Dr. Richard L. Strauss
June 14, 1992
Purpose: To encourage us to grow in our relationship with Christ.
As you know, I have done quite a bit of traveling. Sometimes I'm gone for one or two days for board meetings, sometimes for two or three weeks for Bible conference ministry. And I have to tell you, I've gotten different kinds of receptions when I arrive home. I remember one night landing in San Diego sometime after one o'clock in the morning. It was after a board meeting in New Jersey, and I was cold and tired, and was looking forward to Mary being there to meet me and to me home in a nice warm car to a nice warm bed. I came out and stood at the curb as we'd arranged, and waited and waited and waited. No Mary! I waited some more and finally decided to call home. I woke her out of a sound sleep. She had mistakenly set the alarm for 1:00 p.m. rather than 1:00 a.m. It was rather disappointing reception, to say the least. I didn't feel very important that night. I think I handled it fairly well but I probably could have done better.
On another occasion, I remember returning home with Mary from ten weeks of ministry to missionaries in Africa in 1983, and being met by a rather large group of you enthusiastic friends with "Welcome Home" signs and warm hugs and greetings. It was a pleasant surprise, a rich and satisfying home coming, a wonderful reception. Receptions are different when you travel, you see.
Did you know that the Apostle Peter teaches us that we Christians are travelers in this world? "Sojourners and pilgrims" he calls us (1 Peter 2:11). The word "sojourner" highlights our alien status in a foreign land, and the word "pilgrim" emphasizes the temporary nature of our residents here. In other words, as the chorus says, "this world is not our home; we're just a'passin through."
I don't really belong here. I have another home to look forward to. My real home. My heavenly home. And some day I'm going to arrive at that heavenly home. But did you know that someday when we get there, we're each going to receive a different kind of reception?
That's what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:11. Kenneth Wuest correctly translates it like this: "For in this way"--that's very important. Those words introduce this verse in the Greek text. Just what that way is we will find out in a moment, but just get that for now. "For in this way the entrance shall be richly supplied to you into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We know that every true Christian is going to enter heaven--the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is abundantly clear on this issue. Our passport to heaven is not issued on the basis of our good works, but on the basis of our simple faith in the completed and perfect work that Jesus accomplished on Calvary's cross when He died in our place and paid for our sins, then rose again to give us His life and declare us right with God. If we put our faith in Him, we will enter heaven. Every true child of God will enter the kingdom.
But Peter is saying here that the entrance of some is going to be more richly supplied than the entrance of others. That's very clear. That is, it will be grander and more glorious, more joyous and triumphant, more rewarding and satisfying. Bible scholars suggest that this is the opposite of what we saw in 1 Corinthians 3:15 about being "saved, yet so as through fire." In other words, we're talking here about rewards.
And Peter tells us how we can enjoy this more rewarding entrance into heaven. The verse begins with the words "For in this way...." (houtos gar). What way is that, Peter? Well, he has just described it in the preceding context. It can be summed up in one word: GROWTH! There will be special rewards granted to us in heaven for consistent spiritual growth while we are here on earth.
Spiritual growth is a major theme in the second epistle of Peter. Peter hung the key to understanding this book at the back door. Go to the last verse in the book and you'll see how he does it. 2 Peter 3:18a says, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
That's what this book is about: growth. And that's what this passage is about, which we're going to study this morning, in 2 Peter 1:3-11. But what does this growth consist of and how can it be accomplished? Let's begin with the provision for growth.
1. The Provision for Spiritual Growth
God has a part to play and we have a part to play. Not everybody understands that but that's what the Scripture teaches.
a. God's Part, 2 Peter 1:3-4
God has provided everything necessary to bring this growth about. God's part is in verse 3.
Read 2 Peter 1:3. "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue."
First, He did everything that needed to be done to grant us eternal life. "Everything that pertains to life." That's eternal life. And then on top of that, He gave us everything we need to grow in godliness.
Those provisions are found in the knowledge of Him. And how do we get to know God? Well, that's clear all through the Scripture: We know Him through His Word. The more we get into the Word, the more we learn about Him, and therefore the more we learn to know Him. And so Peter describes in the next verse as "exceedingly great and precious promises." That's the Word. We were born again by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), and we grow as we feed on the Word. Giving us the Word was the crucial part that God did to help us grow in godliness. That's God's part. He gave us the Word.
b. Our Part, 2 Peter 1:5a
But we have a part to play, too. We don't always think about it but it's a very important part. It's described in the next verse.
2 Peter 1:5a says, "But also for this very reason"--that is, since God gave us the Word--"giving all diligence, add to your faith…" Now let me stop there just for a moment. It all begins with faith. That's where it has to start. Taking God at His word--that's what faith is. And then relying completely in His power.
Faith is the foundational element of the Christian life. That's where it all begins: putting our trust in the Lord Jesus and His finished work at Calvary. And that's where it all continues. "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" Paul taught us in Colossians. That's by faith.
We can't live this Christian life on our own. It's too much for us. We must rely on His resources. That's faith. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is the foundation on which we build today.
But at the same time we aren't going to grow spiritually standing around with our hands in our pockets saying, "OK, God, here I am; You make me grow." Peter wants us literally to bring in alongside of God's part something else (pareisphero, translated in NKJV "giving" NASB "applying"). See that phrase "giving all diligence"? It means bringing in along side of. What are we to bring in along side of God's part? All diligence. Every ounce of determination, zeal and enthusiasm that we can marshal.
Spiritual growth doesn't just happen. It required concentrated attention and effort. If we truly want to grow in our walk with the Lord and in the likeness of Christ, we're going to have to put ourselves into it wholeheartedly. We make those choices. He isn't going to force us to grow. We decide whether to obey. God isn't going to do that for us.
Some Christians fail to grow because they're sitting around waiting for the Spirit to move them. But Peter's word right here is, "Folks, get up and get going!" Start putting your heart into it. Make it important.
And when we step out to obey we must do it in conscious dependence on His power, because we can't do it in our own strength. But the fact remains that must do it. We must stand up and step out and begin to do what God wants us to do and that's when He meets us with His power, as we rely on Him. But Peter lays that responsibility on us. "You need to give all diligence."
And when we do it, there is a process to follow. The process is interestingly pictured in that word "add" (epichoregéo). "Giving all diligence, add to your faith." That's the second element in our part: add. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) translates it as "supply." The Greek word is pronounced eppy-kor-e-geh-o. It's the word from which we get our English word "chorus." You see, the ancient Greeks usually wanted a large chorus to accompany their dramas. But it was expensive to equip and train such a chorus. So some wealthy and generous citizen would usually take on that responsibility, and give the money to equip and train the chorus in a very lavish style.
And that's exactly what God wants us to do: lavishly supply these Christian graces--that are to follow--adding one to another, until the beautiful chorus of the Christian life is complete and we reflect the very character of Christ.
There are seven parts in the chorus, and each one leads to the next. So we've talked about the provision for growth: God's part is providing the Word. Our part is the giving of all diligence to add to our faith. Now let's turn to the process of growth and look at each one of the parts of the chorus.
2. The Process of Spiritual Growth
a. Virtue, 2 Peter 1:5b
It all begins with faith, remember. So "add to your faith virtue" (arete). "Virtue" is the first part of the chorus. It is a general word that simply describes proper Christian behavior. It's a hard word to render into English. NASB says "moral excellence." NIV says "goodness." My translation (NKJV) says "virtue." I discovered that the underlying idea in the word is really "courage and valor." That was a surprise to me. We don't think of virtue in terms of courage and valor, but that's the idea. It pictures determination and tenacity in living the Christian life. Determination and tenacity.
So the question is: How serious are you about growing in your walk with God?
Do you really want to know Him better, particularly if it's going to take time away from some of the other things you enjoy? Like watching TV, or playing golf or tennis, or exploring antique shops. Are those the things you like to do? Great. But if you have to give some of that up to spend time with the Lord and get to know Him better, are you willing to do that?
Do you really want to please Him, even if unbelievers around you laugh at you for your righteous stand? Do you want to overcome the sin in your life? Do you want to spend more time in the Word? Do you want to have an effective prayer life? Do you want to speak up for your Lord, courageously and loving and graciously, when the opportunity arises? Do you want those things?
You see, we aren't going to grow if the desire isn't there. That's where it must begin. That's why we add to our faith: virtue--that determination and tenacity to live the Christian life. If you want to experience that elegant reception into heaven that Peter promises for spiritual growth, then you'll need to begin with a courageous commitment and steadfast determination to grow.
This is where it needs to start: Courageous commitment. Steadfast determination. Let's add to our faith virtue.
b. Knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5b
But if we're going to be determined to do the right thing, we need to know what the right thing is. So Peter says, "add to virtue knowledge" (gnosis). Knowledge must follow virtue in the chorus of the Christian life. This word refers to practical knowledge: the ability to know what to do in a particular situation. That kind of knowledge comes primarily from the Word of God. That's where we get true knowledge.
So the question here is: How much time do you spend in the Word?
Do you pick up your Bible and read it between weekends? Although 93% of all Americans own a Bible, half admit that they never read it. It's kind of a show piece. And that figure includes 23% of those who identify themselves as born-again Christians (Barna Research Group survey, NIRR, 2/27/89). That means that 23% of you have not touched your Bible this week, and have not read any at all. That's kind of scary, folks. If we want to have that exquisite welcome Peter talks about here, we're going to have to do better than that. We're going to have to become people of the Word, people of true knowledge.
That's why we emphasize Bible teaching in this church and expository preaching so you can see what the Word says and learn what it means and how it affects our lives. That's where knowledge is found. We aren't going to grow in our spiritual lives and have this abundant entrance into heaven unless we have that knowledge.
Solomon was a man who understood the importance of knowledge. He wrote, "The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge. And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge" (Proverbs 18:15). But unfortunately Solomon didn't always apply the knowledge he gained. In disobedience to the command of God, he multiplied wives and he multiplied wealth, and his life illustrates the important truth that knowledge without self-control can lead to ruin.
c. Self-Control, 2 Peter 1:6a
That's why the next note in this beautiful Christian chorus is self-control (egkrateia). "So add to your knowledge self-control." That's self-mastery, self-restraint, self-discipline, keeping a grip on ourselves, keeping our passions and desires in check.
How sad it is when professing Christians who know the great truths of Scripture allow their lives to get all messed up because they won't control their passions--their tempers, or their tongues, or their eating habits, or their sexual lusts, or their greed for material things. They allow it to ruin their lives. Even preachers do it.
It is the Spirit of God who will produce self-control in our lives. We studied it when we were studying the fruit of the Spirit some time ago. As we fix our hearts and minds on Him and what He wants to accomplish in us; as we let Him and the things of Christ dominate our lives; as we drink deeply of Him and He fills our lives, he produces the fruit of self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23).
I read a little story about a dad who was walking through the park with his fussy little boy. He was heard saying, "Take it easy, Malcolm. Just relax. There's no reason to get excited. Just keep calm, Malcolm, and everything will be alright" An older lady who was watching stopped him and said, "My, what a nice little boy you have. Did you say his name was Malcolm?" to which the frustrated father replied, "No, ma'am. His name is Barnaby. I'm Malcolm" (Our Daily Bread, 8/30/89).
That young dad was exercising self-control, reminding himself that there was no need to lose his temper. He was working on a royal welcome into the eternal kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
Are you working on that royal welcome? Are you adding to your virtue and your knowledge self-control? Are you bringing those passions into check? Are you leaning on Him as you fill your hearts and minds with the things of Jesus Christ? That's the challenge to grow. You know it's not always easy to maintain self-control. I don't want to try and make it sound easy. We all have our areas where we struggle. That's why the next note we need to add to the chorus is perseverance.
d. Perseverance, 2 Peter 1:6
"Add to self-control perseverance" or endurance (hupomone). We've seen this word before in our study of rewards. "For you have need of endurance"--that's the same word--"so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36). There is a special promise for believers who endure. Endurance is a faithfulness and steadfastness that enables us to keep on keeping on and finishing what we start, no matter how difficult it may be. But it's more than that. It's the triumphant acceptance of every circumstance of life as part of God's plan to bring us to circumstances of life as part of God's plan to bring us to maturity in Christ. It's the courage and creativity to transform every trial of life into spiritual progress and spiritual triumph, recognizing that trials can help us grow into the image of Christ.
Actually, there can be no spiritual growth without trials. It's like flying a kite. There is no way to get a kite up into the air unless there is wind. Kites don't rise with the wind; they rise against the wind. And we rise to higher planes of spiritual growth not when things are going smoothly. Most of us stagnate into a level of spiritual mediocrity when things are going well. We grow when we are subjected to the winds of adversity. That's when we turn to the Lord and get to know Him better and we begin to grow in His likeness. They give us the opportunity to develop endurance. And endurance will earn for us an abundant entrance into Christ's heavenly kingdom. It's part of our eternal reward.
But our purpose for enduring trials is not to prove how tough we are. It is rather to help us develop godliness.
e. Godliness, 2 Peter 1:6b
"Add to your perseverance godliness" (eusebeia, the same word Peter used in 2 Peter 1:3). The idea in the word is "worship rightly directed" (Vinvent, I, 676). In other words: living our lives in a manner that ascribes to God His worth. Is that how you live your life? Do people see how great God is when they look at you?
Godly people are those who live with a continual consciousness of God's presence. I mean, they don't think about Him just a night when they go to say a little prayer, but the think of Him all day long. They realize He's with them. He's part of their lives. They have a simple trust in His sovereign control, and realize that every event throughout the day is superintended by Him and His love--even if it doesn't go along the way they'd like it to be; they know it's part of His plan. They have a determined desire to please Him, and a complete reliance upon His power--not on their own wisdom and abilities. As a result, their lives take on a Christ-like quality, and people begin to see Jesus in them. Even their very presence brings unbelievers to the point where they must make a decision.
That's godliness. Do our lives approach anything near that? I have to ask myself that question.
People who knew Jim Elliot, one of the missionaries who was martyred by the Auca Indians in 1956, testified that he was a godly man. In his biography we're told that one of his prayers was this: "Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a ford, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me" (Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty, p. 59).
Wow! What a prayer! And he was that kind of a man. When people met him, they saw the Lord Jesus in His life and they had to make a decision. I wonder whether that is the kind of life we live? There is not much doubt in my mind that Jim Elliot is one of those who has been given a rich and blessed welcome into Christ's everlasting kingdom.
But even godliness is not an end in itself. You see, right attitude toward the Lord should issue in a right attitude toward other people.
f. Brotherly Kindness, 2 Peter 1:7
So Peter says, "To godliness we need to add brotherly kindness" (philadelphia). Some people profess to have love for God, but they really don't care a whole lot about their brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. They can be indifferent and unconcerned about their needs, sullen and surly toward them at times, negative and critical behind their backs. And their attitude causes dissension and disunity in the family of God. That doesn't make any sense, folks. If we truly love the Father, then we will also care about the Father's other children. If He's our Father, then His other children are our brothers and sisters and we should care about them. That's why we to add to our godliness: brotherly kindness.
If we don't, then it's obvious that we are not following Peter's strategy for growth. We need to go back to the beginning and add to our faith virtue--that determination to grow. And to our virtue we must add knowledge of the Word, so we know what to do and how to grow. And to our knowledge we must add self-control, and to our self-control endurance, and to our endurance, godliness. And as true godliness is formed in us, we will find ourselves reaching out to our brothers and sisters with genuine care and kindness, and by that means, securing for ourselves an abundant entrance into heaven. A rich and rewarding reception.
And that will lead us to the final note in the chorus: love.
g. Love, 2 Peter 1:7
"And to brotherly kindness add love." This is agape, the highest and greatest of all the Christian graces; God's kind of love being expressed through us which looks out for the best interests of others before our own; that seeks God's best for others whatever it cost us, without demanding anything in return. It's the queen of the Christian graces. It's total unselfishness. Paul said, "the greatest of these is love." And if you remember from our last lesson, it reaches beyond the family even to our enemies. Remember Luke 6: love your enemies?
You see, this is the love of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." It's the love of Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
It's the love that T. E. McCully demonstrated. He was the father of one of those other Auca martyrs with Jim Elliot, Ed McCully. One night shortly after his son was killed he prayed, "Lord, let me live long enough to see those fellows saved who killed our boys that I may throw my arms around them and tell them I love them because they love my Christ" (Campbell, The Challenge to Grow, F, 2 Peter 1:3-7).
I wonder whether you could have prayed that after your son was killed by savage indians. You see, this is the love that can overcome any obstacle. This is the love that can bring reconciliation and healing to any relationship. This is the pinnacle of spiritual growth. This is where it all leads. It's the final beautiful note in this chorus of Christian living.
Listen to what Peter says about people who are growing through this process toward Christ-like love. Read 2 Peter 1:8-11. "For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
It's true, if you know Christ as your Savior, you're just a traveler, just passing through. And some day you're going to arrive at home. What kind of reception will you get? Have you been growing in this process? Are you becoming more like the Lord Jesus? Are you adding these Christian graces by the power of His Spirit?
Keep growing in your faith, so that you may experience a rich and abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let's keep growing, so that we hear that warm and hearty, "Welcome home, traveler!" and receive that wonderful reward.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
To conclude this message we really have to go back to verse 3. You can't get into the process of growth until you have life. "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life" (2 Peter 1:3).
He provided it all. There isn't anything we can add to it. When He sent His Son to Calvary's cross, He did everything that needs to be done for our eternal salvation. All He asks us to do is to acknowledge our sin and be willing to turn from it, then put our faith in His provision and receive Him as our personal Savior from sin. For he who has the Son has life.
God has made the provision. He isn't going to force it on any of us. He makes it available to us by His grace. If you've never received that gift of eternal life from His gracious hand, we urge you to do it right now. Don't put it off another day. I mean, we're talking about heaven or hell here. Eternity is at stake. Will you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior and receive His life?
Let's bow before Him, reverently and prayerfully. My question is: Is He your Savior? He is the Lord. Nothing you do or say can change that. But is He your own personal Savior from sin? Have you acknowledged that there is no other way to heaven but through Him; that He died in your place and paid for your sin; and offers you the gift of eternal life on the basis of His provision. Have you put your faith in Him and received Him as your Savior?
If you're not certain you've done that, I'd like to invite you to do it right now--just in your own heart, in the quietness of your own mind and soul--you talk to Him, will you?
"Lord, I'm a sinner. I know I don't deserve eternal salvation. But thank You for paying for it at Calvary and providing it for me. Lord Jesus, I now accept You as my Savior. Come into my heart. I put my trust in You alone to save me from sin."
He'll do that. He promised He would. He invited us to open the door of our lives to Him and He would come in. And with Him He brings eternal life.
Challenge to Christians
I know most of you here this morning have made that decision. So the question is: Are we growing? Are we moving through the process? Are we looking forward to that abundant reception? Or are you satisfied to be "saved so as by fire"? Oh, friend, I'm not satisfied with that.
I want that abundant reception. Do you want that? Let's grow. Let's keep growing. Would you make that commitment right now?
Father, I pray that every one of us who knows Jesus Christ will be involved in this process, growing more like Jesus and looking forward to that glorious day we enter His presence. We look forward to that warm and abundant welcome He will extend to us. May we live our lives with this grand and glorious prospect in view. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Continue to RW-13: Hold on to Those Rewards