This morning I was thinking about the sin that remains in me and how stubborn it is. I was frustrated that I’m not more holy already and discouraged by the pace of my growth in holiness.
As I contemplated the gospel and how it relates to my pace of growth in holiness I was first discouraged and then encouraged. Here’s what I mean.
Slow Growth is Discouraging Because It’s Not Right
My friend Rony preached at our church this Sunday from Colossians 1 and reminded us that the gospel is effective — it bears fruit and grows in the whole world and advances in us as well. In the gospel we are ‘strengthened with all power, according to [God's] glorious might’ for gospel-living.
Or, as Jesus said, ‘A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.’ Or, as John said, ‘By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.’ Paul rhetorically asked, ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’
In Christ I have become a new creation and that new creation ought to look different. Growth should be evident and righteousness manifest. When it’s not, that’s discouraging.
Slow Growth is Encouraging Because It Reminds Us of the Power of Sin’s Hold On Us
Next I got to thinking about the why of slow sanctification. If it is true the heart is the ‘wellspring’ of life and the source of all thoughts and deeds, then ultimately every bit of behaviour change must start not with behaviour but with the heart. So for God to bring change in us, it must come from the core of our being.
So if change is slow, at least one of the reasons is because my heart is such a snarled mess of sin that the untangling process is long and arduous. Even the discovery of all my sin takes time.
But wait — isn’t this supposed to be encouraging part? Why are we talking about how my slow growth just shows me more clearly how deeply rooted sin is in my heart?
Here’s the encouraging part: No matter how warped and woofed your heart has become from a lifetime of sin, God is committed to reclamation and recovery. Even though it’s so ugly and its roots are so intertwined with the very fabric of my personality, God loves me and is patiently working out sin in my heart and changing me. He hasn’t given up, even though my growth is so slow.
Slow Growth is Encouraging Because It Leads to Heightened Focus on Jesus
So if growth is to be slow — if it is to truly take a lifetime — then what do I need to do? I need to gaze more intently at Jesus. He is the source and the power of all transformation.
Paul says, ‘We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.’ The more we look at Jesus in this life, the more we’ll become like him. And that won’t ever change.
Even our final sanctification and glorification will come through our eyes. John says, ‘What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.’
Our hope isn’t in our growth. Our hope is in instantaneous transformation and glorification when we behold him as he is: absolutely pure.
And in that moment, growth will no longer be slow. In an instant, we’ll be like him.