The Lie About Christian Growth


There's a lie that most Christians have been taught - either blatantly or indirectly.  The lie that many of us have taught and many of us believe is that grace is the work of God that gets us in, but our own work is what changes us.   

We believe the lie that the Christian life is about what we need to do. After being freed by the Gospel, many of us walked straight back to the chains of the law and bound ourselves to chains by believing that it was now up to us.  But here's the problem... the Gospel isn't just about what happened, the Gospel is about what happens daily. 

In Christian circles, this terminology often gets referred to as "sanctification."  Sanctification means "to be made holy," and the idea is that as Christians we grow in holiness and the likeness of Christ as we grow in our relationships with God.  

And this growth is important. Sanctification is the inevitable result of justification.  Grace also effects the Christian life. The grip of grace will inevitably effect the way a Christian wants to live as a worker, a neighbor, a spouse, and a parent.  

What does Christian Growth Look Like?

But the important question about Christian growth must be, "How?"  

The Lutheran theologian, Gerhard Forde once suggested, "Sanctification is thus simply the art of getting used to justification."  As grace does it's work on your sin problem, it also does a work on your life.  When grace gets a hold of you, it doesn't just change how you stand before God, it changes you relate to the world.  

Consider the words of Paul in Romans, *"Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  (Romans 5:20-21)*

@@Maybe sanctification is more regressive than progressive.@@ 

I'm not suggesting that there is not growth, not at all. But I am suggesting that growth is the result of a growing knowledge of the depth of sin and the abundance of the grace and mercy of Jesus.  Does the Spirit produce in the Christian love, joy, peace, and patience?  Yes.  And he does that as the Spirit exposes us to the reality that our sin is an even bigger problem than we thought it was and grace is more scandalous than we imagined.  Sanctification often appears regressive, because what seems like moving backwards - realizing you are worse than you thought - is actually a move forward.  

When a Christian grows, they don't sin less. In fact, they realize how big the problem of sin is. And so as they find a way to fix one habitual sin, they realize the problem gets much deeper to the core of their being.   I would argue that the more and more we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more we understand exactly how “poor and wretched” we are.  And as we realize the depth and width of our sin, we have a greater awareness of the depth and width of the love that is ours in Christ.  

@@Growth is not about needing the cross less, it's about the cross doing it's work daily.@@  And as we are acutely aware of the unmerited favor that's been given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus, it effects our daily lives. Our being made right with God shapes our life as followers of Jesus.  Our justification effects our sanctification. The grace that saves us also is also the grace that changes us.   

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