Summary: This is the first in a series of sermons based on "The Pursuit Of Holiness" by Jerry Bridges.
My Role In My Spiritual Growth – Cleaning Up
A farmer goes out and plows his field. He sows the seed. He cultivates the plants and fertilizes them. All the while he knows that the plants grow because of forces outside of himself. The farmer is utterly dependent on forces he can not control. He can not force the seeds to germinate. He can not produce the rain that is needed for the plants to grow. He can not provide the sun shine that gives the plants energy. For a successful harvest, the farmer is dependent on the things that only God can provide.
Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate, he can not expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a real sense, the farmer is in partnership with God. The farmer can not do what God must do and God will not do what the farmer must do.
Christian growth – discipleship – is a joint venture between God and the Christian. No one can grow as a disciple without God doing His part – but no one can grow as disciple without doing their part either. God has given us the tools to walk as disciples – but it is the responsibility of the Christian to walk. Second Peter three eighteen says:
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)
This verse gives us some insight into Christian discipleship. First it shows us that diligence and effort are required to become a disciple. We are commanded in this verse to “grow”. Christian growth is not totally automatic. Second this verse gives us insight that growth is a process which will take a lifetime. There will always be areas that we will need to grow in spiritually. We will never reach full spiritual maturity in our lifetime. The pursuit of discipleship is a life long effort.
We as Christians talk much about our salvation. How Jesus defeated sin on the cross and how if we believe in Him, we have salvation. But we do not as readily talk about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the purpose of His presence. We do not talk about overcoming sin in our lives and our responsibility to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We emphasize salvation but many times and we ignore sanctification. (Sanctification is the process of becoming like Christ.) Let me give you three reasons why we do this:
1. In many churches we emphasize evangelism over discipleship. We are drilled with the responsibility of bringing in the lost. We are very good at telling people how to BECOME a Christian. We have an open door policy of bringing in the unsaved and we are glad when they enter – yet the back door stands wide open because we are not very good at teaching people what it means to BE a Christian.
Look with me at the Great Commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
Notice that this verse does not tell us to make “Christians” – it tells us to make “Disciples” who will practice the teachings of Jesus. Who will become “doers” of the word. We must strive for a balance of telling people how they can be saved and then instructing them after they are saved. We must help bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ. But we also must help them learn what it means to be a follower of Christ. As a people of Chirst - we must be balanced in this effort.
2. The second reason we do not talk about discipleship very much is because we are reluctant to face up to our own personal responsibility of spiritual growth. We pray for God to overcome the sin in our lives when we should be walking in obedience to His word. I am not saying that we should not pray but:
It is always easier to pray than it is to OBEY.
We must strive to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That takes work and effort. It does not happen instantly or automatically. We are responsible to do those things that will help us to grow closer to Christ.
3. The third reason we do not talk about discipleship is that we do not understand the proper distinction between God’s work in our spiritual growth process and our own responsibility. We struggle with the question, “What am I to do myself, and what am I to rely on God to do?” Only when we have a proper understanding of the spiritual growth process will we understand our responsibility. The spiritual growth process is not unlike the physical growth process. When a child is born he or she will grow if all the right elements are in place – growth is a natural process, but the child must have nutrition, exercise and rest. The same is true in our spiritual development. It is interesting to note that the Bible talks about the same elements for spiritual growth that are found in physical growth. Here are three verses that prove the point: