Summary: This sermon seeks to encourage persons to get off the performance treadmill to experience growth in grace and Christian maturity through an intimate relationship with Christ.
Most of us have been educated in the “school of performance.” In fact, Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” From the very beginning of our lives we’re taught that we must perform properly in order to get what we want. There’s a direct relationship between how hard we work and how much we’re rewarded. For example, “Be good & you’ll get a cookie.” “Clean your room and you’ll get your allowance.” “Practice hard and you’ll make the varsity team.” “Study in college and you’ll get a better job.” And on the list could go.
The tragedy of this world’s philosophy is that we become so conditioned by it we carry it over into our Christian experience. The grace of God that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) loses its meaning when we’re bombarded with the pressure to perform. And this pressure often comes packaged in religious verbiage such as, “God helps those who help themselves.” It sounds good; the only problem is, it’s not biblical! There’s only one place where you and I can stop performing and that’s in the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ – He who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The same grace that saves us is what sustains us and enables us to grow. It teaches us how to live here and now – without performing!
Peter exhorted all of us to “grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And if we’re going to experience progress in our personal relationship, transformation in our inner self, success in our outward behavior and growth in the grace of Jesus Christ we must first of all:
I. Recognize a Need for Growing in Grace
Peter’s statement points that out clear enough. And the truth is this is the easy part, that’s not hard at all. For example, Bob had been a Christian for about 6 years and had come to Dallas to head up a major city wide evangelistic campaign, hosting a daily radio program and working with some of the largest churches in America. He was beginning to think he was close to reaching the ultimate in Christian maturity - until one day he took his wife shopping at the mall. Crowded and busy like this time of year parking was at a premium. Seeing 2 empty spaces right near the entrance as he approached his “answer to prayer” a guy driving a shiny new sports car pulled into that spot straddling the line.
At first Bob thought it was an accident, so he rolled down his window and said nicely, “Sir, you probably haven’t noticed, but you’ve taken up 2 spaces.” He gave Bob a quick glance and with a smirk said, “I know it.” As he got out of his car, Bob got a good look at him. He was middle-aged, with flecks of gray in his well groomed hair. His shirt was open down the front, revealing numerous gold chains dangling over what looked like a “chest toupee.” Bob felt instant and total dislike for that man. A little more forcefully Bob responded, “Well, would you please repark it, so I can use one of the spaces?” Holding out his arm to escort a much younger-looking girl, the man replied, “No.”
At that moment all those years of being a child of God didn’t mean a thing to Bob. His mood was now murderous. “Buddy,” He said through clenched teeth, “if you don’t move that car I’m going to stuff you in the tailpipe and move it for you!” Bob started to get out of his car, fully intending to do what he said. However, his wife Amy looked at him as if he’d lost his mind, and said so. Bob told her that it wasn’t his mind that he was worried about losing; it was that parking space! Suddenly Bob stopped. “What are you doing?” He asked himself. “You were perfectly willing – in fact, excited to give up your thriving, lucrative business to go into full-time ministry, but you are ready to fight another person rather than give up that parking space!”
Having finally come to his senses, He spent the next several minutes maneuvering his car through the lot, driving mostly in reverse. His goal was to keep the guy with the foreign car from seeing his rear bumper – the one with the sticker that said, “Smile! Jesus loves you.”
Have you ever been there? In spite of a sincere and genuine faith in Jesus Christ, have you ever suddenly found yourself acting in a stupid manner, as if you never heard of the gospel? If we’re totally honest, we’d all admit to such times. All of us can forget who we are and what we believe in an unexpected moment of time. We’ve all heard those voices, either real or imagined: “I thought you were a Christian!” comes the sneer. “I thought I was too,” we respond in disgust. “How could I do such a thing?” Of course besides “unexpected moments,” Christians can choose to live in a determined and long-term manner that’s contrary to what God’s Word says as well. In fact, we all have areas of our lives where we face ongoing struggles with temptation and failure. And we sometimes wonder if we’ll ever begin making progress in this Christian life. Growing in grace begins by being honest with ourselves and God by Recognizing a Need for Growing in Grace. Let’s also look at: