Born Again It is a cause for even greater rejoicing than physical birth! “His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). “You have in obedience to the truth purified your souls” (1 Peter 1:22). “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but that which is imperishable through the living and enduring word of God”. (1 Peter 1:23)
When We are Baptized into Christ ...we receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) ...the Lord adds us to His church (Acts 2:47) ...we rise to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) ...we undergo “a washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) The renewal that we have in Christ begins our journey towards spiritual growth. But how does spiritual growth happen?
We Grow Spiritually by Obeying God’s Word If you are going to grow up in this world, (school, career, sports, etc.) you are going to have to learn to obey your superior (parents, teacher, boss, coach, etc.) and follow their instructions (unless they tell you to do wrong). In the same way, if we are going to grow up and become like Jesus Christ (the Head), we will have to learn to obey everything He says. (Eph. 4:11-15; 1:22-23; Matt. 28:18-20) When each of us is doing his/her part, we will all be edified (Eph. 4:16).
We Grow Spiritually by Obeying God’s Word The apostle Peter ends his writings by saying, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him” (1:2-3) Therefore we add to our faith such graces as moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness and we increase in them (1:5-8).
We Grow Spiritually by Obeying God’s Word If we fail to grow, we are more likely to be deceived by those who teach error and we can fall from grace (2 Peter 3:16-17). Those Christians who failed to grow were severely rebuked for being “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11-14) God’s word commands us to grow! But how can I truly learn all that I need to know to please the Lord?
Spiritual Growth Requires Diligent Effort Those who attain anything in this life did so through diligent effort (like those who made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday). We must be diligent to exercise ourselves for godliness so that we might be approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Tim. 4:7). Concerning the Christian graces the apostle Peter said, “Applying all diligence....be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things you will never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:5a, 10)
Spiritual Growth Requires Diligent Effort Like a newborn baby, you must desire the milk of God’s word before you can grow to eat meat. “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tastedthe kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2:1-3). Have you tasted the kindness of the Lord? It’s like ice cream for the soul which motivates us to put away sinful desires so that we will earnestly desire it again and again.
Spiritual Growth Requires Diligent Effort Jesus said, “Do not work for the food which perishesbut for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their sensestrained to discerngood and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). If you don’t practice what you have learned, you will have to go back to the bottle and won’t recognize good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-13). But it’s too hard to obey and be diligent about it.
We are Assisted by God in Our Growth We are not alone in our efforts to please God. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work outyour salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at workin you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) While we work out our salvation, He works in us! God wants to finish the work which He started in us when he first saved us (Phil. 1:6; Titus 3:5).
We are Assisted by God in Our Growth We are strengthened by God in our efforts. Paul prayed “that He would grant you....to be strengthenedwith power through His Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17) “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20)
We are Assisted by God in Our Growth Don’t limit yourself by your failures but repent and confess your sins since He is faithful & righteous to forgive you of your sins (1 Jn 1:9). God provides the armor so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put onthe full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11) With God as our helper, we can grow spiritually! (Philippians 4:13)
In Spiritual Growth, We are Blessed by God The blessings begin as we grow in the grace of Christ (2 Peter 3:18; Eph. 1:4). This grace teaches us to “denyungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present world”. (Titus 2:11-12) We can stand on this grace (Romans 5:1-2). We can grow in the knowledge of Christ by adding the virtues that lead to the abundant entrance into heaven (2 Peter 1:5-11).
Conclusion But not all growth is good. Like cancer cells, the wrong growth can kill! The hearts of some grow dull (Matthew 13:15) The love of many grow cold (Matthew 24:12) We can grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9) We can be deceived by the empty promises of freedom from false teachers (2 Peter 2:18) Riches or pleasure can entice us (1 Tim. 6:9) Persecutions can discourage us (Mt. 13:21) Some sear their conscience (1 Tim. 4:2)
Conclusion What kind of growth is happening in your life? Is it deadly, causing your heart to be dull, your love to be cold, tired of doing what’s right, seeking pleasure, frustrated, or hindered because you’re trying to do it alone? Or are you being fruitful in practicing the Christian graces? One is the result of neglect, the other from making the choice to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ! Which are you choosing?