“Growth In Grace”   Galatians 5:22-26  2 Peter 1:3-8; 3:18          July 30, 2006

 

SI:  Wrap up study of fruit of Spirit, ease our way back into Galatians.

Start on Galatians 6 next Sunday and finish by end of August.

 

INTRO:  Last March I sat down at kitchen table.  Opened tomato seed packets.

   Started putting them into the planting trays. 

It was hard to believe that in a few months those seeds would be garden plants—

   and that we would be eating the produce.

   But they did.  They sprouted.  They grew.  Flowered and bore tomatoes. 

 

When you are born again as a child of God—God plants a seed in you.

   This seed called many things—eternal life, divine nature, new self,

   image of the Creator, likeness of Christ, holiness, grace and knowledge of Christ

The life of God in you by virtue of your union with Christ

 

This seed has huge potential to grow and spread into every part of your being.

   And it doesn’t stay hidden, it finds expression in your life in beautiful ways.

   It produces fruit.  Those fruit have been our study this summer.

 

Means that if you are a Christian—everything is in there.

   You have the divine nature, you have eternal life,

   you have the seed of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness . . .

You don’t have to go get it, import it in some way—it’s in there!

   It simply has to grow.

 

I hope that our study of the fruit of the Spirit has encouraged you.

   But I am aware that it is possible, in fact probably likely,

   that some of you have actually gotten discouraged by this study.

 

Week after week as we have studied each fruit, you look at yourself,

   and don’t see as much happening as you wish.

Some patience, but it seems overshadowed by you fits of anger.

Some peace, but often you find yourself paralyzed by worry.

   And you wonder—am I ever going to change?

   When am I going to have these fruit of Spirit in a glorious way.

 

For a tomato lover—July and August are the months.  When the vines are full.

   When is it going to be July and August in my spirit?

You might get discouraged because it seems like that time hasn’t come.

   So it’s important for you to know what Bible says about growth.

   Keep you from getting discouraged.  Keep you focused on right things.

 

The Bible uses several word pictures to help us understand our lives as Christians.

Describes it as a pilgrimage or journey.

   We walk with the Spirit, we are strangers, aliens heading to home country.

   Exodus of the Israelites, journey through the desert is the great historical example.

   Abraham’s life.  Paul’s missionary journeys.  Even Jesus’ three years of ministry.

 

Another word picture is that of a battle, warfare.

   Called to fight the good fight.  Put on the armor of God.

   Joshua, the conquest of Canaan, David’s wars—all historical pictures.

   Jesus depicted as conquering Satan by his death on the cross.

A related word picture that Paul uses sporting event.

   boxing, running a race (going into training, winning the victor’s crown)

 

But the word picture that we are going to focus on this morning is growth.

   Compared to growth of a person—conception, infancy, young man, maturity.

      Bible speaks of drinking milk, eating meat

   Compared to growth of plants—seeds, roots, leaves, fruit, multiplication

      fruit trees, oak trees, vines, wheat

 

It is this image of growth that comes across in Paul’s teaching of fruit of Spirit.

   Fruit grows on trees, or on vines.  Doesn’t just appear.  Not placed on vine.

   There is a process.  An organic process that is mysterious.

 

So with our study of fruit of the Spirit fresh in our minds—

   look at words of the Apostles—some from Peter, some from Paul—

   a few of the fundamentals of spiritual growth—fruitbearing

   or as Peter calls it, growth in grace. 

Three fundamental truths:

   1.  Growth starts with life.

   2.  Growth is a process.

   3.  Growth requires grace.


MP#1  Growth starts with life.

If a thing isn’t alive, it can’t grow.  Trees can grow, rocks can’t.

   Growth is the principle of life working in the whole organism from the inside out.

   Just as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical. 

 

Spiritual growth starts with spiritual life.  “You must be born again.”

   When you are born, you can start to grow, because there is life.

Did you notice the way Psalm 1 puts it.

   The righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of water.  Life.

   The wicked man is like chaff.  No life.

 

This seems to be so obviously true that it’s not worth mentioning.

   But people forget this fundamental truth all the time. 

They think that spiritual growth comes by simply adding things to yourself.

   Add morals.  Add new habits, or new resolutions.

   Determine to be a better person.

   Add God to your life.  Add Jesus to your life.

 

You can add all sorts of good things,

   but it doesn’t make you grow if you are not alive.

You can plant big handful of chaff by a stream, add water, fertilizer—

   nothing will grow.  But if you plant a sapling—there will be growth. 

 

Let me give you a silly illustration of this, and a serious illustration—

   then make some application.

Knew a man in Florida who one day decided to be a golfer.

   Almost overnight decision—someone took him to play, this was his new thing.

Over the next two or three months, every time I saw him

   wanted to show me some new golf stuff he had bought—new club, new bag

   Once he showed me a new golf glove—white leather, button on cuff

   New golf shoes—wrench to tighten spikes

 

Question in my mind—does he really love golf, or trying to convince self.

   True golfer would have all of the same stuff—have to have clubs, balls

   but for a true golfer, these thing are a means to and end—the game’s the thing.

   Love for the game that drives them, makes better golfer—not the stuff itself.

As the months passed—he played less and less.  External additions.  No life.

Serious example—John Wesley, founder of Methodist church, 1700s

Born in a godly home, interested in religion from an early age, ministry

   Greatest desire was to be a better person.

Oxford, gathered other students in an accountability group—committed to pray,

   devotions, three hours of study together, visiting prisons, preaching,

   Other students called them the Holy Club.

 

Gave up scholarship at Oxford to sail across ocean to Georgia, missionary.

   After all these thing he had added—looked at life, no growth, not better.

Met a Moravian missionary Gottleib Spangenburg.

   Why don’t I see any growth or changes in my life and ministry?

Listen to what Wesley wrote in his diary about that conversation:

 

   He said, “My brother, I must first as you one or two questions.  Have you the witness within yourself?  Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God?”  I was surprised, and knew not what to answer.  He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”  I paused, and said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.”  “True,” replied he; “but do you know he has saved you?”  I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.”  He only added, “Do you know yourself?”

   Couldn’t answer yes.

 

If grew up Methodist—you know the rest of the story—back in London.

   Wesley went to a church service one evening, still trying to grow—nothing.

Preacher gone, layman reading preface of Luther’s commentary on Romans.

   God planted eternal life in his soul.

   From that point on, conscious of spiritual growth because he had life.

 

Have you been born again?   Conscious of vital difference between self/world?

   Jesus a part of your life or is He your life? 

   Live Christian life on day of week, certain place, not other times/places?

 

Can’t add morals to your life and grow spiritually.

   Can’t grow by saying—I’m going to be a better person.

   Can’t even grow by saying—I’m adding God to my life, adding Jesus to my life

Spiritual growth never comes by adding things to your life.

   A person can add all those things, keep adding them, adding them,

   and still not grow spiritually if he doesn’t have spiritual life.

Life comes from God.  Wants us to seek Him, ask for it, rely on him.


MP#2  Growth is a process.

It’s growth.  It’s compared to the growth of a person or a plant.

   Two things you must keep in mind about this process.

 

1.  Process that takes place over a lifetime.

It doesn’t happen suddenly—it’s progressive and gradual.  

The Bible talks about baby Christians, young Christians, and mature Christians.

   A baby doesn’t become a man overnight. 

   It happens gradually.  You see it and you don’t see it. 

 

Just know that your baby is no longer a baby—he’s a little boy.

   Then he’s no longer a boy—he’s a youth.

   Then he’s no longer a youth—he’s a man. 

It’s the same way with the seed of holiness planted in you.  Gradual.

 

Let’s move away from the word picture and examine this in theological terms.

What we’re talking about is the difference between justification/sanctification.

   Have to keep these straight.  Never understand Christian life if don’t.

 

Justification—being declared righteous and accepted in God’s sight.

   Definitive.  Act of God.  Wesley—into church condemned, came out justified.

   Through Christ you are declared a beloved son or daughter of God.

The date is not important.  If you know the date, like Wesley did, wonderful.

   If you came to faith as a little child, don’t know date—God knows it.

   Important thing is that at some definitive point, you passed from death to life.

 

Sanctification—being made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit

   When born again, seed of life, divine nature planted in you, and it grows.

Negative and positive—dying unto sin, living unto righteousness.

   Commands in Scripture to grow, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, bear fruit.

If you confuse justification and sanctification, will have problems. 

 

You may think that you have to grow into God’s acceptance. 

   More holy you are, more justified you are.

If you think that way, going to be perpetually discouraged.

   See sin in your life—instead of saying—I’m a justified child of God, fight sin.

   God won’t accept me unless I get rid of this sin. 

Instead of seeing fruit in small forms, will say—that’s not good enough for God.

   Your problem is that you believe your justification is a process. 

 

Or, on the other side, you may think that if you can just have a super-duper

   spiritually high experience, then all you struggles will be over. 

Your problems is that you believe sanctification can happen suddenly.

   If you think that way, going to be perpetually disappointed. 

 

Disappointed because you will be constantly looking for mountain top experience. 

   You will think that you can arrive spiritually by a sudden act of God.

   Ordinary means God has appointed for your growth—

   word, sacraments, prayer, fellowship—just not that exciting.

 

Growth takes a lifetime.  Cooperate with the Spirit. 

   “Not that I have already been made perfect,

   but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

How do you know if you are maturing, and producing fruit.

   You know by looking at your life over the course of time. 

If you look at your child for one day, one week would be silly to get worried

   that he’s not growing.  Of course you can’t see him grow.

   But over time, over months and years you see the growth. 

 

As you look at your life, do you see more love?  more joy?  more patience?

   Less fear, less anxiety, less discontent than two years ago?  five years ago.

One reason life in a church is so important. 

   Enables you to see in others—not just to encourage them—

   know how to look for it in yourself. 

 

2.  Process that leads to maturity.  It’s going somewhere.

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves

to distinguish good from evil.”  Heb. 5

“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become

mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Eph. 4

 

Both these speak of the maturity from infancy to adulthood.

   Not just a constant, unending process or a cycle. 

   God growing you up into maturity.  Trust him.  Cooperate with Him.

MP#3  Growth requires grace.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

What does this mean to grow in grace?  Growth and grace are inseparable. 

Grace—the unmerited favor of God.  Freely given through Jesus Christ.

   Grace rests on Christ’s perfect obedience, not ours.

   So what does it mean to grow in grace?  Some way can earn more grace?

   The answer to this question is really the key to spiritual growth.

 

Let’s go back to our earlier study of Galatians.

   Paul says that there are two ways you can life—by law or by grace.

   Those are really the two fundamental motives that can drive your life.

 

Living under law means you say—I have to prove I am a worthy person.

   I have to prove to my parents, friends, spouse, children, colleagues, self, God.

   Prove it by being successful in finances, career, love life, marriage, child rearing,

   friendships, looks, accomplishments, spiritual growth

 

For every person the lists are different, who have to prove to, what have to prove

   Probe deep enough, will discover them.

Tim Keller—Favorite pop culture example of living under law, first “Rocky” movie

   “I just want to go 15 rounds cause then I’ll know I’m not a bum.”

   Every person, something have to prove to know they’re not a bum.

This is living under law.  It never produces spiritual fruit.  Focus not on God.

 

Living under grace means that you say—I have nothing to prove to anyone.

   Because in the eyes of the only person who really matters—Judge of all the Earth

   I am fully accepted on account of the perfect record of Jesus Christ. 

 

Furthermore, God is no longer my Judge, He is my Father.

   He will no more reject me than He will reject his own Son.

Living by grace means you can look honestly at your ugliest sin,

   Yes, that is ugly, and goes even deeper than I can see,

   But I am loved and accepted by God.

 

Growing in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ means that you grow

   in your experience and understanding of this grace. 

   You put it on.  Wear it.  Live it.  Breath it.  Water and nourishment to soul. 

 

Now, let’s go back, I’m going to pick three fruit of the Spirit from our study—

   show how grace works in producing fruit in your life.

 

Start with the fruit of love. 

If you are living under law, you may approach a person with this thought:

   I’ll love this person because I hope he or she will love me back.

   If he loves me back, then I’ll know I’m a worthy person.

You love because you hope to get something in return. 

   If you don’t, then your love for the person fades.

 

If you are living under grace, growing in grace of Jesus,

   I’ll love this person because Christ has poured his love into me.

   Jesus loves me so much that he will never take away his love.  I’m loved.

   So I am free to give my love to this person, whether they return it or not.

 

Patience:  Under law you approach an irritating person and say.

   I can’t blow up at this person.  That would be embarrassing, bad form.

   I would be lowering my self to their level. 

So smile on outside, act patient, but inside you are cutting person to shreds. 

 

Living under grace, growing in the grace of Christ.

   Jesus Christ is infinitely patient with me.

I’m so slow to obey Him, so slow to move when He prompts me,

   He is always there, never screaming, never steaming.

   I can be patient with this person, have known patience.

 

Self-control:  Under the law your money, for example, is your worth and security.

You have no self-control—

   either spend without self-control because you have to have the things money

   buys to make you feel like life worthwhile.

Or you are stingy without self-control because you must have the security that

   your money gives you.

 

Grace enables you to say I don’t need to buy this thing to prove my worth—

   I have it in Christ. 

Enables you to say:  I can give my money away to people who need it to bless

   and ease their lives without fear and anxiety—because Jesus my security.

CONC:  Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

The seed of live has been planted in you by God—

   with all of it’s wonderful fruit.

 

Cooperate with the Spirit, ponder the grace of Jesus.

   Bring that grace to bear in all your struggles.

 

If you feel prompted or stirred by these words—

   don’t let that feeling fade away, fan it, feed it.

 

It’s God’s will that you grow.