"Building up yourselves on your most holy faith."
"How does the soul grow? Not all in a minute!
Now it may lose ground, and now it may win it;
Now it resolves, and again it will faileth;
Now it rejoiceth, and now it bewaileth;
Now it hopes fruitify, then they are blighted;
Now it walks sullenly, now gropes benighted;
Fed by discouragements, taught by disaster;
So it goes forward, now slower, now faster,
Till all the pain is past, and failure made whole,
It is full-grown, and the Lord rules the soul."
-- Susan Coolidge
It is vitally important that we as Christians "grow up" in our Christian walk with God.
There are so many people living and dying for material possessions.
It seems that a wealth fever has affected too many of us,
while spiritual values and needs are ignored.
Real success in life cannot be counted in dollars and cents,
and certainly not in physical or mental accomplishments.
The true measure of life is founded in the growth of a Christ-life character.
In 2 Peter 3: 18 all Christians are challenged to
"grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
There is a serious warning to all of us in the preceding verse:
"Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked,
fall from your own steadfastness."
Immediately, following the warning is God's cure for us: "But grow in grace."
Every believer is "to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:29)
We are to "grow up into him in all things." (Ephesians 4: 15)
We are also told to "increase and abound." (1 Thessalonians 3: 12)
Life is the first step of growth!
Dead things cannot grow.
There must be spiritual life before there can be spiritual growth.
When a child is born, his first cry indicates life.
If there is life, there is a world of possibilities for this new baby.
If there is no life, then there is no hope.
A fence post placed in the ground will not grow,
but a little seed will grow spontaneously.
Place a small stone in the richest of soils, and it will not grow.
It will be the same size for many, many years.
Place a seed into the ground, and it will spring up
and produce a tree or flowers or vegetables.
The difference is evident -- one has life, and the other does not.
Divine life may be imitated, but the difference can also be detected.
One is real; the other is false.
One is natural; the other is mechanical.
A crystal grows from without by the addition of new particles,
while a living organism grows from within.
The crystal may be beautiful, but it is only a crystal,
and does not possess true life for growth.
Dead things may accumulate, but they cannot grow!
Unless a person has life that comes from God,
religious practices and activities mean absolutely nothing.
In fact, they can cause a person to rely on a false hope of salvation.
To all of us who have received Jesus as our Lord and Saviour
we are commanded to "grow in grace."
Peter is speaking to those who have been born again.
Remember, dead things cannot grow.
A young 16th century artist had worked hard and long
on a statue of an angel.
Michelangelo was invited to view the finished masterpiece.
He looked upon it for several minutes, and then he said:
"It lacks only one thing," and then he left the studio.
This depressed the young artist.
He wondered what his masterpiece lacked.
So, a mutual friend went to Michelangelo to discover what was missing.
Michelangelo responded, "It lacks only one thing, and that is life.
If it had life, it would be as perfect as God could make it."
Life is the first requisite for growth.
Why We Must Grow!
It is God's plan.
"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
(2 Peter 3: 18)
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
"Ye shall therefore be holy for I am holy." (Leviticus 11:45)
Jesus said: "Be ye therefore perfect (mature),
even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5: 48)
Paul said in Philippians 3: 12-14:
"Not as though I had already attained,
either were already perfect (full-grown)... but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Growth is God's intention for every Christian.
We must bend or be broken.
God will not tolerate continued interference.
We are not sinless, but we should sin less and less.
It is nature's law.
Nature tells us to grow or it will kill us.
A cantered tree does not send forth new shoots.
When the baby stops growing, it begins to die.
Nature will pick at us until death claims us.
We must grow or decay!
We must advance or regress!
We must live or die!
In John 15:2 Jesus said:
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away,
and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it,
that it may bring forth more fruit."
"Grow in grace."
The word, grow, denotes continuous action.
There is never a time to stop growing.
If we do not grow in the physical sense, it is sad
for it is a sign of sickness.
Parents would really be alarmed if day after day
and week after week their baby showed no signs of growth.
It would be disastrous for a farmer if his crops never yielded a harvest.
Genesis 11: 31 tells us that Terah started out with Abraham for the land of Canaan.
Verse 31 says, "And they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."
Verse 32 says, "And Terah died in Haran."
Too many in our day are stopping at Haran and dying there.
There is never a time or place to stop growing.
Growth is God's plan.
How should we grow?
We must grow naturally
Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spend:
and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these." (Matthew 6:28-29)
Notice the words, "how they grow."
How do the lilies grow?
What is the secret of their growth?
According to God's plan, the lily simply unfolds the life within.
You do not have to tell a lily to grow.
It grows naturally, spontaneously.
It does not fuss or fret, or toil or turn.
It does not strain or stretch -- it just grows.
Growth is natural and inevitable when there is life.
This is even more true where there is divine life.
Environment is important in the growing process.
If you see an acorn lying on the concrete pavement,
you know that the acorn will never grow.
On the other hand, if you put that acorn in the ground where it belongs
-- it will grow.
If you pull a plant out of the ground and hide it from the sun, it will not grow.
In like manner we, who have received Christ, must abide in Him
-- the Sun of righteousness -- if we are to grow and to bring forth fruit.
We must continue to be in a right relationship with God.
We must be rooted in the Word of God.
We must talk and walk each day with Jesus.
We must remain in good fellowship with other Christians.
We must always be ready to serve anywhere, anytime God calls.
We must not permit anything or anyone to come between us and our Lord.
We must keep "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."
(Hebrews 12: 2)
It is is then that we will bring forth fruit.
Salvation is just the beginning of what God expects of us.
He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we (could) ask or think." (Ephesians 3: 20)
Before us is an ever expanding ocean of grace and truth.
We must never be content with the empty shells on the beach
when we can launch out into the deep.
We must be like a tree planted by rivers of water.
The roots of our lives must penetrate the topsoil of truth
and must reach down into the great doctrinal rocks of eternal salvation.
Then when the hurricane of God's wrath hurls the hypocrites
into the sea of destruction, we, who have our roots planted by God, will stand.
We must grow and bear fruit.
God's promise to us in Hosea 14: 5-7:
"He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree,
and his smell as Lebanon.
They that dwell under his shadow shall return;
they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine:
the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."
We grow by eating.
All living things eat, and what we eat affects our growth.
The Bible says, "Eat... that which is good." (Isaiah 55:22)
Feeding on God's word will bring growth.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word,
that we may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:1-2)
We must feed on the Word of God in order to grow.
Milk is a food that has been digested by another.
Christians often think that the only feeding they need is that
which the pastor has digested and preaches on Sunday morning.
That is not enough!
"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think
ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
We grow by breathing.
What breathing is to our physical being, prayer is to our spiritual being.
Jesus was a man of prayer.
The common atmosphere was stifling to Jesus
and so He continually sought communion with God
in quiet places away from the crowd.
If Jesus considered prayer so important, so must we.
We cannot afford to live without it.
We must breathe deeply the air from heaven every day.
Communion with God brings us growth.
We must "pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5: 17)
Someone has said,
"Prayer is the preface to the book of Christian living,
the text of the new life sermon,
the girding on of the armor for battle,
the pilgrim's preparation for his journey,
and it must be supplemented by action
or it amounts to nothing."
Prayer and service are an unbeatable New Testament combination.
"Oh, the pure delight of a single hour.
That before Thy throne I spend;
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend."
-- Fanny J. Crosby
We grow by exercising.
The Bible places great stress on work.
A person who doesn't work is a person who is weak.
When a person works faithfully, that person will eat and sleep right.
People often complain that they are not spiritually fed.
It could be that they are not spiritually hungry,
and they are not hungry if they are not working.
Those who were working in the Lord's harvest field
called out for the Bread of life.
A believer who faithfully works in the vineyard of God will grow in grace.
If you really want to grow, then start working for God.
When we practice the truth we know, many other things become clearer.
The laborer's arms become stronger by continual labor.
The child grows by exercise.
We are to grow as babies grow: slowly and steadily, but surely;
a little each day, and a lot in a year.
At first, the legs may be weak, but soon we will walk
without being weary and we will run without fainting.
A great way for the Christian to exercise is to witness of Jesus
to those who are need of a Saviour.
Jesus commanded, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me." (Acts 1:8)
A witness is one who tells what he knows.
Our real reason for living is to witness.
Witnessing keeps the prayer life alive and the Bible study up to date.
We must search the Scriptures for the answers
to the questions of those to whom we are witnessing.
How long have you been a Christian?
Are you growing?
Are you glorifying God more of this week than last week?
Are you near to God today than you were yesterday?
Is your delight in the law of the Lord
and are you meditating upon it day and night?
With God's help, we can be like trees planted by the rivers of water,
spreading forth foliage and bearing fruit.
Apart from Christ, we are like the chaff, without any hope of life.
We must grow, grow, grow, grow until that wonderful day
when we shall see Jesus face-to-face and be like Him.
"If God can make of an ugly seed,
With a bit of earth and air and dew and rain,
sunshine and shade, a flower so wondrous fair,
what can He make of a soul like you,
with the Bible and faith and prayer, and the Holy Spirit,
if you do His will and trust in His love and care."
-- Author unknown
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White