2 Peter 3:18. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
A couple days ago on the Christian radio station they were talking about how a person in a restaurant drive-through line paid for the meal of the person behind them. And so the next person in line did the same. And so on, and so on. Each customer paying for the meal of the car behind them. And this went on for two days. The radio hosts were ecstatic about this two day work of grace.
But I can’t help but wonder who actually experienced grace in that drive-through line? Maybe I’m too much of a skeptic, but it seems to me that dozens, if not hundreds of people, didn’t experience grace. They simply felt guilty for not paying for their own meal and so they bought the next person’s. Since they couldn’t pay it back, they “paid it forward.” Eventually somebody just said thank you, received a free meal, and drove away. Could it be that the final person is the only one who really grew in grace? Why? Because grace isn’t grace until it’s actually received. And it isn’t received until it’s not paid back (or even paid forward).
When was the last time you freely received something? When was the last time you received grace without any inner push to pay it back? Are you growing in grace? If you can’t simply receive, then no, you’re not.
Every Christian wants to grow spiritually. And we all love the second part of 2 Peter 3:18 – grow in the knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Probably because we think we can do this by simply going to another Bible study, or by reading another blog (wait, what?), or by listening to more sermons on the radio or TV, all while learning more ABOUT Jesus. But growth in knowledge about Jesus is not spiritual growth. And it’s not growing in grace.
I wonder how many Christians actually want to grow in grace? It seems that many brothers and sisters actually believe that spiritual growth is outgrowing grace. If you’ve been a Christian for a while and still need grace – what’s the matter with you?!? Don’t you know it’s time to grow up and start paying Jesus back? He bought your meal, now pay for the car behind you, or you’re a bad Christian.
I’ve heard pastors describe spiritual growth this way, “A Christian isn’t sinless, but they should sin less and less.” But is this actually what spiritual growth is? Sinning less and less? Or is it growing deeper and deeper in our awareness of our sin, our brokenness, our neediness, our failures, our weakness and then diving head first into our need for the glorious grace of our Lord and Savior. If we believe that we are sinning less now than we were a year ago, or five years ago, does that mean that we need less of God’s grace today? Is that what union with Christ is? Less sinning, so therefore, less need of grace?
We live in a culture that looks down on neediness, and weakness, and inability. But if we look down on these things, aren’t we also looking down on grace? Or is it possible that a growth in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ IS the same thing as growth in grace? Wasn’t Jesus’ own life set upon a trajectory of neediness, weakness, and inability – even to the point of the cross?
“To live is Christ” means never, ever, ever, decreasing in our need for grace. Why? Because Christ in us is constantly revealing more and more of the dark crevices of our souls, bringing us to a place of wretchedness (Rom. 7:24), and revealing the most dangerous sin of the human heart – self-righteousness. And Christ in us is constantly showing us that true glory and exaltation is found only by going lower and lower into the depths of our own weakness and finding there the depths of God’s grace.
So how do we know when we’re truly growing in grace?
First, growth in grace means not measuring our performance as getting better and better, or holier and holier. But in humility we see more and more of our need, our sin, our frailty. “I am the chief of all the sinners.”
Second, growth in grace is growth in knowing, intimately, our Lord and Savior, and allowing his love to be the strength of our hearts. Now satisfaction found in Jesus is replacing satisfaction found in a million other places.
Third, as we saw yesterday, growth in grace means “making every effort” to add Christ’s character into your life. Not from obligation, but from a deep seated love for him and desire to be like him.
And finally, growing in grace is living all of life for the glory of Christ – To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. And there is no glory for Christ if we reject his grace.
Are you growing in grace, or outgrowing grace?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ guarantee God’s grace for you today and every day?
Christ in you
How does needing grace help you to know Christ more?
Playlist: Grow in Grace