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    CPR2019 Reflection #3 - Growth by Grace

    January 29, 2019

    The above quotations both speak to the same issue in our lives. They suggest that we can, and should, take steps in our life to cultivate our spiritual affections. In the above cases, the purpose for cultivation of spiritual affections and desires is for the purpose of growth in godliness, for conformity to the image of Christ, for the attainment of “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 3:14 ESV). They are a call to growth by grace.


    The second chapter of How to Grow deals with, among other things, our desire to grow in our Christian walk and the means by which that happens. Dash writes, “This book is written to help address our desire for growth …” (42).


    It is in regards to our desire for growth that the quotations above are helpful, at least in my opinion. Dash notes that the desire to grow is a common desire for followers of Christ, and yet it is a mixed experience that oscillates between a godly desire to grow and a sinful desire to remain as we are. Dash quotes Carl Sandburg, “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there’s a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”


    We, as believers, should endeavour to cultivate our desires for Christ and for our sanctification towards Christlikeness. Jonathan Edwards, famed theologian and preacher from the 18th century, suggests that we can promotes spiritual appetites—desires to grow—by living our lives in such a way that we regularly and increasingly behold the beauty of Christ. That place is the “way of allurement.”


    Pastor, author, and theologian Sam Storms’ quotation puts the idea in modern English. We want to have patterns of life that allow the beauty of Christ to be seen by the “eyes of our heart.” In beholding Christ, our spiritual appetites will expand just as our physical appetites are heightened when we see beautiful pictures of sumptuous dishes on Instagram. Storm notes that it will be of benefit if beholding the beauty of Christ is something more easily accessible.


    There are many things which make our enticement to the glory of Christ harder, not easier. For me, though they are not bad in and of themselves, certain practices make my soul callous to Christ’s beauty or, alternately, dull my spiritual appetites: Netflix, Twitter, and random internet surfing are practices that take me away from the “way of allurement” and posture my life such that I am not easily enticed by the beauty of Christ.


    However, there are other things which, in fact, strengthen my desire to grow and raise my affections. The things that increase godly desires and affections are the same things that Dash notes are the means which God uses to cause us to grow. Dash indicates those things declaring, “Change [growth] is possible, but it only comes as we learn about the means God has provided for us to change, and as we slowly and imperfectly place ourselves in the paths of grace.” I would suggest to you that there is much overlap between Dash’s “paths of grace,” Edwards’ “way of allurement” and what Storms meant by encouraging us to “posture our lives” a certain way.


    We needs to put ourselves in the paths of grace to grow, and we need to put ourselves in the paths of grace to desire to grow. So, it is all by grace. Yes, we are required to put ourselves in the way of allurement and posture our lives to be easily enticed and “practice the habits that will put us in the path of God’s grace” (42). But, we will only grow because of grace. According to Dash, “Growth takes place by God’s grace. We don’t grow on our own. We can’t just pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. God promises us His Spirit to transform us from the inside out.”


    So, the desire to grow comes by grace. The means to grow are by grace. Let’s be people who work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), but let us always remember it is by grace.

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