Growing In Christ – Part Three

People holding hands to form a circle

               With the maturation of a child of God, there should be the desire to become more and more like Christ.  Paul explained this when he wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).  One of the explicit characteristics of Jesus was His self-control.  Earlier in his letter that has been discussed, Peter wrote, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?  but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called:  because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness:  by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet. 2:20-24).  What magnificent meekness was displayed by our Lord.  It would be extremely hard to endure what He endured without lashing out in return.  With that being said though, Peter indicated that growing Christians are supposed to incorporate this ability into their own lives.  After the instruction to be “courteous”, Peter went on to write “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing:  but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9).  Too often, individuals fail in this area.  Instead of remaining as calm as possible, people sometimes let their anger and hurt lead them to return the mistreatment that they received.  Paul put it this way:  “Recompense to no man evil for evil.  Provide things honest in the sight of all men.  If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:  for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink:  for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).  A mature Christian will have learned that “getting back” at someone is not an indicator of spiritual growth.

               The next thing that Peter emphasized is that if a man “…will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile” (1 Pet. 3:10).  This again is a characteristic that was masterfully demonstrated by Jesus.  Whenever Jesus spoke, it was done in a proper and sinless way (Heb. 4:15).  By inspiration, James wrote the definitive discourse about the tongue and its usage.  “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity:  so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6-8).  The controlling of the tongue is never a work that is finished, so long as we live.  With that being said, we should make sure that we are constantly trying to improve how we use our tongues.  Paul told the Ephesians, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers…Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:29-31).  A Christian that has matured will acknowledge the challenge of controlling the tongue, but at the same time will refuse to stop getting better.

               Lastly, Peter mentioned the need to “…eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Pet. 3:11).  The diligent Bible student will recall that Job was one that eschewed evil (Job 1:1).  That means that he did not go looking to do evil, but rather he refused it.  Certainly, a mature Christian should do likewise.  The Thessalonian brethren were instructed, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).  When evil presents itself, and yes there is evil in the world, Christians should “abstain” from it.  Instead of living a life of evil, the Christian’s life should be one filled with goodness.  Remember, “…there is none good but one, that is, God…”, which means that if we are to do good, then we must do the things that are “godly” (Matt. 19:17).  Part of that is seeking peace, and doing what we can to cause it to exist.  Part of that was covered earlier in the writings of Paul to the church at Rome.  When discussing peace, we must accept that wherever sin is present, there will not be absolute peace.  Sin hurts and destroys.  So we should strive to bring about as much relative peace as possible.  Jesus famously said, “Blessed are the peacemakers:  for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9).  Since the Christian should want to see God, the Christian must be an instrument for peace.

               The challenge to grow spiritually is a noble endeavor.  If the child of God will incorporate the things that have been encouraged in this article, then he will mature more and more as a Christian.
~ Corey Barnette