2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY GROWING IN GRACE? To grow in grace is to increase in a spirit of conformity to the will of God, and to govern our conduct more and more by the same principles that God does.
II. SOME THINGS THAT ARE NOT EVIDENCES OF GROWTH IN GRACE ALTHOUGH THEY ARE SOMETIMES SUPPOSED TO BE SUCH.
1. It is not certain evidence that an individual grows in grace because he grows in gifts. We naturally increase in that in which we exercise ourselves. We may pray ever so engagedly, and increase in fluency and apparent pathos, and yet have no grace.
2. Growing in knowledge is not evidence of a growth in grace. In hell no doubt they grow in knowledge, but never in grace.
3. It is not evidence that a person grows in grace because he thinks he is doing so. A person may be favourably impressed with regard to his progress in religion, when it is evident to others that he is in fact declining.
III. SOME THINGS THAT ARE EVIDENCES OF A GROWTH IN GRACE.
1. When an individual finds he has more singleness of heart, and more purity of motive in his conduct, it is evidence that he is growing in grace.
2. An individual who grows in grace is more and more actuated by principle, and less and less by emotion or feeling. By principle, in contradistinction from feeling or emotion, I mean a controlling determination in the mind to do right.
3. Another important evidence of growth in grace is more love to God. By this I do not mean that there will be in all cases a conscious increase of emotions of love to God, but that there will be a strengthening of real attachment to God's character and government. And this increased attachment will evince itself in a growing veneration for all the institutions of religion, and for all the commands of God.
4. Another evidence of growth in grace is when a person increases in love to men as well as love to God.
5. Those who grow in grace feel more and more self-loathing. This is the natural result of having a clear view of God. It makes a person sink down in self-abasement.
6. An increased abhorrence of sin is another mark of growth in grace. When a person feels, day by day, less and less disposed to compromise with any sin, in himself, or in others, it is a sign that he is growing in grace.
7. He who grows in grace has less relish for the world. He has less and less desire for its wealth, its honours, its pleasures.
8. Increasing delight in the fellowship of the saints is another evidence of growth in grace.
9. He who grows in grace finds it more and more easy to exercise a forgiving spirit, and to pray for his enemies.
10. Growing more charitable is an evidence of growth in grace. But he is mere ready to ascribe a person's apparently wrong conduct to mistake, or misapprehension, or some other cause, than to direct evil intention.
11. Having less and less anxiety about worldly things is an evidence of growth in grace.
12. Becoming more ready to bestow property is a sign of growth in grace.
13. He feels less and less as if he had any separate interest. It is a great thing, in regard to growth in grace, to feel that all you have is Christ's, and that you have absolutely no separate interest in living, or in dying, or in holding property, or children, or character.
14. It is an evidence of growth in grace when a person becomes more willing to confess faults to men.
15. Growing in grace raises a person more and more above the world. The growing saint regards less and less either the good or ill opinions of men. He feels that it is of little importance, only as it may affect his usefulness.
IV. HOW TO GROW IN GRACE.
1. Watch against besetting sins.
(5) Selfishness, in all its forms. Here is the great root of all the difficulty. This is the foundation, the fountain, the substance, and sum total, of all the iniquity under heaven. Watch here; look out constantly; see where self comes out in your conduct, and there set a guard.
(7) Envy. If you see others going ahead of you in prosperity, in influence, or in talents, examine your feelings, and see whether you are pleased at it. If the sight give you pain, beware!
(8) Ambition. By this sin angels fell, and it is impossible to grow in grace without suppressing it.
(9) Impure thoughts. It is necessary to make a covenant with our eyes, and with our ears too, and all our senses, or they will prove the inlet of temptation and sin. If you find yourself in danger, turn your thoughts away instantly.
2. Another direction for growing in grace is, take care to exercise all the Christian graces. Exercise yourself especially in those things where you find yourself most deficient. If you are exposed to a particular sin, guard there. If you are deficient in a particular grace, exercise that.
(1) Suppose you are naturally worldly-minded, and in danger of being carried away by the love of the world. Shut down the gate, and determine that you will on no account add to your wealth, or lay field to field.
(2) Suppose you are in danger of being flattered and lifted up with pride. As a reasonable being you are bound to know this, and be on your guard.
(3) If you find that you are reluctant to confess your faults, break right over it, and confess to everybody that you have injured. Practise it on all occasions, till you get the victory.
3. Exercise decision of character. To walk with God a man must walk contrary to the course of this world. He must face public sentiment.
4. To grow in grace, a man must possess great meekness. If a man suffer himself to be fretted by opposition, and thrown into a passion by obstacles that are thrown in his way, he may rest assured that Satan will manage to keep him in such a state of mind that he will by no means grow in grace.
V. SOME THINGS THAT ARE EVIDENCES OF DECLENSION.
1. The person who grows weary of being asked to give for promoting the kingdom of Christ is evidently declining.
2. Becoming backward to converse on the subject of religion, and particularly to converse on spiritual, and experimental, and heart-searching points, is evidence of declension.
3. When a person is less disposed to engage in the duties of devotion, public, social, or private, it is a sign of declension.
4. Taking more delight in public meetings than in private duties and secret communion with God, is another evidence of a declining state.
5. Feeling less delight in revivals of religion is a sad token of declension.
6. A person that becomes captious about measures used in promoting revivals is in a declining state.
VI. HOW TO ESCAPE FROM A STATE OF DECLENSION.
1. You must admit the conviction that you are in a state of declension.
2. Apply to yourself all that God says to backsliders, just as if you were the only individual in the world in that condition.
3. Find out the point where you began to decline. See what was the first cause of your backsliding, and give that up. You will often find this first cause where you did not expect it, in something which you called a little matter, or that you tried to make yourself believe was not a sin.
4. Give up your idols. If it be an article of property, dispose of it in some way; give it away, sell it, burn it, away with it, rather than have it stand between you and God.
5. Be careful to apply afresh to the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and peace with God.Remarks:
1. There is no such thing as standing still in religion.
2. The idea that persons grow in grace during seasons of declension is abominable. Their whole progress is the other way.
3. There are but few persons that do grow in grace. How many, instead of setting themselves resolutely to obey God, and setting their faces as a flint against all sin, passively commit themselves to the stream, and expect to be wafted home to glory in this lazy way, without the trouble of a conflict.
4. We see the great fault of ministers. How little pains they take to train up young converts.
5. Unless ministers grow in grace it is impossible for the Church to grow. "Like priest like people" is a maxim founded on principles of correct philosophy.
6. Great pains should be taken by young ministers to grow in grace.
7. It is just as indispensable in the promotion of a revival, to preach to the Church, and make them grow in grace, as it is to preach to sinners, and make them submit to God.
(C. G. Finney.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.