Growing in Grace
Does "growing in grace" mean that I am to grow in my understanding of grace, or does it mean that I am to grow up into Christ covered by grace? Perhaps it's both, for growing in my understanding of grace is essential to releasing myself into it for God to complete His work, perfecting in me the image of His Son.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
- 2 Peter 3:14-18
To Him Be the Glory
Sometimes I wonder what effect my choices really have on what God thinks of me. I don't think He needs me to be one way or another - after all, I didn't choose Him - He chose me. Not only did He choose me, He called me out for His own glory, just as He did not call others out for His own glory.
Pete and I have been reading through Genesis with Piper before bed. She's not really interested yet - Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are right up there with Mickey Mouse and Curious George in her estimation. While she may not be engaged, her parents have been talking a bit about the lives of these three men.
Abraham had a relationship in which he walked with God. Isaac seemed to do okay without thinking much about it. Then there was Jacob, who really was a scumbag when Esau appeared to have a sense of honor. Yet God said elsewhere, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
Why would God choose a deceiver like Jacob? Why would He appear as an anonymous man and wrestle with him, tell Jacob he had prevailed against God and man, bless him and care for him, even though he was pretty self-focused and disinterested in relationship with God, except when he needed Him?
A Relational Center
When I was growing up, I asked my dad what made us different from other people who believed in God - what set us apart from the "religious" and authenticated our faith? His answer, "We have a personal relationship with the Lord."
I know now that is a more radical concept than I believed then. Even people who talk about "personal relationship" are too often focused on a legalized approach to "right and wrong" without considering our Helper, the Holy Spirit, sent for us after Jesus' return to heaven. So many churches I have attended preach right and wrong, simply assuming God-relationship. But the insidious fact of this legalism is the neglect of the Gospel, and the Gospel is everything.
The whole point of Jesus' Cross-work was to reconcile us for relationship with God. This relationship is made possible by His Spirit, speaking to us the mind of the Father, teaching us eternal things Jesus didn't have time to teach in His short ministry here on earth.
Too many times, I have wasted spirit-energy in self-searching instead of trusting God to search my heart as only He can do. Too many times, I have trolled down a do/don't list that tells me how to make God happy with me instead of reconciling myself dead to sin and alive to God.
Too many times, I have overlooked the fact that I have been crucified with Christ. Instead, I choose to wear a sin-cloak that is no longer mine to wear, thinking that I can get light out of an LED flashlight I'm throwing randomly around in the dark.
What Shall We Say, Then?
The choice that is left to me is not simply right or wrong. It is life or death. If I believe Jesus, I may choose to consider myself dead to sin and alive to God, or I may choose to subject myself again to a yoke of bondage.
God has much to do in me yet, but He knows and remembers what I often forget in my sincere but sometimes-too-pressured desire to please Him - that I am dust. That my dust cannot handle all of His Godness at once.
I need to grow beneath the shelter of Christ-grace: my death His, my sin His, His righteousness mine, His life mine. Even my faith is not of myself - it is the gift of God - and why should He have chosen to bestow it on me?
(Images © Informal Moments Photography)