Summary: We have not arrived yet! Spiritual growth is a continuous process from start to finish. Our spiritual growth will be determined by the choices we make along the way.
Title: The Growth Choice
Text: “Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” II Peter 3:18
Thesis: We have not arrived yet! Spiritual growth is a continuous process from start to finish. Our spiritual growth will be determined by the choices we make along the way.
Series: Life’s Healing Choices (Saddleback Resources)
I have never run a marathon and it is unlikely that I ever will. Marathon runners initially never run more than twenty miles in their training so the last six miles is something of a no-man’s-land. I would guess that dehydration, cramps, blisters and the like have taken their toll when a runner hits-the-wall between miles sixteen and eighteen and then a couple of miles later, they enter no-man’s-land at mile twenty. It’s a place the runner has never been before and all the marathoner can do is push on toward the finish line. It does not matter that they are passing first-aid stations where they see other runners lying on cots receiving IV drips to replenish their fluids. It does not matter that other runners are doubled up and nauseous. They keep on running and running and in the case of the 2005 Chicago Lakeshore Marathon, they ran an extra mile they did not anticipate running. It seems the organizers miscalculated the distance and laid out a 27.2 mile course rather than the typical 26.2 mile marathon.
Though an imperfect analogy, the Christian life is not a dash. It is a marathon. Sometimes we hit-the-wall, so to speak or find ourselves going into one of those no-man’s lands in life or running further and longer than we bargained to run. And just as people drop out of a marathon for various reasons, sometimes people drop out of “race that is set before us” as followers of Christ.
The writer to the Hebrews, wrote of the Christian life as a marathon, urging us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1
Our text today, does not use a race model but opts for a growth model to encourage us in the Christian life. Paul urges us to “continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Inferred in the term “growth” is the idea of continuance. We are urged to keep growing over the years. The idea is to keep on keeping on.
You do not have to keep on keeping on. You do not have to grow in your faith. Keeping on keeping on is a choice. Continuing to grow as a Christian is a choice… it is the Growth Choice. And when we make that choice we set about being intentional about the next leg of the race we are running and being more Christ-like this time next year than we are today.
So what is entailed in deciding to grow in Christ over the years in order to finish our Christian lives well? How do we continue to grow in Christ?
I. Be plugged into Christ
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing….” John 15:4-8
The first and most important thing we do is stay plugged into Christ. The analogy Jesus used in John 15 was that of a branch remaining attached to the vine.
Jesus always used illustrations or word pictures or images that his listeners could capture in their minds-eye. Vineyards were as vivid in lives of the people of Israel as vineyards are vivid in the lives of people living in Napa Valley, CA. They understood that vineyards are very labor intensive operations. They of necessity must be pruned mercilessly. Some branches are fruit-bearing and some are not. So the non-fruit-bearing branches are lopped off so as to not waste the water and nutrients from the soil on branches that produce nothing.
Jesus said that he is the vine and his followers are the branches and it is his hope that his followers will be fruit-bearing branches. What distinguishes the fruit-bearing from the non fruit-bearing people is that profession and practice are consistent. Words and deeds are consistent. Hearing the Word of God and doing the Word of God are consistent.
While vines and branches may be a little obscure for some of us, we do get the image of an electrical appliance and an electrical outlet.
Our son-in-law lobbied for and received a very special gift this past Christmas… a Montel Williams Living Well HealthMaster. It is more than just a blender. It emulsifies fruits and vegetables. It makes smoothies and ice cream. It makes robust soups and sauces. The Living Well HealthMaster replaces twenty kitchen appliances and does thirty-one jobs. It is the one appliance you cannot live without. The motor is large enough to be an outboard motor on a boat. It is a two horsepower powerhouse that spins the stainless steel blades at the amazing rate of 3,000 rpms and is so powerful it can reduce chunks of concrete to powder and still be as good as new.