You can teach an old dog new tricks.
You are never too old to grow and change.
I’m so glad those sayings are indeed true! The question before us today is are we growing and changing more and more into the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ? If you examine the Scriptures, you see quickly that there were those who were committed to staying exactly the way they were and those who were seeking to be conformed more and more to what God had called them to be in Christ. Some examples of the first group would be the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. . . the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They knew it all, or at least they thought they did, and were rock solidly cemented and committed to not changing. Unfortunately, though, they were committed zealously to a wrong understanding of the Scriptures.
But God has called us, as His sons and daughters to become more and more like His Son Jesus. We are to be conformed to His image. To walk in His ways. . . His heart. . . His thoughts and desires as opposed to ours. In effect, Jesus has called us to a lifestyle of surrender. Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it”. For the Christian, this is called the process of progressive sanctification and it is hard work. The words process and progressive imply that this new life is ongoing. There should be growth, development and change. It is a process and it is progressive. Just as a seed grows from underneath the ground and begins to break through the soil a change takes place. There is a seed, then a sprig, then a sprout, and on and on until we have a fully developed plant producing a flower or a fruit.
Similarly, we’ve all heard about the process a butterfly goes through. It must work at and labor to get out of the cocoon. The work of struggling to get out of the cocoon is actually what finishes the growth process for a butterfly. I recently heard a story of a man who saw a butterfly struggling to get out of a cocoon and “helped” it get free. The problem was, the butterfly couldn’t fly because his process was intercepted by the “help” being offered. His wings were not fully developed and eventually died. Sometimes the pain and agony of walking with Christ is what helps us grow and develop our spiritual muscles. Our culture today, and I include in that our church culture at large, doesn’t think that way, but too often thinks of the fast food model. I want it now. Instant gratification. Instant spirituality. Instant growth. That’s not the way of Jesus or the Bible.
In contrast, Paul uses language like. . . “pressing on” . . . “straining forward” (Philippians 3:12-14) or “run” . . . “strict training” . . . “beat my body and make it my slave” . . . (I Corinthians 9:24-27).
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
God gives grace in abundance for the living of the Christian life. Even though we are to put forth effort in the process of sanctification, it is never to be done so in an attitude of independence, as if we can accomplish anything on our own. It is only as we act and move in dependence on the Holy Spirit, that we can ever grow personally or be effective in ministering to others.
So, in complete dependence on the Holy Spirit, strive to grow and walk with the Lord in faithfulness and obedience. His grace is sufficient for such a task! If you are wondering, “Ok, JE, that all sounds great, but just exactly how do I grow and change?”. If that’s you, give me a call! I’d love to get with you and talk about that more in depth.
Jon Eric Woodward
Pastor for Congregational Care & Worship Arts