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Reading Classics Together - Holiness (Growth)

“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

Today those of us who are engaged in this project to read some great Christian classics together are going to be looking at the sixth chapter of J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Even if you are not participating, please keep reading. I’m sure there will be something here to benefit you.

As we draw near to the end of this book we remember that Ryle has covered Sin, Sanctification, Holiness, The Fight and The Cost. This week he progresses to “Growth.” He begins with these simple questions: “Do we grow in grace? Do we get on in our religion? Do we make progress?” He says, “To a mere formal Christian I cannot expect the inquiry to seem worth attention. … But to every one who is downright earnest about his soul, and hungers and thirsts after spiritual life, the question ought to come home with searching power. Do we make progress in our religion? Do we grow?” Believing that spiritual growth is absolutely fundamental to the pursuit of holiness, Ryle leads the reader through the reality of religious growth, the marks of religious growth, and the means of religious growth.

Summary

  1. The Reality of Religious Growth
    1. Growth in grace is the evidence of spiritual health
    2. Growth in grace is the only way to be happy in religion
    3. Growth in grace is the only way to be useful to others
    4. Growth in grace pleases God
    5. We are accountable before God to grow in grace
  2. The Marks of Growing in Grace
    1. Increased Humility
    2. Increased Faith and Love
    3. Increased Holiness of Life and Conversation
    4. Increased Spiritual Taste and Thoughts
    5. Increased Charity
    6. Increased Zeal and Diligence
  3. The Means of Growing in Grace
    1. The Private Means of Grace
    2. The Public Means of Grace
    3. Watchfulness
    4. Caution of Company kept
    5. Regular Communion with the Lord

Discussion

I found this chapter both an encouragement and a challenge. It was encouraging because when I examine my life I can find evidences of the Spirit’s work within me—I see evidence of growth. I suppose one could say it smacks of arrogance to say so, but I think any Christian, or any true Christian, should be able to see the same. And this should be a cause to rejoice in the Lord. But, of course, any Christian will also see just how much room for growth remains. And this is the challenge—to take comfort in the evidence that the Spirit is at work and to allow this to help assure us that He will continue to do His sanctifying work within.

I appreciated Ryle’s description of his term “growing in grace.”

When I speak of growth in grace, I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigor and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage and the like may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply this—that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual–mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith and from grace to grace. I leave it to others to describe such a man’s condition by any words they please. For myself I think the truest and best account of him is this—he is growing in grace.

He goes on to further define this term as the chapter progresses and he moves through the various marks and means of growth. What strikes me as I read about the means that are to be used by those who wish to grow in grace is how exceedingly simple they are. Christianity is a faith that does not call for us to do extraordinary things in order to progress in our faith or to mark or progress in faith. Rather, we do the extraordinary ordinary—we use the private and public means of grace, we keep watch over the little things, guard our hearts from unwise influences and commune daily with Jesus Christ. And through these things—not great pilgrimages or great acts of public self-sacrifice—we grow in our knowledge of the Lord, our love of Him, and our obedience to Him. The sheer simplicity of Christianity is, I think, one of the evidences of its truth, for we need only do things that come naturally to those who have been renewed by the Spirit.

What a blessing it is to know that the Spirit does His work in us as we do these small, obvious, day-to-day tasks. He works in us through these ordinary means, even when they seem just so very ordinary…

Next Time

We’ll finish up this book next Thursday (October 18) with the sixth and final chapter (“Assurance”). If you’ve committed to join in this reading project, please keep reading and be prepared to discuss it!

Your Turn

I am interested in hearing what you took away from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Don’t feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or gave you pause or confused you.