Friday, May 23, 2014

Make Every Effort

May 4th 2014, Passage: 2 Peter 1:5-7 Trinity Grace Church, Ramsbottom, UK

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your 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.

The passage before us would not be sensible if there were no verses 3 & 4. This passage is a trailer that cannot function without the engine. But there would be no need of a powerful engine that has no trailer to carry the load from Liverpool to Ramsbottom! While we are the light of the world to light our families, our neighbours, our colleagues at work, our classmates and schoolmates, God is the power generating station, the source of the power and His precious and very great promises are the cables connecting us with Him. 
Our Christian lives are remarkably transformed after the powerful gospel of grace has worked in us so that we do not remain in the depravity and inability that characterized our lives before Christ came into our lives and powerfully made us alive. Moreover, the powerful work of the Holy Spirit who indwells us make us able, and willing to obey the commandments of God of loving Him with the whole of our hearts, soul and mind as well as our neighbour as ourselves. We are enabled to obey the Law of God not just because we have been justified and are being sanctified but also because of our changed status - we now obey God as our Father and as His children (1John 5:2-3). Four now we have to consider the passage before us:
Consider three things pointed out in the previous passage:
  • Our goal in Christian living is life and godliness,
  • The source of strength in Christian living in order to become godly is divine power, and
  • The activating connection between the goal of godliness and the source of divine power is knowing and trusting the promises of God.
1.      God has worked for you
For this reason Peter says, “For this very reason…”
What reason is he referring to? This command is based on verses 3 and 4 (which are descriptive of what God has done for us). God's divine power has given us all things that lead to godliness (v. 3); Therefore or "for this reason". It is the heart of the rest of Christian life. When you are not connected to the source, it does not matter how good your bulbs are – you will not have the light. If there are no connection cables (divine promises), I can assure you that you will not shine at all! We are able to make any Christian effort only because God has done all.
Because it is all finished on the cross, we can be true Christians. God has worked in you in order to make you labour – the order must never be reversed! Catholics have reversed the order, the Muslims have reversed the order, Arminians have! The right order is that we are freely justified by faith alone and this is not of ourselves lest any man may boast – it is the gift of God not as a result of works.
During one of our Meaty Fora I talked with a lady who was saying, I will clean up the mess in my life and then go to the Saviour. I told her. “You can’t clean any mess, plead with Christ to clean your life first and then you will be able to live a life pleasing to Him.” You must never think, "I will work out my salvation in order that God might work in me." God will work in you to make you who was dead to be alive, you who was a slave to be free, you who was blind to see, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. If you will forget everything, you must not forget this, for it is the message of the gospel:
Gospel in the first place never requires or requests us to do anything! It declares and announces what God has done for us. Human religions make endless demands like “Do this! Don't do that! Do not handle, do not touch, do not taste!” God acknowledges that man at his best and highest is a lost creature, completely and absolutely depraved – lost and dead in sin. As a result each and every man is under God’s wrath and condemnation. So, although he may strive and work at getting closer to God, he can’t because of the enmity between. Unless God provided the remedy there would be no hope of man.
Christian calling is to live a supernatural life – Christian life is a supernatural life, so how can we live supernaturally without a supernatural aid? How can we participate in the divine nature without the divine power? It is impossible. God has to work first. Has God worked in your life? Have you known the power of God in salvation?
If you have experienced the grace of God in salvation, then this passage is for you. For in this passage we are told how to live supernaturally. It is a balanced Christian life of faith. It begins with faith and ends in love and between the two we have six steps. The ground zero is faith and the ladder takes you up, step by step and to love. The amazing phrasing between what God has done and what you are to do is faith – faith that works, living faith that comes from God is the faith that makes every effort to supplement faith with all these virtues listed. So it is not a big demand to be told to make every effort.

2.      You have to make every effort
Having finished with indicatives or descriptive of the salvation, we are commanded,
“…make every effort to supplement…”
This passage tells us that having been lifeless, motionless and completely helpless before God came into our lives and gave us all the faculties and the strength and ability to move into action, we have no business being as useless as before He came. In fact he has aided us by His divine power with all things to make us effective Christians – what business do we have living as if we have no mandate? Make every effort means that we must be diligent hastily – we must not procrastinate or make excuses. When God calls a sinner, He wants him to put forth every possible effort to obey this divine call and to do so without any delay. The verb translated ‘supplement’ a very vivid metaphor drawn from the Athenian drama festivals. Where a rich individual called chorēgos paid the expenses of the chorus and joined the poets in putting up the play. On Saturday 26th at Aberystwyth we went out for a choral presentation of Felix Mendelsson’s Classical Elijah. I looked at their Program and they had a list of Patrons who fund the Aber Choral Society… patrons only fund. But chorēgos not only funded but they also participated in the actual presentation! This could be a very costly thing to do and so the term came to the daily usage to mean, generous and costly cooperation. In the same way a Christian must engage in this kind of cooperation with God in the production of a Christian life which is a credit to himself.[1]
This means that once we get saved God makes us able to supplement His work with ours so that we bring our diligence into God’s use by His Spirit. We say that salvation is completely monergistic but sanctification is synergistic or God does everything to save us so that we can live an active life of salvation. Is this true of you? What are you doing in order to add to your faith? How do you grow as a Christian? …by working out your salvation with fear and trembling, God working in you to will and to do God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2:12, 13). Brethren, I reiterate the command of God, “…make every effort to supplement… (or to furnish and  exercise) your faith”
3.      Supplement your faith with these qualities
The foundation quality is faith. What is faith? The bible defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now, what is that? Faith is the personal reliance of the believer on God – it is his subjective trust in His Lord and Saviour and therefore is the basis (root and source) of his spiritual life.[2] This is the saving faith, the justifying faith, the faith that pleases God, the faith that made Abraham to be credited with righteousness. This faith is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8).
The qualities in reference are descriptive of the Christian life that is a growing life and it presents us with the nature and the character of the Christian life. What Peter is saying here is that as a Christian, you have to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (3:18). This is because true Christians do not stop pursuing growth in grace. They go on, press on, advance and sour on wings ling eagles. They apply themselves with diligence to increase in these things so that they become effective and fruitful Christians in the knowledge of Christ. This is the clear evidence that they have indeed been cleansed from former sins and have in fact, escaped by flight the corruption of this broken and fallen world because of its sinful desire. What qualities are we talking about here?
v  “…supplement your faith with virtue…”
What does the word ‘virtue’ mean? This word has changed its meaning in usage over the centuries. Today when we talk of a young woman’s virtues, we are referring to her moral character. But you notice this meaning could not fly in this passage because all the qualities listed are virtues and surely, the Lord could be telling us supply in your faith virtue and then go on to tell other virtues. This word is used here to mean moral power. It means that you have a faith that is alive and energetically active. There is no lethargy in faith and so when you discover that vigour of your faith in action is waning, then remember the word of the Lord, supplement your faith with virtue. This word is also translated excellence or goodness and it relates to one of God’s attributes as it is in v.3. God has called us to his own glory and excellence (same word). When asked the question “What is God?” We respond,
God is Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.[3]

Christ went round Galilee doing good. Is this true of you? What good have you done to another? Is there any good proceeding from you to your neighbours here in Ramsbottom? What good have done to God, you Maker and Saviour?
v  “…supplement your virtue with knowledge…”
The next quality that follows or even flows from goodness is knowledge. It is a word that tells us to use our minds. It is not relational knowledge in view here. Rather it is practical wisdom or sagacity. I love to fellowship with spiritually erudite people. This is the wisdom that distinguishes the good from the bad, the right from the wrong. It is discerning wisdom. It is gained from exercising faith and goodness together so that there is insight and understanding. This serves to strengthen faith and teach virtue.
One of the basic problems of our day is ignorance in spite of the outburst of the seams of the information technology. People don't read. Many are happy in their ignorance. Christians do not know their Bibles and so many are led astray by false teachers. They believe everyone who comes along. Devote yourself to learning and so grow in the knowledge of God for the people who know their God shall be mighty and do exploits. Therefore, supplement your virtue with knowledge.
v  “…supplement your knowledge with self-control…”
Self-control is discipline and it is synonymous with sports and the strict training that it goes with. How many times do we read this from the Bible, “Rather train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and the life to come … devote yourself … do not neglect the gift you have… practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress… keep a close watch on yourself… persist in this.”  (1Timothy 4:7-8, 13 – 16)
Kenya is known for athletics but it is not genetically produced – it is a product of discipline and exercise Who can show an athlete who won any medal without training and discipline and self-control? Self-control is so much needed in reference to the temptation to pleasure and indulgence. There is a program called Slim-Possible… to help deal with weight problems. Those who participated last year confessed that they couldn’t restrain themselves from eating. Is this true of you? What is it that you have cast off all restraints? Is it lust? Is it covetousness? Is it anger? What is it that you need to exercise self-control? Many of you need to discipline yourself with time. Self-control is to be exercised in every aspect of Christian life. This means that your soul and mind controls the passions and feelings instead of being controlled by them. A Christian ought to exercise self-control depending and trusting in the Lord for help.
v  “…supplement your self-control with steadfastness…”
Steadfastness is the same as perseverance and it means to remain or keep under control even during a conflict. Thayer supplies its definition as follows:
Perseverance is the “characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”
While we need self-control for the temptations that we may be inclined to desire (pleasure), we need steadfastness during trials of conflict, we need it when we are faced with problems that we are finding it hard to cope. Patience is no stoic quality of accepting all that comes as from the dictates of blind fate. It springs from faith in the promises of God, knowledge of Christ, experience of His divine power. And so it produces in the Christian a deepened awareness of a Father’s wise and loving hand controlling all that happens.[4] If you are going to persevere to the end, then you will be saved. If you stop on the way because of the terrible worldly problems then you are going to be damned. We should remember that we are God’s children, marching on to a glorious eternal inheritance which we shall enter, ‘after we have suffered awhile[5]’.
v  “…supplement your steadfastness with godliness…”
Godliness is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of one’s life. It is living in the presence (and therefore, fear) of God. This is what John Calvin called Coram Deo (in the presence of God). In bringing this before brotherly affection is very significant because Peter is saying that relationship with men can only be meaningful where relationship with God is there.  The only reason why we do all we do as Christians is because of God. We are interested in supplementing to our faith virtue knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love, only because we care about pleasing God. There is no point in all these things unless they are centrally related to pleasing God.

v  “…supplement your godliness with brotherly affection…”
This is Philadelphia. On the other hand if you think you can love and hate your brother, then you are completely mistaken. The evidence that you love God is that you care for His people, you love those He has redeemed by the blood of His Son. How can my son Asaph, say that he loves me, yet beats up Ruth every time? If this happens I will ever be on him to protect Ruth from him! Love for brethren means caring for them both spiritually and materially. It is bearing each other’s burdens, whether physical or spiritual, admonishing one another, praying for one another, remembering each other always etc. Love for brethren entails bearing another’s burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ; it means guarding that Spirit-given unity from destruction by gossip, prejudice, narrowness, and the refusal to accept a brother Christian for what he is in Christ because of race or creed, gender or age.
v  “…supplement your brotherly affection with love…”
Love has its origin in God and has first to be returned to God for it to be the love that the Lord wants for His people. This is the fulfillment of the law. Faith works in love and love fulfills the law. This is because the law is summarized in the commands, “You shall love the love the Lord your God with all your all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37, 39)
Please remember that we do not judge a person's Christian profession by how close he is to heaven but by how hard he is pressing heavenward.
The evidence that God's power has been given to you by faith is that you are now making every effort (as verse 5 says) to advance in the qualities of Christ. Are you? if there is no evidence that you are advancing and increasing in these qualities, then you may be deceiving yourself.
This is the command here:
"Forward! Forward! Forward! As you have obtained faith in Christ and stand in it, now apply yourself diligently to advance in moral excellence; and as you stand in that, do not be satisfied but press on to increase your knowledge of God's will; and as you stand in that, do not be satisfied but be diligent to enlarge your capacities of self-control and mastery of your passions; and as you stand in that, don't be satisfied but cultivate every form of patience and serenity; and in that let devoutness and piety and sweet love to God flourish; and in that strive to kindle your affection for other believers; and in and through it all grow in love to all men." Until you get up the ladder lead by God’s Spirit who works the sanctifying work in us.
In other words: Forward! Forward! Press On! Advance! If you are making effort and advancing, it is an evidence that you are plugged into God’s power and that you are connected to Him by His precious and very promises.

[1] Michael Green, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 2 Peter and Jude, p.76, IVP
[2] Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary Peter and Jude, Evangelical Press
[3] Spurgeon’s Shorter Catechism,
[4] Michael Green, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 2 Peter and Jude, p.78, IVP
[5] D. M. Lloyd Jones, Expository sermons on 2peter, p.29, Banner of Truth Trust.

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