For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. —Jeremiah 29:11
Our spiritual life is a journey: a journey of grace. It begins when we hear God’s call to come and follow Him, to put our faith in Jesus Christ. This was true in the life of Simon Peter. One day, he was cleaning his fishing nets with his brother, Andrew. Jesus looked at them and invited them to come and follow Him. Immediately, Peter and Andrew left everything and followed Jesus. That decision changed their lives.
Years later, Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:1-2: “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Christ’s righteousness became Peter’s righteousness, and he was given a right standing before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Just like Peter, when we trust Jesus as our Savior, we receive His righteousness. When we join Jesus on a journey of discipleship, we receive God’s grace. God, in His mercy, does not give us what we deserve; God, in His grace, gives us what we do not deserve. Our God is "the God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10), and He channels that grace to us through Jesus Christ (John 1:16). As a result of putting our faith in Jesus, we also receive peace. Peace with God (Romans 5:1) and the peace of God.
In our journey with Christ, when we put our faith in Jesus, we also experience God’s power and receive everything we need to grow spiritually: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
God promises us that through His Word, He will enable us to develop this life and godliness. His promises will guide us to live a victorious life because they come from an Almighty God. They are precious because their value is immeasurable. As we progress on our journey, the Spirit of God uses His Word to impart God’s very nature in us. His Spirit helps us to escape the corruption, defilement, and decay of this world. Godly living is the result of cultivating His nature within.
We are all on a lifelong journey. When someone graduates from high school or college, the ceremony that formally concludes his or her education is called “commencement.” Most of us think of this graduation ceremony as the end of a process, but “commencement” actually marks a beginning. Now that your education is finished, you can begin real life! Many people think of their relationship with Christ as a completed process—I received Jesus as my Savior, I am a Christian: now it is completed! However, like a commencement exercise, coming to Christ is both an end and a beginning! Our relationship is to be new and growing. Discipleship is the process of becoming like Christ, and it is a lifelong calling that requires faith, devotion, and energy.
Progress and spiritual growth on this journey are not automatic. They require cooperation with God, spiritual diligence, and discipline. Literally, Peter wrote, "Make every effort to add to your faith" (1 Peter 1:5-7). We work together with God to grow spiritually, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. When we are not growing, we will be ineffective ("barren") and unproductive (unfruitful): “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:8).
The more we become like Jesus Christ, the more the Spirit can use us to witness and to serve. Some of the most effective Christians I have known are people without dramatic talents or special abilities, or even dynamic personalities; yet God has used them in marvelous ways.1 Why? Because they were becoming increasingly more like Jesus Christ. They are fruitful because they are faithful. They are effective because they are growing in their Christian experience. The Christian life begins with faith, but that faith must lead to spiritual growth. And spiritual growth leads to fruitfulness.
Our spiritual growth will not happen by accident. If we want to become more like Jesus Christ, it will take time and practice of the disciplines needed for spiritual growth. Study the Word—one of the ways we get to know God is by hearing what He has to say to us. Pray daily—it is our conversation with God; talk to Him and He will talk to us. Examine our heart—“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Our greatest spiritual growth will take place as we honestly examine our heart to find areas that are not in harmony with God’s will. Your journey to become more like Christ will be greatly strengthened in relationships with other Christians. Get involved in fellowship and accountability groups, for the Christian life is not a solo sport; it is something we do together. To know Jesus and to have a genuine relationship with Him means to change our lives forever. Keep growing in and with Him, becoming more and more like Him. Focus on being a growing disciple of Christ, seeking a dynamic relationship with the living Lord. Your life will never be the same! Enjoy the journey of God’s grace.
David Graves is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
1. Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude: Beware of the Religious Imposters (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, 2013), 275.
Holiness Today, March/April 2021
Please note: This article was originally published in 2021. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.