For the last two weeks we have been looking at some missing ingredients that keep Christians from gaining victory in their lives. Since I've had a rough week, I thought I would pull out an old sermon that addresses some other areas that are frequently missing in our lives. I've deleted some things and added some things to the sermon, but for many of you this will be review. And we all know that review is important, right?
But one of the questions that came up is on what exactly the relationship between God's sovereignty and our efforts is. If it is all of grace, does that make us passive? If God is sovereign, what's the point of my doing anything? Well, after stating unequivocally in verses 2-4 that God gives to us everything that we need for our Christian life, Peter says in verse 5, But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue. In the eyes of many people this is a contradiction. If God's grace has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, how can we add anything. If it is all of grace, how can our works make any difference at all?
Let me start by maintaing that what we just read in 2 Peter is exactly the same thing Paul says in Philippians 2. Paul said, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13). The only reason we can work out sanctification is because God is working it in. There has been a debate down through the years on whether we provide anything in our sanctification. Some say that we are just as passive as we were in regeneration. Regeneration is monergism — God does 100% and we do zero. A corpse can't contribute anything. But some people say that sanctification is a cooperative venture where God supplies 50% and we supply 50%. Others say that it is 100% God and zero % us. Others say that God gets the ball rolling in regeneration, but sanctification is 100% us and 0% God. What we are going to be seeing is that God's mathematics says it is 100% God and 100% us. We work out what God works in. If God didn't provide everything that we work out, then it would be our flesh supplying something, and the Bible says that our flesh can contribute nothing pleasing to God. So it's 100% God and 100% us.
What God Provides — Everything (vv. 1-4)
And Peter starts with God, with His grace.
Escape from the clutches of depravity (v. 4)
Verse 1 says, To those who have obtained like precious faith... The Greek word for "obtained" means to receive or be allotted something. Now you will recognize in verse 5 that faith is the first building block in our war against sin. But here, the very first building block that a Christian uses is provided by God. Whether you see this as the objective faith or subjective faith, we don't provide faith, we obtain faith from God. It is over and over again called a gift of God.
Now that's not new to you. But I want you to notice that God doesn't give Peter a different faith than he gives you. You might think, "The reason I am not as holy as Peter is because God shortchanged me. I've got a defective faith; defective merchandize." And God says, "No. You have obtained a like precious faith." The margin of my version renders it as "a faith of the same value." The common useage of the Greek isotimon is an identicle measure of value. Your faith is just as capable of claiming victory from the throne of Christ as Peter's was. You have a faith of the same value. And that is incredible.
Now you may keep arguing with me through the rest of the sermon because it may not seem like your faith has the same value. But though faith can be little or great; though faith needs to be used in order to grow; though it needs to be stretched, even faith that is as small as a mustard seed can say to mountains, "be cast into the sea" and it will be done. It's not a question of whether you have faith of an identical measure of value, but rather, it is an issue of whether you are willing to exercise your faith or not. Faith is a tremendous gift of God.
I agree with Gordon Clark that the preposition en should be translated as "in" rather than "by." The New King James has "by", but "in" would be better. He points out that God gives us the faith, and the faith is in what God provides: Faith in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. It's not faith in our righteousness,that saves us or sanctifies us. God provides the righteousness of Jesus as the basis of our salvation, and our faith is placed in that.
And, it's not just that God provides our initial salvation, but that God keeps on providing in rich measure. Look at the first phrase in verse 2: Grace and peace be multiplied to you... Don't ever think that you have been shortchanged. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that everyone of us has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. If you are not holy, it is because you are not furnishing out your responsibilities in verses 5-11. God has already provided all that you need for victory.
Verse 3 says that His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness... All things. There isn't anything left out.
And if that was not enough, He goes on to say that we have become partakers of the divine nature. He doesn't say that we become the divine nature like some heretics have said, but that we partake of God. So in addition to giving us salvation, multiplying grace and peace, and giving us all things needed for life and godliness, these verses say that He also gives us His indwelling presence.
So we should never forget that everything starts, continues and is finished by God, and therefore God receives all the glory.
But (and this brings us to the main focus of our sermon) that in no way implies that God alone is active and that we are passive. Martin Lloyd Jones once gave a sermon on this passage which he called "The Balanced Life." And he pointed out that both divine sovereignty and human responsibility are true. God must do all or we would not be able to do any, and we must do all in sanctification or we are disobedient. It is not an issue of 50% God and 50% us in sanctification. Or even a division of 90% God and 10% us. It is 100% God and because of His abundant provisions we are enabled to be involved 100% with all the effort that we can muster. There is no way that we can use the excuse that there is no point in trying since God shortchanged me; He didn't give to me what He gave to Peter. Verses 1-4 contradict any such notion. Every one of you has been given all that you need to achieve a holy, mature life in Christ Jesus. And it is imperative that we have that hope so that we can remove the excuses for continuing in sin. What you are lacking if you are not holy is your activity. And I want to spend the bulk of this sermon verses 5-8, on what we must do.
Calling (v. 3)
"Knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (v. 3)
"Faith of the same value" as the apostles (v. 1) and "Faith... in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (v. 1)
The indwelling of God Himself
All that we need for all that He requires
Multiplied "grace & peace" (v. 2)
The needed "knowledge" (v. 4) for everything in the next point
A powerful grant of "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (v. 3)
"Promises" (v. 4)
What We Must Do (vv. 5-7)
We Must Exercise Diligence In Gaining Biblical Knowledge (vv. 2-4, 5)
The first thing we must do is to exercise diligence in gaining Biblical knowledge. Verse 5 says, But also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue. What does He mean when he says, "For this very reason giving all diligence"? It means that our activity (our diligence) is already implied in verses 1-4 in the way that God gives us all spiritual graces. For example, notice in verse 1 that our faith is in the righteouness of Jesus. How do we learn about that righteousness? And the answer is, "In the Bible." Likewise, notice in verse 2 that Peter not only speaks of God's grace and peace being multiplied, but how that happens. It is in the knowledge of God. Where do we get that knowledge? From the Bible. Notice in verse 3 that Peter not only says that God has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, but he tells us how God gave us those things. And there is some human agency involved. He gives us those things through the knowledge of Him... That implies that we have to be in a place where we can gain that knowledge. Again, in verse 4 he says that it is through the great and precious promises of Scripture that we can be partakers of God's very nature and power. That implies we have been hearing those Scriptures. Right? In fact, there isn't anything you can point to in verses 1-4 that we can have apart from knowing the Bible. So the first step obviously is that we must be in contact with the Bible.
Do you know what that means in practical terms? It means that you will never, ever grow in sanctification if you are not in the word of God. And it also means that you will only grow to the degree that you are in God's Word. If God has chosen to provide all of these things through knowledge gained from Scripture, it means that you have a duty of exercising great diligence in studying the Scripture. Doesn't that logically follow? It is no wonder that you don't grow much if you are not in the word much. When God brings revival to a church, the people hunger for God's Word.
How much time do you spend in reading the Bible? How much time do you spend with your children and your wives in the Word of God? Any of you can spend more time in the Word, and if you want to grow, you will do it. You say that you don't have time at home. What about when you are driving to work? Turn off the music once in a while and pop in a Scripture tape or a sermon or lecture tape.
hen I came to Canada having grown up in Africa, I couldn't believe the shallow appetites that North American's have for Scripture. They wanted 20 minute sermons. I had never heard of such a thing in my life till that point. Peter says, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. So the first thing that we need to provide is time in the Word. This could involve memorization of Scripture. It could involve meditation on the Word of God where you have God's Words going over and over and over again in your minds. Or it could involve reading a godly commentary on a book of the Bible, or doing an inductive study. Can you commit this morning to carving out extra time in your schedule to study God's Word? Perhaps you could make a promise on paper right now to adjust your schedule to make the Word a priority. It does not matter what the church is providing. You are responsible to be in the Word.
"All things that pertain to life and godliness" come
"Through the knowledge of Him" (v. 3)
Through God's "great and precious promises" (v. 4)
Therefore we must be in the Word and be diligent to add knowledge (v. 5)
We Must Exercise Diligence In Claiming God's Provisions By Faith (vv. 2, 4, 5)
The second thing that we need to do is to exercise the faith that God has already given by claiming God's provisions and by stepping out in obedience. Verse 5 assumes that we already have faith if we are Christians. He doesn't say that we are to add faith to our lives. It says, But also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue. God has already given you faith that is of equal value to that of Peter's according to verse 1. Many translate this furnish virtue by your faith... In otherwords, we are called to exercise our faith; to stretch our faith; to begin to live by the faith that we already have.
Now here are three errors that we can have on the issue of faith. The first error is to think that we can have faith apart from the Word of God, or what verse 4 describes as the exceedingly great and precious promises. Remember that verse 5 says, for this very reason, giving all diligence. You can't divide verse 5 from verses 1-4, and we have already seen that everything comes through the Scriptures. Faith that steps out where God has not commanded or promised is presumption, not faith. God commanded Joshua to cross the Jordan river, but he hasn't given you that commandment. If you try to cross the Missouri river based on that passage, you will get wet. So the first error with regard to faith is to think that we can have faith apart from the Word of God. Sometimes people say that they are stepping out in faith by taking a debt because the Lord has given an open door. But keep in mind that some open doors lead to elevator shafts with a rude awakening at the bottom. Faith that is not based on revelation is presumption. You can't have faith apart from the Word. You cannot grow in faith if you are not in the Scriptures. And if you can't point to a Scripture to justify your faith, then it isn't faith.
The second error is to think that faith makes us passive. Some Christians use the divine sovereignty of verses 1-4 to excuse laziness and waiting for God to do it. "Let go and let God" in the Christian life is not Biblical. Verse 5 doesn't pit faith against diligence. On the contrary it says, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to our faith virtue, etc. Every example of faith in Hebrews 11 was an active, diligent faith. Hebrews 11 says that by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice; by faith Abraham obeyed; by faith he sojourned; by faith he offered up Isaac; and you can look at the other examples. True faith is always active. Passive faith is what James calls dead and useless faith; it is counterfeit faith.
The third error connected to faith is thinking that we can engage in spiritual disciplines without a faith that depends entirely upon God. Many Christians want to be holy so they read self-help books on spiritual disciplines and start Bible reading, memorization, self-discipline and some of the other important things in verses 6-11. But if you start "doing" without claiming, you are living as a formalist Christian. Paul says, Whatever is not of faith is sin... It is essential that we not supply virtue, knowledge, self-control or any other work apart from faith. In fact, the NASB translates this, furnish virtue by your faith. A failure to do so is one of the most frequent traps that Christians fall into. Galatians 3 warns us: O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Gal. 3:1-3). And he goes on to explain how important faith is to every stage of the Christian walk. Without faith all your disciplines of self-control and godliness will be produced by the flesh rather than flowing from the Spirit. It will be evangelical Pharisaism.
In overcoming besetting sins we don't want to enter into legalism — striving in our own flesh. Rather we want to walk in the Spirit. One of the illustrations that Galatians used to show how even Christians can fall into operating in our own flesh rather than by the power of God is Abraham. Let me tell you, if Abraham can fall into that trap, you can as well. In Galatians 4 Paul said that we can produce all kinds of ministry in our own strength just like Abraham was able to produce Ishmael. But God does not call Christians to produce that which we are able to achieve on our own. He calls us to produce works which are every bit as miraculous as Isaac was. We are constantly producing Ishmael's in our ministry, and God is not glorified. Just as one tiny example, what kind of love glorifies God in the Sermon on the Mount? In fact, why don't you turn to Matthew 5. He does not command a kind of love that unbelievers can show. Christ tells us to do something that takes faith; something that is impossible on our own.
In fact, some commentaries see the Sermon on the Mount as so extreme that they keep referring to it as hyperbole. In fact, why don't you turn to Matthew 5:43-48. Here is a passage that people frequently say is filled with exaggeration. Surely leaping for joy and being glad when you are persecuted is hyperbole or exaggeration. But it is not. It does require God's supernatural grace which is received by faith. But's let's look at a common issue such as love in our common relations. Matthew 5 beginning at verse 43.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?" (Matt. 5:43-47)
Christ wants us to demonstrate our sonship by doing what only children of God can do. The heathen can show love to their families. In verse 47 Christ says, what do you do more than others? Where is the evidence of your sonship? Sons should be able to do more than others. To show love to those who are loveable doesn't take any grace whatsoever. But to love our enemies; to bless them when they curse us, to overcome their evil deeds by doing nice things in return takes grace. The heathen look on and say, "There is something different about this person's love. They are amazingly loving people who have abused them and hurt them." Christ's question in Matthew 5 is basically, what have you done that an unbeliever could not do? Is your joy a supernatural joy that could only be appropriated by faith? Is your peace a peace that goes beyond mere stoicism? Supernatural graces are the evidence that you are walking by faith. Jonathan Edwards points out that for every Christian grace ther is a fleshly counterfeit. And Paul did not want us producing Ishmaels where man gets the glory. He wants us producing Isaacs which God alone can produce and therefore God alone gets the glory.
So the first building block under point C is faith. Faith receives from God and appropriates it. Be willing to step beyond your comfort zone in the pursuit of holiness and believe that God's grace will come through on your behalf.
We Must Exercise Diligence In Using All God's Building Blocks (vv. 5-7)
Faith (v. 5)
Faith gives us a God-centered focus.
Faith by its very nature lays claim to God's resources. We "add" only what we have faith to claim.
Faith always trusts God's ways to be best.
Now look at point c) under faith. Notice how each of the building blocks listed in verses 5-7 logically flow from and presuppose each other. I don't want to just list these graces. I want to show you the logical connection between them. They are like links in a chain. If one of the links is broken, the chain will not work. That's why I have those dotted arrows on your outlines. If you are not a believer, there is no way you can have any of the subsequent graces. We can add only what we have faith to claim from God. And if God has drawn your heart to Him, and you have put your trust in Him, then your life from that moment on has the ability to be God-centered and growing.
Virtue (v. 5)
Virtue (Greek arete,) means 1) "moral integrity," and 2) "energy"
Virtue implies commitment to God's way before we even hear what God's way is
NB: Dead faith accomplishes nothing. God calls for living faith.
Now let's quickly go through some of those building blocks. Verse 5 says that we are to add virtue to faith. The Greek word for virtue contains in its meaning both moral integrity and energy, and you can find both translations in various versions. This word implies a commitment to God's way before we even hear what God's way is. It is the opposite of being double minded. A person who is double minded is always weighing the odds. He is willing to follow God if enough other people are doing it and he won't look weird. Or he is willing to follow God if it is easy enough. On more than one occasion I have had people tell me that they don't want to know what the Bible says about a given subject. They were afraid the Bible might call them to change. These types are not going to give God a blank check because God might write more than they are willing to give. That is a lack of virtue.
In fact, if you want a vivid test of whether you have virtue or not, write out a letter to the Lord saying that you are giving Him a blank check to ask anything of you that He wants. If he wants to take away a behavior because it is sinful, that He is free to do so. Just ask him to show you that it is a sin. If He decides to take away one of your rights, that is fine with you since He has already purchased all that you are and have. If he wants to take away your health, or a family member, or call you to b a missionary, or anything else, tell Him you will do it. Tell him, "Lord, if you want me to give my favorite jacket to a poor person on the street, I will do it." And then sign your name. That is virture. It's a commitment to doing the right thing even before you know what the right thing might be. It's a delight in reading the Scripture and having God expose the sins in your life.
If youi are willing to diligently exercise virture so that you can grow in real sanctification, not simply man-made sanctification, I want you to put down beside #2 — virtue — "I commit to giving God a blank check." Or simply the words "blank check" and then sign your name.
As you go through this sermon, I want you to make the same commitment at each issue. If there is one that you are reluctant to sign off on before the Lord, that is probably an issue that will shortcircuit sanctification, and until you resolve that point before the Lord, you won't gain victory. You might be afraid that if you sign a blank check God might take away a loved one or hurt your pride. But God will tolerate no idols that come between you and Him. His multiplied peace comes to those who are out and out for Him. So please, sign off on all those parts. You should have one signature or initial beside point A, one beside point B, and eight signatures under point C. I hope this is a major turning point in the lives of many of you today. Let's move on to point 3 — knowledge.
Knowledge (v. 5)
Ascertaining God's blue-prints for righteousness
Insight into how we tick
Renewing the mind through the Word
NB: It takes virtue to be willing to study the Bible, knowing that we may discover many uncomfortable things.
Notice the connection that virture has to knowledge. It takes virtue to be willing to study the Bible, knowing that we may discover many uncomfortable things. So virtue is a prerequisite to wanting to know the truth.
But more than that, people who are double minded will not be shown more insight by the Lord. God starts the Christian life with some knowledge. If you rationalize around the truth that God has already given, He's not going to give you more truth. In fact, the opposite will happen. You will find your discernment become more and more cloudy. You will have larger and larger gray areas. It is lack of virtue which leads to the fuzziness in the church today. Flip to John 7:17. Let's look at some Scriptures to show this relationship between virtue and knowledge and on the other hand between double mindedness and lack of wisdom. John 7:17. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. Christ says that you have to be willing to do God's will (that's virtue) before God will open your eyes to understand His will. To those who want to obey He gives more knowledge and insight. Do you see the connection between points 2 & 3? Turn to John 3:20-21. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. [That's lack of virtue; he doesn't want to come to the light] But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. The person who is double minded, doesn't really want to know God's will because it might make him feel uncomfortable. The one who has virtue comes to the light so that his deeds can be exposed. If it is evil, he wants to be rid of it, no matter what it is. And if it is righteous, He wants to keep doing it knowing that it is done in God. Turn to James 1:5-8: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. God will not give you the needed insight to overcome your problem if you aren't serious in following Him. Can you see how virtue is the pre-requisite to knowledge?
But let's move on. Knowledge is an essential step before we can go to any other step because we need to know the plan before we can work the plan. God's Word gives us not only the goals of Christian behavior, but the methodology of change, and the practical steps of putting off bad habits and putting on new habits. We don't need to go to the psychologists; the Bible gives us everything. One of the major duties I have in counseling is providing the knowledge; the specific steps necessary to conquering sin. This is showing people the ways of escape. So to review: 1) I examine to see if a person has faith (if he is a Christian). If he is, I challenge him to exercise that faith by living in the supernatural — not what he can do on his own. 2) Next, we constantly challenge ourselves to have virtue — to be willing to do anything God says even before we know what that might be. 3) Third, we teach knowledge of Biblical blueprints for holiness.
Self-Control (v. 6)
A willingness to crucify the flesh
Doing what we don't want to do
NB: It takes knowledge of how out of accord we are with God's Word to even require self-control. There would be no need for self-control if our walk was easy and nothing more of God's will was learned.
The fourth step is self-control. Verse 6 says, to knowledge self-control. Once you know what to do, it really takes self-control and consistency to implement the plan. And the more of God's plan that you know, the more self-control you realize you need to claim from God. Many people fool themselves into thinking that they have a great deal of self-control when the reality is that they are content to stay where they are at in their Christian walk. They have progressed to a certain degree, and in the past they exercised self-control to get where they are, but they are unwilling to study more of God's blueprints because that will require more self-control. So both the steps of knowledge and self-control requires diligence on our part. All of these points require continual diligence for the rest of our lives because Satan will try to break this chain any time he can. But for today, if you are willing to make the painful self-denial implied in self-control, then sign off on point 4. It's going to mean saying "No" to your desires on occasion and putting them to death.
Perseverance (v. 6)
Refusing to give up. We will only get a harvest if we don't give up (Gal. 6:9)
A long term vision. Success is not overnight
NB: It takes self-control to persevere; to be in this for the long haul.
But verse 6 says that to self-control we must add perseverance. Many a Christian has almost licked a problem but gave up after three weeks because they didn't have total success. For three weeks they were exercising self-control, and had made a great deal of progress, but they didn't do it with perseverance. Let me tell you a secret. When there are deeply engrained sinful habits that are being replaced, on the average it takes six weeks of daily effort to get rid of the old and to feel comfortable and natural with the new godly habit, where you can begin to do it without thinking. Six weeks. That calls for perseverance in our self-control if we are to gain the victory. Think of it as a harvest. Galatians 6:9 says, And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. And there are many Biblical principles to help us with perseverance. I've told you the one of multiplication.
Just pretend that I was a millionaire who could afford to pay you extremely high wages, and I thought you were so good that you were worth the high wages. I was really in a generous mood and I gave you a choice of one of two salaries for one month. Now I've given you this illustration already, so you know which one to pick. But I asked you if you want $1000 a day in wages, or if you would prefer to receive 1¢ on day one, 2¢ on day two, 4¢ on day three, 8¢ on day four and I kept doubling those wages each day. If you were smart, you would pick the penny on day one. And the reason is because of the power of compounding growth.
Initially it all seems to pay back so little. After ten days of hard work, when you come to me to get your wages and all you get on that particular day is $5.12. Five dollars and 12 cents!!! It seems insulting And you think to yourself, I should have taken the $1000 a day wage. I'd be way ahead. But you do some calculations and realize — "Oh I guess that's not true. I need to persevere." At the end of 15 days you are getting $163.84. But that's when things really start to take off. On the twentieth day you are making way over $5000. And by the end of the month you are a multimillionaire. And this principle applies across life. If you can start investing money at a younger age and have at least 20 years in which to have it grow, you will be better off. Now that doesn't mean that we shouldn't save when we are 55. It's just that perseverance at any stage is key.
Now here's the problem. The people who are trying to overcome their sins at the beginning of their life are immature, and one of the signs of immaturity is that immature people have a hard time being driven by the future. If there is not an immediate return now, they grow discouraged and give up. When such a person gets to day 10 and has put in a long hard struggle and fight against sin or against an addiction — and they only get $5.12 and Satan tempts them to believe that God is unfair. Here you are suffering under the hot sun. And Satan says, "You deserve a break today. Don't weed. Don't water. Don't fertilize. After all, everybody's a sinner. What difference does it make? It's only one sin." And you listen to Satan. And what happens is that you sin, and you are set back a few days maybe to day five and have to start over. And you keep doing that. Sometimes you may get to day 15, but it just doesn't seem worth the struggle. And so you fail to persevere. And if this keeps getting repeated and someone doesn't come in to intervene, the immature Christian concludes that the Christian life is simply a grin and bear it experience. They keep trying and failing and all the time feeling miserable and begin to doubt God's promises concerning a big harvest. They've never experienced it. Some of these immature Christians will hear others say how wonderful the harvest they are experiencing is, and they feel like they have to pretend to be happy to fit in with the crowd. And this makes life even more miserable.
You must have this link called perseverance if your chain is to pull anything in life. If you are willing to go through the pain of saying "No" until it becomes easy, antural and a habit (and it does eventually become easy), then sign off on this point.
Godliness (v. 6)
This denotes a maturing where all areas of life are becoming more consistently biblical
Godliness means that our testimony shines forth God's character
NB: When we persevere in one area of our lives, it gives us strength and growth in all other areas of life as well. Without perseverance there can be no godliness since we are either advancing or retreating.
But let's go on to godliness. Peter says, to perseverance godliness. One of the things that I have found from years of counseling is that people grow like crazy in every area of their lives when they are willing to work diligently on one sin. And this is so encouraging. Just as one sin can defile every area of our lives, God's grace applied to one sin seems invariably to give victory in other areas that they weren't even anticipating. And so verse 6 says that we furnish godliness by our perseverance.
On the other hand, if we have come to counseling for marriage problems just because we want to get rid of the pain, and we don't really want godliness, it doesn't matter how much you persevere on dealing with the marriage problems, God will not bless. Our motive for coming to counseling must be to please God, not just to save a marriage or relieve the pain that I am going through. Godliness must be the goal, not pain relief.
Brotherly Kindness (v. 7)
Sensitivity to others
Gentleness and kindness to others with sin
NB: When we are godly, we are never "holier than thou." On the contrary, knowing full well our own sinfulness and struggles, we are sympathetic to the struggles of others; we desire to help and encourage others in overcoming their sins. Godly people should be the most tender and non-judgmental.
But the next result of growing in godliness is brotherly kindness. Verse 7 says to add to godliness brotherly kindness. Those who skip the early steps and through sheer will power they engage in spiritual disciplines like the Pharisees did, invariably are holier than thou, are judgmental and are impatient with Christians who are struggling. Why? Because they have achieved a standard that doesn't take grace, and they have no patience with those who can't do what they can do. They are the measure rather than God's law being the measure. But if you have gone root and branch not only after the outward appearance of sin, but after the love of the sin, the motives that drive to sin and the very thought of sin, you will be so overwhelmed with your own sinfulness, weakness and dependance upon God that you will sympathize with what others go through. You will not be surprised at the weakness of others. The continual thankfulness to God's mercy in your life will keep you from ever saying, "I thank you Lord that I am not like this miserable publican who can't get his life together." If none of these steps is left out, it gives to us a gentleness and a brotherly kindness that makes us useful in encouraging and stirring up other believers to good works — not preaching at them, but willing to walk hand in hand with them. Because we have seen how much damage sin has done in our lives, it will gives us brotherly kindness to be concerned about their lives which are suffering. Self-righteousness will never lead to tenderness. Only those who have had their eyes opened up to their own sinfulness and who have depended entirely upon the Lord will have compassion and tenderness with others who are similarly struggling. If you have found yourself lacking brotherly kindess, you may want to go back and see if something earlier is missing. Commit yourself to tenderness, brotherly kindness right now. By faith claim it from the throne. It is essential if we are to avoid a counterfeit of point 8 — agape love.
Love (v. 7)
Agape love is self-sacrificial service.
Love is the opposite of self-centered or selfish actions.
NB: When we are motivated to minister to others through brotherly kindness, we find ourselves engaging in the kind of self-sacrificial love that thinks of their welfare more than our own.
And then lastly, verse 7 says that brotherly kindness helps us to furnish agape love. The brotherly kindness gives us the disposition to get our hands dirty by helping our brothers, and the agape love is the self-sacrificial work of helping them. Love's goal is to seek the interests of others beyond our own; to minister to others rather than ministering to ourselves. The more holy you become the less self-centered you become. On any counseling problem that you may have, it is always my goal to get you beyond your own pain and needs to ministering to the needs of others. That is what the Christian life is all about. And it is in this life of loving service that Christ said we can have our cup of joy always full, and 1 Peter said that we can have joy indescribable and full of glory.
The Christian life is not boring. It is not a drudgery. Ironically, it is in self-denial that God gives us the greatest blessings; it is in the pursuit of holiness that we find the greatest joy. And I'm sure there are many of you who can testify to the truth of Christ's statement when He said, I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly. Why did Peter want these Christians to be diligent in their battle against sin and their growth in Christ? It was to give them fruitfulness (v. 8). It was to give them gratitude (v. 9). Christ said that those who are forgiven much will love much, and the methodology Peter gives makes us depend entirely upon the Lord. Verse 10 — it causes us to enter into assurance of our salvation and a sense of security. Verse 11 — it gives us life more abundant and free. It's worth it to pursue holiness. Without it no man will see God. But with it we will find joy and satisfaction in our walk. Amen.
Why We Must Be Diligent (vv. 8-11)
The more consistently we have these graces, the more fruitful we will be (v. 8)
Note that knowledge without these graces is sterile.
Knowledge must be fruitful to have God's blessing
When you lack these things you are shortsighted and live for the moment (v. 9)
When you lack these things you are acting like the blind unbeliever who has never been forgiven (v. 9)
When you are diligent in pursuing holiness you have assurance of salvation (v. 10)
When you are diligent in pursuing holiness you will not fall into bondage (v. 10)
When you are diligent in pursuing holiness you are preparing for heaven (v. 11)
This implies that what we do on earth impacts what we will do in heaven
This implies the doctrines of rewards. Heaven will be a place of different rewards and different responsibilities. Those who excel on earth will enter into far greater privileges than those who do not.
Children of God, my charge comes from Hebrews 12:14: Be diligent to pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Amen.