Growing in Christ

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Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus

2 Peter 1:5-8

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Growing in Christ

                There seems to be a pendulum that swings within Christian circles when it comes to growing in Christ. There is the one side that we can classify as legalism. This person believes in Jesus and says that He is Lord and Savior but relies on their works to determine their acceptance before the Lord. Then there is the licentious person. This person believes Jesus lived, died and was raised from the dead for them so they can live however they want. We should be concerned for them as they are not showing the natural fruit of salvation. No one will achieve perfect growth in this life time but there is some growth in Christian virtue. We focus on witnessing to the non-believer but we have people in our pews and not in our pews that take the name of Christ that are not truly in Christ.

                Both types of people experience anxiety, frustration, and a whole host of other experiences that equate to the deeds of the flesh that Paul illustrates in Galatians 5:19-25. These types of people are not living according to true knowledge and open themselves up to false teaching and false discipleship. The narrow way is extremely narrow. The pendulum passes over it but never seems to come to a rest. Both legalism and licentiousness have “self” as their primary focus which does not lead to true growth in Christ. The legalist may have a critical outlook on others with major sources of tension in their own life while the licentious person may have an attitude of, don’t worry about me! I am saved, while reaping the benefits of living a sinful life. The pendulum swings from death to death but never comes to a rest in the source of life.                 2 Peter is most likely the last will and testament of the apostle Peter before he went on to be with the Lord. 2 Peter 1:14 reads, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” In this letter Peter’s main focus is guarding the church against false teachers. The first tool in defending the church against false teachers is to encourage them to know their salvation. It is growing in the knowledge of Christ. How does Peter say we should grow in Christ?

                2 Peter 1:8 reads, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The qualities that Peter is talking about are not efforts put forth in order to make oneself right with God. Nor are they optional. What Peter is describing here is fruit as a result of being made righteous by God through Jesus Christ. Fruit does not grow by its own effort. It cannot! The seed is planted in fertile soil, is watered and miraculously produces a root, a sprout, a tree and eventually fruit. The seed that the Spirit plants by the Word is resting in all of whom the Lord Jesus Christ is and His promises to us. Everything you need regarding life and godliness are automatically yours at the moment you believe in Christ. Faith in Christ is the beginning of growth. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 4 verse 11, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”

                Now faith in Jesus is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen about Him. 2 Peter 1:3, 4 reads, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” These verses say that God opens your spiritual eyes to see Him as beautiful through the knowledge of Jesus. From Jesus you see all that He is and all that He is for you. Jesus is your rest.

                The first part of verse 5 reads, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith (resting in Jesus) supply moral excellence,” and then Peter goes on to describe growing qualities of a true Christian. Notice he says, “applying all diligence.” We are called to work and work hard. Paul says to the Philippians, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” James says in his letter, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” John quotes Jesus as saying, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Jesus also says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” The work that we must do is resting in all of Jesus.

                You will produce fruit when you begin to make your number one focus the true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He relates to you. Your worry should not be, am I evangelizing enough, am I giving enough, am I loving my spouse enough, am I serving enough, am I praying enough, am I reading my Bible enough, or am I being patient enough. The answer to all those questions is a resounding, “NO.” You can never do those things enough in this lifetime because you are in a constant battle everyday with the world and your sinful flesh. Your resolve should be am I living in and growing in the knowledge of the love of Christ for me? Am I abiding in His love? Am I resting in Jesus? Not because you are special and do great things but because He just loves you and wants to be with you! When you focus on being with Him and learning from Him you will produce natural fruit. You will desire to grow in moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. These things happen because you are with Jesus.

                Scripture is Jesus speaking with you. Enjoy being with Him and listening to Him! This is growing in Christ. If your focus is on producing fruit then you will not produce fruit. You will be discouraged and potentially give up because you can’t do it. You may become a legalist or a person of license. If your focus is on being with Jesus then you will produce the natural fruit of being right with God. Don’t worry about the fruit! Enjoy and rest in your precious gift of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. God will take care of everything else! Praise God!