Does the average Christian, really want to grow in their faith? I know the auto-response is yes, but if we’re honest with ourselves, and we recognized the differences in what we actually want, is it growth we seek? Many of us want to be encouraged, and built up, but those things alone do not make us grow.
Being built up, and encouraged is not a bad thing. Scripture calls us to encourage one another, and build each other up. It commands us to suffer, and rejoice together. There most certainly is a large part of the Christian walk that has us building up and encouraging each other. And growing in our walk doesn’t require us to “tear each other down” so to speak. But typically growth is not comfortable.
Confessing our sins to one another, is as important guide as is building each other up. This is a practice almost non-existent in the lives of many professing Christians. If sin is talked about, many will get angry even. I have been told point blank, “Not everyone wants to talk about sin!” The statement is completely accurate, but every professing believer should do it anyways.
Verses that discuss bringing a brother back out of sin indicate that we are to confront it, and discuss it. We are to do our best to save that person from the wrath they are heading for. Church discipline is supposed to be a very real part of our walk. We, in the worst cases, should throw people out of the church, and not even eat with them. Turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that their soul might be saved from hell is not only biblical, but loving.
All of these things are not “comfy.” But here is the quesiton, is it supposed to be? In the scriptures, specifically in the Proverbs, it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).
Think about this verse. It’s something we typically pass over, name our blogs, call on as a reason to “encourage and build up” our friends, but do we really even consider it. As iron sharpens iron – When iron is used to sharpen iron, what is taking place is pieces of iron are actually being removed from the objects. It’s not a soft, and always gentle process. It’s harsh, and destructive. It’s not destructive because the person sharpening the instrument is being “agressive” it’s destructive because the very process of sharpening an axe, or knife, or any iron object is actually the destruction of that object. Over many years of resharpening a knife, the knife will actually wear out because it disappears as the molecules of iron are chipped away in order to make the device better suited for it’s purpose. Further, the iron object, regardless if it is a knife, or axe, or anything else, will need to be continually resharped, it’s not a one time event.
So one person sharpens another – The things that will actually sharpen us, and grow us, they are the hard things. I have found over and over in my life that while I really enjoy the “good times” and the “encouraging words” what really pushes me for growth is the challenges, the rebukes, and the corrections. I have a few people in my life that provide this service for me, and I for them. The believer that is looking to grow in Christ likeness should be looking for this sharpening. And as it is with iron, the chipping away at the person is not felt, by the person being sharpened, as “gentle.” No matter how the rebuke, or correction is presented, it’s felt as harsh, and destructive.
I’m reading a book right now called: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. I have deemed the author legalistic on more chapters than not. I have had to go back and read scripture, and contrast it against what the author is writing to see if it adds up. I have gone to bed, or stopped reading, mad, or bummed out, more times than I can count. I’ve had to reread the same chapter several times checking him for legalistic ideals. The author is challenging me greatly. And as I read, conviction from the Holy Spirit is chipping away at me. I can tell you, this is not fun. It often feels harsh, and violent – even agressive, as selfishness, and pridefulness in myself are uncovered.
Some of you don’t want to “feel bad” or “guilty.” You love being built up, and encouraged to continue in the way of life you have been living in. You want people to praise you for your “good works” (Which, might I remind you, are like filthy rags before The Lord) and never tell you that you are in sin, or challenge you to examine your life for sin that perhaps only yourself and God know about. Not examine only parts of your life, but every aspect of it. You want no conviction. So many Christians have come to see conviction as some sort of disease to be avoided at all cost. But if you’re a child of God, you should feel convicted from time to time. It causes you to change behaviors, and sharpens you.
If you are a child of God, he will sharpen you. He will rain down hardships on you where needed. He will put people in your path that will make you see who you are, and what you are. And as you grow, you will not have less and less sin to repent of, you will find that you see more and more of it as the smallest things start to stick out to you. God’s purpose is not to make you comfortable and unchallenged but it is to conform you to the image of his son! This is painful. The sanctification process hurts, and often is harsh or difficult. As your pride is chipped away at, your selfishness is revealed, greed is pointed out, self righteousness rears it’s ugly head, it will hurt. There is nothing more humbling, and growth promoting than having to humbly repent and ask a Holy God for grace. And like it or not, God has designed it so that sharpening comes by way of one brother, sharpening another.
It’s so awesome when things surface, and we repent, to be reminded through His word that he is just to forgive us. His grace is unbelievable, but so can His discipline be. Like an iron tool, if you’re not sharp, you’re worthless at worst, and at best, far less effective in His work. Feeding the poor, fixing economies, getting running water to villages are all wonderful things, and they are fantastic ways to show the love, and gratitude you have for Christ. However they are not a replacement for a growth in Christ likeness. Christ likeness does not consist of only a feeding the poor type of work, It is about growing in Holiness. The growth in Holiness, and conforming of us, to the image of Christ comes through sharpening – That brutal removal of selfish, prideful, greed-filled, idol creating behaviors.
So, if you are honest, do you want to grow to become more conformed to the image of Christ? Or do you just want to be encouraged to live the the same life you have been, becoming stagnant in growth, even if completely obese on the Word? Do you want to be simply puffed up with knowledge of the scriptures, like the Pharisees were, or do you want to become not only a hearer of the word, but a doer? Are you looking for Happiness, or Christlikeness? Because the work toward being conformed to the image of Christ is often painful. If you examine yourself, is this really what you want? Are you all in, or are you in it just for the build-up community surrounding you? Do you – do we, really want to grow?