Time to Grow Up

Posted: March 14, 2010 in 2 Peter

2 Peter 1:5-11, “Time to Grow Up”
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As a parent, have you ever found yourself surprised at the sudden maturity of your kids? (Not that they’re ever perfect! 🙂 ) There are days Olivia takes me by surprise at the breakfast table & I wonder, “When did she grow up? Only yesterday she was a baby!” Obviously, that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. Every parent’s desire is for their child to mature & grow into a responsible adult that can care for themselves on their own. In fact, when maturity doesn’t happen, it causes all sorts of problems down the line.

It’s no different in our spiritual lives. If we expect maturity in our earthly children, how much more do we think our Heavenly Father wants His children to mature in Christ?

As Peter began his letter, he emphasized the need for us to know Christ. Not to merely know about Him, but to know Him experientially & relationally. To know Jesus, His promises, and partake of who He is. Where we pick up today is what happens to us in the process. How is it we respond to His glorious grace? What do we do after encountering the God of the Universe? Surely there must be some response to this… There is: growth. Just like any child grows into maturity, so are we to mature in our relationship with Jesus Christ. As we mature in Christ, we’re going to find we mature in our character – mature in our effectiveness for God – grow in our assurance of salvation – and grow in our hope for our future eternity with the Lord Jesus.

2 Peter 1:5-11 (NKJV)
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,

A. For which reason? That we’ve become partakers of the divine nature & escaped the corruption of the world. Because we’ve been given the privilege of having our image conformed to that of Jesus Christ by God (Rom 8:29), we need to give all diligence to doing our part in what God wants to do in our lives.

B. What does it mean to “add” something to our faith? Aren’t we saved by grace alone through faith alone? Absolutely yes…the Bible makes this perfectly clear. Ephesians 2:8-9 (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. [] When we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ in eternity, not a single soul will be able to look into His eyes & claim any credit for anything done in this life. We didn’t save ourselves – we didn’t give ourselves a new birth – we didn’t make ourselves new creations – we didn’t give ourselves an inheritance everlasting. All these things (and much more) were given TO us by the grace of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ. As the Reformers affirmed, we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, based on the authority of Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory! No amount of prayer, spiritual practices, monetary giving, or monastic living could ever add to what Christ does in our salvation – we are completely dependent upon Him alone through faith.
__a. What Peter is referring to here is not working for our salvation as if faith alone in Christ wasn’t sufficient; Peter is simply showing that once we are saved, our walk with Christ doesn’t end with a simple salvation prayer. We have a life to live with Jesus, and there are character issues that the Lord wants us to deal with.

C. So are we to add these qualities to our faith, or is this something the Holy Spirit adds? Yes.  We add it through His power & His work within us that births these qualities in our lives. … Paul mentioned much the same concept when writing of the fruit of the Spirit… Galatians 5:22-23 (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. [] These are things borne out of our lives via the work of the Holy Spirit – all various aspects of His love. So yes, the Holy Spirit is at work. At the same time, knowing that the Spirit is working in the lives of believers is no reason for us to do nothing. Sometimes the way the Spirit works is to convict our conscience when we’ve sinned due to a lack of self-control, or when He weighs down on our hearts when we’ve been unkind to other believers. Those are the times when we seek the Lord in prayer & through an act of our own will strive to improve – all the while relying upon His grace & empowerment. It’s not an “either/or” so much as a “both/and.” The Greek word for “add” here originally dealt with those who funded the expenses for a chorus in a Greek play – eventually the word was used for anyone who supported others or provided for someone. Peter’s idea here is as the Spirit works in our lives, we are to support His work in our faith with these various character traits…we are to do everything we possibly can to grow (and at the very least, not get in the way through stagnancy). Think of it this way: God always initiates the work & man always needs to respond. It was that way when we came to faith in Christ (justification); it’s no different in our walk with Christ (sanctification).
__a. What’s really being written about here is maturity. The longer we walk with Christ, the more mature we ought to be as we grow in Him. We’re to have the faith of a child, but not to stay at the maturity level of a child…

D. For everything that’s going to be listed, it all starts with faith. Faith is always the beginning point; without faith all the rest is worthless. On one hand, it’s great for society when those who reject Jesus Christ (for whatever reason: pagan, agnostic, atheist) to have self-control, perseverance, kindness, etc., but from an eternal standpoint, none of it matters without faith in Jesus Christ. An unregenerate person with zero self-control is just as condemned as someone completely self-controlled; those on death row & those in Buddhist monasteries have the same eternal fate without Jesus Christ. Why? Because we’re ALL lawbreakers (no matter how little we think our lawbreaking is) & we’re ALL in need of the Savior Christ Jesus. Thus whatever good happens in our heart & character, it’s got to begin with faith.
__a. Interesting that all these aspects are added one to another…like links in a chain. One doesn’t merely jump to another, but instead each quality seems to flow out of the other.

E. 1st trait of maturity to be added: “virtue.” This is the same word used in vs. 3; we tend to think of it today as holiness (which would certainly come with it), but really it has more of the idea of “excellence, goodness, eminence of fine achievement.” To put it in the negative, mature Christians aren’t to be jerks. 🙂 Instead, we are to be virtuous & live lives that display the glory of God.

F. 2nd trait of maturity: “knowledge.” Peter has written much already about knowing God, but the word used for “knowledge” here is different. This is specifically referring to matters of the intellect – i.e. doctrine. Last week, we made the point of seeing how people can know much about Christ without actually knowing Christ (which is true & sadly on display in many academic institutions) – but that doesn’t mean doctrine doesn’t matter. Doctrine is important! For those who actually DO know Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we grow in both our knowledge of Him AND our knowledge about Him. It’s one reason why Bible study is so important – the Scripture helps bring us to maturity in both kinds of knowledge. The written word of God is living & active & brings us to the feet of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus.
__a. Sometimes we forget what a gift we hold in our hands as we hold our Bibles. It is the inspired revealed word of Almighty God! There is no more valuable book in all the universe! What a privilege we’ve been given to dig into it, read it, & meditate upon it. Don’t let it gather dust 6 out of 7 days in the week; get it into your heart & dwell upon it & mature in knowledge.
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6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

A. 3rd trait of maturity: “self-control.” As opposed to diving into hedonistic sins of the flesh, the mature Christian develops self-control. We never truly have the excuse of “the devil made me do it,” because in the end the devil may have attacked us spiritually & provided an opportunity, but we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own desires & enticed (Jas 1:14). No one ever “makes” us sin; we do so out of our own free will. The good news is that every believer in Christ Jesus has been given the power to resist sin (power we didn’t have prior to being born again); we’ve been set free from the slavery of sin. Thus mature Christians exercise that freedom as they develop self-control in their lives.

B. 4th trait of maturity: “perseverance.” Greek has the idea of staying power. Comes from a compound word “under” + “abide”…this is endurance under pressure. Remember that Peter’s 1st letter was written to a church that was about to endure much persecution. In order for the church to see through to the other side of that persecution, they needed to persevere. … Even beyond the idea of persecution, mature Christians need staying power for all the stresses we face that come by simply living in the world. When cancer comes, we need to persevere in our faith in Christ. When unemployment hits, we persevere… When families fall apart, we persevere… Mature Christians are not immune to stress & problems, but they continue to hold fast by faith to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has promised never to leave nor forsake us.

C. 5th trait of maturity: “godliness.” This is the idea of piety – speaking of our devotion to God. It’s tough to conceive of a mature Christian as someone being in the word of God, but never on their knees in prayer or lifting their hands in worship to God. One aspect ought to naturally lead to the other – as we grow in our knowledge of our Savior, it ought to cause us to rejoice in Him & spend time in His presence.

D. 6th trait of maturity: “brotherly kindness”. Literally, “philadelphia” – one of the 4 Greek words often translated love. (1) agape: selfless giving love, (2) philadephia: friendly, brother-like love, (3) eros: sensual passionate love, (4) storge: familial love. Sometimes we get the idea that because agape is the highest form of love (because it is what Jesus Christ perfectly exemplifies) that all the other types are inferior & unimportant. Not so! Marriages ought to have eros, or they’ll be in trouble. Every family ought to experience storge for healthy relationships. Likewise with philadelphia. We’re to care for one another as brothers & sisters in the Lord Jesus. We’re to be kind with one another & considerate towards one another. That’s just part of being in the family of Christ together.

E. 7th trait of maturity: “love.” Agape – the love consistently exampled by Jesus, most clearly shown at the cross. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [] THAT’s agape love! That’s the kind of love God showed us & that’s the kind of love mature Christians ought to show with one another. (It’s the new commandment! John 13:34-35)
__a. Why is agape love last? Shouldn’t it be 1st? Perhaps that’s the wrong way of looking at the list. This isn’t a list of priorities – these are fruits/virtues that come along in our maturity as we walk with Christ. Everything starts with faith, but it culminates in love. …

F. Notice that with the one exception of “knowledge,” everything else has to do with our character. Obviously doctrine is important (the Bible emphasizes this over & over again), but it seems that God sees the condition of our hearts as more important than the condition of our brain. People can be filled with all sorts of Biblical knowledge & theology, and yet still be immature in their character…
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8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A. “If”is a small word – but be careful not to miss it. Not every Christian grows to maturity. It’s certainly God’s will for us that we would mature in Christ, but many Christians are content to “eek into heaven with their britches still smoking.” How utterly sad. To use the Lord Jesus as eternal ‘fire-insurance’, but not to grow in our relationship with Him is to miss the whole point. We have been saved that we would know & glorify God. To be barren & unfruitful in our walk with Christ is not a good place to be – it’s potentially a sign that a person is not abiding in Christ. [Jesus is the vine] He who abides in Jesus & Jesus abides in him bears much fruit, for without Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5). The person who is barren needs to re-examine their heart to see if they are truly in the faith.

B. We not only need these qualities of maturity, but we ought to “abound” in them…or more to the idea, “super-abound” in them. Our lives are to be overflowing with the things of the Holy Spirit & this ought to be reflected in our heart & character. This has a direct result upon our knowledge of Jesus (speaking of heart knowledge; not head knowledge). The result? We’ll be “neither barren nor unfruitful”. Maturity in Christ increases our effectiveness for Christ.
__a. Towards God: We’ll be more fruitful in our devotion as we know of Jesus & our piety grows in abundance…
__b. Towards each other: We’ll see more fruit in our ministry towards one another in the Body of Christ as we walk together in unity of spirit…
__c. Towards the lost: We’ll be more effective in our evangelism as our lives are walking examples of the transformation of the gospel…

C. If your walk with Christ has been barren as of late, it may be a sign that you need to grow up. Don’t be satisfied with unfruitful immaturity; seek the Lord that you would super-abound with what God desires to do in your life!
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9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

A. The mature Christian is effective & abundant; the immature Christian is “shortsighted.” [Nearsighted] How shortsighted is shortsighted? “Even to blindness.” So shortsighted they can’t even see their Lord right in front of them. I.e. they’ve forgotten what it is they’ve been given in Christ Jesus. (Wuest) This is the case of a saint who has wandered far from the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He is carrying around with him his justification, but not availing himself of his sanctification. He is not stone blind. He has some spiritual sight. But the light of the Word dazzles his sin-sick soul as he turns his dimmed, spiritual eyes away, a sad situation in which to be.”

B. What is it that we can become blind to? The fundamental aspect of our salvation: in Christ, we’ve been “cleansed from [our] sins.” Those who have turned to Jesus Christ as Lord & placed their trust in Him have been given an unspeakable gift: salvation! We who were once doomed to Hell in righteous judgment of our sin & rebellion against God were lifted out of that mire by Jesus, our stinking sin was covered by His righteous blood at the Cross, and we were washed & made absolutely clean in His sight. Our sin was once as red as scarlet, but now we’ve been made white as snow (Isa 1:18) – all through the work of Jesus Christ.

C. How could we possibly forget His work?! Don’t be shortsighted! When we grow stagnant in spiritual immaturity, the natural course for us is to fall back into old sins & do all the things we used to do prior to our salvation in Christ. [Trust me from experience: if you’re stagnant now, you won’t always be – we’re all eventually either going forward or backwards.] When we’re immature, we’re shortsighted… If that’s you, you need a ‘vision check’ today – examine yourself. See vs. 10…
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10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

A. Maturity in Christ is an indication you belong to Christ. If the person who is immature in their faith is barren & warned about being blind to the work of Jesus in their life (and thus warned about abiding in Christ), then the opposite is also true. The Christian who is constantly growing in their faith & maturing in the Spirit has a wonderful assurance that they indeed belong to Jesus…which is something we absolutely need to be sure of! As diligent as we need to be to mature in our character (vs. 5), we need to be “even more diligent” to ensure we belong to Christ – to know our “call & election” are sure. Born again Christians are:
__a. Called by God: That’s exactly what the word “church” refers to. We are the “called out ones”. God looked upon us in His grace & by the Holy Spirit called us out of the world, and called us to follow Christ. Just as Jesus invited the disciples to follow Him, so God invites all people to follow Christ.
__b. Elected: If calling in the invitation, election is the choosing. God not only invited you to follow Christ, He chose you to do so. How it works is a mystery to us, but it’s a wonderful truth!
____i. Election is a demonstration of the grace & love of God; not a club of which to beat someone over the head with in a debate. … Will we ever be able to wrap our minds around how election actually works? I doubt it. Every theological system in the last 500 years (that actually looked at it) has fallen short of describing the sovereignty of God, the will of man, and the grace of God that bridges the gap. The challenge for us is not to attempt to squeeze the workings of the Infinite God into our theological boxes; the true challenge is to conceive that God would save anyone at all! (Especially us!)
__c. Question: if we are both called & elected of God, how can we ensure that we are included in the called & elected? By responding to that call & election in faith…

B. Have you made your call & election sure? Do you know that you know that you’re saved? Some people get all sorts of ideas of what they think makes them “Christian”: have the right friends, do the ‘right’ things, membership in the right church…even things like “well I was baptized once” or “I said a prayer once.” None of those things are bad – most of that is even recommended, but NONE of them make someone a Christian. What makes someone a Christian in CHRIST. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (5) Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (6) But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. [] Paul had taken the test – Peter had taken the test – have you? Is Christ IN you? One way you can know is if your character is maturing & becoming more like your Master, the Lord Jesus.
__a. Don’t leave today without making your call & election sure! Don’t go to bed tonight without making your call & election sure! There is no more important matter that you need to settle before God other than this. Make it sure today.

C. What does Peter mean by saying, “for if you do these things you will never stumble.” Is Peter saying that mature Christian never sin? Obviously not. Paul wrote of his own struggles against his fleshly nature (Rom 7)… Peter himself was serving as an active apostle of the Lord when Paul confronted him about his own sin of hypocrisy (Gal 2:11)… Thus “stumbling” isn’t referring to sin; it’s referring to apostasy. Our maturity in Christ is assurance of our perseverance & abiding in Christ…
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11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A. When we abide in Christ & our salvation in assured, then we have a glorious hope for the future! When our call & election is sure, then we can also be sure of our entrance into the kingdom of Christ Jesus – they go hand-in-hand. Our maturity in Christ not only gives us assurance of our salvation in Him now, but also for our salvation in Him in the future. We can look forward to a glorious welcome into the heavenly kingdom – like an Olympian athlete who has returned home, the same sort of welcome awaits those in Christ. The most wonderful words we wait to hear are “Well done, good & faithful servant – enter into the joy of your Master!”
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Conclusion:
Grow into maturity! Beware of growing stagnant in your faith – we want to be continually growing & maturing in our walk with our Lord & Savior. Not being blind to what Jesus has done for us, but being continually amazed by His grace & growing in the grace & knowledge of Him, responding to the work of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts.

1. Mature Christians develop a heart like Christ.
2. Mature Christians are effective for Christ
3. Mature Christians have assurance of eternity with Christ

Again – maturity in Christ starts with faith in Christ. There’s no other starting point. Have you placed your faith & trust in Jesus Christ as Lord? Have you repented from your sin & turned to Christ? We’ve got no other hope outside of Him. It doesn’t matter how “good” you think you are…we all need a Savior.

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