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TEXT: II Peter 3:18
SUBJECT: Watson on Redemption Applied #9: Growth in Grace
Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll continue the Puritan study we began a couple of months ago. It's called Thomas Watson on the Application of Redemption. The sinner's salvation is the work of the Trinity. The Father plans it; the Son purchases it; the Holy Spirit applies it.
Thus far, we've looked at eight parts of the work. They are: faith, effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, assurance, peace, and joy. Now we move on to part nine, which is
"Growth in Grace".
Before we get to what the Puritan says, let's take a quick look at what the Apostle says! At the end of his second letter, Peter tells his readers-then and now-to "grow in grace". The verse is not advisory, it's a command. And it's not fulfilled in a one-time act of the will, but requires an ongoing commitment. God commands us to
"Keep on growing in the grace and in the
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".
The command applies to everyone equally and at all times. The newest convert, the holiest saint, and everyone in-between must grow in grace. You received the order the day you were converted. It's high time to start obeying it!
What does it mean to "grow in grace"? Here, the word, "grace" means goodness-toward God and other people. To "grow" in it means to become better in worshiping God and in serving others.
This growing in grace-Watson says-is made up of two parts,
"In how many ways may a Christian be said to
grow in grace? He grows in the exercise of
grace and in the degree of grace".
This is not the clearest thing he's ever said, but what he's getting at-it seems to me-is something like this: The believer is growing in grace when (1) new graces are added to older ones, and (2) all the graces are maturing.
We all have our strong points-and weak ones too. One man, for example, is very patient (and that's good), but he's also lazy (and that's bad). As he grows in grace, he adds hard work to his patience. Thus, he's adding to the number of his graces-what Watson calls "the exercise of grace".
But that's not all he does. He also becomes more and more patient. He's sort of this way by nature, training, and habit, maybe, but grace deepens and enriches this good part of his character.
So, you're growing in grace when:
You're building character, II Peter 1:5-8,
"Giving all diligence, add to your faith
virtue, and to your virtue knowledge,
and to your knowledge, self-control,
and to your self-control perseverance,
and to your perseverance godliness,
and to your godliness brotherly
kindness, and to your brotherly
You're also growing in grace when your good points are getting better. Maybe you've also thirsted for knowledge, but, as the years go by, you're more eager to learn than ever.
This is what it means to grow in grace.
SPIRITUAL STAGNATION AND BACKSLIDING
Every believer ought to grow in grace, but not everyone is. The writer to the Hebrews chides his people for their lack of growth. They ought to be teachers-he exclaims-but they still need someone to teach them the ABC of the faith.
What are the signs that you're not growing in grace? Watson gives three:
No spiritual appetite,
"When we have lost our spiritual appetite.
The sick person has no stomach for his
Food. Perhaps, Christian, that you can
Remember a time when you hungered
And thirsted after righteousness, when you
Came to church with a stomach growling
For a feast, but now it is otherwise..
Christ is not so prized as He once was,
Nor are the ordinances so loved".
Some of us need to control our appetites better than we do! The Bible says, "Put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite". But when your appetite is lost, there is something wrong with you-maybe seriously wrong.
What's true of the body is also true of the soul. I always worry when I hear people who used to talk about the Bible no longer doing it. Or people who once came to church with enthusiasm, now dragging in late and leaving early. Or people who use to pray fervently, but now just mumble the words without heart or feeling.
Have I described you? Maybe you're still doing enough to not be noticed-no one has called you on it. But are you still longing for God as you once did? If not, listen to what Christ says about it,
"I would that you were hot or cold,
but because you are lukewarm, I
will spew you out of My mouth".
If you're ordinary prayers, Bible-reading, church-going, and meditation are less than what they used to be, you're not growing in grace.
The second sign of not growing in grace is growing worldliness.
"When we grow more worldly".
When I was a boy, my church defined "worldliness" in clear-cut ways: smoking, drinking, dancing, and-my favorite-mixed bathing!
But when I grew up and read the Bible, I found out that worldliness is way, way, way more pervasive than these things. It can creep into everything you do. From what you watch on TV to how you talk to your kids, to what you spend your money on, attitudes about church, and a million other things.
Are you growing more worldly? And please don't equate this with doing something really bad! You don't have to commit a gross sin to be worldly. No, worldliness is the gross sin!
"The cares of the world, the deceitfulness
of riches, the pleasures of this world".
The third sign of spiritual stagnation (or worse) is less concern about sin,
"When we are less troubled about sin.
The time was when the least sin would
Grieve us, but now, we can digest sin
The great Bible example here is David. As a young man on the run from his king, he cut off the hem of Saul's garment-and his heart smote him! Years later, he was able to commit adultery, murder a man, and cover it up for months-all without a pang of conscience it seems-and surely without repentance!
Physical work will make your hands tough and calloused. But spiritual work will make your soul tender and sensitive. If little sins no longer bother you, it won't be long till big ones don't either.
You're not growing in grace if you're losing your appetite for God, becoming more worldly, or growing insensitive to your sins.
SIGNS OF GROWTH
If these are signs of not growing in grace, then what are the signs of growing in grace?
It is not mere activity or a strong interest in one or two doctrines. Getting busier at church may be a good thing, but it's not the same as growing in grace. I've known a few people who did tons of stuff for the church-because they couldn't stand being at home with their families! For then, activity was an escape from holiness!
The same may be true when someone gets hooked by a doctrine or two. Young men are famous for getting excited about Calvinism or the Millennium or something else, but their interest in theology doesn't translate into better lives. In fact, it often makes them look down on others, monopolize conversations, bully people who know less than they do, and so on.
It's good to be active in church and to care about doctrine, but these things-by themselves-are no proof that you're growing in grace.
What is the proof, then? Watson says three things,
Growing in grace always leads to growing in humility,
"It is to grow less in one's own eyes.
The sight of corruption makes a
Christian grow in the dislike of him-
Self. Job abhorred himself in dust
And ashes. It is good to grow out
Of conceit with one's self".
Growing in grace also means growing proportionately,
"The right manner of growth is to grow
proportionately, to grow in one grace
as well as another. To grow in knowledge
and not in meekness is not to grow-
a thing may well swell and not grow".
Growing in grace means growing when you need it most,
"When corruptions are strong, the Christian
has grace able to check them; when burdens
are heavy, he has the strength to bear them;
When temptations are fierce, he has the faith
To resist them".
The first two speak for themselves, but let me say something about the third. To be patient when everything is going well, is no great shakes. To be brave when no one is threatening me is pretty easy. To stand up to powerful temptations-when not tempted by them-takes no grace.
You're growing in grace then, when you're patient with people who really annoy you, when you stand up to things that really scare you, and when you resist temptations that really tempt you. That's how you know you're growing in grace.
Why should we make the efforts to grow in grace? Watson has a lot to say here, but I can only give you a short sample:
"We need to grow in grace because there
is something missing in us."
"The growth of grace will hinder the
growth of corruption.
"The more we grow in grace, the less
we will decay in grace."
"The more we grow in grace, the more
glory we bring to God".
You need to grow in grace because you're not fully grown yet. No one in the world is fully mature. You need to grow in grace because it will offset the sin that must grow in you if you don't. You need to grow in grace, to develop your potential. And, most of all, you need to grow in grace because it glorifies the Lord who loved you and gave Himself for you!
How to grow in grace? Let me say here, that there is no Key to growing in grace. There is no Magic Formula. There is no Silver Bullet. No book you buy will give you "the answer"-except for the Bible! No seminar you go to, no sermon you hear, no retreat you attend. 12 Steps won't do it; neither will 7 Promises or The Prayer of Jabez.
Growing in grace is hard work-and mighty slow! When you've done everything you can-nearly killed yourself for Christ's sake, you'll still have a long, long way to go.
But, without offering "the answer", two things promote growth in grace. Watson says,
"Take heed of that which will hinder growth,
as the love of any sin".
If the soul is like the body, then good health will foster its growth, while sickness will hinder the same. Sin is a disease of the souls. If you want to grow in grace, don't expose yourself to spiritual germs.
"Use all means for growth in grace".
There he goes again! Watson says the same old, boring thing once again: use the means of grace. Read the Bible, pray, go to church, fellowship with good people, listen to advice, and try! These are the means of grace and the only way you can grow in it.
CHALLENGE AND CLOSE
God wants you to grow in grace. Now, with His blessing, go do it. And the love of God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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