In our human lives, growing up involves the gradual shift from dependence to independence. But the reverse is true for us as we grow spiritually. On our journey we become more and more dependent on Christ for everything in every situation. We do not then proceed from childhood to adulthood; we more forward into spiritual childhood as we grow in faith and become a people of prayer. Hence Jesus tells us to become as little children to receive our full royal inheritance as sons and daughters of God (Matthew 18:3). As we mature in faith we learn to borrow all that we need and all that we are from Christ. Only as beggars do we have access to the Father’s presence and His grace. Only as we receive grace upon grace from His fullness (John 1:16) can we praise Him in the heavenly choir (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Jesus set down the terms for our spiritual life quite clearly at the beginning of HIs ministry. After He had been baptized and before He called His first disciples, He began to preach this simple message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). On the one hand, Jesus calls us all, no matter who we are, to repent. By repenting we admit our spiritual bankruptcy and turn to God as beggars to ask for His mercy and grace. Our repentance is not just an initial act or an occasional event in our journey with Christ; it is a daily event, a lifelong process. Our whole life is a process of conversion from ourselves to God, a dying to self that is complete only when we die.
On the other hand, Jesus also calls us to believe the good news of God and His gracious kingly rule. By believing, we receive pardon from sin and access to the Father’s grace as His royal sons and daughters; we become receivers of God and His good gifts to us. This reception does not just happen initially at the beginning of our journey or occasionally when we need a hand. Our whole life as disciples is a process of receiving grace upon grace from God the Father.
God deals with us in a strange way as we travel on our course here on earth. Little by little He strips us down until we are left with nothing except our bare, fragile human soul, a soul that relies on Him utterly for its existence. Then He strips us of our soul in death. He takes away everything that we have in order to give us everything that He has in store for us. His purpose in this gradual demolition of us is to give Himself ever more fully to us and to bless us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). He brings us through the darkness of dying and death with Jesus to usher us completely into the light of His radiant face.
Grace Upon Grace by John W. Kleinig