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Guaranteeing Christian Success July 26, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Eternal Security, Falling Away, Judgment, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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Guaranteeing Christian Success
(2 Peter 1:5-11)

Since I will only be your pastor for about a month more, it is appropriate that we are going through 2 Peter during this time. As we will see in more detail next week, 2 Peter was Peter’s last message to the Jewish congregations for whom he felt responsible. Next week we will look at the main theme of his final message but this week we want to look at one of the main goals that Peter hoped to accomplish, that is the goal of guaranteeing Christian success. That has been one of my goals during the past years and one which I want to again emphasize, not as a recounting of the past but rather as an encouragement for the future. God stills wants each of you to be successful Christians.

Before I dive into the message I want to define for you, based on 2 Peter, what Christian success is. Christian success is living a life in which our faith is shown to be mature and worthy of an entrance into the presence of God. We will look later at the Scriptural basis for this definition but I want you now to engrave in your mind this condensed definition: Christian success is a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven.

A. The foundation of Christian success (a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven) are the promises through which we are partakers of the divine nature (verses 4b-5a). We have a glorious future ahead of us. Last week we did not look specifically from the Scriptures at these promises but it is important that we do so today, since they are the foundation for everything else that we will speak about. Second Peter 3:13 describes for us this promise, there will be “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This follows the destruction of the present heavens and earth and is the eternal state in which God’s people will live with Him for all eternity. It is eternal life lived in the righteousness of God. This is the reason why we need to live as successful Christians here on earth.

I was speaking with someone this past week about the early church in Jerusalem and the significance in their lives of their awareness that Christ could come at any time. They made the point that it is not surprising that they generously sold their property and shared the proceeds with the poor in their church. It is easy to be generous when you are convinced that you do not really need the money anyway.

In the same way, looking forward to our home in heaven is a prime motivation for living a successful Christian life. This is the foundation that we desire to build upon.

B. The daily provision for Christian success (a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven) involves the building of Christian character (verses 5-7). What we have listed here by Peter are the spiritual vitamins that we need to supplement our faith. “These things” as they are called guarantee Christian success. Before we look at what they produce, let us go down the list and understand what “these things”, these spiritual vitamins are.

Virtue – This word means moral excellence. In 1 Peter 2:9 it is translated “praises.” It is what we proclaim about God. “He is the rock, His work is perfect, and all His ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” Verse 3 of our present chapter points out that it is by God’s virtue, by His holiness, by His righteousness that we are called to salvation and we need in our faith to live consistent with the moral excellence of God. That will make our faith mature.

Knowledge – We have not yet fully attained to the moral excellence of God, in part, because we lack a full knowledge of God. That is why Peter commands in 2 Peter 3:18 to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This involves knowing the Scriptures. Peter refers to the importance of proper knowledge of the Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:15-17.

Self-Control – A person who says I have faith but has no self-control has at best a weak faith. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit. I mention that to remind us that these supplements to our faith are not produced by our own ability but rather through the working of God in our lives. Self-control is the discipline of the athlete aiming for the gold medal. He is disciplined in his preparations, disciplined in his food, disciplined in his sleep, disciplined in his relationships, disciplined in competition, disciplined after the competition. Paul describes self-control in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (that is, self-controlled) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”

Perseverance – Peter describes this specifically for us in 1 Peter 2:20. James said that this was characteristic of Job’s suffering, he was patient. One might say that perseverance is self-control under duress. It is one thing to exercise self-control when everything is going well. It is something else to practice it when the world seems to be falling in on you.

Godliness – This is piety, reverence toward God. It is the outward exercise of religion that reveals the faith you have in God and the full knowledge that you have of God. We use the word as Peter uses the word virtue but the idea here is different. It describes my attitude towards God. We tend to shun this word, piety. We connect it with being strait-laced and without freedom, with rules and legalism. We connect it with being unpopular, which by the way, is absolutely correct. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that those who desire to live godly (pious) in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. What God wants to make out of us will not naturally make us acceptable to the world. There will be a price to pay. A pious attitude towards God does not come naturally. Verse 3 tells us that piety or godliness comes to us through the power of God.

Brotherly Kindness (brotherly love) and Love (“agape“ love) – Sometimes we talk as if this type of love is inferior to “agape” love but that is not the picture of the New Testament. 1 Peter 1:22 indicates that “agape” love follows brotherly love while 1 Thessalonians 4:9 indicate that brotherly love arises out of “agape” love. Jesus Himself used the two terms synonymously when asking Peter if he loved Him. What is the difference? Brotherly specializes on our relationships to other believers. “Agape” love expands itself to all others. One involves loving your brother, the other includes loving your enemy. Both are vitamin supplements to our faith.

1. When we supplement our faith with these things, what will happen? An abundant daily provision of these spiritual vitamin supplements produces fruitfulness in the knowledge of Christ (verse 8). Now I use the word, daily because it is a good way to describe diligence. I have found that I learn better when I learn everyday than when I cram for a test. I lose weight and get fit when I daily exercise. My relationships with those whom I contact daily are much different than with those with whom I have contact yearly or monthly or even weekly.

Again, near the end of the book, we find a description of what a fruitful, mature Christian is. Second Peter 3:14 says we need to “be diligent” when He comes “to be found by Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” That is a Christian who has supplemented His faith with holy vitamins. Remember though, this is not a self-improvement regimen but rather a response of faith to our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

2. A lack of daily provision produces spiritual sickness (verse 9). What happens if I do not develop moral excellence in my life? What if I do not apply myself to knowing Christ through His word in my life? What if I do not practice self-control and patience and piety? What if I do not love my neighbors and do not love my enemies? So what? Verse 9 describes a terrible spiritual illness. It is an extreme near-sightedness, so extreme that one would be considered legally blind. He cannot see. Sadder still is what happens when one cannot see. He or she sometimes forget what things looked like, in this example, whether one has been forgiven or not.

Whatever you may believe about verses 10-11, verse 9 makes one thing clear. This is a spiritual disaster. This is someone who obviously knows the truth and has professed the truth but has not lived the truth and becomes blind to any effect that the truth may have had on him. This is a horrifying thing.

3. A diligent daily provision guarantees an eternal provision (verses 10-11). This is where the passage gets especially difficult. There are basically two possible interpretations.

First, if you do not do these things, you will lose your salvation because your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast.

Second, if you do not do these things, then there is no proof of your salvation because your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast.

There is a third option but it really does not fit in this epistle. If you do not do these things, then you are a poor excuse for a Christian who will lose reward. Now the Bible teaches that believers can lose rewards but that is not what is being talked about in 2 Peter. Look at 2 Peter 2:20-22. Peter seems to be talking about the same type of people as in chapters 1 and 3. People who had the truth of the gospel and could lose it. Peter says that these people are worse off than they were before they were saved. Now if option three were possible then that would mean that losing reward as a believer in heaven is worse than being unsaved and condemned to hell. That does not seem very likely to me.

Now I am convinced that option one is not correct. When God saves someone, He saves them forever and He gives them eternal life. Obviously, though this book teaches apostasy is possible. Peter believed that most of his hearers were believers (see 2 Peter 1:12) but he recognized that some were in danger of turning from their faith. I do not believe, however, that he believed that a true believer could lose his salvation.

My reason for this is found in chapter 2, verses 5-9. Peter uses two examples of people who were believers, who were rescued from immediate wrath by the hand of God. The first was Noah. Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. Ezekiel and the book of Hebrews make it clear that he was delivered by his righteousness. Noah was not perfect. Later in life he committed the sin of drunkenness and there were consequences for that but he remains in biblical history an example of righteousness.

The second person was Lot. In contrast to Noah, Lot is no one’s model of how a Christian should live yet Peter called him a righteous man. Three times, in fact, he does so, as if Peter realized that his example was open to attack. Lot, however, is an example of how that God knows how to deliver the godly (one of the attributes of a Christian character) from tribulation while at the same time reserving the unjust for the day of judgment. If anyone should have lost his salvation, Lot should have but God recognized Lot as a true believer and delivered him from judgment. Lot is a very strong argument for the eternal security of a believer.

That does not mean though that a believer is allowed to live carnally in this world. That is not Peter’s argument at all. Peter is teaching the second option, that is, if you do not do these things, these works, then there is no proof of your salvation. There is then a real danger that your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast. There is a real danger that you will be easily deceived by the false prophets that are always present and that you will reject the truth of Christ and be doomed. That was the concern of Peter. Believers who do not supplement their faith with good works may not be true believers and they need to be reminded of some things and in that reminding, they will be stirred up by the knowledge of Christ through which the transforming power presents or bestows to us all things necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

That was Peter’s passion for his people. That is my passion also for you. That is the passion of every pastor for his people. Warren Wiersbe tells of “…John Welsh, the son-in-law of the famous [Scottish reformer] John Knox. Welsh often left his bed in the middle of the night, wrapped himself in a warm plaid, and interceded for the people of his parish. When his wife would beg him to go back to sleep, he would say, ‘I have the souls of three thousand [in the village of Anwoth] to answer for and I know not how it is with many of them.’”

With heads bowed and eyes closed, the invitation is two-fold this morning. Are you a believer? Is Christ your Savior? Are you trusting him alone for salvation? Peter says that salvation is only possible through faith in Christ. Do you truly know who Jesus is? God who became man and lived in righteousness in this world and died demonstrating the love and righteousness of God in that He atoned for your sin. He lives today waiting for you to trust Him for salvation. Will you not trust Him today?

The second part of this invitation is for believers. Are you putting your faith into practice? Are you supplementing your faith with the things listed by Peter? Through these things come stability and steadfastness in faith. Where do you need to strengthen you faith? In knowledge of the Word, in self-control, in brotherly love? Begin today. Do not wait. Do not drift. Strengthen your faith through your daily life so that when Christ comes He will find you walking worthy of Him.

Next week: Sermon title and text: If I Could Only Preach One Sermon… 2 Peter 2:12-19

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