We do not measure our growth as Christians by filling out a spreadsheet or completing a checklist. Today, Burk Parsons expresses what true growth looks like in the life of a believer.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week, we're joined by Dr. Burk Parsons, the senior pastor of St. Andrew's Chapel. Dr. Parsons, how do we know if we're genuinely growing as Christians?
DR. BURK PARSONS: Well, that's a great question, Nathan. And it's a question that every one of us should be asking ourselves throughout our Christian lives. How do we know if we're actually growing? We talk about growth as Christians. We talk about maturing in Christ. We talk about growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Growth is a central theme of Scripture and of the Christian life. And too often, we fail to think deeply about this very question. As Christians, sometimes we just live by spiritual inertia"we just keep going and we don't really grow and we don't really change and we just keep doing and keep living the same way, thinking the same way, doing the same things that we've always done. And so it's a question that each and every one of us, no matter how old we are in Christ, no matter how young we are, that we need to be asking this question: "How do I know if I'm genuinely growing?"
And part of the problem is that many people have seen growth in the Christian life more like a spreadsheet, and that's really not the way the Bible depicts us. Rather, the Bible depicts growth as a Christian as coming to know the Lord and love the Lord more and more. And when we come to know the Lord and love the Lord, we see God's holiness. And the more we see God's holiness, the more we see our own sinfulness. The more we look to His Word and His law and His gospel, the more we see the righteousness of the law, the more we see the righteousness of Christ, and the more we realize that we really are wretched sinners.
And so, a lot of times Christian growth doesn't look like growing taller; it really looks a lot of times like growing smaller"smaller in our own eyes. And what that usually means for us as Christians is that we're growing by dying more and more to self. And that kind of death and pain hurts and it's scary, because we know that when God is growing us, He is in one sense killing the inner man"killing the sin within us. And as we strive to kill that sin in our flesh, to mortify that sin in our flesh, it is painful. When God disciplines us according to His love for us, that discipline is painful, but for the moment. Because God will crush us and discipline us in order to humble us, in order to preserve us, and in order to get our eyes fixed on Christ.
And so, the way we know that we're genuinely growing as Christians doesn't always seem apparent to us. We're sometimes the last ones to know. In fact, if we're really growing in humility and grace and knowledge and the love of our Lord, we will not realize that we're growing. Sometimes the Lord might give us glimpses of it, but it's usually through the encouragement of those that know us best"a spouse, a friend, a member at our church that knows us well. They begin to see that we're growing in grace, that we're growing in gentleness and humility, that we're growing in loving the Lord and loving others as ourselves. And these characteristics are to be true of us and they ought to be growing in us.
And I have to tell you, in my life, I am always looking to older Christians, not just one or two, but many older Christians that are in my life, friends of mine, and looking to see how God is growing in their lives and trying to follow their example as they follow Christ. And the men that I know in my life who are growing in that way"whose growth is evident to all"I see them growing in their humility before the Lord, and even humility before men, and in their love and in their grace and how they demonstrate that to others.
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