You’ve probably seen something like the chart in this picture. Maybe you used one to track your children’s physical growth. What about your Christian growth chart? Is it out for all to see, or is it just in your brain – away from the public eye? I’m talking about the one you use to track how much you have grown in Christian character since you began this journey with Him. The one on which you can consider where you stand in relation to other Christians you know. Have you grown by leaps and bounds, do you not see much difference from the last time you measured, or has it been an up-and-down journey?
Can I let you in on a secret? It’s one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops to the whole body of Jesus Christ. Here goes: Growing in Christ is a sham! Yes, you read that right. The real or imagined growth chart, whereby we plot our progress in our Christian life, is a man-made, pit-instigated invention. It keeps our focus off our perfect Jesus Christ and on our imperfect human selves – and keeps us comparing our imperfect human selves to one another – as we try to “get better.”
We are new creatures in Christ. We’re not becoming new creatures. We are – the moment we believe in Jesus and His finished work on our behalf. We have been made new in Christ. He isn’t progressing. He is complete. We are in Him. As He is, so are we, right here and right now, in this world. The problem is, we insist on looking through our natural eyes, so we can’t see it. When we think we see it, we’re still looking at the flesh, not the spirit.
When we work so hard to grow in Christ – like a fruit trying to produce itself on the tree – our effort is self-focused and self-defeating. One day we mark ourselves high on our progress chart, but the next day we are back at the bottom beating ourselves up. What we have considered growth in Christ is improved behavior. When we’re good we feel good about ourselves, and when we are bad, we feel like worms. Again, the focus is on us, not Jesus. These self-improvement efforts, regardless of motives, easily hide fleshly attitudes.
“But I think about things so much more like Jesus now than I used to. I know people see Jesus in me more than they used to. After all, I must decrease and He must increase.” Christ is either in us or He’s not. Any true improvement is a result of the work of Christ in us, not our working to be like Him – an eternally fruitless effort. We are not supposed to be like Christ. Rather, we are in Christ, and He, the Hope of glory, is in us. Believe this reality of His work in our stead, because we couldn’t. That’s when resting in Christ comes, when self-effort and self-focus decrease, and when He is seen more clearly.
Our growth is only in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, come on. Tear up that Christian growth chart and discover the absolute freedom and joy of simply being in Christ. Of resting in His finished work. Of recognizing and receiving His forgiveness and covering for all the self-focus. Of being immersed in His love!