Growing in Christ

Growing in Christ
“Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue; whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust. Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 1:2-8

Have you ever witnessed a small child being left alone after being warned not to eat from a plate of cookies? Mom or Dad leaves for a few moments only to return to a crumb covered, chocolate chip-smeared face and a half-empty plate. When asked, "Did you eat the cookies?" the child innocently replies, "No, Mommy." Although they intend to do the right thing and to please their parents, their desires often override their will. Children frequently are selfish, lie, and make messes. Their joy, love, and faith are powerful, yet they lack the discipline and wisdom that comes through experience.

The apostle Paul often referred to new believers as babes in Christ whose immaturity and fleshly desires frequently resulted in jealousy, debates, strife, and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 3-5). Jesus spoke of the struggles of new believers in the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). Notice that the young wheat and tares looked similar when they were immature, but each became evident when they matured. As believers we are called to show love, mercy and grace to the immature as we continue to grow alongside each other. None of us has reached perfection; growing up is a process. It is okay to make mistakes as long as we repent, learn from them, grow in maturity and bear fruit.

Today's text gives us the process through which we both mature and bear fruit. God's power and promises have already given us everything we need for "life and godliness." We have God's mercy for when we fail and His grace to meet all of our needs. As God's beloved children, He loves and cares for us, even when we're covered with crumbs and smeared with chocolate, because He sees who we will become. The Apostle Peter speaks from experience as he offers us the steps God used to grow him from a fearful child who denied his Master to a mature man who was martyred for his faith.

Peter says that we begin to mature by being diligent in our faith. Diligence means that we are constant in both effort and application, and that we do not just go through the motions. We trust God and strive by His grace.

Next, we walk in virtue, which is having the courage to do the right thing even when our peers are doing the opposite. We are distinct in both speech and conduct. To understand what is virtuous, we are to add knowledge, which is familiarity with and understanding of the word gained by both study and experience. Our faith grows as we live out the word and bear its fruit.

Next, we are called to self-control. We are to regulate our thoughts before they turn into actions. Sin always begins in the mind: Satan plants a seed and too often we choose to water and nourish it. Then we bear its fruit. Regulating our thoughts is easier said than done, so we must use patience, as we persist regardless of the difficulty, obstacles, or opposition.

As we grow, we add godliness. Our lives should be devoted as an offering through which we show our reverence for God. God is love, thus when we are godly, we show love and brotherly kindness. This means that we are kind, gentle, considerate, and benevolent. We look out for the needs of others, not because they are deserving but because we love them. We have one Father, so we love them just as God does.

Lastly, we see the result of Christian maturity, and it is the most difficult: love. We are to show a godly sacrificial love, even to those who hate us - our enemies. First Corinthians 13 reveals many characteristics of love by describing it in terms of both what is as well as what it is not. Love includes dying to the flesh and sacrificing our desires for the good of others. We see every person we meet each moment as God sees them. We overlook their faults and failures to see the beauty that God has placed within.

Ask God to guide you into maturity, as your fruit reveals God's love to a world that desperately needs it.