A key issue, addressed in many of my past postings, is about Christian growth and the related issue of work, performance and accountability. See for examples:
- Grace is Unmerited Favor" - This Common Definition is Wrong
- Grace Based Doctrines - Best summary mind-map
- Performance and Relationship
- Grace - Wrong Definition leading to Shameful Behavior
Whether we like it or not, reality exists and is independent of our wishes or likings. Our lives will be judged, now by people like our parents, friends, colleagues, bosses and society, and eventually by God. Heb 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. The BIG question is, will we pass?
2. The Positive Answer is Ensured by Grace of God in Jesus
The answer to the Big question has been answered by God in the positive long time ago through and by Jesus. In Jesus Christ, the answer is "Yes, we pass". We don't have to live in fear and doubt. We can live in peace and joy because of Jesus and not due to any thing that we do to earn it. It is merely by acceptance of the gift of Jesus. Hence, Paul, stressed twice, in Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
If we insist we want to do it, then our action is simply an action of faith in Jesus' word by the acceptance of the grace extended. It is simply a response of faith with thanks giving.
3. The Beginning is the First Step - It is the Start of Growth to Glorification
Paul did not end the 'grace by faith' in Eph 2:9, but continue with Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. It clearly shows that the grace did not end with our salvation (saved) but is to continue to complete His "workmanship". We are to continue to walk by the grace given to reach the His masterpiece(that's us) that He pre-planned long ago (Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world). In short, we are saved for God glorying works through grace.
4. From Calling, Justification to Glorification
Let me emphasize this journey of growth by quoting from Paul Rom 8:29-30 showing the stages of growth:
- He foreknew
- He predestined -> to be conformed to the image of his Son
- He called
- He justified
- He glorified
Grace is given for transformation and growth5. The Measure and the Ultimate Growth is Be Like Christ
from being (new identity in the inside, rebirth, now 2 Cor 5:17)
and to become (outside, image, behavior) like Christ Rom 8:29
Since the ultimate state of growth is 'to be conform to the image of Christ', then the measure of growth will be "Likeness to Jesus". Do we believe, think, feel, decide and act like Christ? How often did we behave like Christ. The answer should be 'all the time' (100%) because we have the Christ in us with the enabling power of grace. But in the growth process, as children, we may be 10%-40%, as young man, may be 40-80%, and as father (80-100%). 1John 2 tells us much about the characteristics of the 3 stages and how to grow from one stage to the other.
6. Two Common Errors on Growth
- Like Christ by Self Effort - leading to burn-out and abuse
Emphasis is put on following the commandments of the Bible without the leading the of Holy Spirit. It is work for Christ and not work with Christ. It is work that I think it is good for Christ rather than getting to know the will of Christ for the moment and then work out in faith.
(Note: reading the Bible, communication with Jesus are spiritual disciplines that are the will of Jesus for every believers. But as to when, how long, how often, it is something that the Holy Spirit will guide. It is the more the better in general).
- Already Attained - No growth needed.
This group see that they are complete already in Christ and hence don't see any need for any spiritual discipline. Any discipline is seen as fleshly work. They move by inner feelings and seen anything strenuous as of the flesh, legalism and will quit. They will quit also any time that don't have the feeling as well. Suffering is not in the vocabulary as Christ has already paid all.
They don't understand the tripartite nature of man. See The Tripartite Man, Salvation of Tripartite Man - The Details.
For a more in-depth study, see Degree of Grace - From Grace-less to Ultra-Grace
We have mentioned the John's 3-Stage model above. Peter has a 8-stage model in 2Pet1 that I titled Normal Christian Life Style.
For a more in-depth coverage, see Christian Transformation & Growth -The Unified Model
8. Don't be Deceived, Growth Comes Through Abiding in Jesus through Obedience
Growth does not come by being idle. Growth comes connecting to Jesus and by obedience to His words.
Jesus said the secret of growth and fruit bearing is abiding in Him. Joh 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. See also We can do Nothing apart from Jesus.
John reminded us that abiding is obedience. 1Jn 2:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Evil is overcome by the abiding word as in 1Jn 2:14 ... young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.