I’m reading the chapter on growth in J.C. Ryle’s classic ‘Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots‘ for discussion at Tim Challies blog. I’m kind of late to the discussion but I won’t let that stop me.
Ryle writes with zeal, passion and a sense of immediacy for his readers. He also pulls no punches in the vein of Piper or MacArthur in telling it how it is, something we can all appreciate, with a hearty 19th century panache.
Before taking us to task with The Reality of Religious Growth, he remarks…
It is an eminently practical subject, if any is in religion. It is intimately and inseparably connected with the whole question of sanctification. It is a leading mark of true saints that they grow. The spiritual health and prosperity, the spiritual happiness and comfort of every true–hearted and holy Christian, are intimately connected with the subject of spiritual growth.
In The Reality of Religious Growth, Ryle clarifies what he terms ‘growth in grace.’ He denies that a believers interest in Christ can grow, nor can we grow in safety, acceptance with God or security, nor can he be more justified, as we know, justification of every believer is complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
Growth in grace, as he describes is… 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.…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.
As any classic of the true religion, we are given obligatory scripture reference following his thoughts. He also attests to his view of growth in grace on a ground ‘of fact and experience.’ Appealing to readers of the New Testament, asking if we see varying degrees of grace in lives of saints recorded. He refers to passages of ones with ‘weak faith’ or ‘strong faith’, new Christians as ‘newborn-babes,’ ‘little children,” young men and fathers.’ He also appeals to our own observational prowess in our own lives as well those of other saints.
He then emphasizes grace as ‘a thing of infinite importance to the soul.
a. Growth in grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and properity.
b. Growth in grace is one way to be happy in our religion.
c. Growth in grace is one secret of usefulness to others
d. Growth in grace pleases God
The Marks of Religious Growth
a. Increased humility
b. Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ
c. Increased holiness of life and conversation
d. Increased spirituality of taste and mind
e. Increase in charity
f. Increase of zeal and diligence in doing good to souls (others).
The Means of Religious Growth
a. Diligence in the use of the private means of grace (ie. private prayer,Scripture reading, meditation.
b. Carefulness in the use of public means of grace
c. Watchfulness over our conduct in little matters
d. Caution in the company we keep
e. Habitual communion with Christ (sim. to a )
We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do all as in His sight, and to go through every day leaning on and looking to Him.