Growing in Christ, Part 1 – The Power
How do Christians increase in character and virtue? What makes their relationship with Christ grow in depth and authenticity? Why are some believers so fruitful in their spiritual life? How did they get that way?
2 Peter 1:3-11 is an amazingly helpful portion of scripture when it comes to answering these questions. In these verses, the Apostle Peter explains, the power, the process, and the importance of growing in our life with Christ.
In this first of a three-blog series, we will explore what Peter has to say about the power for spiritual growth.
Many people know the feeling of let-down they experience when they walk out of an IKEA store after making a purchase. On the showroom floor they saw a beautiful table, a comfortable bed, or a well-designed chest of drawers. They can envision how nicely the item will fit into their home. But what do they load into their car? A cardboard box. IKEA sells great furniture, but if you want to enjoy it, it is up to you to put it together on your own.
Some believers think that the Christian life is like assembling a box of furniture parts. We have heeded the Savior’s call to a life of integrity and purpose, but (they assume) if we are going to experience that new life, it is up to us to put it together on our own. Spiritual growth will happen only through our strength, our wisdom, and our fortitude. The power for growth must come from us.
But Peter tells us that spiritual growth is not like that. As believers in Christ, our growth is not produced by our own power; we grow because of God’s power. Peter writes, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (v. 3).
Notice the tense of the verb Peter uses. “His divine power has given us everything we need …” The tense communicates an action effective in the present because of what already took place in the past. “Everything we need for a godly life” has been given to us.
When I was a kid, in the weeks of early December, I would often search through my house to try to find the gifts my parents were planning to give me for Christmas. But once the holiday was over, I would not look any more. Why? Because all the gifts had already been given. There was no reason to search anymore. Some Christians go through life searching for gifts that have already been given. They bounce from church to church looking for the latest blessing, the newest anointing, the freshest work of the Spirit, not realizing that everything they need to grow in Christ has already been given to them.
In addition to the tense, notice the indirect object of Peter’s verb. To whom has everything needed for a godly life been given? To pastors? To missionaries? To the super-spiritual elite? No. Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need …” By “us” the Apostle means, all Christians. Every believer in Jesus has been given power by God to grow in their relationship with Christ. The power for growth is not a secret endowment reserved for the privileged few. It is God’s gift to every one of his children.
It is also important to notice the way in which this power is given to us. It is given “through our knowledge of him who called us” – through our knowledge of the Lord. The Greek word for knowledge in this instance refers to relational, experiential knowledge, not to the intellectual acquisition of facts. Peter is describing the change we experience through a personal relationship with Christ. As we trust in Jesus and talk with Jesus in our daily lives, “everything we need for a godly life” becomes a part of our reality.
What is the result of this experience of God’s power? Peter says, we “participate in the divine nature” (v. 4). That is a mind-blowing thought. Through our union with Christ, we “are conformed to the image of God’s Son” (Rom. 8:29). We participate in the very nature of God himself. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we let Him … [God] will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into … dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating [throughout] with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to [God] … His own boundless power and delight and goodness.”
So, to sum up, the power to grow spiritually is not an elusive experience we need to strive after. It is a gift already given by God to every believer in Christ. This gift is delivered to us relationally, as we live each day by faith in the Lord. The outcome of this power is a participation in the glorious nature of God himself, which transforms us into the likeness of his Son. This is the power for spiritual growth.