“Grow in Grace” 2 Peter 3:18 by James M. Renihan
How do Christians grow in Grace? Or perhaps more directly, how may pastors help their people grow in grace? This is a key question when we think about the work of the ministry, and training men to do it.
The place to begin is with the personal holiness of the minister. We hope that our pastors are godly, gifted men, sent by Christ to serve His churches. Assuming that this is true, we must also say this: they need to make progress in holiness in order to be useful vessels in the Lord’s work. The New Testament sadly describes several men who were at one point or another in their lives good servants of Christ, but who for one reason or another fell to temptation and lost their effectiveness. If a man enters the ministry at age 30, and makes no progress by the time he is fifty, there is something wrong in his life. In years of pastoral labor, studying the Scriptures, prayer, working with the flock, there should be evidence of growth. Paul told Timothy to let his progress be seen by everyone-to watch his life and doctrine closely, for in doing this he will save himself and his hearers (1 Tim. 4:15&16). The pastor’s effectiveness in ministry, and the growth of his people, is tied to his forward movement in holiness. There is no other way to explain this. The Lord may use a donkey to speak at times, but he seldom uses an unholy man in His church. When we train men, we seek to make them aware of this most basic fact. The ministry is not about fame or reputation or power. It is about service to Jesus Christ, demonstrated by a careful, obedient walk in his sight. Before a man will see any blessing upon his labors, he must know this, and follow it. It is an unchanging rule. As you pray for our work in Escondido, would you pray that our men will understand this basic need, and set it as a priority in their lives?
Where does a Christian minister serve? Why in the church of course, and this is the next place to consider as we answer our question. In the church, a holy minister is a man of great worth. His life will be an example and demonstration of the power of grace at work. But beyond this, he will be an effective servant of the Lord Jesus. It is in the church that growth comes. The Lord has given to the assembly pastors to teach and guide them to heaven. The preaching of the Word, which is the place where the Lord comes and speaks to his people, the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the practice of church discipline, all of these things are essential for the growth of every believer. The Lord has ordained them, and they cannot be minimized. In Hebrews 10:19-25, Christians are exhorted to draw near to Christ, to hold fast their confession of hope, and to stir up love and good deeds among the brothers. And where is this done? Verse 25 tells us plainly that it is in the Christian church. As you pray for us, will you ask the Lord to help our men understand the importance of the church, and love it as Jesus does, so that it may be the place where people may do these things and glorify the Lord in them?
The third factor in growth is the daily walk of the Christian. He or she needs to live with a constant awareness of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and seek to honor Him in everything that is done. What kinds of things help here? We must begin with prayer. Every Christian ought to make progress in prayer. When Jesus instructs his disciples about seeking God, he says “when you pray” (Matthew 6:5,6,7). He assumes that his disciples will come before God’s throne with their requests. Alongside of prayer is a growing knowledge of the Bible. It is amazing to think of all the Bibles available to us today-more than ever before in history. We ought to read them, learn them, and know them. A daily time of Bible study is of great profit and benefit for every Christian, and will produce growth. With about ½ hour each day, anyone can read through the whole Bible in a year! What a wonderful thing that would be. Almost as helpful are the many devotional aids accessible to Christians. We have an abundance of sound and solid tools to help us know more of Christ. Beyond this is the blessing of Christian friendship. Not only do we serve the Lord corporately as a church, but individually we have opportunities to strengthen one another through friendship. All of these things assist believers in their progress toward holiness. As you pray for us, will you pray that our men will teach their people to pray; provide them with encouragements to read their Bibles, and other sound literature, and to develop strong Christian friendships? We want men who will be useful. Pray that the Lord will make them these kinds of men.