We can all identify godly men and women that we admire. We might somehow think that they have simply been blessed with a gracious temperament. We might attribute their spiritual maturity to the fact that they grew up in a stable home with godly parents. But the reality is that spiritual maturity doesn’t happen automatically for anyone. It comes by means of diligent effort. Now please don’t misunderstand. We contribute nothing to our salvation. We are justified (made right with God) as a result of grace alone on the basis of the finished work of Christ. There is nothing we can do that will make God love us more or less than he already does. But spiritual maturity requires effort. The apostle Peter had to urge the 1st century believers to “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Sanctification, like justification, is certainly a work of God’s grace. But it requires our cooperation. While not an exhaustive list, let me suggest several of the God-established means by which believers can grow in grace.
First, there are the private means of grace. This would include prayer and reading of the Scriptures and meditation and self-examination. Regularly evaluate your temper, your speech patterns and your entertainment choices.
Second, there are the public means of grace. This includes participation with other believers in a local church, regular weekly worship, accountability to spiritual lead- ers, corporate prayer, the preaching of the Word and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Third, there is the matter of friendship. J.C. Ryle suggested, “Nothing perhaps affects man’s character, more than the company he keeps. We catch the ways and tone of those we live and talk with, and unhappily get harm far more easily than good.”
We all experience heartache and struggle in this broken world. But sometimes we languish needlessly and remain immature simple because we have not availed ourselves of the means of grace God has provided.
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