The Christian’s Calling (5)
…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.18
A consistent message
Peter’s word of exhortation to the believers in Asia Minor is echoed throughout the Scriptures. Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to grow in Him, to learn Him better, love Him more, increase in Him, and live as His witnesses in the world.
This is the work of God’s Spirit, Who brings us into the Presence of Jesus and His glory through the Word of God, and works powerfully to transform us into the likeness of Christ, making us willing and able to live as pleases the Lord (2 Cor. 3.12-18; Phil. 2.13).
Paul, John, James, and the writer of Hebrews concur with Peter that it is every believer’s duty and privilege to grow in the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 3.1-3; Col. 1.27, 28; Heb. 5.11-6.9; Jms. 1.21-25; 1 Pet. 2.1, 2; 1 Jn. 3:1-3; etc.). We do not come to faith in Jesus Christ as fully mature believers, ready and able to serve the Lord in our Personal Mission Fields. We must be equipped for this work, so that we can grow up to wield the gifts God has given us for serving others.
But growing in the Lord is not just a matter of becoming more adept at doing the work of ministry (Eph. 4.11, 12). Peter says we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and not merely in the skills for ministry we need to make our contribution to building the church. Without continuous growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, we won’t be inclined either to acquire the ministry skills we need or to use the gifts God has given us for working our Personal Mission Field.
Disciples who are making disciples have to work hard at growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (Phil. 2.12).
The inward motivation
The motivation for ministry as a disciple of Jesus Christ comes from within, from our souls. Only as we increase in the mind, heart, and conscience of the Lord will we devote our lives to following and serving Him. As Paul put it, we need to keep learning Jesus, so that the new person we are and are becoming in Him will overtake and replace the old person we were before we began to follow Him (Eph. 4.17-24).
We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16), but unless we work to improve that mind, we’ll never have the outlook, worldview, or analytical abilities of Jesus. We won’t think about ourselves or others in the way Jesus does, plan like Him, analyze situations from His perspective, or know what we ought to do. We develop the mind of Christ as we bring all our thoughts and all our thinking into subjection to Him, and in line with His Word (2 Cor. 10.3-5).
We have the heart of the Lord, given to us by His Spirit (Ezek. 36.26, 27), to help us grow in love for God and our neighbors (Matt. 22.34-40). But we must nurture the love of God in our hearts before we will live that love in our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. The Law of God can be particularly helpful to us in understanding the requirements of love, deepening our delight in Him and our desire to serve Him as disciples of our Lord. As we grow in the mind of Christ, we will learn to love His Law as He did, and to fulfill it in words and deeds of love for God and neighbors (Matt. 5.17-19).
Our conscience has been renewed in Jesus as well, so that we can have the right values and priorities at work in our wills (Heb. 9.14). But our renewed conscience needs to be daily fortified in the Law and Word of God, so that we will the Lord’s will in all things (Rom. 2.14, 15).
As we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus in our soul, the members of our bodies – our eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, and all the rest – will learn to follow Jesus and to glorify God in everything we do. As a person is in the depths of his soul, so he will be in the everyday details of life (Job 33.3; Prov. 4.23). Thus we will grow as disciples and in our ability to make disciples like Jesus.
Nurturing the soul
Like any purposeful, fruitful growth, increasing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord takes time and attention. It requires the right tools, daily discipline, goals, objectives, and benchmarks, and, in every case, others to help us bring forth the fruit of our salvation. And as much as we need these things to grow in our own discipleship, so we need to help our fellow disciples acquire and use them as well.
Jesus taught His first disciples that they must take up certain disciplines to nurture their souls for following Him. They have to learn how to pray – fervently, frequently, and from a clean heart (Matt. 6.5-13; Lk. 11.1-13, 18.1). They will set aside time for fasting, to train their bodies to be in proper submission to their souls (Matt. 9.15). A good portion of their time will be given to listening to Jesus as He speaks to them from His Word (Lk. 10.38-42). Through His apostles, He instructs those who would follow Him to take up other disciplines, such as gathering with other believers regularly for worship (Heb. 10.25), singing and giving thanks in the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5.18-21), encouraging one another in love and good works (Heb. 10.24), serving the needs of others (Jn. 13.1-15), giving freely and liberally for the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 16.1-4), and keeping a close watch over our souls and lives, so that we make the best use of all our time for following the Lord (1 Tim. 4.16: Eph. 5.15-17).
It’s possible that we may have these disciplines in place already. But we must always seek to improve our use of the disciplines that shape our soul for growth, so that we might enter more fully and constantly into the life of abundant blessing and discipleship to which we have been called.
The call to follow Jesus is a call to a disciplined life, one designed to help us make progress in the Lord throughout the course of our lives. We cannot follow Jesus unless we are practicing such disciplines as these, submitting to the Spirit as He shapes and nurtures our soul for growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
If we pursue these disciplines diligently, we can expect to see certain evidences of true and lively faith issuing from within us through the words and deeds of our daily lives: the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22, 23), the tokens of love (1 Cor. 13.4-7), the holiness that comes from obedience to God’s Law (2 Cor. 7.1), power for bearing witness to Jesus (Acts 1.8), the gifts and abilities we need for serving God in our everyday lives (1 Cor. 12.7-11), and a deeper commitment to making disciples for Jesus (2 Tim. 2.2).
To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow Him with every aspect of our lives, beginning in our soul. Get discipleship right, there in the depths of your being, and the rest of your life will fall into line as the Lord intends.
1. What does someone look like who is growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?
2. What’s the difference between the mind, the heart, and the conscience? How do these contribute to or detract from growth in the Lord?
3. What disciplines have you found most helpful in growing in the Lord?
Next steps – Preparation: Is your practice of spiritual disciplines what it should be to sustain growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord? How can you improve your use of these disciplines?
T. M. Moore
Knowing, Loving, and Serving Jesus
This week our daily Scriptorium teaching letter wraps up the book of Ruth. Next week we begin a five-part study of Colossians. Every day provides worship, meditation, reflection, and prayer. Use the pop-up to subscribe to Scriptorium.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.