So good to see each one of you here today. We're thankful for another Lord's Day to gather here together to worship our Father in heaven. You know, we are commanded as Christians to grow. The final words that the Apostle Peter had to say in his second epistle were these words.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." — 2 Peter 3:18
We are challenged to grow. As we come to the end of this year, oftentimes, we will look back upon the year that we've just had. And of course, the end of the year and my birthday are pretty close together, and each year on my birthday I start to think back about where am I at, spiritually speaking. Have I grown? Am I stronger now, spiritually, than I was this time last year, five years ago? Or, I ask myself, have you become stagnant? Or, is it somewhere in between? I have grown a little bit, but not to my full potential. I ask myself these questions.
As we get older, I think we tend to do that, to reflect upon our life. And, I remember just two days ago when I was healthy and young, but now, I had a birthday. The day after my birthday, I bent to pick something up, and now I'm not healthy anymore. And I'm neither young nor healthy, at this moment.
I recognize the need for growth and Daily Bible reading is great. Another thing that makes me feel old is looking at that Bible reading chart that's out there, the print is so small, that I couldn't read it. And so, luckily, there are apps. I don't always have my Bible with me, but you know something I never leave the house without is this [mobile device].
If I'm going to Walmart and I realize I don't have my Bible with me I don't turn around and drive home to get my Bible. If I'm driving to Walmart and realize I don't have my phone with me, I turn around and go get it. Because if I don't, I'll come back and there'll be four text messages of things I was supposed to get. But, on your phone, there's an app, and I use several different Bible apps, but one that's free is Olive Tree, and on that there are daily Bible reading things that send you a notice on your phone you pull it out and you read it right there on your phone. Which to me is a lot easier.
Maybe that's not easy for some people, but I've decided this year I'm gonna read the chronologically. There are probably 40 or 50 different Bible reading plans that you can get through them. And so, I'm going to be doing the chronological Bible starting tomorrow. Which, it's going to be part of it's in the Old Testament, part of it's in the New Testament each day. And so, chronologically through the Old Testament, and through the New Testament at the same time. So, anyway, just a tool that's out there that you can use as well.
And so, as we look back at, ourselves, as we take stock of where we are, as we're looking forward to the new year, you know, we need to examine ourselves daily, whether we're in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), not just once a year, but every day.
We cannot maintain the status quo, we've got to grow. God expects us, to develop spiritually, uh, you know, that we're to have this inward spiritual growth, where to become mature in the faith, where to grow up as Christian, where to grow or to keep on growing. It's like if you ride a bicycle, as soon as you stop pedaling and you come to a stop, you're going to fall over. We've got to have this continuous growth and God expects us to grow to a point of maturity.
- Hebrews 5:12
There is an obligation implied in the word, ought, you have the obligation to be a teacher. Now to be a teacher of God's Word, you've got to know God's Word. You've got to grow in God's Word. And so, he says we ought to be teachers.
- Hebrews 5:13-14
We need to grow. We are commanded to grow, and as we look at spiritual growth and how we can grow in Christ there are a couple of passages I want us to look at.
Growing Unto Salvation
- 1 Peter 2:1-3
So there in verse one, there are some things that we've got to expel from our lives and things that we've got to get rid of.
Before we can grow there are some things to expel from our life.
He says that we're to get rid of malice, wickedness, guile, deceit, and hypocrisies. You know, if this is a counterfeit religion, get rid of that. Get rid of the envy or the jealousy, get rid of the evil speaking, the backbiting, the defamation of character, get rid of all of that. Put all of that aside, and turn away from that in essence, turn away from sin.
- James 1:21
You've got to get rid of, he says, that filthiness, that sinfulness, that excess of sinfulness, that excess of naughtiness. And you've got to get rid of that to receive the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. And so, Peter says, you know, you've got to get rid of these things if we're going to grow. We've got to expel these things from our lives.
As Newborn Babes, Desire the Sincere Milk of the Word
And then he says, we've got to have a desire as newborn babes or a new disciple. You know, children are teachable. And so, you know, we have to be humble as like a little child to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is a desire here, he says, for spiritual growth. The word, desire, means eager. It's a desire to eat, it's an intense craving and yearning for that sustenance that we need. The appetite for spiritual food with some people, though, is often not very strong.
- The sincere milk of the word.
Yet, when you think about a baby and milk, does the baby need to be prodded into eating the milk or drinking the milk? Does the baby need to be prodded into taking that milk? Certainly not. They, they want it. They make their desires known. They make it very clear that they want it, and they want it now, right now. Not two minutes from now, they want it now. They want it and you know, there's a great, intense desire for it. And that ought to be the same kind of desire that we have [for the Word].
- Spiritual milk - (ASV)
You know, the American standard here, instead of, sincere milk, translates it as that they are supposed to long for the spiritual milk which is without guile. Think about it, it is a spiritual milk, it provides spiritual sustenance. It is that which nourishes and sustains our spiritual life. It is without guile. It is sincere. In other words, it is real. He says that we are to have this desire.
Notice, "...that we may grow thereby if so, you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." And so we grow unto salvation.
- Only by feeding on proper food can we grow and develop. - 2 Peter 1:10-11
This again is the purpose of feeding. Something is wrong with us, though, when we do not grow. We become stunted Christians. And, spiritual immaturity is what we have when there is no spiritual growth.
Going back to what the Hebrew writer said, [Hebrews 5:12-14] there was a time when they ought to have grown to the point that they could themselves be teachers, but they needed to be taught again the first principles. Or, they needed that early milk that is fit for children.
And so, spiritual maturity is what we have. Our immaturity is what we have when there is no spiritual growth.
By this, we grow unto salvation, as the American Standard puts it. The word, grow, again, means to be nourished, to grow up until you reach salvation. Eternal salvation is based upon man's obedience to God's commands.
And only by feeding on spiritual food can growth occur.
- 2 Peter 1:10-11
We'll look more at what he's talking about here, that growth. You know, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge, and so forth. You're growing, and if we're not growing, we're dying. And so, if eternal salvation is important, then spiritual growth is important because that's what leads to that salvation, that eternal salvation.
Growing in Grace
As we grow unto salvation, we grow in grace.
- 2 Peter 3:18
Grace is, you know, by definition, that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard. It is in this instance, used to describe a condition where one stands in the Lord's favor. One who is in God's favor, in God's grace, shall grow and develop in God's grace.
And so how can we grow in the Lord's favor?
Stand Fast in God's Grace
By standing fast in God's true grace.
- 1 Peter 5:12
And so we're to stand in grace. It is impossible. It is also possible, for us to fall from grace, and that's why there are so many different admonitions throughout the New Testament telling us of the need to stand fast, to hold firm, to lay hold on, uh, eternal life.
- Galatians 5:4
He said, by trying to hold to and adhere to the old, dead law of Moses that was nailed to Jesus's cross. By trying to hold on to that, he said they had fallen from grace. They had turned away from the grace of God. And so they fell short of it.
- Hebrews 12:15
Again, we can fall short of the glory of God, we can fall short of His grace, we can fall from grace. A person who stands fast in God's grace is obedient to the word of God.
- 1 Peter 1:13-14
We are to grow in God's grace. We are to stand fast in His grace.
Standfast in God's Grace to Grow in Grace
You know, one who stands fast in His grace, is in a position to grow in God's grace. You know, Enoch also had God's favor for he was pleasing.
- Hebrews 11:5
Here was this man who walked with God. He served God with all his heart and God took him from the earth because his life was pleasing to God. Now that's not going to happen to us today. You're not going to just be removed from the earth and translated directly. But we have been, like Enoch, as Christians, translated out of darkness and into the kingdom of his dear Son, Jesus Christ. And so, Enoch, though, found favor with God. He was well-pleasing.
You know, the Christian graces cause us to grow in God's favor.
- 2 Peter 1:5-11
We're to give diligence to growing. And by doing that, giving diligence, and growing, he says you're not going to fall.
If we are growing in Christ because; only those who are righteous can be pleasing to God.
The Righteous Please God
- 1 Peter 3:12
We've got to grow in grace. We grow in grace as we grow in knowledge.
Growing in Knowledge
- 2 Peter 3:18
It is important that we have a Bible knowledge. That's why it is important that we read the Word of God. And, if we don't read it every day, we need to be reading it often and reading it in a way that is a coherent manner. Not just simply opening the Bible to a page and reading half a dozen verses, but reading it in a particular order or studying it, book by book, or studying it topic by topic, as we go into God's Word.
Knowledge is Essential for Righteousness
- 1 Peter 3:12
It's essential for us to know His Word, in order to be righteous. Again, only the righteous will please the Lord, as we just saw in 1 Peter. We must know the way of righteousness to be righteous. We must work righteousness, to be righteous.
- Acts 10:34-35
Notice here, everyone that, worketh righteousness and fears him.
- Ecclesiastes 12:13
Isn't that exactly, what Peter said there in Acts chapter 10? Almost the same exact thing, Fear God and work righteousness in order to be accepted by Him. We've got to be righteous in order to please God.
Knowledge Gives Strength to Withstand Temptation
You know, we gain strength also to withstand temptation and sin.
- Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus is tempted on three points. He's tempted, and in every case, the devil uses the word of God and twists the meaning of it. The devil wrests the scripture and in every case, though, Jesus answers with, it is written, the word of God.
- Psalm 119:11
He says I've hidden your word in my heart. I've studied it. I've learned it. I've memorized it, to some degree that I can know what is right and do what is right. "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee."
You think about the word of God and our knowledge of God's word. Being able to say, it is written, as Jesus did when tempted, being able to go back on what we know of God's word to keep us out of sin. It gives us the strength to withstand the temptation of sin.
Lack of Knowledge
Think about the damage that a lack of knowledge does.
- Hosea 4:6
They lack knowledge, and it's a rejection of knowledge, it's a willful forgetting of God's word. And so you think about the damage caused by a lack of knowledge.
Ignorance Leads to Sin
Ignorance leads to sin. It leads to lust, certainly, and lust produces sin.
- 1 Peter 1:14
- James 1:12-14
You know, it leads to lust and produces sin.
Ignorance Leads to Misuse of the Scriptures
A lack of knowledge, or ignorance, leads to a misuse of the scriptures. Just like, the devil misused the scriptures.
- 2 Peter 3:15-16
So they take the word of God, they pull it out of context, they twist its meaning, and he says they do so to their own destruction. And the destruction of those who follow along with what they say, with their teaching. Those who don't have the knowledge and the understanding, the willingness to open the Bible and look for themselves. We must grow in knowledge so we will remember the promises of God. It's these promises of God that sustain us.
We must Grow in Knowledge So We Will Remember the Promise of God.
- 2 Peter 3:9-14
We think about the Lord's coming and that knowledge of His coming. That knowledge that He's going to come as a thief of the night when least expected, and everything in this old world, all the material possessions we've ever had, or ever thought to possess, are going to be gone., wiped out. Peter just asked the question, what manner of person ought you to be, knowing that all physical things are going to be gone?
Christians need to be spiritually mature people, who are looking forward, hastening to the coming of that day. Living his life, recognizing that the Lord might just come at any moment.
So we've got to be ready. To be ready, we've got to grow.
Requirements for Spiritual Growth
So how do we grow? What are some requirements for growth?
- Nourishment + 1 Peter 2:2
- Exercise - 1 Timothy 4:8
- Health - 1 Peter 2:1
- Goal: Heaven - 1 Peter 2:3
- Lack of growth = Ready to fall - 2 Peter 3:17
There must be nourishment. Again, that sincere milk of the word. There needs also to be exercise. And so, we're to exercise ourselves toward godliness, not just physically, but spiritually. And we're to be free, or healthy, free from the disease of sin. You know, the goal of spiritual growth is eternal salvation in Heaven. And, a lack of growth means that we are weak and ready to fall.
We have a choice, either grow spiritually, or spiritually decay and die. How do we know we're growing?
Indications of Spiritual Growth
What are some indications of spiritual growth?
- Faithful attendance - Hebrews 10:24-25
- Liberal giving - 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:7
- Confidence - 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:6-8
- Desire for Heaven - Colossians 3:2
- Knowledge - 2 Peter 3:18
- Constant prayer - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
- Love for souls - Romans 1:14-16
- Fruit - Galatians 5:22-23
- Involvement - 1 Corinthians 15:58
- Increasing Christ-likeness - 1 Peter 2:2
Are we following in the steps of Jesus? Are we growing? Are we faithful? Are we liberal in our giving? Are we confident in our salvation? Do we have a great desire for Heaven? Do we want to know more of God's Word? Are we consistent in our prayer life? Do we love the souls of those who are lost? Do we desire to produce the fruit of the Spirit? Are we involved in the work of the Lord? And are we increasing in our likeness to Christ?
If we're not, then perhaps we are not growing. And if we're not growing, what is the opposite of growing?
I urge you today, if you're not growing as a Christian, as you ought, and you've let sin come into your life and, and turn you away from God, we urge you to come back and to repent.
To grow and to be pleasing to God, we've got to become a child of God. Perhaps you are here and are not Christian. We urge you today to put on Christ in baptism, you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and based upon that belief, repent of your sins, confess His holy name, be baptized, wash away your sins, and be faithful unto death. And Christ says I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10).
This morning, if you're subject to the invitation of Jesus Christ, please contact us so we can assist you in growing to please God.