Time to Grow Up
“Time to Grow Up”
(2 Peter 1:5-11)
Series: You’d Better Know the Truth (2Peter)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
- Take your Bibles and open to 2 Peter, chapter 1 (page 817; YouVersion).
Because we cherish the Word here at Henderson’s First Baptist, we preach through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse, systematically and expositionally, believing this to be the best way to learn and study, preach and teach, the Word of God.
Last week we began a short series of messages in 2 Peter, a series entitled, “You’d Better Know the Truth.” 2 Peter is about knowing the truth and recognizing false teaching and false teachers. Before Peter really gets into his concern about false teaching, he lays a foundation of biblical truth concerning the Christian experience.
Last week we looked at the opening verses and we read about what it means to be a “Partaker of the divine nature,” that phrase from verse 4, describing the Christian. A Christian is one into whom God’s Spirit comes to reside.
And picking up in verse 5 Peter now provides character qualities that illustrate the life of one who is a “partaker of the divine nature.” These qualities are similar to Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. Listen for them as we read a passage where Peter challenges Christians to grow in their faith.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word. I’ll read just the first few verses of our text:
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
When I was small I remember watching my dad work outside. His arms seemed massive to me and his hands big and calloused. And aside from the humorously odd contradiction of his appearance, working as he did in black dress socks and loafers with his shorts, I was struck by what seemed to me to be a large man who towered over me in size and strength. I remember his telling me once about when the day coming when I would be the one to mow the lawn and so forth I could hardly imagine such a thing and wondered how I would ever grow up to do such things as he.
It is no different in the spiritual realm. In our devotional reading or in a sermon we may read or hear about people who were “Giants of the faith” and they just seem larger than life. We wonder if we will ever grow into anything like any of them.
Amy Carmichael spent 55 years as a missionary in India–55 years! A popular quote of Amy’s speaks an encouraging word to us about Christian growth. Listen to what she says:
Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. ‘I feel that I shall never be like that,’ (we say). But they won through step by step, by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories by faithfulness, and in very little things they became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph, no (sudden) spiritual maturity. (It) is the work of the moment.–from Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987,Word Books Publisher, p. 130.
The work of the moment. Peter writes about that here. In the Christian faith there is no sudden triumph, no sudden spiritual maturity. Peter writes here about our growing step by step, little steps of the moment that, over time, lead to our becoming towering Christians of maturity and strength, growing up into godly Christian men and women.
Let’s study what this passage says about growing in the Christian faith. First:
I. Live the Way of Fruitfulness (5-8)
Look again at verse 5. Peter says, “But also for this very reason,” that is, “being a partaker of the divine nature–verse 4–because you are now a Christian who has and continues to “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust,”–verse 5– “for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control,” and so forth.
And what Peter does here in verses 5 and following is that he provides 7 character qualities Christians should pursue as they grow in the faith. And if we’ll do this–look at verse 8– “for if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So that’s the outcome. If we will pursue these 7 things we will be fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And isn’t that what you want, Christian? I mean, I don’t know a true Christian who doesn’t want to grow and become strong in the faith. Most Christians struggle with their not being who they really want to be. Most Christians want–genuinely want–to grow from being a small sapling of an immature new believer, to grow up into a towering oak of Christian strength.
Peter tells us how here in verses 5 and following. The Christian faith requires work and effort. It’s not that we do these seven things listed here in order to become Christians. Rather we pursue these seven things because we are Christians. These character qualities are the natural desires of a person who is a “partaker of the divine nature.” Attaining these characteristics is possible because of God’s power (verse 3) and God’s promises (verse 4). Remember from last time–verse 3–God’s “divine power has given to us everything we need for life and godliness.”
So here are these seven things that we are to pursue. And it’s not like we perfect one of them and then move on to the next one, as though we could perfect virtue and then move on to knowledge and then move on to self-control, and so forth. Rather, we grow in each and all of them at one time or other. We pursue all of them as we grow.
Growth requires effort. The reason some are not growing in faith may be because of lack of effort, because of spiritual laziness. Peter says in verse 5, “Giving all diligence.” That is, “Make every effort (ESV, NIV).” Do you hear that? Work at this. Do it. It doesn’t happen automatically. It’s not, “Let go and let God.” It’s “Get up each morning of each day and begin the process of due diligence, making every effort to do these things.”
So giving all diligence–verse 5–add to your faith, or supplement your faith with these seven things. The first is what? “Add to your faith virtue. The word means, “moral excellence” or “goodness.” Make every effort to pursue goodness. What do your actions look like to others? Do they observe your life and say, “This guy is committed to moral excellence. He’s a good man. She’s a good woman. There are no questionable character flaws sticking out.” Giving all diligence, make every effort to add to your faith virtue, virtuous living.
Then Peter says add to your virtue knowledge or practical wisdom. God has given us a book full of practical wisdom. It’s called the Bible. Do you honestly make every effort to grow in knowledge? Do you read God’s Word regularly? David said, “Your word is a lamp to my feed and a light of my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Psalm 1 says the blessed man is the one who delights in God’s Word:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper (Psalm 1:1-3).”
You will find direction for your life in God’s Word. You will find purpose for your life in God’s Word. You will grow in knowledge as you read and meditate upon God’s Word.
So are you making every effort to read God’s Word? You’ve just got to do it, Christian, if you hope to grow.
The next character quality in verse 6 is self-control. Are you making every effort to control yourself? Self-control has to do with so many things, controlling your behavior, what you do with your body, what you drink, what you eat. Self-control has to do with our passions, our anger, our words. This requires diligence, doesn’t it? It requires our regularly making every effort to grow. We will often fail, but we will grow over time if we will make every effort to do these things.
How can I speak so confidently? Remember from last time. Christians are partakers of the divine nature. God’s Spirit is within us. Remember verse 3? “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” He gives us everything we need to live the life He’s called us to live.
The next word in verse 6 is perseverance. It means we never give up. Listen to Pastor Colin Smith on this matter of perseverance. He says:
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.
The next character quality in verse 6 is godliness. Godliness means to have a passion for God, to delight in living for God. That’s pretty straightforward. Then in verse 7 Peter mentions brotherly kindness and love. If you meditate awhile on those last two, you understand that Peter is saying Christians should love one another as well as loving all people. We love those who are saved and those who are lost.
Do you make every effort to love all people, a special love for your brothers and sisters in Christ, and a love for all people, including those who are unsaved. How does your life show that you love all people?
Now what is the outcome if we purse these seven virtues every day? If we give all diligence and make every effort to pursue these things? Verse 8:
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You will grow. So the opposite is also true. If you do not pursue knowledge, if you don’t read the Word, you won’t grow. If you don’t exercise self-control over your behavior around your friends or by yourself, you won’t grow. If you don’t love but are regularly critical and hateful you will not grow. If you don’t persevere but give up easily, you will not grow.
So get up. Make every effort to pursue these seven virtues and you will grow. You are never too old in the faith to grow more.
Pablo Casals was one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century. When Pablo reached age 95, a young reporter threw him a question. He said, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” And Mr. Casals answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.”
Live the way of fruitfulness. Now, Peter issues forth a warning. Number two:
II. Listen to the Warning to be Faithful (9)
9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Does this describe some of us? Peter says in verse 9, “He who lacks these things–these seven virtues–he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”
Why do some professing Christians wander about aimlessly? Why do some professing Christians live defeated lives? Because they lack those seven character qualities. And why do they lack those character qualities? Because they have forgotten who they are in Christ. They have forgotten they “were cleansed from their old sins.”
We may ask, “How is that even possible?! How can someone forget that he was cleansed from his old sins?! Peter gives the answer right there in verse 9. The person “lacks these things,” this person lacks the seven character qualities. He failed to cultivate them in regularly daily living. He failed to grow. Just failed to make every effort to add to his faith those seven qualities.
And so Peter says this person has become “shortsighted.’ The word means, “nearsighted,” myopic. In other words, this person sees only the natural world before him. He lives only in the chaos of this present world. He is not “farsighted,” remembering that this world is not his final home. He is “shortsighted.” He has gotten so carried away with what he is “after here” that he lives in ignorance of the “hereafter.”
This person, says Peter in verse 9, is “shortsighted, even to blindness.” Just totally blind to God’s greater purpose for his life. And again, why is that? Because he has failed to regularly make very effort with all diligence to add to his faith, to grow.
In my quiet time this week I came across this warning of John Piper’s. He writes:
Jesus Christ is refreshing. Flight from him into Christ-less leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word. But then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.
If you’re struggling right now, and all you can see is the present world and all your living for is the fleeting pleasure of worldly attractions and pursuits you have become shortsighted.
Peter’s warning continues into verse 10, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.”
And the idea is, “Take a good, hard look at yourselves. Are you progressing in the faith? Are you growing?” The true Christian perseveres to the end. That’s the meaning behind the last phrase in verse 10, “for if you do these things you will never stumble.” He means, “You will continue in the faith.” You will not finally fall in the end. Peter doesn’t say, “You will not fail,” you will make mistakes time and again, but you will not fall. You will continue in the faith, continuing to trust Christ to the end.
The true Christian is–verse 10– “called and elected.” God does this. He calls and elects to salvation. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so the Christian’s job is to then “work out” what God has “worked in.”
As Paul teaches in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your…salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” We work out what God has worked in.
So when Peter says that some have “forgotten they were cleansed from their old sins” and says right after that, “Therefore, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure,” he is warning us to take a good hard look at our spiritual condition and see that we are progressing in the faith.
If I may quote the ESV Study Bible here I think it will be helpful to us:
This lack of fruit could exist because a person’s “cleansing” was merely an external reformation that did not come from a truly changed heart. But it could also describe a genuine Christian who has fallen into serious error regarding the Christian life. Only God knows the person’s true status (cf. 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul quoting Nahum, “The Lord knows those who are His”).
Those of you who know me well know I enjoy running marathons. While running a marathon requires 17 weeks of training, it’s really pretty simple. You don’t have to pitch a ball fast or hit a ball out of the park, or put a ball through a hoop, or run a ball to an end zone. You don’t even have to beat up an opponent. You just have to finish a race. That’s it. Just keep moving forward and finish.
But if you don’t keep moving forward, you’ll never get to the end. If you’re running a marathon and you stop running, you have forgotten your purpose. If you just start walking around, talking to people standing along the street, taking in the sights, drinking Gatorade, you’ll never finish the race and get that medal that says, “Finisher.” You’ve become “shortsighted” and have forgotten your entire purpose.
And many professing Christians forget their purpose. They become shortsighted and forget they are running a spiritual race. Don’t forget who you are. You have been cleansed from your old sins and by God’s divine power you are progressing on, moving forward, racing to the finish. So here’s the third and final point:
III. Look for the Welcome at the Finish (10-11)
Remember who you are as you run. Make your call and election sure. When you pursue these things–these seven character qualities–you have the assurance that God’s grace is at work in you. You will never stumble. Look at verse 10:
11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I really like the NIV here:
11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There is a “rich welcome” at the end of the Christian race, “a rich welcome into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” a welcome at the finish.
Is it any wonder the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,”–the welcome at the finish.
Or is it any wonder that Paul says in:
Philippians 3:13-14, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”–the welcome at the finish.
And in his last letter written, Paul says in:
2 Timothy 4:6-8, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day,”–the welcome at the finish.
Look for that. Live for that. Never forget who you are. Grow up by growing in godly character. And so run the race, and run the race to finish.
- Stand for prayer.
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