Saturday, March 22, 2014

Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge of Our Lord

15th March 2014         2 Peter 3:14–18         
A Christian life should be marked by a steady growth. If you had a garden that you have planted vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and turnips, then you make sure that you provide all the necessities of growth and high production. Then you make sure that the soil is good, the water supply is consistent, weeds and pests are kept away and diseases are prevented. But what if after you have done everything, you still find that the crops are stunted in growth, and no yield is forthcoming? Will you continue to provide water, pay workers to weed and spray more chemicals? Most people will simply go and uproot these useless crops and plant something else, won’t you? This is the most natural thing to do. In the same manner the Lord has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, and has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them we become partakers of divine nature and show a steady growth in grace and his knowledge. The growth must be seen in our making effort to supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2Peter 1:5-8)
This is what he is talking about when he says that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in closing this letter. In this letter the Lord has explained what is needed of us to grow as Christians and we have to grow because of the divine investments made in us by the Sovereign God. How do we show this steady growth? So he says, “Therefore, beloved…”

1.      We should regard the time in which we live as a time of salvation (vv.14, 15)
The expected growth can only happen where there is a certain attitude towards the time and age we live in. Because we are waiting for the great revelation of Christ in great glory, we are called to a life of diligence spiritual things. More than anything else we ought to concern ourselves with diligence in spirituality. When we put our minds and hearts into pursuing anything else, we show that we are not waiting for the great day, when the heavens and the earth will be set on fire and dissolved. When you do not live in view of that Great Day, you fall into the same category of scoffers who continue with scoffing overlooking various facts about God, about men and about created order and the God appointed time frame of all things.
Talking about time, we are told that we have to labour in diligence and working hard to be found by Christ without spot or blemish, and at peace (v.14). If you are spotted by various blemishes of sin – evil thoughts, covetousness because of the materialism of our day, malice, gossip, financial impropriety, bad conscience, etc. then be sure that you are not at peace. But more than anything else you are called upon to count the patience of our Lord, in delaying to come for His people, as salvation. As long as the Lord has not come, it means that we can pray for our friends and relatives to be saved. It means that we can bring to them the gospel and we can call them to repentance and to come to Christ. As long as we are in this side of eternity, we can go on missions.
Going on missions means that you wake up to the service of God than to make money. You look at your colleagues at work as your God-appointed mission than as just people whom you happen to work with. This is the way we are to look at our children… as the mission place where we are to spread the glories of Christ. We are to consider how we spend time in school, and ask how is the time spent an indication that you are counting the patience of the Lord as salvation for yourself and for others?  The only history of eternal significance is the story of salvation by Christ. It is about the gospel preaching and missions and its off-shoots in sound doctrine and holy living.
2.      Paul taught the same with the same authority as the inspired Old Testament Scriptures.
See, Romans 2:4 (vv.15, 16). Peter is not teaching a new teaching about Christian living – he is reiterating what God has already said through the Apostle Paul in His letters. Both Paul and Peter teach that God's withholding judgment is an act of forbearance that should be regarded as giving added time for repentance and salvation. And in Romans 2:4, Paul says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” and again, 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." Clearly in appealing to Paul, Peter is showing such respect for Paul’s writing. The following century Polycarp wrote of Paul’s writing with greater admiration.
You notice that this is so important that the Lord has to say it by two of His apostles – two witnesses are necessary! It is so important that it has to be repeated because you must not miss it. This is what Peter is affirming when he writes, “our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you. This shows such warmth and Christian affection for Paul, who many theologians have sought to disparage and misrepresent – to their own damnation. Paul himself wrote a number of times in his letters when he speaks in them of this same matters. Notice how Peter emphasizes the content of Paul’s letters, something he also now writing about! But it is also comforting to see that Peter also found Paul’s letters hard to understand. Of course we also struggle in understanding some of the things in the Bible, but this must not stop us from reading or recommending others to read them. As we read and study, the Lord is pleased to bring us to an understanding.
Paul’s letters are more than letters – they are equal to Scriptures. In every respect of Paul’s letters Peter is affirming that Paul wrote his letters … according to the wisdom given him. Who gave Paul this wisdom? It is God, Peter is Jew and as much as he can he uses pronoun for God’s name, hence the passive voice used here. Therefore, as these letters are the wisdom of God, there are ignorant, unstable and perverse sinful men who cannot stand the truth and so they are bent on twisting them to suit their own intention. They do this because they cannot stand God’s word, the Scriptures. But when people reject God’s wisdom, given for their salvation, they destroy themselves. Peter says that when they twist the Scriptures, they destroy themselves in effect.
Paul Himself claims that what is writing is Scriptures: “For I received from the Lord what I delivered to you(1 Cor. 11:23)If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 14:37). It is for this reason he starts his letters by introducing himself as an apostle and servant of Christ expecting you to very seriously take His word as coming from the Lord. When you take it less serious than that, then it is to the detriment of your soul.
I want you to very clearly notice that the misinterpretation of Scripture can lead to destruction. The interpretation of Scripture is a matter of life and death and all teachers and preachers of God’s Word should take heed. James said (in 3:1): "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness." Why? Because the eternal destiny of the people hangs on how they interpret the Scripture. Unfaithfulness to God’s Word is both detrimental to the teachers and to the hearers, neither should be complacent because it is a matter of eternal life and death.
3.      The inspiration of Paul's letters, nevertheless, does not mean they are all easy to understand (v.16). 
a)      Being inspired, the Scriptures reveal the mind and the infinite wisdom of God.
b)      The mind of God is vastly greater than our mind and will often be perceived by us as strange and complex, not familiar and simple. We should not make it palatable to the human mind.
c)      Therefore, the Scriptures will sometimes be strange and complex and hard to understand, and we should only accept them as the Lord has given them to us and not welcome human wisdom instead. Our finite minds fails to fully grasp the Trinity, or the Sovereignty of God and the human responsibility, yet we are to learn to accept these truths as God-given for our edification.
d)      The continued selection only of what is simple in the Bible would be a sin in the regular preaching of the church, because Hebrews 5:13 says, "Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a child."
e)      Therefore, preaching which aims to deliver the whole counsel of God in Scripture (and which does not presume to be wiser than the apostles) will sometimes be complex and will demand from God's people the utmost in humility and mental effort. This is the way God has appointed for your spiritual growth. Peter in his first letter says, “Like newborn infants long for the pure spiritual milk (of the word) that by it you may grow up into salvation (1Peter 2:2)

4.      Therefore, guard yourself by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (v.17-18). 
There is only one remedy to the deception and destruction in the world. There is only one way to guard yourself from error and destruction of the ungodly, whoever they are. It is a steady growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ, when there is no growth in grace and knowledge of Christ, one will soon be swept away by sinful desires, by the deception of the many false teachers and be destabilized so that it is so easy to fall away. Peter's great desire for these people, which is the same desire that I have in preaching this to you, is that you might experience lots and lots of God's grace.  I care for your spiritual growth more than anything else – this is my responsibility to you. I pray that you will be fully committed to this and so soak it in like sunshine through our leaves and grow by it. Grace is what we must have when we come to die. Grace is our only ray of hope when the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear.
And how shall we receive this grace? Where shall we send our roots down? To what sunshine shall we turn up our leaves? To the knowledge of God which is based on the promises given to us when the Master bought us by his death (2:1). . I pray that you may experience this grace day by day and so I preach to you so that you may grow in the knowledge of Christ. When I look at you I pray that you might learn to suck grace and knowledge up through your roots and grow by it .The best fertilizer for our hope and godliness is the knowledge of our future in God's grace.
What I am encouraging you here is that you will appreciate the word of God that we labour to bring to you day by day. That you will spend more time with your Bible, listening to God speak to you. That you will look for sound Christian books and websites and immerse yourself into the knowledge of God’s word. You make use of the good sermons being produced every day. What happens when you come across good fruits or a good pair of cloth? You immediately want to spend your money, sometimes even unplanned so that you may get what you want, right? My generation is so obsessed with good phones and gadgets, and people are willing to spend 150K for computer, 100K for a tablet, 80K for a phone, yet has a salary of only 50K! Yet unwilling to spend time seeking God, His Kingdom and its righteousness! People spend 5hours a day on social media and at most 10minutes in prayer, 5minutes in reading God’s Word. Brethren this is unacceptable. You have got to have your priorities right.
5.      The great goal of God in your life is His glory! (v.18b)
The number one purpose for your existence is the glory of God and so Peter concludes this letter by signing off with the words that he would like us to take home with us - "To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." This is what must possess us and this is what we must got hold off and live in a manner to glorify God. When we fully grasp this we will fully then walk and live as men and women who are concerned for eternity. Everything is designed to bring glory to God through His Son to whom He has given a name that is above every other name so that at His name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
The message of 2 Peter is that the joy of hope is the power of godliness; this can only be true when God is genuinely glorified. We can only have the full delight when God is our number 1.  The knowledge of God's promises is the pathway to the delight drawn from God. When he have this knowledge of God we also share in the might of his power (1:3, 4). And the promises, the power, the hope, and the godliness are all because of his grace. And so the book ends—and with these words we take our leave: "To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

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