PART 1 | PART 2
For the month of July my family and I are visiting our relatives in Port Alberni, BC Canada. For those who do not know where Port Alberni is, you go to Vancouver (North of Seattle) take a 1.5-2 hour ferry, drive an hour and a half inland through Cathedral Grove and over (what is affectionately called "the hump") into the beautiful Alberni Valley. The Alberni Valley is gorgeous! Once in the Valley you are surrounded by mountain ranges and have access to the ever refreshing Sproat Lake. For ten years I had the privilege of ministering and being ministered to in multiple ways. From youth ministry, coaching football, partnering with churches to reach teens, to going on staff in a local church.
It has been nearly three years since we were back in Port Alberni. Coming down over the hump and into the valley, I began thinking of when I first moved into town. I got off the Greyhound bus at the 7-11 on the corner of Johnston and Gertrude in the late hours of the night anxious to see what was ahead. So much has changed since I first came to town. Port Alberni is where I met the love of my life, where our two boys were born, where I made lifelong friendships, and where I began to cut my teeth in ministry. Other things have not changed: I still rock my long, luscious, and glorious hair, I am still in love with 80's hair bands, and I still cheer for the Chicago Bears.
Ultimately, I hope that I am not the same person I was when I first came into Port Alberni. I hope that a maturing has taken place in my heart that is evident in my relationship with the Lord and others.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18
How do we know we have been growing in grace and knowledge? How do we tell if the growth is real or just a veneer of maturity?
I have to say that at various times I have believed I was growing when I truly was not. I began to believe that a certain facade was all that was needed to be viewed as growing in the eyes of others and thus, to myself.
A false growth that many like myself struggle with is knowing big words and concepts. Being able to articulate doctrines of the faith are not, but when it goes no further, there is an issue. It is only one step in the growth process and needs to go further. Doctrine is meant and intended to point one deeper into devotion of their Savior. Knowledge for knowledge sake is not true growth because it has not captured the heart.
Some struggle with the false growth of legalism, trusting that adhering to a strict standard or law will somehow obtain their righteousness before God. This often leads to judging others who are not living according to the moral or man made standards that one places upon themselves. In various times my life I have lived the life of a legalist, imposing my self made standard of righteousness upon others. Merely having the exterior in order without the heart is embodying Jesus' words in Matthew 23:27-28:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
What's wrong with legalism? Isn't it ok that one is living a moral life? I was introduced recently to the words of Geerhardus Vos, "Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore." Legalism is about our own work being sufficient rather than the work of Christ on the cross. As we look to Christ and his work, we respond in worship and adoration.
True growth is not about intellectual prowess or how squeaky clean one looks to others. These are merely an exterior facade that has not truly changed and captivated ones heart in worship and adoration. While one may be commended by others for what appears like true growth, this is not the growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that Peter is referring to.
Next Time: What is true growth?