Steve’s Devotional – Growing in Grace
MAY 27, 2019
Every Christian I have ever known (including me) has wanted to be better and more obedient. That’s not to say that they were better and more obedient…but they genuinely wanted to be. They wanted to please God.
The problem is not that people don’t want to be better. They just don’t know how to get there.
Many Christians simply give up because they think they have no other alternative. It’s the attitude of, “Given my sinful nature, I don’t have a choice. I won’t get any better no matter what I do.” It’s so easy to get cynical if you’ve ever tried to be good.
The truth is, while growth is hard, it’s also possible. Peter, who had as much trouble growing as any Christian who has ever lived, has some good news for us in 2 Peter 1:3-11.
It’s Not You
Growth comes from God: “…as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3).
The desire you have to be better didn’t come from you. It came from God. In God’s economy there is a correlation between aspiration and realization. If God gives you the desire, he will give you a way. If God doesn’t give you a way, he didn’t give you the desire.
Christ is the motivating force behind our growth as Christians. The promises he gives are the assurance that it won’t be a waste of your time and effort.
Do you know people who have run out of steam? They are the ones who are trying to be good so people will notice…because Christians are supposed to be good…because being good is nice and proper. I’ve been there. Given my nature, I thought that once I let go of those motivations, I wouldn’t want to be good. But just the opposite happened. I still desperately want to be good…and that desire comes directly from the throne of grace.
Discouragement is the bane of every Christian. But nevertheless, I keep on trying, working and pushing. Why? I don’t know. There is just something in me that won’t let go.
It’s a Process
The process of sanctification is just that…a process. It’s a long road.
The road starts with faith as a gift.
Proper faith leads to virtue.
When you have virtue, you then have the possibility of knowledge; as God works, you have a curiosity about him.
Once you have attained knowledge, you can proceed to self-control. The principle is this: As you take the first step, God will take the second step. By the third step, you’ll know God actually took the first step.
When self-control is increasingly a reality in your life, you’ll find that you can add perseverance.
Perseverance leads to godliness, the fact that you’re better today than you were yesterday.
Godliness leads to brotherly kindness. God will give you the gasoline for loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.
And then finally, brotherly kindness leads to love…the capstone of all that God is doing in your life.
Love is what growth is all about. The more we turn in on ourselves, the less we have been obedient to God. And sometimes, in our love, we discover family members we didn’t know before.
It’s More than Growth
“For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble…” (2 Peter 1:1, 10).
There are three benefits of growth. Your faith will work in a very practical way. There is fruit—you will be effective and your life will count. And you will find that (surprise…) you’re getting better.
A friend of mine has a grandson who is always getting into trouble at school. (I can identify with that!) My friend asked his grandson why he couldn’t be good. The little boy said, “It’s not that I can’t be good…I just can’t be good enough long enough.”
Peter says that, as you grow in Christ, your life will become a habit of effectiveness. You won’t always know how effective you’ve been…but God will use you in a powerful way.
It’s a Matter of Focus
“For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins…” (2 Peter 1:9). Peter’s description of those who refuse to grow is relatively mild. He doesn’t say, “You’ll burn in hell and I’ll be glad.” He doesn’t say, “You’ll get the fever and die.” He says, “You’ll be shortsighted and blind.” In other words, as you look back over your life, you’ll say with great regret, “It could have been different.”
There is no greater feeling in the world than living a life pleasing to God. Fictional evil is attractive and fictional good is bland. But in real life, it is just the opposite. We were created to follow Christ and in him we find both our pleasure and our meaning.
Sometimes I ask God to cause me to remember the way it really was. I can remember just starting out in Boston, coming back to our apartment and crying like a baby. I can remember growing up, feeling lonely and outcast. I can remember the meaninglessness I felt as a young man reading Camus. I can remember the times I thought, Is this all there is? The principle is this: If you remember, you’ll do it right. We need to be reminded of God’s love.
It’s Not All There Is
“For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).
It is the glorious hope of heaven.
The older I get, the more I see wrong with the world. I’m afraid of death now, but I’m less afraid of it than I used to be. By the time it gets to the point where I simply won’t be able to stand the pain, the disease, the hurt, the fear and the corruption, I’ll be ready for a better place…to go Home.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
Time to Draw Away
Read 2 Corinthians 12:9 & Ephesians 2:8-10
How is your growth and obedience? For all of us, it’s mostly “one step forward, two steps back.” That’s why it’s so important to remember that the only people who get better are those who know that even if they don’t get better, God will love them anyway. It’s all grace…our salvation and our growth. So rest and be secure in God’s grace. And you’ll be surprised at what happens as a result.