What does it mean to grow in Christ? What does God want from us? From a human standpoint, we think that to grow means we do more. For most Christians, we help out more at church. We care more about others. We care more for our families. We change our focus from things related to ourselves to that of others. We try to help out with those most poor in this world. We become missional. Have we grown in Christ?
God has given each of us an immeasurable supply of the Spirit. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:18) What is preached to us is the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:4-7) The fullness of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the immeasurable riches of his grace in Christ Jesus, is now in us when we received the Lord Jesus. Through “the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ…Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phi. 1:19-20) “For to me to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:23) To grow in Christ, each one of us has to realize that for us to live is Christ. Each of us has been provided with the provision of the Spirit so that Christ would be exalted in our bodies. We have all been supplied with the fullness of God so Christ would be expressed in us. Why do we have so many problems with each other, especially when we get to know each other? It is because of our own wills, our own selves. When we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we think we know better. We think we are like God. We think we can be righteous by ourselves. That is the problem with mankind throughout history, from Abel, who wanted to give a better sacrifice to God, to the Pharisees, who thought they could keep God’s laws, to the Christians today, who are trying to do right things before God, yet not relying on Christ. By not letting the Spirit be the reality of what we do, we begin to trust in ourselves. We begin to trust in our own abilities to keep the commandments. As such, we don’t need God. This is what happened to the Pharisees. Their worship became a dead ritual. “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” (Luke 20:38) “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:16-17) A change in each one of our hearts is the most important step in our growth – to recognize that we are broken and we need help. Growth is the offering up of our wills, of ourselves, so Christ could live through us. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1) Worshipping God is not what we can do for him, but, rather, what we surrender to him. It is how much we give up, so Christ can live through us. If we have our own wills, how can God exert his will through us? This is the greatest challenge today. The reason why Christians are divided, with their spouses, with their families, with each other, is because we have not surrendered all to Him. There is a desperate need for each of us to surrender all to Christ so Christ can live through us so we would be perfectly one. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) A true change in our hearts can only be effected by the Spirit. The Spirit will change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Eze. 11:19-20), softened so God can be expressed though us. So “for to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:23) This is why our faith grows in Christ as we mature. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Gal. 2:20) That is why Christian growth is a growth in faith in Christ. That is why the spiritually matured have entrusted their lives to God. That is why “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor. 6:17t
It is really hard to see ourselves as nothing before God. But when Christ comes alive in us, we have to be like John and say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) As we do more and more in his name, it becomes harder and harder. As we do more and more in his name, he asks us to be less and less. “My power is made perfect in weakness…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9) That is really hard to do. We just have to rely on the Spirit of reality. We live today so that “Christ shall be magnified in my body” (Phi. 1:20 – Darby) “for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Christian growth is to become weak, so Christ can become strong in us.
We need to realize that everything that Christ is has been given to us. The fullness of the Godhead was given to Christ, (Col. 1:19) now we are receiving of his fullness. (John 1:12) We just don’t realize we have received of his fullness. We don’t fully realize that God lives in us. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5) Christian growth is the different degrees of realizing Christ is living in us. The more we realize Him, the more our faith has grown.