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April 6, 2008

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7; NIV)

Picture in your mind a Volkswagen and a 747 airplane. Now imagine the Volkswagen pulling the 747.[1] Believe it or not, a Volkswagen can actually do this, but the power of a Volkswagen could never make the thing fly!

You cannot live the Christian life apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament talks about people who have a form of godliness, but they deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). That kind of religion is rather like the Volkswagen pulling the plane. It takes a great effort, but it’s ultimately futile; it will never fly! Jesus said “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

There is a kind of effort that is completely futile, but there is also a kind of effort that is wonderfully fruitful, and that is what Peter is talking about here: “For this very reason…” (v5). In the light of the gospel—because you participate in the divine nature and Christ has released you from Satan’s chains—you are in a position to act. Use the power that you have been given. Fire up these great engines and fly!

Why some Christians never seem to grow

Our title this morning is “Everything You Need For Growth,” and Peter’s message is that in Christ you have everything you need for a thriving, productive, and growing Christian life. But if God has provided everything we need for life and godliness, why is it that some Christians never seem to grow?

There are Christian people who never seem to make any progress. They don’t have much joy. Their lives don’t seem to lead to anything. Peter says that they seem “ineffective and unproductive in their knowledge of Jesus Christ” (v8). Why is that?

If you want to grow in the Christian life, Peter says that there are certain things you must do. There are certain things that you must pursue in the power of the Spirit and “if you possess these things in increasing measure they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v8).

You have to “make every effort” (v5) to pursue these things. You have to get into an active frame of mind if you want to grow. You have to take responsibility for your own spiritual growth. You cannot be passive in this. It’s no use saying, “Let go and let God.” That’s the opposite of what Peter says here. There are certain things that God has called you to pursue, and Peter tells us what they are.

Notice how Peter brings together God’s work and our responsibility: God calls us; God saves us; God gives us everything that we need for life and godliness. Yet, at the same time, he calls us to act. For this very reason, add to your faith goodness and knowledge and self-control… (v5).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones has a helpful illustration from the world of farming: Suppose you are given a farm. You are given the tools, and you are given the seed. What we are called to do then, is to farm. Lloyd Jones points out that:

“It is no use telling a man to farm if he does not have a farm. If he is without land, without the seed, and without the tools, nothing can be done. But all these are given to us, and therefore, having received them, we are asked to farm.” [2]

Even then, our farming does not guarantee a harvest. It is God who makes things grow. God gives the farm. God gives the tools. God gives the seed. God makes things grow, but the farmer is still involved. There is something for him to do, and if he does not do it, there will not be a harvest.

Seven Life Pursuits

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love (v5-7).

Here are seven virtues that we are to pursue vigorously in the power of the Holy Spirit. The list is similar to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, but Peter’s emphasis is on our effort to actively pursue these things: Make every effort to add these things to your faith. Go after them. Make them your own. You are not in the position of the Volkswagen trying to pull the plane. God has given you power, now stretch yourself out in the pursuit of these things.

I’ve found it helpful to use this as a grid for self-evaluation. You might like to use it that way in your small group or with a friend, to talk about your own spiritual growth and to set some goals and objectives.

  1. Goodness (Moral excellence)

If you want to be a fruitful Christian, then you need to grow in goodness. The evidence of your faith will be seen in the goodness of your life. Peter has already told us that Christ calls us “by his own glory and goodness” (v3). Throughout his life, Jesus went about doing good, and the sheer moral excellence of his life compels us. A reflection of that goodness in our lives will be compelling to others.

Now Peter says to the believer, “you participate in the divine nature.” (v4). His Spirit lives in you, so make every effort to grow in this goodness. Pursue goodness and moral excellence with all the energy you can muster.

How can you become more active in doing good to others?

  1. Knowledge (Practical wisdom)

If you want to be a fruitful Christian, you need to grow in wisdom, depth, stability, and maturity. The way that happens is through the Word of God—learned, believed, applied, and obeyed. The Bible is much more than information. David said, “Your word is a lamp to my feed and a light of my path” (Psalms 119:105). You will find direction, wisdom, and stability as you meditate on God’s Word.

What opportunities are you taking hold of for learning God’s Word? Are you taking full advantage of them?

  1. Self-control (Controlling your passions instead of your passions controlling you)

Remember who’s writing this, Peter, the most impulsive man in the New Testament! The man who was once a blundering disciple is now a trusted apostle in the church of God. That’s growth! If that can happen for him, it can happen for you.

Where do you need to exercise more self-control? Is it in eating and drinking? Is it in what you watch? Is it in how much or how little you sleep? In what you spend? In relation to your moods, your anger, or your tongue?

God has given you everything you need for life and godliness, so make it a life commitment to continue growing in self-control.

  1. Perseverance (Pressing on when you feel like giving up)

If you want to be useful to Jesus Christ, you need to learn perseverance. Perseverance comes from self-control. The impulsive person gives up easily. He is pushed around by what he feels at any given moment. When the impulsive person gets fed up, he wants to give up.

If you want to be useful to Jesus Christ, you need to grow out of that. Determine that you will rise above discouragement, which all of us face in our own lives. Don’t give up easily. Grow into perseverance.

Where do you need to press on? What do you feel like giving up on right now? This may be an opportunity for you to grow in character and to become a more fruitful Christian.

  1. Godliness (A life that flows from a passion for God)

Worship expresses and refreshes your love for Christ. And this love comes before love for other Christians and love for the world, because love for Christ is the source of love for others and love for the world.

How is your love for Christ? What priority does worship and prayer have in your life?

  1. Brotherly kindness (A generous spirit towards other believers)

The person who is really useful to Christ is always asking, “Where can I give a helping hand? How can I contribute to the lives and needs of others?”

If you are growing in brotherly kindness, you will be generous in giving and in helping. You will also be generous in your judgment of other Christians. You will be slow to think the worst of your brothers and sisters in Christ and quick to think the best.

Where can you be more generous to other Christians? Are you aware of a Christian brother or sister in financial need? Are you aware of a brother or sister who needs a helping hand? Is there a brother or sister of whom you have been thinking the worst?

  1. Love (God’s compassion for the world)

It’s very significant that Peter calls us to grow in love for each other and in love for the world. Sometimes Christians who are most passionate about reaching the lost are also most critical of their Christian brothers and sisters. And sometimes Christians who are most generous to other believers are quite heartless towards the lost world. God doesn’t give us a choice between loving our brothers and loving the world. He calls us to both.

Where can you demonstrate God’s compassion for lost people? Are you aware of someone outside the church who is in need? Do you know someone who has never heard the “good news” of Jesus Christ? Do you have active friendships outside of church world?

These seven virtues are the things we are to pursue. Make every effort to progress in these things. Go after them with all the energy you can muster. Make them yours. Add them to your faith.

The warning

If anyone does not have them, [these seven virtues] he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins (v9).

Listen to what Peter is saying here: If there isn’t a sense in your heart that “this is what I must pursue,” if there is no correspondence between Peter’s call and the pursuit of your life, then there is something wrong with you. That’s what he’s saying.

If you are a person who professes faith, but you have not seen that the goal of your life may be expressed in the pursuit of these things, something is desperately wrong. Peter uses three ways of describing what is wrong: nearsighted, blind, and forgetful.

If these things are not in some measure evident in you, then you are nearsighted: You can’t see into the distance. You’ve lost sight of the day when you will stand before the Lord and give an account of your life. More than that, you are blind: You can’t see what is going on around you. You’re stumbling because you’ve lost sight of what you’re up against.

And you have forgotten that you have been cleansed from your past sins. That means you’ve forgotten what it means to be a Christian. If you have no desire to pursue a life that is holy, you’ve not understood that Jesus came to save you from your sin and to lead you into a different kind of life.

If it is not clear to you that this is the life God is calling you to pursue and that you must pursue, then hear Peter’s message today as a wake-up call. There’s something wrong.

Fruitfulness for Christ

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (v8).

Peter is not finished yet. He has some encouragement for us. What will happen as you pursue these things? What can the hard-working farmer anticipate?

If you lack self-control, give up easily, and are critical of other believers, you will be an ineffective and unproductive Christian. But if you pursue goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, your life will be effective and productive for Jesus Christ. You will be fruitful—whatever you try, wherever God calls you.

Confidence in Christ

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure (v10).

What does that mean? It cannot mean that pursuing the seven virtues contributes to your calling and election. By definition, someone else must “call” you, and someone else must “elect” you. People do not call themselves to dinner or elect themselves to office. Your calling and election are from God. Nothing you do can add to or take away from his work.

But you should have assurance about belonging to Christ. You should be able to see the effect of his grace in your life. As you pursue the life that Peter describes here, you will enjoy a growing confidence and assurance in Jesus Christ.

“If you do these things, you will never fall” (v11). He doesn’t say, “You will never fail,” but he does say, “You will never fall.” If you do these things, not only will you be in Christ, you will have increasing joy and peace because you know that you are in Christ.

That was Paul’s testimony: He lived this kind of life, and at the end he was able to say, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). When he faced his own death, he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness… [which belongs to] all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

 

A rich welcome!

And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (v11).

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), but the Bible makes it clear that we will all stand before him, and he will give an account of our lives to the Father. When Christ gives his report to the Father on the last day, I don’t want to hear him say, “Here’s Colin. He was trusted with much, but he was largely ineffective and unproductive.” You don’t want to hear Christ saying that about you either. You want to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Now Peter says, “Here’s the path that leads there: In Christ you have everything you need for growth. For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If you do, you will be fruitful and you will be effective. And, more than that, you will receive a rich welcome into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

 

[1] I was privileged to speak at a missions conference this week. Professor Craig Ott was also teaching there, and he had this wonderful picture of a Volkswagen pulling a 747 airliner!

[2] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons on 2 Peter (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth. 1999), p24.

 

© Colin S. Smith

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By Colin S. Smith. © Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org



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