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Greetings from the Elders

Growing in Grace

Dear brothers and sisters,

In 2 Peter 3:18 the apostle instructs his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Growth is a normal and necessary condition of the Christian life, indeed of all life – failure to grow is often either a sign or cause of death.

Of course not all believers have achieved the same level of growth: in his first letter, John addresses those in different categories of maturity as “fathers”, “young men” and “children” (1 John 2: 12-14). New believers, like children, require patient care and attention. But they should not be so indulged in their childishness that they don’t progress through the appropriate stages of development to fully-formed adulthood.

So how do we recognise that we are in fact growing in grace? The signs should be numerous, but they will all consist in either one of these two general principles: putting off the old man and putting on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24). J.C. Ryle, in his book Holiness, provides a very helpful description of one of these signs: “The man whose soul is growing takes more interest in spiritual things every year. He does not neglect his duty in the world. He discharges faithfully, diligently and conscientiously every relation of life…But the things he loves best are spiritual things. The ways and fashions and amusements and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as downright sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections, and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes…Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing spirituality of taste.”

Here is a sane and balanced view of a sanctified mind. Duty is recognised and innocent amusements are not condemned outright: God is glorified when Christians fulfil their obligations, and there are many ways for people to enjoy themselves without needing to feel guilty (though, it must be said, Christians need to be vigilant in this respect: much of today’s entertainments are, frankly, anything but innocent – battery acid for the soul, to quote Todd Friel).

But the growth in our desire for spiritual things will mean that there must simply be less space in our affections for even these innocent attractions which were so attractive to our old selves. As we grow, we will experience a greater hunger for spiritual nutrition, for spending time in God’s presence, in His word, and with His people; and our appetites for the old distractions must diminish in proportion.

In this period when so many of us find ourselves with a lot more spare time, it’s a good moment to reflect on what we really desire to fill it with. Innocent amusement is fine, but does it dominate our mind? Is it the first thing we seek when left to ourselves? If so, this is a warning we should examine our growth, put off our childish minds and seek to be mature.

If you would like to discuss this or any other issues with the elders, please contact us.

May the Lord bless you and lead you to greater maturity this week.

Mark McCormick

For the elders