Growth in the Christian Life, Part 1

Dear blog reader(s), today I begin a three part series on growth in the Christian life. My goal in writing this is to inform us as to the means God uses to bring about our conformity to Christlikeness, as well as inspire us to entrust ourselves to him–to the one who laid down his life for us (Mark 10:45), rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:25), and will not relent until his purpose for our lives is complete (Phil. 1:6). ___________________________________________________________________

David can still remember waking up in the morning, stumbling out of bed to head into the kitchen, and seeing the light beaming out from his father’s study. Each morning his dad woke up early to read the Bible and pray. Witnessing the consistency of his father’s devotional life left an impression on David that remains to the present day.[1]

The Apostle Paul’s words to his young protégé Timothy bring into focus the aim of a Christian’s life: “Have nothing to do with irreverent silly myths. Rather train [or discipline, NASB] yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). The Bible depicts a Christian as someone who has been given a new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27; cf. Rom. 8:9-17), been born from above (Jn. 3:3), and whose desires and aspirations are now to please God (Matt. 13:44-46). Above all, their lives are characterized by a “settled intent” to follow Christ.[2] This “settled intent” is the result of being “born again.” J. I. Packer defines regeneration (that is, the new birth, or “being born again”) as “God renovating the heart, the core of a person’s being, by implanting a new principle of desire, purpose, and action.”[3]

The goal of our Christian life, then, is to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15); it is to “go on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1). Paul told the Colossians that his goal as a minister was to “present everyone mature in Christ” (1:28). Maturing in Christ “means to become increasingly like Christ in our thinking, moral character, and devotion to God.”[4] Perhaps we’ve read over those verses too quickly where Paul exhorts believers to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), or to “Be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1)?[5]

This raises the question: How do I grow up in Christ? Without intending to be comprehensive, I would suggest that growth comes: 1) as we avail ourselves to the means of grace (defined in tomorrow’s blog), 2) as God uses suffering to refine us, and 3) as we unite ourselves to a local expression of Christ’s body, the church, where we receive discipline and instruction from other believers under the oversight of biblically qualified pastors/elders (Heb. 10:24-25; 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2).

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll explain what the “means of grace” are so as to increase our understanding of how God intends to draw us into closer communion with him. Below are some resources to look into if you’d like to do some additional reading on your own.

Thanks for stopping by!

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[1] David Mathis, “How Should We Remember?” Tabletalk 40:12 (December 2016): 23.

[2] Dallas Willard, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship (New York: HarperOne, 2006), 7.

[3] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1993), 157.

[4] Tom Ascol, “Growing in Maturity,” Tabletalk 40:11 (November 2016): 17.

[5] In no way am I suggesting that Christ came solely to be an example. He came to be our substitute (Mark 10:45). In calling us to imitate Christ, Paul is urging believers to “have the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5). Here, I follow Jason B. Hood: “[In] neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament is imitation a matter of identical action or exact duplication. Imitation is a matter of mindset, such as a willingness to forgive and readiness to stoop in humility” (Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern [Downers Grove: IVP, 2013], 74).

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