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Title

Growth

Teacher

Peter Hubbard

Date

February 12, 2023

Scripture

2 Peter, 2 Peter 1:5-11

TRANSCRIPT

2 Peter 1, if you’ll turn there, please, 2 Peter. There are Bibles near you if you need one.

Olga Rusanova grew up in Siberia. She said this.

“In the Soviet Union, they killed all the people who could remember history.”

That’s a very interesting statement. Why kill people who remember history? You’d think it would say something like “They killed all the people who had guns and could fight back.” No. Why would a totalitarian government be really concerned about people with historical context, with social memory? Because without a social memory, a people are far more prone to consume propaganda.

This is why Philip Rieff’s belief is so concerning. He said many decades ago,

“Forgetfulness has become the fundamental shape of higher education.”

Forgetfulness has become the fundamental shape of higher education. What does that mean? Carl Trueman explains.

“The elites of our day are no longer committed to the transmission of the institutions, customs, and values of the past to the present and thence to the future. Instead, we live in an age of intentional iconoclasm of such things [What’s iconoclasm? Destruction of cherished beliefs.] fueled by a cultural amnesia that is not so much marked by accidental absent mindedness as by a deliberate forgetfulness. And this forgetfulness is itself based on a widely held hubristic notion [proud notion] that the past is at most a salutary warning to the present, a tale of exploitation, ignorance, and mediocrity.”

Now, is there exploitation, ignorance, and mediocrity in the past? Of course. So, history is in some sense that. But what he’s arguing is that what is believed today in many circles is that the best history has to offer us today is to teach us not to be so horrible like they were in the past. That’s the best. He goes on.

“Yet our identities, our notions of who we are, our intuitions of how to relate to the world around us, and our moral imaginations are all anchored in the past…. We need to understand the past not so much in order to avoid its mistakes (though that is much to be desired) as to understand who we are”

With all the good and bad that that entails. In other words, our identity is tied to our memory.

David Steinmetz brings us closer home to church.

“A church which has lost its memory of the past can only wonder about aimlessly in the present and despair of its future. Having lost its identity, it will lose its mission and its hope as well.”

This is one of the reasons why Peter is doing what he’s doing in 2 Peter. It seems as though he is writing the same group he wrote to in 1 Peter, a group of churches scattered throughout what is today Turkey. And he tells them why he is writing. 2 Peter 3:1,

“This is now the second letter I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.”

Remember. He says the same thing in chapter 1, verses 12-15. We’ll look at that next week. And the purpose of this reminder — this is big — is not so that we will pine for the past or live in the rearview mirror. It’s so that we will grow. Progress is dependent on memory if we’re truly going to move forward. And he communicates this in chapter 1 in three ways, this call to grow, make progress.

The first one we looked at last week — promise in verses 3 and 4. He begins the main body of his letter with this avalanche of promise. And I dare one of you — try to find a command in verses 3 and 4. I know this was frustrating. Many of you wrote about this to me this week. So, what do I do? I get that. I am a doer. I read a passage like that. I immediately think, okay, that’s good. What do I DO? And that’s an important response in time. But how about we actually take in this promise with all its implications? Verse 3,

“His divine power has granted to us all things — everything — that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of him, the experiential 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.”

We learned last week that Jesus is Source, Means, Goal. I have been given everything in him, and out of God’s storehouse of power, glory, and excellence, he has granted to us all things we need for life and godliness through the experiential knowledge of his precious and very great promises we experience/find in Jesus.

So, last week you could summarize one word — gift. This is what we are given (he uses the word “granted” twice) in Jesus when we have faith in him. This week we turn a corner and wrestle with the question of growth. Okay, we have this promise. How do we grow? Verse 5,

“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.”

Now, is God saying, “Okay, people, I did my part. Read verses 3 and 4. I’ve done my part. It’s time for you to step up … 5 and 6 and 7 … and do your part”? Is that what this is saying? Can I hear an answer? Thank you. No. That is true. We could just close in prayer now. However, I’m not Matt. So, let me give you some reasons here.

Number 1, the reason we grow is based on the promise. “For this very reason,” verse 5. And it points back to what he just said in verses 3 and 4. This week I was talking to a man in our church with a math mind, and he was listening last week. Actually, if you remember that image I put up my daughter painted for my wife many years ago from this verse, and it has the word “everything” on it. And he said, “I was looking at this ‘everything,’ and I was thinking … I kind of view things as God brings his million parts, and I bring my one part to living out salvation. And it suddenly occurred to me, if he’s given me everything for life and godliness, then it’s not his million parts, it’s his infinity parts. He’s bringing infinity of life and godliness. So, where does my one part fit into infinity? Whatever it means for me to be involved here, it’s part of his infinity.”

That’s one way of walking through what I believe he’s saying here. The reason is based on the promise. The reason we grow is based on the promise he’s given.

Secondly, the effort to grow flows from the promise. “Make every effort” (verse 5) could be translated “be diligent, be earnest.” Christians are not noodles. We’re not passive. The Bible doesn’t just say, “Go limp, and you’ll grow spiritually.” That’s not what we read here or anywhere. But the energy to grow comes with the promise. Let me give you some examples. For example, in Philippines 2, Paul says,

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”

Not work for, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (verse 13)

“for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

So, if I care at all about growing in my faith, and if I’m engaged at all in activities that will help me grow, where is that coming from? It is God who works in you.

1 Corinthians 15:10,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not empty”

It wasn’t unfruitful. It wasn’t in vain

“On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

As I’ve said countless times, God’s grace is not merely a ticket of forgiveness, but it is fueling favor. It energizes us. That’s why Paul says, “I work harder than anyone.” But this is not some kind of self-generated, fear-driven, got-to-check-the-box. This is God’s fueling favor. His smile actually energizes through Jesus.

Colossians 1:29,

“For this I toil, struggling with all his [infinity] energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Ephesians 2:8-10,

“By grace, you have been saved through faith. This is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

You say, “Okay, I get it. You pray to receive salvation by grace. But now it’s my turn to do works.” No! Look what he goes on to say.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

So, God is fueling even my works as I grow. So, reject this notion of “God did his part, and now somehow I’ve got to roll up my sleeves, pull my boots on, and I got to get to work in the flesh.” That is not at all what Peter’s saying. The effort flows from the promise.

Third, the resources come from the promise. Notice he says next in verse 5 to supplement your faith with virtue. “Supplement.” Very interesting history. If you look at the middle of that Greek word, it’s the word “chorus.” It was used way back of a wealthy patron supplying or furnishing everything needed to put on this extravagant chorus production. By the time Peter was writing, it didn’t so much mean that anymore. It simply meant “to furnish or provide.” It’s used in verse 11.

“There will be richly provided for you [same word] an entrance into the eternal kingdom.”

So, are we supposed to provide something, supplement something, the old translation “add to” something that is deficient? Are we adding to what God has done? No, we are supplementing or supplying what God has supplied us with. How do we know that? Well, think back to verse 1. He just said,

“to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours”

Well, where’d they get that?

“by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Our faith is a gift through the righteousness of Christ. The virtue that we are to add, to supplement is the same word that’s used of verse 3, “of his own glory and virtue.” The word “excellence” in verse 3, same word. In other words, Peter wants us to see that even the qualities we are supplementing our Christian life with are garments of grace or qualities, actions, means of grace that God himself is pouring out on us. These are not things we’re conjuring up or creating or adding to in the sense of self- creating. Peter is implying that we are being called to diligently furnish our lives with resources that have been promised and provided for us through our relationship with Jesus.

Paul said something similar in Philippians 3 when he says

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection,”

and he went on to say in verse 12

“not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on”

There’s that growth.

“press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

So, do you see the connection? His grace, his promise, his provision is being worked out into our lives. So, we need to get rid of this notion that God did this, and now it’s my turn to step up. No. Even my stepping up, whatever that means, is his work, his grace, his fueling favor flowing through me. I press on to experience in Jesus everything I’ve been given by Jesus.

Verse 5 again. That’s what it means to “supplement your faith with,” and let’s look at this list really quickly, and then we’ll try to bring it together. Virtue is moral excellence, and that is a super hard word to define. It is very broad. The best way to understand it is look at the opposite in verse 4. The opposite is that corruption that comes from sinful desire.

Knowledge is a whole-life grasp of truth. By “whole life” I mean not just intellectual, it is intellectual, but also volitional and relational knowledge. And Peter here, I believe, is confronting an ever-growing, popular notion in evangelicalism that it really doesn’t matter your theology. It doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus, as long as you love him. Is that true? Thank you. Now, sometimes people mean by that “don’t argue over stupid stuff.” And I agree with that. Don’t divide with Christians over secondary issues, like musical styles or modes of baptism, things like that. Totally agree. But many times people say this to just throw out … Theology is becoming an evil thing, and it’s a really stupid notion. It’s like saying it doesn’t matter what you think about your wife as long as you love her. And I would encourage you this [Valentine’s Day], test that theory, take her out to a nice place, and at a magical moment, move near and just say, “Honey, I don’t think you really contribute much to this relationship. I don’t find you particularly attractive or bright or interesting, you know. As a matter of fact, sometimes you’re a bit obnoxious. But I want you to know I love you.” And just see how that goes because we all know the way you think about someone is very connected to the way you love them.

Theology is simply what you think about Jesus. That’s your theology. And so, it matters. And what Peter is saying is growing is learning more about him. That’s this word “knowledge” — experientially coming to think of him more accurately and more holistically to who he really is. And the point Peter’s making is we should never stop growing in our knowledge of him. That’s why he actually ends the letter this way. Look at 2 Peter 3:18.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Peter knows he’s about to be martyred, and that’s his last word — “Don’t stop growing in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus.”

Self-control is personal restraint or discipline. It’s a fruit of the Spirit.

Steadfastness is faithful endurance in difficulty. A good way to think of that is patience under pressure.

Godliness is another really tough word to define because it’s so big. It’s a God-ward orientation. But I like the definition. I like to think of it as “aligning yourself around love of God and love of neighbor.” There is a vertical and a horizontal aspect to this word godliness that because you’re orienting your life around the love of God, it shapes the way you treat your brothers and sisters, a love of neighbor.

Brotherly affection could be simply family love, “philadelphia.”

And love, that last one is “agape, sacrificial love,” pursuing the best for another.

Promise. Growth. Let’s talk about Harvest. This harvest in verses 8-11 comes in three forms. The first one is in abundance in verses 8 and 9.

“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.”

You can flip that from negative to positive. If these qualities are yours and increasing, you will be effective and fruitful, rather than ineffective or unfruitful.

By “ineffective” here he means … This word is used in such a variety of ways. It’s so interesting. But the picture I think that might be helpful for us is if your parents own a grocery store, you live next door, and you’re starving. People would be saying, “Why don’t you go next door and eat? Why are you starving?” This “ineffective”–it’s often translated “lazy or idle.” You’re just standing there in the face of these vast resources, and by refusing to furnish your life in an ongoing way with these qualities, you’re missing out on an abundance.

And if you’re missing out on this, Peter then offers two diagnoses. Number one, you might have a vision problem. Verse 9,

“The one who lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind.”

That word “nearsighted” is where we get the word “myopic.” They can’t see a way to grow that might be right in front of them. You’ve encountered that, right? It’s here in our church, unfortunately.

There are times where someone will share a struggle and you’ll say, “Hey, you know, I just read a really helpful book on that,” or “we have a counseling group that meets each week to talk about that very thing, and that could be really helpful,” or “we’ve got counseling or discipleship or life group,” whatever the opportunity is. And as you’re sharing this with them, they’re just kind of staring at you like, “Oh, why would I want to do that? Give up some Netflix time?” It’s like they’re blind to the opportunity to grow. Or you’re presenting these opportunities to serve — “There’s a ministry opportunity over here with the kids or in the community,” and you’re sharing these and they’re just looking at you like, “Are you serious? What’s in that for me?” And there’s a blindness to how God grows his people.

There’s also a second diagnosis there, a memory problem. Verse 9.

“Having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”

A failure to grow is in some ways a failure to remember. The individual may have a vague awareness — “I remember sitting on my bed with my mother. She prayed, and then I prayed, and it was very special.” But that’s it. It’s a memory in the past, a dabbling in the divine, no momentum toward maturity, no fire today to continue to grow and learn. It’s like this dot in the past, prayer that was prayed, a box checked. I’m good. Peter is saying, “Have you forgotten what actually happened there? Have you forgotten all that Jesus has done for you?” This isn’t just a moment in the past. This is a new way of thinking and living. But the less this individual grows, the less they know what they’re missing out on, this abundant harvest.

And this is what Paul in Ephesians 1 was praying for when he prayed Ephesians 1:16,

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers [what did he pray for?] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.”

There is nothing comparable with that and “I prayed a prayer. I’m good to go.” Do you see the difference? That’s what we’re praying. “Lord, open my eyes. Stir up my memory. I’m living in a fog. I’m blind to your promises. I’m missing out on the abundance.”

And then third, the assurance. This also goes with it. Verse 10, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall.” And what he’s talking about there, “fall,” he’s most likely talking about “you’ll never fall away,” and many of us feel really uncomfortable with that. Are you saying Christians can lose their salvation? No. A true follower of Jesus can never lose his salvation. But a true believer hears a statement like this different from a fake believer.

See, many of us think of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, we think of it very statically. Yes, he “holds me in [his] hand and no one can pluck me out.” True. But the Scripture also describes that very actively. Part of how he holds us [is] he gives passages like this. He gathers us in groups like this. We exhort one another daily, lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. So, part of the means by which God protects us from falling away is to warn us, and God’s children heed warnings. Fake believers are like, “Whatever. I checked that box on the bed with my mom, you know, when I was four. I’m good to go.” True believers hear the Word. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them. They follow me.” Lord, what are you saying to me here? “To be more diligent to confirm you’re calling an election for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall.” So, this passage is an invitation to keep growing. It’s not intended to terrorize true believers, but to remind us that part of the way he keeps us is enabling us to continue to grow.

Third, the final form of this harvest comes in the form of an entrance. Verse 11, an entrance,

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

Now, these are some hard words, those three words there, “in this way.” We were talking about it last night at prayer meeting because I’ve complained to God many times about how slow and mundane sanctification is. I’ve recommended a different way to get to heaven. When you go to the bank, if you could just — when we pray a prayer, we believe in Jesus — we step into one of those little tubes, and we’re in heaven. Wouldn’t that be cool? Enough of this! And he says, no, actually, that’s not the way. “For in this way. For in this way.” Can you say that with me? “For in this way.” What way? This way of slow maturation, slow growth. One step at a time. Stumble, fail, get back up, like Peter. His story was not clean, the guy who wrote this, right? He messed up many times. But he is saying to us “in this way,” not quick, not instantaneous. A slow-growth way. “It will be richly provided for you, an entrance into the eternal kingdom.”

And some of you may be saying, “Boy, that’s not my biggest struggle.” I think it is a big struggle for us a lot because there are so many things that God calls us to do today that don’t feel like they have any impact, right? It’s like when you work out, you don’t see any immediate change. It’s like when you plant in a garden and you’re staring at the seed and it’s doing nothing, and you feel like you’re wasting your time. And you become like the middle schooler who’s looking in the mirror wondering “am I growing? I can’t see it.” And spiritually, many of us really struggle with this. We’re like, if this was really of the Spirit, it would be poof! Pow! Instantaneous! I was this size spiritually, and now I’m this size spiritually. See the difference?

“For in this way.”

In this way. It’s not to say we don’t have surges, but most of life is very slow, like a seed growing. So, how do we apply this? There’s so much here. We’ll come back to this next week and review some of this. But I want us to apply this to three different groups.

First, the passive. There may be some of you here who really don’t care. And if you’re not a believer, I would plead with you to care. Your soul is at stake. And if you have questions that are causing you to trip up, please grab someone here. Many of us would love to talk with you and pray that you will care. There may be some of you who are believers and are going through a season of real coldness, maybe numbness. And just know, God has given us this passage to stir up our hearts that may have grown cold, apathetic, whatever. And today would be a beautiful day to repent of that feeling — “God, I know I don’t care, but I don’t care that I don’t care.” No. God, help me care. The Spirit will answer that prayer.

Second, the perfectionist. There are many of us who read this passage and feel overwhelmed. We tend to turn it into a checklist. We want a formula. Okay, on Mondays I’m going to work on virtue. Tuesdays are going to be knowledge days; Wednesday, self-control; Thursday … you know. And the key word that tells us whether we fit into this category is how many times we think the word “enough.” Have I done enough? Have I prayed enough? Have I done it well enough? A list like this can feel very overwhelming and actually paralyzing. I want to release … Whereas the first group, the passive group — you need to feel more pressure. The perfectionist — I want to release you from the pressure. You need to feel less pressure. I know this is weird.

This is one of the things we pray for in our prayer meetings — “Spirit of God, take the same Word and do the opposite work in different hearts because the need is exactly the opposite.” There are some people who are crushed by passages like this — very perfectionistic, making lists, feeling like “how do I do this?” You need to be released. This isn’t a recipe of growth that if I do enough virtue and a little of this and add a little teaspoon to this. That is not the point. The flow here is from promise — I’ve given you everything so that you will grow, and then I will bring forth this harvest. And so, for those of you who fit into that category, I encourage you keep going back to verses 3 and 4 and let that launch you. Promise. Promise. Promise.

Third group, the discouraged. And if you need another P, you can put pessimistic. So, you’ve tried to grow in the past, but you’re tired, maybe hurt. And it’s easier not to try. Lisa Genova has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard. In her New York Times bestselling book, she explores The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting. Near the end of the book, she gives this very interesting study that’s been done on 678 nuns. They started the study when all the nuns were seventy-five years old or older, and they tracked them for twenty years — regular check-ups, cognitive tests. After they died — the nuns had agreed to donate their brains to science for autopsy — the scientists found among some of the nuns something they had not expected. Listen to what Dr. Genova describes.

“Despite the presence of plaques and tangles and brain shrinkage, what appeared to be unquestionable Alzheimer’s, the nuns who had belonged to these brains had shown no behavioral signs of having Alzheimer’s disease while they were alive.”

How can that be? Neuroscientists are not sure. Dr. Genova suggests the working theory right now is that these particular nuns had a high degree of cognitive reserve; that is, they had more functional synapses. Now for us non-neuroscientists, let me illustrate. I have to find a picture to help my small brain understand.

So, you’re driving to work. You come upon a bridge that’s out. You’re stopped. You have a couple of choices. You can wait for the bridge to be fixed for months, or you can take an alternative route. With a good GPS or even better, if you’re local, it actually becomes an adventure because you know back roads. So, you can get to the same place many different ways. And it seems like what was happening in these nuns’ brains is even though they had all the characteristics of Alzheimer’s, but they didn’t exhibit the symptoms is their brains were wired such. And they have a lot of theories, not for sure why, but they were highly educated; they were very active socially; they were learning new things, new friends, new activities, cognitive development, whatever. I know exceptions to this; so, it’s not a rule. But if this theory is true, what happens in our brains might be that there are alternative routes to get to the same destination.

And as I was reading this, and it’s just a theory now, I was thinking about 2 Peter 1 and these characteristics because there are many among us who have tried to cross on the bridge, but the bridge is out. You tried joining a life group. It didn’t go well. You heard about someone who reads their Bible a particular way and memorizes the Scripture a particular way, and it didn’t work for you. It actually made you feel worse, more of a failure. You’ve tried volunteering for different ministries. Maybe you’ve been in the ministry, and it ended horribly, intense pain. Someone hurt you deeply. And you find yourself sitting at the bridge, and the bridge is out, and you’re honking your horn, or you’re banging the steering wheel, or you’re taking a nap. Spiritually, you’re done. What Peter seems to be saying to us today is “here are some qualities I encourage you to develop.”

Let’s say this week, you come to a bridge that’s out, and you really need virtue, moral excellence. You’re swimming very close to a moral cesspool, or self-control, or maybe you’re experiencing something very difficult. And you can get to the same destination — continue growing — but this time, he’s going to provide. The Spirit’s going to provide self-control or steadfastness. Or you need love. It’s obviously not written in order. He doesn’t say, “Hey, wait to the end of your life and get some love.” No, he’s just giving us this. These are many qualities that growing Christians, by the power of the Spirit, through the promise of Christ, are developing through difficulty when the bridge goes out.

Let me give you one example. This week I was getting an update from my daughter who just returned from overseas. She was telling us about a couple we had met years ago when we were in Bangladesh, and she met them in Switzerland, and they were telling her about early in their marriage, they felt called to the mission field. They applied to a mission board, and they were rejected. And so, they said, “Okay, Lord, what do you want us to do?” And they took a very mundane job. It felt like … You know, when you feel like, am I just set aside, put on the shelf? But they’re doing what they could. The bridge is out. We’re doing this. They continued to grow in that. Years later, a mission board came to them and said, “Hey, we need you over here. Would you do this?” And now, decades later, they speak many languages; they’ve ministered all over the world; they were flying out the day after she left to a different country. And the point is we don’t know what God has for you. But some of us have come to a bridge that’s out, whether it’s from your own moral failure or relational failure or someone else has harmed you or something else has happened that has shut that door, and Peter is saying, “Let’s not stop growing.”

If you hear anything from this message, that’s the message Peter’s giving us today. Never stop growing. Never. If you have questions about this, please email me —peterh@northhillschurch.com. I’ll address some of those questions tomorrow morning when I write or plan the AfterWord. There’s a lot more in here, but I want us to take a moment to pray. And then we’re going to respond in worship.

Father, we pray that you would take us back to your promise so that we can continue to grow. I pray for my brothers and sisters today who are struggling, feeling deep disappointment, or tempted to just sit or honk the horn and complain. Father, we pray that your Spirit would come upon us, meet us right where we are; for those who don’t know you, that they would trust you; for those who feel overwhelmed, they would run to your promise; for those who are discouraged, Father, please show them alternative routes to supplement their faith with these qualities. It’s not something that we have to drum up. You’re a generous Father. You’ve done it all. You’ve given us everything. Spirit of God, continue to work in us now. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.