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Spiritual Growth Validates our Faith

2 Peter 1:1-11

Jim Davis

One winter a resort in Breckenridge, Colorado, posted signs instructing skiers to keep off a certain slope. The signs, large and distinct, said, "DANGER! OUT OF BOUNDS!" In spite of the warnings, however, several skiers went into the area. The result? A half-mile-wide avalanche buried four of the trespassers beneath tons of snow and rock. This tragedy never would have happened if the signs had been heeded.

Peter’s second epistle is warning of living beyond the bounds of God’s word. Peter writes his second epistle to remind us of the precious faith, which was delivered through Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:12-15
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (NIV)

These verses state the thesis of Peter’s second epistles. The best way to detect false hood is to understand the characteristics of the truth. Peter made three important affirmations about the true Christian life.

True Faith Comes From God

2 Peter 1:1-2
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Peter reminds us of the source of our faith. True faith is received from God. We are reminded that the righteousness of God and Christ has made faith possible. That faith is as precious today as it was when the apostles first received it. True faith is not devised by cunning of men, but a faith based on knowledge from God.

2 Peter 1:16-21
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

In 2 Peter, Peter is sounding an alert for all who have received this precious faith from God. There must be an awareness of the true knowledge of God. There are counterfeit faiths proclaimed by false prophets whose desire is to deny God.

2 Peter 2:1-3
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (NIV)

If anybody in the early church knew the importance of being alert, it was the Apostle Peter. He had a tendency in his early years to feel overconfident when danger was near and to overlook the Master’s warnings. He rushed ahead when he should have waited; he slept when he should have prayed; he talked when he should have listened. He was a courageous, but careless, Christian. But he learned his lesson, and he wants to help us learn it too.

2 Peter 3:1-4
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (NIV)

Peter was concerned about Christians maintaining their secure position in Christ in the midst of the turmoil false teaching created. Peter closes his second epistle with these words.

2 Peter 3:17-18
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (NIV)

True Faith Must be Validated

In Peter’s second epistle, Peter’s emphasis is on the knowledge of God. The word knowledge is used at least thirteen times in this short epistle. Peter emphasizes that God has given us all things that pertain to life through the knowledge of God.

2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

Divine power to save is revealed through the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. Peter says the goal of our faith is the salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 1:9) It is obvious that the goal of our faith is eternal life. Eternal life comes through knowing God. Jesus said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent." (John 17:3)

The word "know" does not mean a mere intellectual understanding of some truth, though that is included. It means a living participation in the truth in the sense that our Lord used it.

Nothing is more practical and powerful than a working knowledge of God. There is a vast difference in knowing about God and knowing God through a personal application of his truths to your life. There is a vast difference in one who can teach others about God and one who knows how to apply God’s truths in his/her life. Many have knowledge of God, but it is not a working knowledge.

A door-to-door salesman from a publishing house asked a lady if she owned a copy of the Bible. "I certainly do!" she replied with some pride. To his next question, did she read it regularly, she responded, "Oh, yes!" and sent her little daughter to get the Bible from the table drawer. As she showed it to the man, her spectacles fell from between the pages. Without thinking, she exclaimed, "Oh, here are my glasses! I've been looking for these for 3 years!"

There's a big difference between knowing and doing. Actually, true knowledge involves doing what one knows. That's a point Dr. Neil Solomon made to readers in his newspaper column. Dr. Solomon wrote an article entitled, "What are you DOING to stay healthy?" The question was not "What do you KNOW about good health?" He stated, "So you'd like to stay healthy; most people would. Fine, what are you doing about it?" Then he concluded, "I've always been puzzled that so many people take better care of their cars than they do of themselves. Remember, many diseases become inevitable only when people become susceptible to them by not taking care of themselves."

Let's apply this to another area of life. What are we doing to stay spiritually healthy? Again I don't mean what do we know about staying spiritually healthy. It is obvious that we can’t do the right thing without knowing the right thing. This is why Peter reminds us of the source of our faith, which comes through Christ. He also emphasizes that doing is a very important part of knowing.

2 Peter 1:3-7
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 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.

Peter is concerned with our spiritual health. Most of us already know how to live healthier spiritual lives than we are living. Nevertheless, Peter doesn’t hesitate to remind us of our need to practice good spiritual health.

While visiting Switzerland, Charles Spurgeon met two people who talked by the hour about various types of ferns. He said they knew the names well, but not once did they mention any of their characteristics, uses, or habitats. They engaged in "a medley of crackjaw titles and nothing more." Evidently they felt they were ventilating their botanical knowledge, and each kept the other engrossed "by alternate volleys of nonsense." They were about as sensible as some professing Christians who forever talk over the technicalities of religion but have experienced nothing of its spirit and power. Said Spurgeon, "In botany, he who knows mere names but has never seen a flower is as reliable as he who can expound on the finer points of theology, but has never known the love of Christ in his heart."

So much theology is the discussion and debate over the difficult passages of the Bible, while overlooking the simple teaching of Christ. In the outset of this epistle Peter brings us back to the simple application of the gospel to our lives. It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

Faith—goodness—knowledge—self-control—perseverance—godliness—brotherly kindness—how much simpler could it be?

These are qualities, which must be added to faith to validate our faith. To subtract these qualities from the gospel of Christ is to rob the gospel of its power to save. Faith without these qualities leaves us barren.

2 Peter 1:8
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. (NIV)

Grace and peace are multiplied to us through a working knowledge of God. Peter writes, "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." (2 Peter 1:2 NIV)

Validating our faith through a practical obedience makes our calling and election sure.

2 Peter 1:7-11
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. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (NIV)

If you walk around with your eyes closed, you will stumble! The growing Christian walks with confidence because he/she knows he/she is secure in Christ. It is not our profession of faith that guarantees that we are saved; it is our progression in faith that gives us that assurance. The person who claims to be a child of God whose character and conduct give no evidence of spiritual growth is deceiving self and heading for judgement.

True Faith Empowers Living

Practical knowledge empowers our faith. Many Christians have allowed their knowledge of the truth to outdistance their practice. Faith cannot be sustained without knowledge. It is impossible to truly know without growing in grace. God’s power is realized through a working knowledge of the gospel. Many people have heard moving sermons about Jesus. They have seen the powerful changes Christ has made in the lives of some who believe on Him. But they have never come in faith to Christ themselves.

It is impossible to truly know God without growing in his grace. Peter puts a great deal of emphasizes on growing in grace and knowledge

2 Peter 3:17-18
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (NIV)

When God’s grace abounds in our lives, it results in a fruitful knowledge of God. The presence of the character of God in our lives through our faith in Christ empowers us to accomplish God’s purposes. For God’s grace to be made fully effective in our lives we must embrace God’s divine nature.

Many would like to discover the power of God without surrendering to his will. They may actually think they have to discover God’s power before they can do his will. The strength and power of God is realized as we walk in his ways.

God’s power is realized when we allow God’s word to activate our lives. Peter reminds us of the certain power of God’s word.

2 Peter 3:5-14
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (NIV)

Knowledge of how God has worked in the past helps us keep the right perspective in the present. This can be illustrated from nature. Suppose, for instance, that a polar air mass blows in a revival of winter weather late in the spring. Few of us would respond to this untimely snow squall by concluding that the age-old order of the seasons had come to an abrupt end. Neither would we assume that the earth was slipping off its axis, or that beyond the cover of low hanging clouds the sun was stealing away to take a better position in another universe. On the contrary, a glance at statistics would quickly reassure us that unseasonable changes have occurred before, and that their return does not signal the breakup of our solar system.

Likewise the patience of God in the unfolding of his plan in our redemption does not invalidate his promises to us.

Conclusion:

The Christian life begins with faith, but that faith must lead to spiritual growth. Faith leads to growth and growth leads to practical results in life and service.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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