2 Peter 3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day."
It is possible for someone to be in the Church for years, be regarded as mature Christian, given leadership post all the while being a dead formalist living some form of Godliness while being dead inside and on a continual decline mode with God. To fully mature as Christians we need to have the power of the Holy Spirit moving unhindered in our lives. Failing that, we make ourselves feel good by saying things like people grow at different pace, when in actuality, the grace of God is not flowing in us as it should. This could be because we are more loyal to our denomination than Christ, we could also be impressively filled with knowledge of God's word yet it has no effect on us because of lack of humility and dependence on Him, or it could simply be a lack of surrender because we do not want Him to direct our lives, it could be lack of obedience, unbelief etcetera.
I was taught after saying the sinner's prayer the next steps are: being baptized so that I can be accountable, attend Church regularly, read my Bible, attend Bible studies, learn to pray, get involved in Church service and learn to act like a Christian. A few years down the road two things became clear to me: first, from the Old Testament to the New Testament the Christianity that I was seeing around me, was not even close to our forefathers. I was so annoyed with the discrepancies that were so obvious to me, yet I had no idea what I was supposed to do about them. The second issue that bothered me was the fact that I was so fed up living the kind of Christian life that looked like a yo-yo. When I felt enough was enough, I finally went to God directly and poured my heart out to Him, I told Him about all the confusion in Christianity I was experiencing, all the different denominations claiming to be the best, yet in the end, in spite of all the claims one thing all those denominations seem to agree on is, that solid type of Christianity our forefathers had with Him that seemed to say "I am risking it all on you God" was completely missing and yet none of them seemed to be bothered by it. But, in my ignorance and my stupidity, to some extend I blamed God for not making things clearer to us to avoid the confusion; I did not realize that man and Satan were the authors of this great mess we made of His Salvation.
After I finished complaining to God about the state of my mind and my desperate need for a different kind of Christianity, calmly the Holy Spirit said: "surrender to me" to that I answered huh? When I went to my mentors and ask about what it meant to surrender to God, I found there was a consensus on the fact that whenever one says the sinner's prayer it is all the surrender we need, after that, all there is to be done is to give our days to God through our morning prayers. To make matters worse, I have never heard a sermon on the subject of surrender. But, eventually the Holy Spirit taught me how to surrender my all to Him. I learned that we can only lead people as far as we have been with God for ourselves. I also learned there comes a time in our walk with Christ we have to let Him take us by the hand like little children and trust Him to lead us through His process to make us Christians inwardly. Otherwise all we have is an accumulation of bits and pieces of our own doing, we substitute them for Christianity, we go on never possessing the truth and we learn to be satisfied with living the Christian life by sight and feelings.
Oswald Chambers said: "True surrender is not simply surrender of our external life but a surrender of our will and once that is done, surrender is complete. The greatest crisis we ever face is the surrender of our will. Yet God never forces a person's will into surrender, and He never begs. He patiently waits until that person willingly yields to Him. And once that battle has been fought, it never needs to be fought again." This battle of the will that Oswald Chambers referred to is so crucial because until we do that, we don't have a personal relationship with Him, at least not by His standards because we still hang on to the right to self. Full surrender brings a crisis of faith and the will, because it requires you to make a decision that leads to unchartered territories, your feelings are not taken into consideration and your whole nature is fighting this process that your mind is taking in. You also have the awareness that this decision could have grave impact in your life and if this God is not who He says He is, you will fall really hard with immeasurable consequences. In your mind you have to agree to leave the consequences and the pain of the unknown in His hands.
As I started this personal walk with Him after my full surrender, the first thing that blew my mind was the fact that I found out I did not know Him and I was neither comfortable in His presence on a one to one basis. Furthermore, I was suddenly aware of the fact I was leaving behind all my familiar surroundings such as church activities, Bible study's buddies, all the familiar conversations we used to have about Him all the brainstorming sessions about Christianity, all the lingo I learned about Him, the Bible verses, etc. Strangely, this God that I have heard so much about in sermons, reading about through personal devotions, this God that I used to pray to on a daily basis, this God that I used to sing my heart out to every Sunday morning, on a personal level was like a stranger whom I had some vague familiarity with.
Sadly, most Christians go into Christianity with their predetermined views and answers intrinsically, they have no problem with Christ being their Savior but they are not interested in having Him Lord over their lives. Being their master would mean cramping their style and not enough room for laxity, so they are perfectly content with religion. Sadly, they keep Christ at a distance while they go on in their hostility toward Him like the unbelievers. Short of wanting Christ to become the master that runs our lives, what's left is jamming down doctrines in our throats and substitute the real thing for our man made Salvation which lead to living in bondage with a presumptuous faith. One way we can test ourselves is to see after a few years going through this "to do list" the word "knowledge" takes a different dimension in our lives as the Holy Spirit teaches you to KNOW Christ intimately. This deep inner spiritual knowledge of Him you are acquiring is proof that the grace of God is flowing freely in your life. Our work cannot substitute the inner spiritual relationship He calls us to have with Him, and if not done through the Holy Spirit the father could care less because it's simply what it is: "OUR WORK."
Some example of growing in grace could be the evidence of that deep personal inner relationship with Christ: we are able to cultivate Christ's mind, sin becomes abhorrent, Christ becomes our first thought when we wake up in the morning and the last thought we process before we fall asleep. There is evidence within that we are dying to the world, the Spirit constantly witnesses to our spirit, and we acquire a much bigger understanding of Salvation. We also cultivate much more confidence in the word of God as His truth in Scriptures keep coming alive in our lives while we live the Christian life moment by moment, our faith grows exponentially, our righteous walk increases, the desires of our heart changes as we become more interested in eternal values, and we learn to do everything for His glory. While there is much more to this list, but these things grow inside of you as they become part of who you are not just empty vain words you repeat like parrots to please your hearers. This change is wrought in by the Holy Spirit, as He empowers us to live out this life and it is also the work of our faith in Him that proves we have received salvation, the old things are passing away behold everything new.
One major step of growing in grace is that the self is eradicated so that Christ might live His life through us. While this process hurts big time, but it makes the Christian life so much easier to live because we can actually watch Him living this life through us. There is no other way for Galatians 2:20 to take root in us except through the self being eradicated. The Christian life is completely spiritual because the triune God is Spirit. How else can we relate? How else can we truly communicate with Him? How can we worship in Spirit? How else can we become "little Christ" if it is not on a spiritual level? Christianity in its pristine clarity is totally supernatural and supernormal as we share in the life of God. It is a lifestyle of holiness based on a deep inner personal relationship with the resurrected Christ living the Christian life in us and the Holy Spirit as a real person living within. This is not an imaginary life that we assume we have nor it is a vague concept. If after years of Christianity there is no awareness of this deep inner spiritual life with Him, then we ought to check whether we are just pretenders making noises, living according to our opinions and delusions.
M.J. Andre has written the newly released Christian book "Apprehended & Apprehending"
The book is now availalbe on Amazon and Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble
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