But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…. 2 Pet 3:18
It should be clear from even a casual reading of the New Testament that Christians are to grow (mature) in their faith. If this is what one intends to mean by “progressive sanctification”, then I have no problem with his/her ‘intent.’ But I believe the terminology to be misleading because it implies a present increasing in holiness before God. For me, the implications of that are problematic. But that aside, what does “growing” look like? Surely if we are to grow, there needs to be some indications of what that means.
First of all, we must understand that spiritual growth is a work of the indwelling Spirit that occurs in the environment of “grace and the knowledge of the Lord” (1 Peter 3:18) – that is, amid the proclamation and celebration of (1) the glories of Christ and (2) the implications of the Gospel of grace. As we grow, here are several indicators that should be emerging.
1. Increasing love will set us free from the fear of condemnation, guilt, and judgment (1 John 4:17-18 ).
2. There is a changing – a renewing – of our conscious minds (Rom 12:2). There will be a shifting of our mental focus away from the base desires of the flesh and objectives of the world to the leading of the Spirit in a focus on Christ and His kingdom. By the teaching of the Spirit through the Word of God, the implications of the Gospel of Grace will produce a growing sense of liberty and joy that will embrace our minds. There will be an increasing alignment of our mindset and thought patterns according to the truth, and the mercy and love of God.
3. Maturity will set us free from legalistic concepts and rules in our walk with Christ (Rom 14:1-3; Colossians 2:16-23). The Spirit-produced fruit of love will be replacing legal obedience to commands (Gal 5:18-19).
4. There will be a decreasing attachment to the world and temporal circumstances, especially as indicators of our well-being. Our hope will be more and more in the truths and promises of God’s Word regardless of circumstances. We will become more assured that all things are in the hands of our loving Father and designed for His glory and our ultimate good. Ironically, we will thus be able to truly enjoy the temporal blessings of this world without becoming enslaved to them, giving thanks and glory to God. (1 John 2:15-17; Rom 8:28; 2 Cor 4:16-18; 1 Tim 6:17).
5. We will become more gracious, long-suffering, and be forgiving to others (Eph 4:30-32).
6. Through the implementation in love of our unique spiritual gifts and callings, we will be more and more fitted for the edification, comfort, encouragement, and the communion of our brothers and sisters – the Body of Christ. (1 Cor 12:4-6; 1 Pet 4:10)
7. There will be an increasing joyful desire to make known to others the glories of Christ and the love of God.
While we all may be at different stages of spiritual growth, these things, rather than distinguishing us from one another, will increase our love, fellowship, and unity with one another.