Sanctification

The Places Grace Empowers Us

The Places Grace Empowers Us

Christians live every day by the grace of God.

We receive forgiveness according to the riches of divine grace, and grace drives our sanctification. Paul tells us, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11–12).

This doesn’t happen overnight—we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Grace transforms our desires, motivations, and behavior.

Grace is the Basis

In fact, God’s grace grounds and empowers everything in the Christian life. Grace is the basis for:

  • Our Christian identity: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
  • Our standing before God: “. . . this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2).
  • Our behavior: “We behaved in the world . . . by the grace of God” (2 Cor. 1:12).
  • Our living: Those who receive “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 5:17) by the “grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • Our holiness: God “called us to a holy calling . . . because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Tim. 1:9).
  • Our strength for living: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:1) for “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” (Heb. 13:9).
  • Our way of speaking: “Let your speech always be gracious” (Col. 4:6).
  • Our serving: “Serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).
  • Our sufficiency: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9), “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8)
  • Our response to difficulty and suffering: We get “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), and when “you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace . . . will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).
  • Our participation in God’s mission: As recipients of grace we are privileged to serve as agents of grace. Believers receive grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the grace of God (Acts 20:24). In John 20:21, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” God’s mission is to the entire world (Isa. 49:6; Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8; 13:47).
  • Our future: God, and his grace, is everlasting. “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
  • Our hope beyond death: “Grace [reigns] through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).

The gospel is all about God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and “the word of his grace” (Acts 14:3; 20:32; cf. Col. 1:5–6).

Gratuitous Grace

The gospel of the grace of God is the message everyone needs. The word of grace is proclaimed from every page of the Bible and ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ. The last verse of the Bible summarizes the message from Genesis to Revelation: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all” (Rev. 22:21). Because of and from Jesus “we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16)—the gratuitous and undomesticated grace of God.

 


 

This post was adapted from On the Grace of God, by Justin Holcomb, copyright © 2013.

Fake It Till You Make It

Fake It Till You Make It

Jesus promises us tribulation in this world (John 16:33). Not only will there be suffering, but we are also called to give, serve, live on mission, love God, love others, and lay our whole life down as a sacrifice. This can be overwhelming at times.

In some seasons of life, we don’t “feel God.” We question our salvation. We know all the right answers, but our heart isn’t always there. How does a Christian handle times like that?

You Have To Fake It Till You Make It

You need to turn loving God into a habit. Discipline should be your best friend. Work out of your own strength to pray, read your Bible, and do more for God. When in doubt, just follow your heart. God will surely honor and help those who help themselves. In no time at all you should feel closer to God and right back in step on the Christian walk.

Even if your heart isn’t any closer to God, faking it will keep others from seeing your flaws, sins, and doubts. If everyone around you is convinced that you too are living a victorious, successful Christian life, that positive energy will eventually lift your spirits and allow you to “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa. 40:31).

If you start to feel beat down and depressed, don’t give up; it just means you’re doing something wrong. Don’t ever relax or rest; you’ve got to give 110% if you want to get to the top. Besides, depending on the grace of God for your spiritual growth is for second rate Christians.

Don’t ever admit sins or failures. It’s essential that you appear spiritual, or at the very least, always improving. Repentance is important at the beginning of your Christian walk, but once you’ve been a Christian for a few years, you should be free of most sin.

If this is you, then remember: fake it till you make it.

 

I hope your theological radar was going off as you read this post. It’s all bad news (April Fools’). If you want good news on this and not just terrible advice, then I’d recommend my interview with Paul Tripp. At about 44 minutes in, he talks about how people can change through grace. 


Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Willpower Is Weak

If you’re considering making some New Year’s resolutions this year, consider this: like other exercises of raw willpower, most New Year’s resolutions fail miserably.

According to research, 80 percent of those who make resolutions on January 1 have given up by Valentine’s Day. Nutrition experts say that two-thirds of dieters regain any weight lost within a year, and more than 70 percent of people who undergo coronary bypass surgery fall back into unhealthy habits within two years of their surgery.

“Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around,” says Alan Deutschman, the former executive director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to navigate change. “It’s exceptionally hard to make life changes, and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own.”

As we think about New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to realize something about human nature: people do what they want to do. The Reformation theologian Thomas Cranmer held this view of human nature (as summarized by Anglican historian Ashley Null):

What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.

So making a resolution and summoning up all your willpower does little good if, ultimately, your heart isn’t in it. Does this mean you should abandon any hope of change? Not at all. If you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, here are a few things to keep in mind.

 

1. Is It A Good Resolution?

Try to determine if the resolution is actually good. Are you planning on working out more? If so, is it because you want to be a good steward of the body God gave you or is it vanity? In reality, it is probably some of both. But what is the driving desire? Is it a good one?

 

2. Just Do It

If your resolution is actually a good one, just do it. Go ahead and work out more, smoke or drink less, read your Bible more, pay down your debt and save more for retirement, focus on your marriage, spend more time with your children. Every once in a while, people start a New Year’s resolution and it sticks. But most don’t. That’s because (1) you are sinner and (2) your heart is an idol factory.

 

3. Grace Actually Works

The reality is that your resolution is likely needed because, like everyone else except for Jesus, you are not loving God with your entire being and not loving your neighbor as yourself. These two failures lead to havoc, discord, pain, and destruction. Jesus gave us the basic requirement: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40).

That basic failure is why we need the gospel: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection deal with the guilt and the stain of sin. It’s also why we so often fail at our attempts to improve ourselves.

But Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit, who can change our desires and empower us to love God and neighbor. As Paul tells us, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). With us and our willpower, Jesus says, change is impossible, “but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

 

God Gives Grace to Change

As Cranmer realized, our wills are captive to what our hearts love, and we are powerless to change ourselves without the work of God’s Spirit changing our desires. When you think through New Year’s resolutions, here’s a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer as you ask God to work on your heart:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Love-Making

Love-Making

Everyone agrees that love is a good thing. Love is often a very feel-good topic. But if we look at Scripture, we find something disturbing: love is actually a big problem for us humans.

Our Problem with Love

The Bible tells us that God doesn’t just want us to love each other—he actually requires that we love each other:

  • “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Rom. 13:9)
  • “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal. 5:14)
  • “. . . Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
  • “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . . . [You] must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:44, 48)
  • “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37–40)

As we read through these verses, it should become apparent that every one of us has failed and does fail to love as God intends and commands us to, with all our hearts.

Jesus has some bad news regarding what naturally comes out of the human heart: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, false testimony, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly (Matt. 15:17–20; Mark 7:20–22). He concludes, “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:23). In Galatians 5:17–21, Paul follows Jesus’ lead and tells us that inherent within us are works of the flesh like “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

After Paul makes his list of sinful desires, he follows it with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is not inherent in us but worked into us by the Holy Spirit. The natural human heart produces one kind of desires, and the Spirit produces another kind by giving us a new heart. And they are opposed to one another. Thorn bushes do not produce oranges. Weeds do not produce apples. And the human heart does not naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Love is our problem. Moreover, the command to love doesn’t generate in us the ability to fulfill it. We can be told over and over that we ought to love, but being told to do so doesn’t make it possible for us to accomplish it. The command to love actually condemns us, because we all fail.

Freed from Condemnation

God provides the answer for our love problem in Jesus Christ. Through faith we trust in Christ, and we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Through faith in Christ’s finished work, we are freed from condemnation for our failure to love.

But it gets even better.

Freed to Love

We have been freed to love. When God makes us new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), he produces in us new passions and desires so love and good works are actually possible (Phil. 2:13).

God has loved us in a way that has given us life. The atoning death of Jesus provides the means by which we enter a relationship in which love is received and expressed. With that as the context of the commands to love, the commands are viewed not as the “ought” of compulsion but the “transformation” of internal constraint. To those who encountered the source of love, the commandment to love can be read with hope and joy, because love is not alien to our experience.

We have been given an overabundance of love.

1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love for us produces love in us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s gracious, generous love toward us changes our hearts and makes us able to love.

Abundance of Love

The more we bask in God’s affection, the more the reality of God’s acceptance of us seeps into our hearts, the more we might love others as ourselves. This seems to be the logic behind Jesus’ statement: love one another as God has loved you. We have been given an overabundance—a surplus—of love. And out of that love, we can love others out of the overflow of God’s affection for us. God’s love is a love-making love.

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

People love rules.

And rules make sense because they give us conditions. In essence, you could say we are natural-born legalists. It goes like this: if you do a, b, and c, you will get a reward. But if you break the rules, a bad result will follow. Rules give us a sense of control because if we can make good on those rules, then we can stay in control and master our destiny. But God’s economy is different. God, in the gospel, says you get exactly what you don’t deserve. Grace.

The Gospel Is Still Offensive

But the gospel is offensive to our natural human legalism. It just feels “wrong” that God would save people without any work or effort on our part, doesn’t it?  It seems crazy that God would pardon sinners in Jesus. It’s a scandal, really, but it’s God’s design (Eph. 2:8-9), and Christians delight that despite their sin, they are justified for Jesus’ sake. So we get the offense of the gospel when it comes to our being justified (something we’re exceedingly glad for). But as soon as we enjoy the I-once-was-lost-but-now-I’m-found freedom, we move quickly into rules and performance mode and miss the offense of the gospel in sanctification.

What Is Sanctification?

Sanctification means being “set apart,” that Christians are progressively made to be more holy. Simply put, it is being made more and more like Jesus who loved God and others perfectly.

It’s right at the doctrinal point of sanctification that many smuggle in their anti-gospel theology. Jesus doesn’t just save us at conversion and then say “good luck” to our sanctification. This would be a sort of functional Pelagianism that sells a self-salvation answer to sanctification. Beware of it! It will kill you and heap burdens on others.

Grace provides the desire, motivation, and power to love God and others.

The Law

Most Christians aren’t theologically malicious about the doctrine of sanctification, they’re simply confused over the issues of law and gospel when it comes to sanctification.

The law is God’s law and it’s true and right (Psalm 119, 1 Timothy 1:8, Rom 3:31, Rom 7:12-16), and it’s an accurate summary or description of what it means to be obedient, happy, and fulfilled. If we were able to fulfill it, the law would be the answer to humanity’s problems.

We can’t fulfill it though. While the law is good and right, it cannot generate in us what it commands (Romans 7:24-25). It’s like a sign when you’re driving that tells you the speed limit for that road, but as we all know, that sign doesn’t give you the motivation or ability to obey it.

What’s Needed for Healing

The law tells us the truth about our condition and ourselves, but it fails to give the power to correct the maladies it diagnoses. Something else is needed for healing to occur. What’s needed is grace, which can only be found in Jesus’ gospel. That grace provides the desire, motivation, and power to love God and others.

But rather than trying to explain this any better myself, I’m going to stop writing now and point you to Chapter 7 of Jared Wilson’s new book Gospel Wakefulness. I have not read a better description of gospel-driven sanctification anywhere else. So I asked Jared and his publisher (Crossway) if they would be willing to make it available to you for free, and they graciously agreed. This is the only place you’ll be able to find this right now. Enjoy. The rest of the book is just as good.

 


 

Download a free PDF of chapter 7 or buy the book here.

 

 

 

 

 

Faith, Hope, Love

Faith, Hope, Love

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 Paul writes, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Religious Hijacking

There are two bundles of words that stand out: first, work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness (or endurance) of hope. These words have been hijacked by religious people to heap burdens on others. The second group of words you hear all the time, both in and outside the church: faith, hope, and love. These are very “Christian” words, but they’ve been gutted—look, for example, at “faith” in pop culture.

Knowing Jesus Changes Us

At the end of verse 3 the faith and love and hope are “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is not describing general principles; he is describing particular spiritual effects of being in relationship to Jesus Christ. Faith and love and hope that are “in our Lord Jesus Christ” give rise to work, labor, and endurance.

1 Thessalonians 1:3–6 refer to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity is involved in faith, love, and hope. They come from trusting in Jesus Christ. They are the result and evidence of being chosen (v. 4) by God the Father. And they are the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.

God Gives Us Faith

Faith is a gift from God. Hebrews 11 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The chapter describes a list of people who had faith in God and God’s actions on their behalf. That’s what faith is: trust in God and what he has done for you in Jesus. Through faith we trust in Christ. When we trust in Christ we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

And faith produces works; that’s why the passage says “works of faith.” When we put our faith in Christ, God changes our hearts and desires so good works are actually possible (Philippians 2:13).

God’s love for us produces love in us.

God Gives Us Love

Like faith, love is a gift from God. Love was our problem. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Jesus summarizes the law of God under two commands: 1) Love God, and 2) Love your neighbor (Mt. 22:36-40). But this is bad news for us because we stubbornly rebel against God and love ourselves way more than we love others.

1 John 4: 10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love for us produces love in us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and just as faith causes works, love produces our labor.

 

God Gives Us Hope

Like faith and love, hope is a gift from God. We can have hope because of what Jesus did. We can have hope for the future because of Jesus’ resurrection. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Hope produces endurance. We can carry through the difficulties of this life because we know God is good and he is not playing games with our life. He has a plan for us.  

God Works On Us and In Us

Because all the works God does in Christ are done for you, your sins are forgiven, you are declared righteous, and you will arise and live with him. Faith, hope, and love are possible for you because of Jesus. They are the works of God on us. Work, labor, and endurance are the fruit of God’s work in us.

 

What Would Luther Do?

What Would Luther Do?

In Martin Luther’s essay, “The Freedom of a Christian,” we read the following: “I believe that it has now become clear that it is not enough or in any sense ‘Christian’ to preach the works, life, and words of Christ as historical fact, as if the knowledge of these would suffice for the conduct of life.”

WWJD Is a Bad Question

Luther is claiming that asking “What Would Jesus Do?” is a bad question for your spiritual formation. Luther continues: “Yet, this is the fashion among those who today are regarded as our best preachers…and such teaching is childish and effeminate nonsense.” Luther’s 16th century words are still relevant today. Thankfully, Luther explains why he considers WWJD a bad question:

    There are some who have no understanding to hear the truth of liberty and insist upon their goodness as means for salvation. These people you must resist, do the very opposite, and offend them boldly lest by their impious views they drag many with them into error. For the sake of the liberty of the faith do other things which they regarded as the greatest of sins….Use your freedom constantly and consistently in the sight of and despite the tyrants and the stubborn so that they also may learn that they are impious, that their laws and works are of no avail for righteousness, and that they had no right to set them up.

 

Are You Offended by the Gospel?

Don’t get all excited because you now have a great theologian giving you a divine sanction on your favorite sins. Luther spends the rest of his essay talking about what it looks like to love God and your neighbor. He is no antinomian. But do get angry if you’re offended by the gospel. That can be a good thing because it points you to some good news—that the remedy for guilt and condemnation is NOT your better law-keeping or adherence to your well-polished moral sense, but faith in the law-keeping of Jesus. Because of Christ, you are already vindicated in the eyes of God. God’s riches of forgiveness and freedom from guilt, condemnation, and shame are offered not on the basis of working or measuring up. Rather, you have a right standing before God because of the righteousness of Christ. So, what would Luther do? In the face of suffocating religion and moralism, he would offend boldly and celebrate the liberty of faith for the sake of the gospel.

The Problem of Love

The Problem of Love

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

I have been studying these verses recently and thinking about the command to love one another and how that can actually happen.

  • Romans 13:9—The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Galatians 5:15—The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • John 14:34-35—Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
  • 1 John 3:11,16—This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

The problem is that a command doesn’t generate the ability to fulfill the command. People can tell you over and over again to love each other, but telling you to do something doesn’t make it possible for you to accomplish it.

Lack of Love

Doug Coupland writes about this “problem of love” in his book Life After God: “Now here is my secret—that I need God, that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving, I need God to help me be kind, as I no longer seem to be capable of kindness, I need God to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.” To add to the problem, when Jesus and Paul make love the fulfillment of the law it really points out our failure. Summing up the law in the command to love just consolidates our failures to one big failure: our lack of love. The gospel has something to say about this “problem of love”: God has loved us in a way that has given us life. The atoning death of Jesus provides the means by which we enter a relationship in which love is received and expressed. With that as the context of the commands to love, the commands are viewed not as the “ought” of compulsion but the “transformation” of internal constraint. To those who encountered the source of love, the commandment to love can be read with hope and joy, because love is not alien to our experience.

An Abundance of Love

God’s love for us transforms us. The more we bask in God’s affection, the more the reality of God’s acceptance of us seeps into our hearts, the more we might love others as ourselves. This seems to be the logic behind Jesus’ statement: love one another as God has loved you. We have been given an overabundance—a surplus—of love. And out of that love, we can love others out of the overflow of God’s affection for us. Our inability to love others (our failure to keep God’s perfect law) can point us to the God who accomplished perfect love, self-denial, and self-sacrifice. The command can be a moment to encounter God’s love for us and for God to enable us to participate in his love for others.

Paul’s Downward Trajectory

Paul’s Downward Trajectory

Paul refers to himself numerous times as worth “imitating” when it comes to spiritual growth and maturity (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17, 4:19; 1 Thess. 1:6; and 2 Thess. 3:7, 9). What do we see when we look to Paul as an example? He makes three significant statements about himself throughout his years in ministry that are helpful insights into his view of spiritual growth.

The least of the Apostles

Early in Paul’s ministry, during his three missionary journeys, he wrote six major epistles: Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Romans. In one of them, Paul makes a very humble statement about himself—”I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9). Paul does not put himself on par with the other apostles, as if he were equal to them. Rather, he calls himself “the least of the apostles.” That’s a decent dose of humility worth noticing.

The least of all the saints

Toward the middle of his ministry, during his first Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote Philippians, Colossian, Philemon, and Ephesians. In Ephesians 3:8, his humility deepens—”I am the very least of all the saints.” Paul goes from “least of the apostles” to “least of all the saints.” What’s happening here?

The foremost sinner

At the end of his ministry and during his second Roman imprisonment, Paul writes Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy. Early in his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). Some translations say “chief of sinners.” Paul sounds like a spiritual failure, like he is regressing spiritually, not making spiritual progress.

Paul’s Trajectory

Do you see the trajectory as Paul matures in faith? This is what happens when you boast in Christ alone. Your weakness becomes more evident. You can’t help but make much of Christ and little of self. That is maturity according to Paul—boasting in nothing but Christ’s grace and our weakness.

True Spiritual Growth

Paul isn’t just using self-deprecating hyperbole as a teaching device. Each of the three statements about himself is surrounded by references to the cross (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 3:7-8; and 1 Tim. 1:15) and grace or mercy (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:2, 7; and 1 Tim. 1:13-14, 16). For him, spiritual growth is realizing how utterly dependent he is on Jesus’ cross and mercy, not arriving at some point where he somehow needs the cross and mercy less. Paul’s view of himself diminishes and his dependence on Jesus’ cross and grace increases. How do you talk about spiritual maturity? Imitating Paul’s example, there should be more talk of the depth and scope of God’s mercy, less talk of self-reliance, and an abiding fixation on Jesus’ cross that secured God’s grace for you.