I want to return to Peter's primary thought today, and specifically to my illustration. If growing in grace is like a plant growing in soil, then to grow in grace I must live in an atmosphere of grace. Grace must surround me, it must fill my life.
How can I do that? If I will grow best as a Christian in an atmosphere of grace, how can I cultivate such an atmosphere?
First, remind yourself constantly of first grace. Yes, it is the old, old story but never let it grow old. Visit Calvary in your mind constantly. Let your heart thrill when the doctrinal aspects of salvation such as atonement, justification, and adoption are sung about. Listen eagerly to people when they share their testimony. Share your own often. Regularly witness to others, and as you tell them of God's grace available to them, you will find it will amaze you all over again. Never, ever, ever get over first grace.
Second, keep your heart and mind always squarely focused on Jesus Christ. John tells us, And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. A few verses later he repeats himself. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1.14, 17)
There is something about Who Jesus is, and how He operates that defines, describes, and delineates grace. To encounter Christ is to encounter grace. To think of Him is to think of grace. To be with Him is to be with grace. His life is just filled with it. It stands to reason, then, that the more my life becomes about Jesus the more my life is filled with grace.
About ten years ago, I began an intensive study of the life of Christ. It is the largest study I have ever undertaken, and it led directly to the birth of this blog, and of my ministry as a writer. In the course of that study Jesus Christ became a much larger part of my mind and heart, and a much larger part of my ministry. And although I did not intend for this to happen; I have found that grace has become a larger part of my life as well. Why? Because Jesus is, and He is full of grace and truth.
Third, seek to let the grace that increasingly fills your life overflow from it to those around you. I have spoken already in this series about giving grace but just one quick word more here. Again and again, an inspired author of Scripture wishes grace upon someone else. (Romans 1.7, I Timothy 1.2, II Timothy 1.2, Titus 1.4, Philemon 1.3, II John 1.3) Such a person, one who properly values grace highly, wants others to partake of its benefits. Because of this, it views others with grace, treats others with grace, and speaks to others with grace. Life is both giving and receiving. If grace is only present in the latter it will not fill my life. I must pour it out on all and sundry.
Fourth, seek to build your concept of, understanding of, and ability in the use of grace. Paul said to Timothy, Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (II Timothy 2.1) In a sense, that is what this blog series is designed to do. As your grasp of grace, of its importance and of the place it ought to hold in your life grows, and as your understanding of what it is and how it operates grows, grace becomes stronger in your life. That cannot help but aid you as you seek to grow in Christ.
Fifth, witness. I mentioned it briefly above, but when I tell others about Christ I am reminded again of the greatness of the grace of God. But beyond that reminder, there is something about the action of seeking to introduce others to Christ that brings grace to me. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4.33)
Even after all these years, soul winning does not come easy to me. My neighborhood is spiritually cold, not to mention often physically cold. The majority of the people who live in the houses whose doors I knock on do not speak English much, if at all. I have spent hundreds of hours going door to door, inviting people to church and seeking to speak a word for Christ on the streets around my church building and I have comparatively little fruit to show from it. I confess that cold reception is difficult for me to overcome sometimes. It takes grace, so to speak, to continue to offer Christ to a sin-wracked neighborhood that seems to want little to do with Him. In so doing, then, grace comes into my life in yet another way so that whether people are responding or whether they are rejecting, grace is upon me.
Last, if you want to live in an atmosphere of grace you must spend time in the Word of God. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20.32) God's Word is full of grace, front to back. It overflows from its pages. It drips from its stories. It abounds in the Scriptures. Well, as I spend time in its pages that same grace flows into my life. It fills my mind, my heart, and my thoughts. Without even trying to, necessarily, and perhaps without even realizing it, I begin to grow as a Christian. Why? Because my life is surrounded by, is filled by, and abounds in grace.
I think sometimes we do the Lord a disservice by attempting to grow, by trying to get bigger, stronger, faster, so to speak, in our Christianity. Perhaps, on the other hand, we should simply immerse ourselves in grace and let God produce the growth in us organically and naturally.
I suppose that last paragraph could be read wrong, or applied wrong, but I cannot bring myself to delete it. I genuinely believe that Peter was right. If we want to grow we can only do so in grace.
So, fill your life with it. And then watch the growth happen.