Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Imagine a woman named Jane. She is a mature and growing Christian who loves Jesus, gives wise counsel, and helps others come to know more about Jesus … but she does not pray, read her Bible, or go to church. What do you think, as I describe Jane to you? Does this sound strange? It should, because the Bible teaches that Jane does not exist.
The Bible plainly teaches that no one has ever spiritually matured without applying themselves to the spiritual disciplines.
No one has ever become more godly, more Christ-like without spiritual discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; James 4:2). In fact, the writer of Hebrews makes a one-to-one, absolute connection between being in the Word of God regularly and growing spiritually: “Everyone who lives on milk [immaturity] is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Likewise, when Peter tells us in his second epistle to “grow in the grace,” this comes on the heels of his first letter, in which he has already expressed the means to spiritual growth: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
The Bible plainly teaches that no one has ever spiritually matured without applying themselves to the spiritual disciplines. On the other hand, the Bible promises that everyone who by faith applies themselves to spiritual discipline will become more godly, more Christ-like.
We want to be mature Christians, who help others, but without having to apply ourselves to spiritual disciplines. It can’t be done.
The connection between spiritual discipline and growth is frequent and explicit in the Bible. In Luke 11:13, Jesus says that the Spirit will be given to those who ask (prayer). Ephesians 4:11-16 indicates that God uses truth, and the fellowship of the saints, in order to mature and edify us. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The same writer encourages us to come boldly to the throne of grace in order to receive “help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16), and explains that the accountability of the local church helps us to hold fast our profession of faith” (10:23-25). James tells us that if we want wisdom, we need only ask God for it (James 1:5).
Everyone who by faith applies themselves to spiritual discipline will grow and mature in their Christian walk.
Although the Jane whom we described does not exist, according to the Bible, many of us are trying to be Janes. We want to be mature Christians, who help others, but without having to apply ourselves to Bible-reading, prayer, and the accountability of the body of Christ. It can’t be done.
However, what a great encouragement to know that when we do discipline ourselves to seek hard after God — in his Word, through prayer, and with the encouragement of other Christians — we are assured that we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior!
(For more on spiritual growth, check out my recent book Grow: the Command to Ever-Expanding Joy)