know something experimentally of the habit of
communion. We must not be content with a general orthodox knowledge that
Christ is the Mediator between God and man, and that justification is by
faith and not by works, and that we put our trust in Christ. We must go
further than this. We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord
Jesus and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must
realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him
about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread
before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do
all as in His sight, and to go through every day leaning on and looking
to Him. This is the way that Paul lived "The life which I now live in
the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." "To me to live is
Christ" (Gal. 2:20-note;
It is ignorance of this way of living that makes so many see no beauty
in the book of Canticles. But it is the man who lives in this way, who
keeps up constant communion with Christ—this is the man, I say
emphatically, whose soul will grow.
Although much more could be said on
this weighty subject, let us now turn to some practical applications,
keeping in mind its tremendous importance.
1. This text may fall into the
hands of some who know nothing whatever about growth in grace.
They have little or no concern about
religion. A little proper Sunday church–going or chapel–going makes up
the sum and substance of their Christianity. They are without spiritual
life, and of course they cannot at present grow. Are you one of these
people? If you are, you are in a pitiable condition.
Years are slipping away and time is
flying. Graveyards are filling up and families are thinning. Death and
judgment are getting nearer to us all. And yet you live like one asleep
about your soul! What madness! What folly! What suicide can be worse
Awake before it is too late; awake,
and arise from the dead, and live to God. Turn to Him who is sitting at
the right hand of God, to be your Savior and Friend. Turn to Christ, and
cry mightily to Him about your soul. There is yet hope! He that called
Lazarus from the grave is not changed. He that commanded the widow’s son
at Nain to arise from his bier can do miracles yet for your soul. Seek
Him at once: seek Christ, if you would not be lost forever. Do not stand
still talking and meaning and intending and wishing and hoping. Seek
Christ that you may live, and that living you may grow.
2. This text may fall into the
hands of some who should know something of growth in grace but at
present know nothing at all.
They have made little or no progress
since they were first converted. They seem to have "settled on their
lees" (Zeph 1:12). They go 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. Like the Gibeonites, their bread
is always moldy and their shoes are patched and clouted. They never
appear to get on. Are you one of these people? If you are, you are
living far below your privileges and responsibilities. It is high time
to examine yourself.
If you have reason to hope that you
are a true believer and yet do not grow in grace, there must be a fault,
and a serious fault somewhere. It cannot be the will of God that your
soul should stand still. "He gives more grace." He takes "pleasure in
the prosperity of His servants" (James 4:6; Ps 35:27-note).
It cannot be for your own happiness or usefulness that your soul should
stand still. Without growth you will never rejoice in the Lord (Phil.
Without growth you will never do good to others. Surely this want of
growth is a serious matter! It should raise in you great searchings of
heart. There must be some "secret thing" (Job 15:11). There must be some
Take the advice I give you. 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. Search from one end of the camp to the other, until you find out
the Achan who is weakening your hands. Begin with an application to the
Lord Jesus Christ, the great Physician of souls, and ask Him to heal the
secret ailment within you, whatever it may be. Begin as if you had never
applied to Him before, and ask for grace to cut off the right hand and
pluck out the right eye. But never, never be content if your soul does
not grow. For your peace’s sake, for your usefulness’ sake, for the
honor of your Maker’s cause, resolve to find out the reason why.
3. This message may fall into the
hands of some who are really growing in grace but are not aware of it
and will not allow it.
Their very growth is the reason why
they do not see their growth! Their continual increase in humility
prevents them feeling that they get on. Like Moses, when he came down
from the mount from communing with God, their faces shine. And yet, like
Moses, they are not aware of it (Ex. 34:29). Such Christians, I grant
freely, are not common. But here and there such are to be found. Like
angels’ visits, they are few and far between. Happy is the neighborhood
where such growing Christians live! To meet them and see them and be in
their company is like meeting and seeing a bit of "heaven upon earth."
Now what shall I say to such people?
What can I say? What ought I to say? Shall I bid them awake to a
consciousness of their own growth and be pleased with it? I will do
nothing of the kind. Shall I tell them to plume themselves on their own
attainments and look at their own superiority to others? God forbid! I
will do nothing of the kind. To tell them such things would do them no
good. To tell them such things, above all, would be a useless waste of
time. If there is any one feature about a growing soul which specially
marks him, it is his deep sense of his own unworthiness. He never sees
anything to be praised in himself. He only feels that he is an
unprofitable servant and the chief of sinners. It is the righteous, in
the picture of the judgment day, who say, "Lord, when saw we You an
hungry, and fed You?" (Matt. 25:37). Extremes do indeed meet strangely
sometimes. The conscience–hardened sinner and the eminent saint are in
one respect singularly alike. Neither of them fully realizes his own
condition. The one does not see his own sin, nor the other his own
But shall I say nothing to growing
Christians? Is there no word of counsel I can address to them? The sum
and substance of all that I can say is to be found in two sentences "Go
forward!" "Go on!"
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 (Phil. 3:13-note).
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."
Let us cast to the winds as idle talk
the common notion that it is possible to be "extreme" and go "too far"
in religion. This is a favorite lie of the devil and one which he
circulates with vast industry. No doubt there are enthusiasts and
fanatics to be found who bring an evil report upon Christianity by their
extravagances and follies. But if anyone means to say that a mortal man
can be too humble, too charitable, too holy or too diligent in doing
good, he must either be an infidel or a fool. In serving pleasure and
money, it is easy to go too far. But in following the things which make
up true religion and in serving Christ, there can be no extreme.
Let us never measure our religion by
that of others and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our
neighbors. This is another snare of the devil. Let us mind our own
business. "What is that to you?" said our Master on a certain occasion,
"Follow you Me" (John 21:22). Let us follow on, aiming at nothing short
of perfection. Let us follow on, making Christ’s life and character our
only pattern and example. Let us follow on, remembering daily that at
our best we are miserable sinners. Let us follow on, and never forget
that it signifies nothing whether we are better than others or not. 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. Then let us leave off looking at others and
comparing ourselves with others. We shall find enough to do if we look
at our own hearts.
Last, but not least, if we know
anything of growth in grace and desire to know more, let us not be
surprised if we have to go through much trial and affliction in this
world. I firmly believe it is the experience of nearly all the most
eminent saints. Like their blessed Master, they have been men of
sorrows, acquainted with grief, and perfected through sufferings (Isa.
53:3; Heb. 2:10-note).
It is a striking saying of our Lord, "Every branch in Me that bears
fruit [my Father] purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John
15:2). It is a melancholy fact, that constant temporal prosperity, as a
general rule, is injurious to a believer’s soul. We cannot stand it.
Sicknesses 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. They are not pleasant to flesh and blood. We do not
like them and often do not see their meaning. "No chastening for the
present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it
yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11-note).
We shall find that all worked for our good when we reach heaven. Let
these thoughts abide in our minds, if we love growth in grace. When days
of darkness come upon us, let us not count it a strange thing. Rather
let us remember that lessons are learned on such days, which would never
have been learned in sunshine. Let us say to ourselves, "This also is
for my profit, that I may be a partaker of God’s holiness. It is sent in
love. I am in God’s best school. Correction is instruction. This is
meant to make me grow."
I leave the subject of growth in
grace here. I trust I have said enough to set some readers thinking
about it. All things are growing older: the world is growing old; we
ourselves are growing older. A few more summers, a few more winters, a
few more sicknesses, a few more sorrows, a few more weddings, a few more
funerals, a few more meetings and a few more partings, and then—what?
Why, the grass will be growing over our graves!
(A chapter excerpted from J C Ryle's book which I highly