“Grow in Grace.” What does that mean?
Three more weeks before our bible studies get started. I’m so excited! Our four different groups will be studying Max Lucado’s book, “You’ll Get Through This.” Each week, as our ladies study from the life of Joseph, I’ll be sharing insights here. In the meantime, I want to share with you where my brain has been this past week.
I’ve been turning over a verse in my mind ever since I memorized it as teenager. For years, I didn’t understand one particular phrase. Have you ever done that? This week, some new thoughts came to me.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18
How do we grow in the grace of Jesus Christ?
Oh, we’ve got the knowledge part down. Most of us have an excellent Sunday School knowledge about Jesus. Most of us are acceptably adept on the doctrine of Jesus, particularly on our particular denominational emphasis of the doctrine. If you are engaged in any form of Bible study – personal, small group, or Sunday morning gatherings – your knowledge is hopefully growing.
What does growing in grace mean? Am I – are you – growing in grace?
Okay, let’s establish a starting point.
What is grace? Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Grace is undeserved favor. Grace is a sacrificial gift given to someone who hasn’t earned it and can’t pay it back.
According to John 1:14, Jesus was full of grace and truth. If I want more grace in my life, I look at Jesus.
Here’s the pivotal question: How did Jesus exhibit grace?
I see three ways Jesus was full of grace, three ways that He wants me to copy:
Forgiveness: One of Jesus’ prayers on the cross was for forgiveness for those who had put him there. The intent behind Christ’s voluntary death was to offer us forgiveness.. Christ had to die in order to release us from the debt we owed God for the sins we’ve committed.
The number one way I can express grace to other people is in my ability to forgive. This is a command I cannot ignore, a command reiterated many times in the New Testament. Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Jesus went a step further: if we don’t forgive, neither will He forgive us (Matthew 6:15).
We grow in grace when we cultivate our ability to forgive others – not in word only but through our daily actions and interactions with those who have hurt us.
Mercy: Mercy is showing kindness to those in need whether or not they deserve it or can pay us back. Throughout his ministry Jesus constantly showed mercy to those around him. Two blind beggars recognized this quality and cried, “Son of David, have mercy upon us.” He showed compassion to the hungry crowds, sorrow over a friend’s death, and patience and respect for a woman who had suffered a painful, debilitating and humiliating disease for twelve years.
Mercy is a close kin for forgiveness but broader in its meaning. Think about it. Did any of the people Jesus healed deserve healing? A centurion, a man of authority and rank by the world’s standards, admitted he wasn’t worthy for Jesus to even enter his house, much less do the kindness of lending aid to the man’s servant.
If we are willing to let go of our pride, we would have to admit that none of us have done anything to deserve the constant blessings and favor of God. In spite of that, we implore Him to meet our needs, heal our sicknesses, and solve our problems. This is what He wants us to do for others. He has shown kindness and mercy to us. He wants us to do the same.
I think it is safe to say that the Church at large has attracted more people to saving faith in Christ through deeds of undeserved kindness coupled with the Gospel message than any other evangelistic method. The Church has gone where society refuses to go: leper colonies, sex trafficking circles, smallpox infested communities, and impoverished areas scrubbed bare by natural disasters. In my own area, the government has refused aid to a town torn apart by a tornado, but Christians are rebuilding the community. The government would have done it because it was expected. The church and the communities are doing it out of mercy.
We grow in grace when we mirror the mercy of Christ to the needy.
Service: Service is a mindset, not a program. Service involves sacrifice. Jesus said,
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:28
Serving others requires that I lower myself before others, that I put aside my own greatness to meet the needs of others. Jesus did this. He left the halls of glory, emptied himself of all God’s splendor, and stuffed Himself into the confines of a human body so He could give us what we needed most.
If I am to grow in grace, I need to practice and perfect my skills in serving others.
“How can I grow in service,” you might ask. “Aren’t I doing enough?”
Are you giving money to charitable causes? Great. How can you become more personally involved? Can you do something beyond the gift of money?
Do you help with church dinners? Wonderful. How about using those same skills of food prep to serve dinner at a homeless shelter?
Let’s take a self-inventory. How are you growing in grace? Take a sheet of paper and draw three lines across the paper. Label the lines, forgiveness, mercy and service. Plot a point along each line to show where you think you stand at this given moment. Write an idea of something you will do this week to help you grow to be more like Jesus.
When we grow in grace, we illuminate Jesus to a darkened world.