As a father, one of my greatest joys is seeing my kids grow. Not grow in inches, but in maturity. Seeing them perform an act of kindness when they thought no one was looking. Witnessing them do their chores without being asked. Hearing them ask their mom if there is anything she needs help with. It’s also humbling to see them trying to imitate qualities they see in me. Naturally I have a pretty high opinion of myself, but when I realize I’m being imitated I tend to sit up a little straighter. My own manners at the table tend to be a little better, and I’m extra careful about what comes out of my mouth.
But we have a Father in Heaven who is perfect, and he wants us to imitate him. That is, he wants us to grow in godliness, to be more like his Son, Jesus. Why should my kids tie their own shoes, learn to read and settle their own fights? Because they can (eventually). Why should we grow more like Jesus? Because we can! As a Christian you have been given both the power and the responsibility to grow.
In 2 Peter 1:3 Peter tells us that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Great! So as Christians we’ve got everything we need by God’s grace. What now? Should we sit back and wait for Jesus to return? On the contrary, we’ve got work to do.
Peter writes that through this divine power we have been given God’s great promises (1:4). Then he adds, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
Notice the logic here. It is as though Peter were saying, “Since God has given us everything we need, for this very reason make every effort!” Why should we make the effort to build up our faith in these ways? Because we can! Think about it. The person who does not know Christ cannot grow in godliness. According to Romans 8:8 “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” But a Christian has not only been given the desire to grow, he or she has also been given the power to do so.
The work of spiritual growth is entirely the Holy Spirit’s work. Yet the New Testament is full of exhortations for us to grow. How does this work? It is by what author Jerry Bridges calls “Dependent Responsibility.” We are responsible to grow, but we must depend completely upon the Holy Spirit to enable us. Bridges says “we must depend on the Holy Spirit to do within us what only He can do. And we must depend on Him just as much to enable us to do what He has given us to do. So whether it is His work or our work, in either case, we are dependent on Him.”
Christian, you should have the desire to grow in godliness. Know that the Holy Spirit will enable you to mature in the areas mentioned above. Try praying specifically about growing in these attributes, or those found in Galatians 5:22-23 for example. Don’t try this in order to get right with God. Righteousness is a gift that can only be received by faith (Romans 3:22). Strive to grow because you are right with God through Christ. Endeavor to grow in godliness because you can!