Theology, Piety, and Practice
How do we Christians grow? The answer is the Word of God and prayer. There are different ways we get the Word, and different contexts in which we pray. We get the word in various ways and we ask God for growth in prayer. So I challenge you to pray for growth, and seek the word for its incisive truths.
The Word of God promotes the Word. As the means of growth. For example, Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
These “means” work because of the Holy Spirit takes a personal interest in seeing that Christians grow by them. These means of grace do not have some magic property in and of themselves. Rather it is the Holy Spirit who enlivens them. The Holy Spirit takes the reading of the word, the preaching, the Sacraments, and makes it do its work. It is like when a piece of metal is cold you can touch it and not be harmed, but when it is red hot it will burn through flesh, wood, and even other metal. This is what the Holy Spirit does. He works in the Word and prayer and makes them red hot so that they can burn through the thoughts and intentions of our hard, stony hearts.
The ground of the Holy Spirit’s work is the work of Christ. What the Spirit is doing when we grow is he is applying to us the benefits earned by the Lord Jesus in his obedience to the Father. Our Lord Jesus did not only reconcile us to the Father. That is just step one. He also earned salvation in the broadest use of that term for us. This includes the resurrection of the body, life everlasting, eternal peace, joy, love and happiness, the family of God to enjoy forever, the power to overcome remaining sin and one day the end of all sin and its effects in our lives.
Growth is never complete this side of glory. We strive toward maturity in this life, but never find it. We always have a tension of just and yet in need of forgiveness. Like Evan always says, “we never outgrow the Gospel.” The real power in the Christian life does not come from within. It is not in unlocking some secret dormant potential. The power of the Christian life comes from the assurance we have that we have been definitively reconciled to the Lord Jesus Christ. In this sense, the Christian life begins, perseveres, and ends in glory in light of the Gospel