I was reminded, today, of this quote by John Wesley, “Every one, though born of God in an instant, yea and sanctified in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees…”
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, believed that the “born again” experience, though incredibly important, was only the beginning of our Christian experience. In that moment, we become right with God. But, that doesn’t mean that we have yet to become “right” in terms of our Christian knowledge, wisdom, maturity, or fruitfulness. In that moment, we are forgiven for our sins. But, our inclination to sin – the root of our sin – has, probably, not yet been mastered.
Wesley believed that God intends for us to “go on to perfection” in this life. But, that rarely happens quickly.
The Apostle Paul says that new Christians are like babies. But, in time, with effort, by God’s grace, we can grow to become mature spiritual adults. In my experience, the process of growing into spiritual maturity has been painfully slow.
It’s a little like my weak attempts at learning Spanish. When I have gotten frustrated by the slowness of my learning, every teacher I’ve ever had has said, “poco a poco” – “little by little.”
I’ve been walking with Jesus for my entire adult life – about 30 years. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about him, about life, and about myself. I’ve had the benefit of a first-class theological education, and countless workshops, retreats, conferences, podcasts, books, etc. I’ve had great spiritual teachers and mentors. I’ve had the privilege of serving Jesus professionally. Hopefully, through the years, I have grown and matured, in the process. Hopefully I am a little more like him, today, than I used to be. Hopefully I have honored him more than I have embarrassed him. Hopefully my ministry has produced some fruit.
But, if I can say anything with any degree of spiritual certainty, at this stage of my journey with Christ, it’s that I still have a really long way to go. And, while I wish I could have made more progress by now, I take some strange comfort in knowing that I can still become better than I am today. There is more than this. God – thank God – isn’t quite finished with me yet. He, and I, still have a lot of work to do.
I’m inpatient. I’m grumpy. I’m entirely too self-centered, too self-pitying, and too self-indulgent. I’m not nearly kind or compassionate enough. I carry around way too much junk in my heart. I’m not nearly as faithful or as self-disciplined as I would have hoped to be by now.
But, I used to be WAY worse!
So, if you aren’t impressed with me now, come back in a few years. Hopefully, I’ll be better.
I’m a slow work in progress.