What comes to mind when you read the phrase “growing in grace”? Most Christians immediately think of growing in Christlike character and displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). And those same Christians would likely state that “growing in grace” further consists of consistent participation in the disciplines of grace: Bible study, prayer, church attendance, service, Christian fellowship, and so on. These answers have great merit, and we all desire to see these actions and character traits increasing in our own lives and the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters.
But there is something more fundamental that lies behind all of this visible growth; “growing in grace” is growing in our understanding of the truths of the Gospel. We grow in our understanding of the sinfulness of man. We grow in our understanding of the holiness of God. We grow in our understanding of the price Jesus Christ paid on the cross for our forgiveness and redemption. As our understanding of the working of God’s grace in our lives grows, we are said to be growing in grace.
What we believe about the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is far more important than how we behave. Remember, the Pharisees were always on their best behavior when it came to obeying the Law of Moses . . . yet that did not “score points” for them with God; instead, they were confronted by the wrath of Jesus. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He thundered. “You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). The Pharisees imagined that they were made righteous by what they did; but the truth is that we are declared righteous because of what we believe.
As we walk further in and further up into our understanding of our own spiritual bankruptcy and fallen condition, the more we find ourselves growing in grace. Growing in grace is understanding the fact that we are sinners by nature and by habit. And as we comprehend our awful moral bankruptcy, we are drawn more fully into our understanding of the unearned and undeserved mercy, favor, and blessing of God. This is what it means at the deepest level when we are said to be growing in grace: when we have a deeper appreciation for His amazing grace!
So . . . how much have you grown in grace over the past few weeks, months, and years? As our understanding of the Gospel grows, our motivation for new obedience also grows. The more we rejoice in what Jesus has done for us in the past and promises to do for us in the future, the more we are motivated to walk by faith and not by sight, living in gratitude and thanksgiving. This mindset is crystallized by Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians.
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV)
This is life. This is liberty. This is growing in grace! Paul is telling us that growing in grace is growing in our gratitude and reverence for God. Simply because God is who He is, He is worthy of our praise and obedience. Let me ask you a question: when you meditate on who God is with all that He has done for us in the past and all that He has promised to do in the future, could there be any greater motivation for doing what God has called us to do? I think not!
When the grace of the Gospel has seized us, we are motivated purely out of a sense of reverence and thanksgiving. We are not driven by what we hope to receive from God, but rather because of all that we already have received in promises fulfilled and those which will be fulfilled in the future. God has never broken a promise in the past and He will not break any of them in the future either. “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Samuel 15:29 NIV). And this is the greatest motivation the world has ever known to live a life that is pleasing in His sight.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!