As a man and a Christian pastor, I try to advance ethically and spiritually. Knowing that I battle still with my old nature, my advancement is often slow and barely perceptible. If you are a Christian you desire to advance in these areas also, I’m sure. I have gone through changes in my thinking. I am not the man I used to be, nor am I what I will be when I am taken to Heaven. I am becoming the man that I ought to be by the grace of Almighty God. Moreover, God is not done with me yet. You might say the same about yourself in regards the advancement of your own life and thinking.
Many Christians, sad to say show very little advancement no matter how long they have been in the Lord.
This is not as it should be, for we are advised by Cephas in 2 Peter 3:18 – To…grow in grace,[that is to keep on growing] and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
A word about God’s Grace.
- It is given freely but it is not free.
- Justification is free but Redemption came at a high cost –Calvary! Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
- Definition of Grace: Grace is God’s response to the need of his elect in Christ.[RDG]
- God does not waste his grace. While it is abundant, infinite, limitless, it is not like a spiritual cookie jar we can retrieve when we want it. It is given by God for a definite purpose. God does not hang his grace on a long stick teasing you along the way – he bestows it!
- God may withdraw his grace but never retrieve it. Phil. 1:6;
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? God will never reveal his grace to a disobedient Christian except on the basis of the Christian’s repentance. 1 John 1:9-10 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Some argue that John is not referring to Christians because a Christian has been Justified by his sin on the cross through faith. So, the question is begged: What is the need to seek God’s further forgiveness if He has already justified you? If justification takes care of sin past, present, and future, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Why pray for forgiveness? Are we not praying for something that has already taken place? The answer is that divine forgiveness has two aspects. One is the judicial, legal, or Positional forgiveness God grants as Judge. It’s the forgiveness God purchased for you by Christ’s atonement for your sin. That kind of forgiveness frees you from any threat of eternal condemnation. It is the forgiveness of justification. Such pardon is immediately complete — you’ll never need to seek it again.
The other is a parental or relational forgiveness God grants as your Father. He is grieved when His children sin. The forgiveness of justification takes care of judicial guilt, but it does not nullify His fatherly displeasure over your sin. He chastens those whom He loves, for their good (Heb. 12:5-11).
Referring back to verse 17 we see the consequences of not growing in the Grace and Knowledge of our Saviour. 2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.
Church membership and faithful attendance are necessary for our continued growth but as you, no doubt have witnessed, neither are guarantees of growth. No more than a mere mourning or a being sorry for sin guarantees God’s forgiveness. A person may truly feel great guilt for his sin, abhor or hate the fact that he commits sins, his conscience may grieve over his sin, but unless that person realizes that his sins are an offense to a Holy God and repents of his sin(s) that person is not a Christian.
The Apostle Paul says that as Christian men and women we should, be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2 “Those who walk in the way of the world are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law.”
Churches go through changes as well as they grow in spiritual knowledge and understanding of spiritual things…There seems to have been very little ‘advancement’ of many of the Christians in the Corinthian church. Paul remarked that there were some who while they had ‘knowledge’ they had learned little. if any man thinks that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
Sir Isaac Newton wisely said: I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
About Newton’s humble but very wise comment, A.T. Robertson said, Newton’s remark that he was only gathering pebbles on the shore of the ocean of truth is pertinent. The really learned man knows his ignorance of what lies beyond. Shallow knowledge is like the depth of the mud hole, not of the crystal spring.
Take Christmas for example. As Children, Christmas meant something different to many of us than it did way back when. The meaning of Christmas is often summed up as: “it was the birth of baby Jesus.” we hear that it was the ‘reason for the season’, but who and when mattered not at all to us. Our interests were in the brightly adorned packages under the Christmas tree, and only on those packages with our name on them.
Now, with our ‘knowledge’ have gained from someone, somewhere, at some time or another, any celebration of Christmas to some should be avoided and to other is anathema, because it represents ‘pagan’ ceremonies and true Christians should not involve themselves with such appearances of evil.
This is not to imply that a Christian who does not celebrate December 25 as the birth of the Lord is a legalist. To not do so is his exercise of prerogative. He has the liberty to not recognize: 1. December 25 as the birthdate of Jesus, or 2. Consider Christmas as a superstitious endeavor no Christian should entertain. Christians who disagree have their own set of prerogatives and choose to accept December 25 as the date of His birth. They look upon the celebration of Christmas as a good and holy experience. There is a third party, Christian or not, that could care less either way and simply “do” Christmas for the sheer fun of it holding no religious opinion of the date of his birth or of December 25th. whatsoever. Neither party should criticize those who disagree. To what purpose does it serve?
All over this land and in many other countries around the world there will be festive gatherings of kith and kin, acquaintances and family members. There will be good food and rich wines served and yes, millions of children will burst from their beds sometime before dawn having slept only little, if at all and rush to awake mother and father who have themselves been up most of the night wrapping gifts held hidden heretofore from the eyes of the children.
We must not as knowledgeable Christians; allow a sinful world to limit our liberties as Christians. Also, as informed Christians, we should always be careful to not allow our liberties to cause a weaker Christian to offend, for as Paul says to do so would be the same as sinning against Christ. We have the liberty to celebrate the birth of our Lord but we have not the license to offend another who feels no obligation or compunction to enjoy Christmas.
Symbols, for example, are not in themselves sinful. An evergreen tree with brightly adorned packages carefully placed under it; a log placed in a fire roasting chestnuts; Carols are sung by joyous people, Mistletoe is a beautiful plant, a creation of God; eating a sumptuous ham on Christmas Day is food to be enjoyed, we are under no strict dietary law. Considering the star that guided the Magi does not make the believer an Astrologer. To some Christians these are moot points and need no further discussion – “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” To others these are sinful icons – “touch not, taste not, handle not.”
Christians view these inanimate things not as idols but as festive objects delighting the believer’s heart. To some Christians they are merely representative of symbols that refer to the nativity and bring a sense of joy to the heart, choosing them all to carry the message “unto us a child is born, unto us, a Son is given…and his name is Immanuel, God with us.”