1 Aug 2021


By making every effort to grow in godly qualities

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Title: By making every effort to grow in godly qualities
Scripture Text: 2 Peter 1:1-11

  1. Knowing Jesus has made us partakers of the divine nature. (v1-4)
  1. So make every effort to become like Jesus in the present. (v5-7)
  1. To confirm that you will be with Jesus in the future. (v8-11)

Reflection Questions:

  • In knowing Christ, you have become partakers of the divine nature. Has this made you see yourself any differently? How so?
  • How much effort have you made in 2021 to develop godly qualities? What steps can you take to step up the effort for the rest of the year?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how assured are you, from your growing godliness, that you have truly shared in the divine nature? How can we help each other ‘confirm’ our calling and election?
Scripture: 2 Peter 1:1-11 (ESV)

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 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. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

transcript

Introduction

Where are you headed? Where is your life headed? I don’t mean your 5-10 year plan. I mean ultimately. Where does it end? The secular answer is that it ends, 6 foot under. Beneath a tombstone, in the grave.

Death is colloquially known as “the final destination”. That’s the story of our humanity. We’re born, we live, we die. All we can do is hope that in the course of our brief time here on earth, we share a few laughs, we make friends, we find love, we build a family, we live moral lives, we make some money, we see nice sceneries, we eat good food, we have some fun, we watch our grandchildren grow, and then we die peacefully. That’s the human hope. A hope that does not extend really beyond the grave, a hope that pretty much dies along with us. That’s the hope of secular humanity.

The Christian hope, however, does not end in the cemetery. It goes beyond the grave and into a place the bible calls the “kingdom of God”, “the new heavens and the new earth”, or as its most common known, simply as a place called “heaven”.

Christians are destined for heaven, it is our destiny, but more than that, because heaven is a real place, it is also our destination.

And when we think of destinations, we have to think of the journey, the process of getting there, the way by which we arrive at our destination.

There are two fundamental ways to think of the Christian journey towards heaven.

The first is to conceive of it as a plane ride. Remember those? Seems like a distant memory nowadays. You pay the price of the ticket, which is faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. You get the ticket to heaven. And Jesus is your pilot. He doesn’t guarantee you a smooth journey, but he promises you a safe landing. And all we have to do is to find our seats follow the on-board safety instructions, which are the moral imperatives of the new testament, attending church and tithing and missions and all that. The priority of course is to stay on the plane, not to mess up so badly you get thrown out for unruly behaviour. But beyond that, you know, by and large, as passengers, our main focus is to enjoy the ride as much as possible. You know, strap in, immerse yourself with the on-board entertainment system, and if you need any help, you press the button, which in Christian terms would be to pray, and then wait for a crew member to assist you. Some churches believe with all sincerity that they’re flying first class. But churches like ours are better at managing our expectations, we’re content with economy, even budget maybe. But the point remains the same.

In a “plane ride” conception of the Christian journey towards heaven, we are essentially just in for the ride, God pilots the plane, he’s the only active personnel, and we as passengers are basically passive travellers. It’s not like we can do anything to move the plane along. Our efforts mean nothing, our efforts are not consequential to our arrival at the destination.

That’s one way of conceiving of the Christian journey towards our heavenly destination.

The other way is to think of it as journey to the wedding altar. Your destination is your wedding ceremony on your wedding day.

It’s still a place. But getting there looks a lot different than riding on a place. Because you’re not simply concerned about showing up at the right place and right time for your wedding. That is perhaps the least of your concerns. En-route to your wedding day, you will be preoccupied with showing up as the right person, with the right frame of mind, with the right emotions, wearing the right outfit. All of which, requires effort, effort, and more effort on your part.

On the way to your wedding day, you want to grow in greater knowledge of your fiancée, you want to fall deeper into love with him/her, you want to develop the character and mindset necessary to be loving and faithful husband or wife you shall be promising to be.

As far as we can tell from the bible, the church arrives at our heavenly destination, not as passengers disembarking a plane, but as a bride made ready and adorned for Christ her husband for the wedding supper of the lamb.

Conceiving of the Christian journey from earth into heaven in this manner represents a radically new way of life for all who placed their faith in Christ. Because your life, your priorities, your activities takes on a completely different complexion and meaning the moment you say to another, “Yes, I’ll marry you, on such and such a day”.

And this is what the letter of 2 Peter is basically about: “living in a way that prepares ourselves for our big Day”. Or, as the title of our sermon series states, the book of 2 Peter is about “living this day for that day”. Living to-day for that day.

In other words, this letter shows us how Christian eschatology intersects with Christian ethics. How our destiny there in heaven affects our activity here on earth. How that day informs and transforms our each and every day.

Before we dive into the letter proper, let us pray.

 

  1. Knowing Jesus has made us partakers of the divine nature.

Here’s our first point. Knowing Jesus has rescued us from our sinful past. In other words, our relationship with Jesus has transformed us. Because to know him is to become like him.

Let’s work it out from the text.

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours 

by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you

in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,

through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises,

so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, 
having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 

Faith is nothing less than knowing Christ as Lord and Saviour. So this faith, this knowledge of Christ is important. Knowing Jesus is transformative.

First, knowing Jesus is the context within which we obtain peace and grace from God. We’re either at war with him, incurring his wrath, or at peace with him, receiving his grace. Knowing Jesus has put us at peace with God.

Second, through knowing him, we are granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. In other words, knowing Jesus has given us all we need to live a godly life. The phrase “life and godliness” do not refer to two separate things, Peter here employs a rhetorical device where you use two terms to refer to one thing, the way we say “nice and warm”, “hot and spicy”, it’s a way of saying “godly life”.

So how does knowing Jesus give us everything we need to live a godly life? Well, because we know Jesus through the Scriptures, and contained within the scriptures are very great and precious promises through which we become partakers of the divine nature.

What kind of promises do we see in the Old and New Testament which indicates to us that God’s divine power has made us partakers of the divine nature?

Lets take a look at the promises declared by the prophet Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 19:11. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

Ezekiel 36:26-27. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This promise is of a new heart, a new nature, as a result of having new Spirit. It points to the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is all the power we need to live out a godly life. We becomes partakers of the divine nature because the divine is now part of our nature, do you see, when we put of faith in Jesus and was given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle John describes this new nature as being “born again”, the apostle Paul describes it as “putting on your new self”, Peter calls it the “partaking of a divine nature.”

And that is what knowing Jesus grants to us, it’s salvation, it’s reconciliation, it’s transformation.

You know how, when we visit someone in hospital, decimated by severe illness, we can’t help but think, “my, they are a shadow of their former selves”. Because they are not what they once were. Friends, sin is a sickness that corrupts our flesh and corrodes our soul, but when we come to know Jesus Christ, we are healed from that corrupt, such that we are now but “a shadow of our future selves”. We are not quite what we have become.

We are partakers, we share, in the divine nature. Godly. That’s who we are.

So what do we do with this new power, with this great promise, with this divine nature?

We make every effort to become who we are. We embrace our new identity and allow who we are to dictate what we do, We are godly, so be godly.

 

  1. So make every effort to be like Jesus in the present.

 

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.

 

When I just became a sergeant during my National Service, my sergeant major would often remind us, whenever he catches us waiting around instead of taking the lead, he’d remind us, saying “guys, you are no longer recruits, you are no longer privates, you are sergeants now. Behave like one. Take the lead. Do what needs to be done.”

You see, the motivation wasn’t about whether we wanted the rank of sergeant. That’s not in question. We already are. The motivation is this: because we are sergeants, for the very reason that we have become sergeants, we are to behave like one.

And that’s what Peter is saying about the transformative power of knowing Christ. He isn’t saying, if you want to be saved, you must be godly. He’s saying, “for this very reason”, because you are already saved by faith, because you have his divine power has granted to you all things you need to lead a godly life, because in knowing Jesus you have come to share in his nature,

Now, be true to yourself. Live out your authentic identity. Live in accord with your divine nature.

At this juncture, it is needful perhaps to talk a bit about the idea of authenticity, because it’s a huge cultural buzzword these days. Motivational slogans like, “You do you”, “Be true to yourself”, “Follow you heart” are omnipresent on social media. But while these slogans sound enlightened and positive, an uncritical pursuit of authenticity can be a very unhelpful thing.

Consider for example, what it means to “be true to yourself”. Which I take to mean as doing whatsoever feels most aligned to the desires of your heart and mind. Right. Be true to yourself. Which self are we talking about here? The self in the morning after you had 8 hours or sleep or 4? The you before or after your morning coffee? The self at 12:30am on a Saturday night after some heavy partying or the self at 12:30pm in the sanctuary right after some reflection on the sermon you’ve just heard.

But putting aside the fact that we experience a hundred different “selves” in a hundred variety of situations within a day, is that how human beings are supposed to live? Doing whatever feels most natural and comfortable to them? Always submitting to our desires; never resisting our impulses and never denying ourselves?

I would argue that if that’s your idea of authenticity, then the most authentic communities you can find are housed in prisons all the world. Because most of them ended up there by saying “yes” to whatever they wanted to do at the time. At the very least, no one can accuse them of “not following their heart”.

Is that the mark of being truly human? Isn’t the thing that sets human beings apart from the rest of animals is the ability to not be slaves to our instincts and impulses, to transcend our base nature and live virtuous lives? Isn’t that what it means to be human? Isn’t that why we describe as “inhuman”, as “inhumane”, those who simply act automatically, without rationality, in accord with their base desires?

The existentialist ideal of authenticity where we simply do what comes naturally, does not provide us with a coherent vision of how to live as a human being.

The bible, in contrast, provides us a much more sober picture of anthropology. It tells us that we created in the image of God, and image that marred by the Fall of mankind in Adam. But in knowing Christ, we have the divine power to restore that image of God within us. But that restoration will not come about simply by obeying every whim and fancy of our flesh. It comes by daily denying ourselves and following Jesus. It will not come automatically, it will not come easily, it will, in fact, require great effort.

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.

Consider, for example the quality of self-control. It’s complete opposed to the cultural ideal of authenticity where the goal is to be “true to yourself”. Self-control means precisely the opposite. It means to control yourself, to restrain and reign in yourself. Because your “self” is subjective, it’s inconsistent. It changes with the weather and the time of day.

Far better to live according to the objective and unchanging truth of what the bible says we are. We are partakers of the divine nature, so make every effort to become who we are.

I’ll belabour the point. Anyone who thinks. “I said the sinners prayer, Jesus has come into my life, he has given me the Holy Spirit, so everything he wants me to do now will come automatically.” Is just kidding himself.

The way you cultivate these godly qualities in our character is the same way we become good at anything in life. Through hard work and great effort.

For this very reason, make every effort… do you see.

Let’s take a look at the list.

Consider how one grows in knowledge. You add knowledge by reading, by studying, by wrestling. I saw an advertisement on Youtube, promising to teach you a technique where you can absorb the essence from a book just by placing your hand on the cover. If you’re in the mood for a scam, you can pay money to learn how to do that. But the reality is that there is no short cut to gaining knowledge. It involves reading, and thinking and meditating. It’s hard work, and it doesn’t really get easier over time. But that’s how you add knowledge.

Consider how you develop steadfastness. You become steadfast by letting your yes be yes, no matter how costly it may be. You keep to your word, you abide by your convictions come hell or highwater, no matter the circumstances. You will want to run, you will want to take back your word, you will tempted to break your promise. But the way you develop steadfastness is not by doing what you want, but by doing what is steadfast, 1000 times out of a 1000 times.

Developing godliness in your life does not happen overnight. It’s takes place gradually, day after day, situation after situation, temptation after temptation. Putting off your old self, putting on your new. Trusting in who the bible says you are, relying on the Spirit’s help in every step.

It takes every effort.

So let me ask you three questions:

(1) Are you making any effort?

Are you even trying at all to be like Christ? Is there a conscious decision and effort on your part to be like Jesus. Or you are generally just coasting along, just “following your heart”, doing as you please. Except no one simply coasts along, we regress towards the flesh. We regress towards being mean. So, are you making any effort?

(2) Are you making a lot of effort?

Next question. Are you making a lot of effort? You know Christ, and you consciously seek to be more and more like him. You read your bible, you tune in to worship services, you attend CG bible studies, you read Christian books, you pray every day. You are putting in effort. A lot of effort, in fact. Perhaps your answer is yes, you are making a lot of effort.

(3) But the first two questions isn’t what the text is asking. The text asks, “are you making every effort?”

Are you spending every waking moment, seeking every opportunity, using every circumstance to be less corrupted by sin, and more divine in nature?

Because maybe that’s what it takes, maybe you can never do enough, maybe it requires every effort to develop godliness in our lives. But before you despair, maybe it’s possible? Maybe, as Peter says, we really do have everything we need to live a life of godliness.

And now we come to why? If it takes so much effort, why live a life of godliness? Well, we ought to live this way because that’s who we are, Christian is alone able to truly pursue authenticity, because only the bible tells us who we truly are, and only the Spirit enables us to become who we truly are. Living out our identity in Christ, therefore, is the only true and authentic live. Okay, but what good is there to live authentically?

  1. To confirm that you will be with Jesus in the future.

In the remaining 4 verses, Peter gives us 4 reasons why we ought to live a godly life.

Four “for’s”.

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. 

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind,

having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election,

for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 

11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

  • for our knowledge of God must bear the fruit of godliness, (v8).

Knowing Jesus isn’t like learning advanced geometry you know. With questions like: “Prove this is a triangle”. And you want to write on your test paper. “Just look at it! What else could it be?” The knowledge of Christ isn’t like the knowledge of advanced geometry where the knowledge you gain is abstract, it has limited real world application, and zero transformative power for our character. If reading the bible isn’t changing you, you’re doing it wrong. Your so-called “knowledge of Christ” you have is ineffective and unfruitful, whereas truly knowing Christ gives us everything we need to for a godly life. Our growth in knowledge of Christ is one that bears the fruit of Christlikeness.

 

  • for a lack of godliness belies our new nature (v9),

If you lack these qualities, you are blind, and you have forgotten that you are no longer who you once were. Which is a far stronger indictment than we would think at first reading.

In the bible, the word “blind”, like the word “darkness”, often carries with it a moral connotation.

For example, to the church in Laodicea, Jesus says, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”, blind is used as a metaphor for an inability to see their sins.

And in 2 Peter, “forgetting” carries the same indictment. You will learn later that Peter will make every effort to ensure that the Church does not “forget”, and that the false teachers he so strong condemns are guilty of “forgetting”. To forget, in this letter, is no mere innocent absent-mindedness. It’s severe indictment, which means that forgetting you were cleansed from your former sins would be to raise the possibility that perhaps you were never cleansed at all.

  • for godliness assures us of our calling and election (v10, cf v3b),

Third, our growth in godliness serves as assurance that we now share in God’s nature. Our growth in Christ-likeness is a confirmation that we are truly in Christ. It serves as a confirmation of our calling and election. Our growing godliness is not the reason for our election, but the confirmation of it. In the same way the ultrasound scan is not the reason for the baby in the womb, it merely confirms that there is indeed a baby.

  • for godliness ensures that we belong to the kingdom of God (v11).

Fourth and finally, if we grow in godliness, we are promised an entrance into the eternal kingdom of Christ. That’s the kingdom that we pray to come in the Lord’s prayer. That’s the Christ will consummate at his 2nd coming. It’s also known as the kingdom where righteousness dwells, because the righteous dwell there.

Yes, we are saved by the righteousness of Christ, but Christ did not merely save us from the corruption that is in the world, he also grants us a nature that belongs with the next world. A new world, a righteous world.

So salvation and sanctification are not separated matters. So, in the context of what Peter has written, he is not saying “work hard at being good, and you will go to heaven”. He’s saying, “work hard at being good, because that is how people on the straight and narrow road walk, that leads to the kingdom of heaven”.

Make no mistake, friends, this is a matter of life and death. Actually, it’s far graver than that, it is a matter of heaven and hell. And where you end up is a matter of how you live this day, in the light of that day.

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