But these changes, while commencing immediately, do not fully bloom immediately. They are seeds that must be watered, fed, nurtured and exposed to sunlight and wind in order to reach maturity. This process is guided by the Holy Spirit as He ministers the Word of God through the Body of Christ to the believer. In this sense, our growth in spiritual maturity is a work of grace.
"The process of conformation to Christ," as might more appropriately call it, is constantly supported by grace and otherwise would be impossible. But it is not therefore passive. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. In fact, nothing inspires and enhances effort like the experience of grace."
Dallas Willard, "The Great Omission", page 80
In First Timothy 4:7 we are told to "train yourself for godliness". Dallas Willard suggests that the process of God's grace working in our lives is most often achieved through a training process.
"For example, if I find, as most do, that I cannot by direct effort succeed in 'blessing those who curse me' or 'praying without ceasing,' in putting anger aside or not indulging the covetous or lustful eye, then it is my responsibility to find out how I can train myself (always under grace and divine guidance, we must never forget) so that I will be able to do what I cannot do just by trying in the moment of need."
Dallas Willard, "The Great Omission", page 114
Grace empowers work. This is achieved through practice and training. Do you want to be able to forgive others? Train yourself and practice forgiving. Do you want to have more friends? Train yourself to be a friend and practice friendship (not just friendliness). Do you want to be more generous? Train yourself and practice. Do you want to pray more? Train and practice. If it all seems too hard, remember that your ability to train and practice is made possible by the grace of God.
For 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 in the present age,
The Bible says that only those Christians who have laboured, trained, and practiced godliness can enjoy the solid food reserved for the spiritually mature-
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The goal of Christ for us is to make us like Him. For this goal to be achieved He gives us His grace which enables us to practice those things that will make us more like Jesus. This requires work and training. But its work and training made possible only by the grace of God. As a church being shaped by the grace of God we can expect that our workload will increase- but we can ask God to train us and help us to carry out this work.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
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