A Person You Have Never Met
Imagine a woman named Jane. She is a mature and growing Christian who loves Jesus, gives wise counsel, and helps others come to know more about Jesus. . . but she does not pray, read her Bible, or go to church.
What do you think as I describe Jane to you? Does this sound strange? It should because the Bible teaches that Jane does not exist. No one has ever become more godly, more Christ-like without spiritual discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; James 4:2). In fact, the writer of Hebrews makes a one-to-one, absolute connection between being in the Word of God regularly and growing spiritually: “everyone who lives on milk (spiritual immaturity) is unskilled in the word of righteousness … But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Likewise, when Peter tells us in his second epistle to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” this comes on the heels of his first letter, in which he has already explained the means to spiritual growth: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk (of God’s Word, in context), that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
A Connection You Cannot Miss
The Bible teaches that no one has ever spiritually matured without applying themselves to the spiritual disciplines. On the other hand, the Bible promises that everyone who by faith applies themselves to spiritual discipline will become more godly, more Christ-like. We are grown by the Word as we hungrily devour it. We grow closer to God as we come to him in frequent and fervent prayer, through Christ. We are honed in our spiritual lives as we worship with and imitate godly believers in the body of Christ.
The connection between spiritual discipline and growth is frequent and explicit in the Bible. In Luke 11:9-13, Jesus says that the Spirit will be given to those who ask (prayer). Ephesians 4:11-16 indicates that God uses truth, and the fellowship of the saints, in order to mature and edify us. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The same writer encourages us to come with confidence to the throne of grace in order to receive “help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16) and explains that the accountability of the local church helps us hold fast our profession of faith (Hebrews 10:23-25). James tells us that if we want wisdom, we need only ask God for it (James 1:5); yet he also assures us that we will not receive when we do not ask (James 4:2).
An Encouragement to Grow
Everyone who by faith applies themselves to spiritual discipline will grow and mature in their Christian walk. Although the Jane whom we described does not exist according to the Bible, many of us are trying to be Janes. We want to have a deep and fulfilling and joyful relationship with Jesus, but we ignore the means of grace that Jesus has given us. We want to be mature Christians, who help others, but without having to apply ourselves to Bible-reading, prayer, and the accountability of the body of Christ. It cannot be done.
What a great encouragement to know that when we do discipline ourselves to seek hard after God—in his Word, through prayer, and with the encouragement of other Christians—we are assured that we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior!