Growing in Grace!
Most everyone knows John Newton’s hymn, “Amazing Grace.” It is the most recorded song in all history and perhaps one of the most recognized songs even among non-believers. Despite its popularity, many people including believers must not understand the words. Newton realized that Grace is working on us even before we put our trust in God. “Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far…”1 Yes, Grace is amazing…it was working on Newton before he was saved, while being a roguish captain of a slave ship… “Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come…”2 and it becomes even more amazing and productive when we choose to allow grace to grow in our lives following our initial salvation experience. “…and GRACE WILL LEAD me home.”3
What do I mean? Take a look at Paul’s words to the Galatians, “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort (flesh)?” (Gal. 3:3 NLT) The Galatians had fallen into a trap, set by those who laid a guilt trip on them by saying that they must submit to the standards of the entire Jewish law system in order for salvation to be complete. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are saved by grace and then we are sanctified (made holy) by grace. Now, this does not mean we stand idly by and let grace somehow permeate our lives to perfection. No, just as we make a choice to trust and follow Jesus, we also make a choice to CONTINUE to trust and follow Jesus.
Peter said it this way, “…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:18). The word Peter uses for “Grow” is an imperative in the Greek. It is a command and it comes through loud and clear in Peter’s second letter. It is the last words he ever wrote that we are aware of. Peter had spent three years following Jesus as a disciple and realized the gravity of discipleship. It was so important that he leaves it as an epitaph for all who would follow Jesus and read his letter.
So, how do I grow in grace? Good question. It doesn’t just happen. Paul uses an agricultural illustration in his first letter to the Corinthians (3:1-17). Followers of Christ, must submit to leaders who pour God’s instruction into their lives. By being obedient to these instructions, God causes the growth. Plants don’t just grow on their own… they need sunlight, fertilizer, carbon dioxide, rich soil, and other factors. Those factors must take place at the right time in order for growth to appear. So it is with people who grow in Christ. They don’t just grow by identifying themselves with the “Christian religion.” They must allow people to pour God’s grace into their lives in a systematic and structured way. Jesus trained his disciples. He instructed them. He sent them out. He prayed with them and He admonished them on many occasions.
Those of you who have taken the first step of walking in God’s amazing grace for your initial salvation experience, are you willing to take the next step? Do you realize what happens if you don’t? Spiritual babies will be running around. You need spiritual nursery workers! This is what Paul had to address with the Corinthian church. (See 1 Cor. 3:1-5) When people do not submit themselves to growing in grace, they will ultimately revert back to their own sin nature. This causes division, pride, and all sorts of evil, which do not “build” the kingdom of God.
Our salvation by grace is a 3-phase process. You were saved (Initial salvation), you are being saved (Practical salvation), and you will be saved (Eventual salvation). The next time someone tells me they are saved, I will ask them, “How saved are you?” Salvation is a process. Growing in grace is primarily dealing with the second phase of that process. Sadly many believers fail to take the second step and by doing so miss out on all of God’s Amazing Grace! Again, Paul stated to the Corinthians, “For the word of the cross is to those perishing foolishness, but to us who are BEING SAVED it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). Did you understand that? We are Being Saved. God’s grace is still working for you to grow in the knowledge and mission of Jesus!
For the next few weeks, my challenge to you is to submit to that second phase. It is a systematic growth process for your good, for the church’s benefit, and for the continued spreading of the good news of the kingdom of God! The LORD has promised good to me, His WORD my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures."4
Grow in Grace!
- Pastor Cliff
1John Newton, “Amazing Grace” 3rd verse
2John Newton, Ibid.
4John Newton, Ibid., 4th verse.