Have you ever had anyone ever tell you to grow up? That’s not a pleasant thing to hear at any point in our lives. As children, we may have exasperated our parents to where they say something like this to us. We may play a prank on a friend, and they are exasperated with our actions—and they say, “Come on, man! Grow up!”
While we may not be crazy about other people saying this to us, do you believe that this is something God would ever say to his people? If so, we know this—there would be nothing malicious about it. Knowing the character of God, we know that He is holy, perfect in all His ways. So has there ever been times when God spoke to His people and told them to “grow up”?
In 2 Peter 3:18, the apostle Peter closes this second letter this way: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” God has called His people to grow. And those who are truly God’s people, who have been saved by our Lord Jesus Christ, will want to grow in Christ. They will want to know Him as he is magnified in their lives, and the maturity comes when Christ becomes more magnified and more predominant in their lives.
In our mission statement that our church adopted 18 months ago, we see again:
Arapahoe Road Baptist Church exists to worship God; evangelize our family, city, state, nation and world; disciple God’s people, minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others; and fellowship with one another.
God calls us to “go and make disciples” in the Great Commission. A disciple is that of a student, a learner who sits at the feet of the Master. Much like an apprentice who not only learns by hearing but also learns by watching and doing. A disciple identifies with the Triune God, and also spends time teaching everything that they have learned from Jesus. It is a perpetual growth. The writer of Hebrews communicates this clearly when he says:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need mile, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity (Hebrews 5:11-6:1a).
So, taking 2 Peter 3:18, let’s breakdown what it means to grow forward, being disciples of Christ who disciple others. And discipleship is the key. I love what Steve Lutz shared in a deacon’s meeting a few weeks ago on this subject when he said that discipleship “is taking someone from one stage of spiritual maturity to another.” We all expect this to happen in life, but it’s happening less and less.
Immaturity looks as one content in remaining a ‘child’ in the faith. And what do children look like? Self-absorbed (“That’s mine!” “I want to be first!”), against authority (“Johnny, make your bed, please!” “I don’t want to!”), and irresponsible for their own actions. In fact, we can go back to the Garden of Eden. They saw the fruit was pleasing to their eyes, they wanted to be like God knowing good from evil, and then when caught, they played the blame game.
As we as parents have the responsibility to help our children stay safe and function in society, so has God birthed the church and all her members to grow up into maturity. While the world appeals to the 15-35 demographic and ignores that which is mature, God is calling for grown-ups!
Grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to ‘grow in the grace… of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’? I would imagine that the majority of people who think about grace merely think of this in terms of when someone comes to Christ—only on the plain of justification! Not so! Everyday we must grow in the grace of Christ.
Notice the context of why Peter wrote this. The first word of verse 18 is the word “But….” In verses 14-17, Peter seeks to encourage the saints. False teachers are prominent. Peter calls them “ignorant and unstable” because they come in and twist the Scriptures. This is nothing new—the Apostle Paul dealt with false teachers constantly in his ministry.
What motivates false teachers? For one, power! They love making rules for people to follow that will show everyone how devout they are. Which breeds fear in the followers! Jehovah’s Witnesses have a quota for their followers of how many doors they knock on. Mormons have rules ranging from abstaining from caffeine to being baptized for the dead. The good works that they do from the outside look so wonderful—but inside is destructive because they are counting on their own righteousness to bring eternal life.
Another is greed. In 2 Peter 2:2: “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” In all of these area, it’s their fallen, selfish nature that is fueling their earthly walk—whether they do good deeds or evil deeds.
But we are not simply to grow to fight back the outward falsehoods. We grow in grace to fight the flesh. We fight against the sin that still lurks in our hearts. Karl Menninger in his book Whatever Became of Sin? wrote back in 1973:
The very word ‘sin,’ which seems to have disappeared was once a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. . . . But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?
D.A. Carson noted that when one attempts to do evangelism in universities, students generally do not have any idea of sin. “They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin.” But the Apostle Paul says that our sin is great! But that God’s grace is greater. Grace by its very definition is not earned! So we are to grow in God’s grace. How? Look with me at Matthew 11:25-30:
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God’s gracious will was to give knowledge and understanding because of his “gracious will.” The only way we can know the Son is because the Father chooses to reveal the Son to us. We can’t earn it, we can’t climb there, we can’t obtain it by our effort. We don’t have that equipment. But to those whom the Father reveals the Son, he says, “Come.” Are you laboring in this life? Are you laboring for the love of Christ through your own obedience—but failing? He will give you rest. At the beginning and all during your Christian walk, “rest” is this: trusting in the work of Christ for your salvation and growth rather than yourself.
Whereas false teachers and atheists actually have something in common with many Christians. Again, the false teachers are there through power, greed, and sensual desires to use other people to feed their own desires. It’s all about self. Then you have the Christian church member who struggled with whether they are good enough for God to love them. So they work: they get on every committee, they show up at every church service, and are busy, busy, busy for the Lord. Is this bad? It depends on your motive. Are you doing this because you are resting in Christ’s work, and doing it out of love? Or are you doing this because you are working for your own rest, so Christ will love you for all you do?
Or what about the Christian who operates on fear? They know what Christ has done for them, and they know others need to hear—but they are afraid. Why? They look at themselves and their skills, their energy, their own resources and say, “I can’t do it!” So again, instead of resting in Christ’s work and His energy and resources, they look at their own. In all three of these cases, each person is relying on themselves and not on Christ. The gospel needs to grip their hearts not just in becoming a Christian—but as a believer.
Eugene O’Neill insightfully wrote, “Man is broken and needs mending. The grace of God is the glue.” Growing in God’s grace is growing continually in the reliance of His work in us, of Christ being formed in us. But the grace of God is missed, even in those who call themselves Christian.
You have one who attends church everytime the door is open. He wants to be at every event, be on every team, and wants to absorb everything preached, taught, and conversed. On the outside everything looks good. But what about on the inside? On the inside is a desire to try to earn God’s love and to show God that we love him. Rather than relying on God’s grace as a motive, we are putting in our works and drawing from our own energies and resources.
Karl Menninger, Whatever Happened to Sin? (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1973), 14-15. Quoted in Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007), 17.
Peter Barnes, “What? Me? A Sinner?” The Banner of Truth, April 2004, 21. Quoted in Bridges, 18.