Mistaking Experience for Growth

โ€œโ€ฆmake every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. ๐™๐™ค๐™ง ๐™ž๐™› ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š๐™จ๐™š ๐™ฆ๐™ช๐™–๐™ก๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™š๐™จ ๐™–๐™ง๐™š ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง๐™จ ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™–๐™ง๐™š ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™˜๐™ง๐™š๐™–๐™จ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christโ€ (2 Peter 1:5-8).

In Godโ€™s economy, it is the Christian who is constantly ๐˜จ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ, not constantly ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ that is the most effective. It reminds me of this quote from James Clear:

โ€œToo often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are merely reinforcing our current habits โ€” not improving them.โ€

When I read this, I realized that we have the capacity to do the same thing spiritually. We think we are growing in the Lord by going to church, attending bible studies, reading the Bible, etc., but how many of us have been doing these things for years without any meaningful growth or discernible improvement in our virtues or walk with the Lord?

Sadly, it is a common thing for our churches to be full of people who have professed a saving faith in Christ, attended and served the church faithfully for 20-30+ years, taught Sunday school, etc., but they have not been ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ at all. The qualities Peter mentions may be there in some degree, but they have not increased. Theyโ€™ve got a lot of experience in doing Christian things, but havenโ€™t actually grown as a Christian. They’ve mistaken experience for growth.

Itโ€™s not enough to ask yourself, โ€œDo I believe in the Gospel?โ€ You must also ask yourself, โ€œAm I living in step with the Gospel?โ€ Christianity requires not only an assent to the truth of the Gospel, but also an applying of it to our lives. Our hearts, minds, ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ lives must be changed. And this changing isnโ€™t a one-time event. Yes, the Gospel is something โ€œwhich you received and in which you standโ€; itโ€™s the foundation that our Christian life rests upon, but itโ€™s also the means โ€œby which you are being saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1). In other words, the Gospel is at continual work in our lives in a way it actually results in something being ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ต upon the foundation that it laid.

The point of all this is that the kind of growth that Peter and Paul speak of stresses the importance of discipleship: an intentional, dedicated, focused pursuit of Christ and the grace that living in His Kingdom affords us. And whatโ€™s ironic is that this kind of pursuit of Christ, and the development of the virtues that Peter listed, may actually call for some of us to start doing ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด. We’re so busy doing things for Jesus that we don’t have the time to actually commune with Him. Yet without this communion, we cannot change (2 Corinthians 3:18). We cannot learn the way of Jesus without spending time with Him.

What could you become, or better yet, ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ could you become, if you were intentional about creating the margin in your life for true, deep, communion with Christ?

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