2003-07-22 - Christian Growth
Originally Published 2000-09-12
1 Peter 4:1,2 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
"A question that I have, is how in the world do people pray constantly, read the bible regularly and attend church weekly and still (unknowingly to them) misconstrue the Bible and Christian faith? I know several people who do this and worst of all, the sins that they are committing they excuse by saying it is "Gods will". One such example is a woman who does all the above (reading the Bible,ect..) but starting dating a guy "who is a Christian man and is having trouble with his wife"! When asked why she would be dating a married man she replies "God told me to" or "I believe it is God's will that we be together". There are other examples I could name that don't so directly contradict God's word, but I what I am concerned about is how can these people seemingly do all the right things and get nothing out of it? How is that possible, and how possible is it that it can happen to me?"
Everyone, without exception, lives their Christian faith inconsistently. We know that God has called us to a higher calling. But as long as we live we struggle to put aside the sin which so easily entangles us, and to put on the righteousness of Christ. It is a spiritual battle which the Apostle Paul recognized in himself. (Romans 7:14-25) It is no different with us today.
There are certainly various levels of maturity in the Christian life among Christians. Some are new to faith, other have been walking with Christ for 30, 40, or 50+ years. But growth in Christ is more than simply a matter of time added up. Real growth takes place when we apply those truths we glean from God's Word, fellowship, and discipleship.
Many Christians grow comfortable in their faith. They begin to justify sins that they think are not "really" that bad. This can lead to bigger sins or to falling deeper into particular sins. And this process, once begun, can often seem to progress unnoticed in the life of the person.
We know that a sinful lifestyle is not God's will for our lives. "For this is the will of God, your sanctification..." 1 Thessalonians 4:3 God's will for us is that we not indulge in sinful practices. So anyone who is knowingly transgressing God's revealed standards and will in the Bible, is not following God's will. Even if they say they are following God's will, it doesn't mean they are. I could assert that I am a bowl of spaghetti, but my assertion does not make it true.
There are a couple of practical applications for us. One regards our prayer life and Bible study. Prayer and Bible study will choke the life out of sin. Just as that is true, it is also true that sin will choke the life out of prayer and Bible study. So one wise application is to focus on those things that will drive us from sin and to the Lord.
Another application, if we have become comfortable in our Christian walk, is to pray that the Lord would reveal to us those areas in our lives that He is unhappy with. We could pray that He might send someone into our lives to rebuke us in those areas that need to be addressed. This is not an easy application, but the Christian life is one of radical commitment to Christ. It is a tough road to progress toward Christlikeness. But on that road there are great rewards. As Scripture says,
"But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:7,8
Soli Deo Gloria,