2 Peter 1:5-8
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In many rehabilitation processes, there is a definite plan to increase your strength and ability in the area being rehabilitated. This plan is carefully laid out, and a step by step process is given for the patient to follow so that they can know exactly where they are in the process, how they are doing and how much farther they have to go. 2 Peter 1 gives to believers this same type rehabilitation chart that allows you to see how you are doing in your spiritual growth. Christian growth is not an instantaneous thing, but a process that takes time, energy and patience. If you expect to be immediately mature and to immediately overcome your major faults, you will be quickly disappointed and discouraged with Christianity. If you expect others to immediately overcome their faults you will be critical. We need to realize as we look at this process that it takes time and work for each of us and each one of us is at different levels in their growth process. We also must avoid the error of expecting to achieve perfection in any or all of these areas of our growth. We have already considered the first portion of this growth process, that begins with salvation, is accomplished with intensity, and adds to that saving faith virtue (moral excellence and good works), and adds to that virtue knowledge (factual information and applied information).
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28)
To your knowledge we must add self control. Even in these times of economic difficulty, the concept of self control is still far from our thoughts. This concept is definitely far from the mind of the world. The adages such as “A penny saved is a penny earned” are not just completely forgotten, the basic truths behind them are scorned. When was the last time you saw a commercial on TV advocating self control? The closest thing to a call for self control in today’s culture, oddly enough, comes from beer manufacturers, “Drink responsibly.” Everything else wreaks of selfish abandon, “Just do it”, “Your way, right away”, “I’m loving it”. The person who will live his life with Biblical self control is a person who will be very different from this world. This person will be very clearly seen as something strange and unique in this self satisfying culture. Self control is more than just not a buying everything you want, right when you see it. We live in a country of such bounty, that self control cannot be defined by the things available that we don’t have. Self control also cannot be defined based on my lack of income or inability to access something. Self control is defined by who and what rules our decisions and choices. It is very important that we learn to add self discipline to our faith, works and knowledge. It is very good that you are busy serving the Lord. It is wonderful that you are reading the truths of the Bible, but are you constantly giving in to your impulses? Do you rule your desires or do your desires rule you? To ask the same question another way, do you do what you feel like or what you should? So many people are truly trying to serve God, and yet when they get into positions of great desires or strong pressures they succumb to the fleshly feelings instead of exercising self discipline. I routinely hear of people who appear to have a heart to please God, but they just can’t seem to do what they should. They are constantly falling into one sin or another. That is because they have not added to their faith self control. I am not doubting the desire that is in their heart, nor am I questioning their sincerity. The problem is that they have never learned to control their desires and to make choices based upon the truths of the Word and not the immediate yearning of the flesh. The Corinthians had this problem. They came to the Lord’s Supper and they had no self discipline, so some would get drunk, others that had plenty of food at home would gorge themselves so that those that were lacking at home had none at church either. They were a church without self discipline. We need to be Christians with discipline, ones who can instruct our bodies to do what we want not the other way around. If you get a grumble in the stomach and you have to fill it, or if you get a moving in your innards and you have to obey it, what kind of Christianity is that? How does that show the transforming power of Christ in your life? Much better to be led by the plain teachings of the Bible that will never steer you wrong. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us very simply, “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it?” How many of us are being led by something that is entirely deceitful? Let us not live controlled by our passions, but live as Paul lived, “keeping my body under subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become a cast away.”
“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10)
To that self control we add endurance. There are two words used in the Bible to talk about patience. One is the patience we should exercise in our response to others. The other is the one that Peter is talking about now, endurance in the middle of difficult trials. We need to add to our faith the ability to continue on in the midst of problems that we don’t think that we can bear up under. It is no difficulty to plug away for the Lord when things are going very well. It is very difficult to continue to serve when everyone and everything seems to be against you. However, the Bible is very clear that those are the times when God expects us to continue on. Job realized this, “when He hath tried me, then I shall come forth as gold.” The Psalmist said in Psalm 139, “search me O God, try me” David is praying for testing and difficulty, for he realized the great benefit they provide to his growth in Christ. It is in the times of great testing that we learn the most. It is in the times when we look around and say, “God, what are you doing to me?” that we can learn even more about our faults and the areas we need to improve. Consider Romans 5, James 1, Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 3. All these passages indicate that trials are not bad, they are just difficult. Sometimes we have the American mindset of ease about our walk with God. We expect everything to be relatively easy and simple, yet God has made no promises to us that life will be always easy. In fact, God has told us to expect persecution if we will live Godly. So we must cultivate in our life the ability to stick it out and to continue to endure even though the circumstances seem to be so severe that we don’t think we can handle it. Bailing out doesn’t teach us anything, sticking it out until the end gives us experience and experience produces hope and hope makes us bold for Christ. Consider Paul, he tells us in 2 Corinthians of his trials, “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” At the end of all this he told Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Can you look back at your life right now and say that you have kept the faith and finished your course? Can you look at the trials you have gone through and say that you have stuck to it even in the darkest times? Can you say that you have been faithful, even when everything seemed blackest? This is not a comfortless, fatalistic call to do and die. Psalm 23 gives us the wonderful promise, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” We never go through trials alone, we always have a loving shepherd to comfort and guide us, He is always with us. This is a promise of incalculable worth. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
“Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both do will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
As we add to our faith, we must be adding to the endurance a piety. This is simply religiousness. It is interesting to note that this particular growth is in the second half of our growth process. So many times we encourage people to be religious first, then accomplish these other things. For religion to be properly understood and used, it must be built on these other areas of virtue, knowledge and endurance. Without this foundation, religiousness becomes the crutch that people lean upon, expecting that they are right with God simply because they go to church, read their Bible, pray and give tithes. The reality is that we must be growing in our religiousness, but not at the expense of the first things. Please, as important as this is, don’t get it out of its right place. What exactly is this godliness all about? Our salvation is not earned by our actions, but we must each come to the place where we realize that our salvation requires extreme activity and devotion. We have lost this in our Christian circles today. We have reacted against a false piety, so that now we tend to scorn any semblance of piety. This passage tells us very clearly otherwise. We have to be adding to the endurance in our Christian walk and what we add is piety. This is not some superficial religiousness for man’s attentions. This is not some fearful working to try to earn our own salvation. This is a great desire to please God in all that we do. Consider Philippians 2:12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both do will and to do of His good pleasure.” This working out of salvation is directly linked to obedience. If we are going to add to our faith Godliness, we need to develop in our life complete obedience to all the things of God. This includes the basics of religiousness: church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, good works and disciple making. It also includes obedience to the laws of God that produce a holy life. Godliness is rooted in our obedience to the commands of God. We talk to today about liberty and grace, but none of those things have done away with our great obligation to be obedient to all the commands of God. If we are going to add Godliness to our faith, we must be intentional in our obedience to all the commands of God.
After adding to our faith Godliness, we need now to develop love. This love is developed in two stages. The first stage is that of familial love. Peter calls it brotherly kindness. This is a love like that we have for our own close family members. This is a love that is not stopped by petty disagreements. This is a love that will weather great storms together. This is a love based on a knowledge that comes from experience together. This family love does not spring up on its own, but is built on the foundation of the other stages of growth. This is a love that has come from serving together. This is love that has come from resolving conflicts with one another. This is a love that comes from facing trials together. This is a love that comes from growing together. This is a wonderful love that each of us should be developing for each one your local church. This family love should be constantly growing. We should each have as our goal to love one another as the brothers and sisters in Christ that we are. This is not some make believe, pasty love. 1 Peter 1:22 tells us that our love should not be unfeigned, without any acting. The word feigned comes from the same word that is used for the Pharisees and their hypocrisy. We have to engage one another in this family love, without hypocrisy, without play acting. It has to be a reality. We can’t imitate this type of love, or as soon as difficulties come and conflicts arise our fake love will fall apart and we will be divided. As you grow in your church, some of your closest friends should be developed in that congregation. As you struggle together as a church you should be drawing into a single family that comes closer together in hard times, not farther apart. How is your relationship with others in your church? Is there anyone in your church that you look at and say, “I don’t love them like I should. I’m not treating that person like my brother or sister.” Please, make your relationships right.
“But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The last part of this growth process is sacrificial love. This is the love that God has shown to us. This is the love that has been commanded of us over and over again as Christians. This is the love that we cannot live without. This is the love that we cannot please God without. This is the love that is the central part of our existence as Christians, as a church and as children of God. This love is love that is committed to doing what is best for another, no matter what it costs or what is received in return. This is completely opposite our worldly definition of love. The world defines loves based on the feelings experienced from being around someone else. That is why we can so quickly fall in and out of love. That is why a 13 year old girl can talk about falling in love with one guy one week and another one two weeks later. She is not being dishonest or thoughtless. She is responding to the world’s definition of love and so she thinkgs, “He makes me feel great, so that must be true love. He doesn’t make me feel so good, I must not love him anymore.” The really sad thing is that we as believers have bought this love, and we build our relationships in exactly the same way. I feel good around someone, so I love them. They do great things for me, I love them. I really enjoy spending time with them, I love them. Was that God’s kind of love? Did God say, “Those wicked, depraved, rebellious people sure do make me feel good, I love them?” No, God made a commitment to a relationship with us that was going to be exercised for our benefit, no matter what the cost to Himself. That is the kind of love that we must have. That is kind of love you must have in your marriage, in your family, in your church, with your neighbors, friends and co workers. You must be committed to the others benefit no matter what the cost. You must be committed to a right relationship, no matter what you get out of it. You must have a committed love that is willing to pay the cost. This love that we develop is one that is done in imitation of God. Consider 1 Corinthians 13, this Godlike love is one that patient, mild mannered, is not covetous, doesn’t lift up itself, is not proud, is well mannered, seeks others well being, doesn’t have a quick temper, doesn’t hold grudges, is grieved over sin and loves the truth. Does this chapter describe your life? Go through and study this chapter out, compare it to your life. Do you have the love that God commands of us? Are you willing to give of yourself for others? Ultimately, this love is one that will give it all for the benefit of others. The example of this kind of love is God, especially in giving Christ for our salvation. He didn’t give His Son while we were friendly with Him. He didn’t give His Son for us while we were trying hard to please Him. He didn’t sacrifice Himself because we were worthwhile and able to give something to Him. The Bible is very plain that Christ died for us while we were sinners, enemies, aliens, strangers, unprofitable, dead, rebellious and wicked. This love that we have to be developing is not love for those that are lovely. It is love for everyone, from the most wicked to the most wonderful. From the peaceful to the problematic. From the helpful to the harmful. Each Christian must be developing a love that is willing to love, no matter what the danger or the cost to yourself.
I want to challenge each of you to be reviewing this growth process. Though there is much more that I could add to this plan, I think there is enough here for each of us to be working on for some time to come. Be daily adding to your faith, so that you can fruitful in every good work.