Conrad Mbewe continues his series in 2 Peter 1 Christian, Grow Up! The focus is on a string of imperatives for spiritual growth that Peter delivers to all Christians. Of course the first step is to have faith. But on this foundation we must build with quality materials in order to mature as Christians. Peter commands us to add virtue to faith. Then to add knowledge to our virtue and temper our knowledge with self control. Peter called us to add steadfastness and resolve as we journey with Christ. Now we look at his command to add godliness to all these qualities.
At each stage we are growing and developing – all the better to serve our heavenly father and persevere in our walk with Christ.
What is Godliness?
“Godliness strictly speaking is the end of the list even though we find it in the middle. We’ve climbed the hill, we are at the top and so we need to spend some time to appreciate what it is. Everything that comes after, brotherly kindness and love pre-supposes what has come before. Godliness is something that grows out of, first of all, our self-awareness of who we are: creatures, mortal creatures who will soon die, creatures in desperate need of salvation.
Secondly, godliness it is imperative to understand who this great God is. Appreciating who He is is what causes us to now say that’s what I need to aim for in godliness. It works out in terms of a supreme love for God, a supreme fear of God, a supreme trust in God, a supreme obedience to God, a supreme worship of God, and finally, a supreme hunger for God. That those aspects are what make up true godliness.
How is Godliness Attained?
How do we attain this godliness, in a world that is full of ungodliness? Is it even possible for me to end up being different from the rest of the world around me? Godliness does not grow in natural soil. It must be something that God alone produces in us. So how do we become spiritual giants in a world that cares nothing about spirituality at all?
How do we become spiritual giants in a world that cares nothing about spirituality at all?
Only By the Grace of God
Well, first of all, it is the fact that it is by the grace of God. Because the grace of God is a power that enables a certain lifestyle as we see from Titus 2:11-12. And what is that lifestyle that it enables? Well first of all, it enables us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to a certain lifestyle. It’s also a power that works from the inside out to make me live a life that is otherwise completely impossible.
The world can’t live like that. But for the Christian this life of godliness is not something I’m struggling to achieve, this life is something I readily attain, because of the energy that is growing up within me.”
Listen to Conrad Mbewe as he expounds the wonderful work of sanctification God works powerfully in the life of every believer.
Text: 2 Peter 1:3-6
Date preached: 24 November 2019
Location: Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia
Second Peter chapter 1. We begin reading from verse 3.
He is referring to God.
“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 will keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We’ll end our reading there. Let’s pray. Great God of Heaven, thank you for Gathering us together this morning as your people.
From the various areas where we live. From our various opportunities, for school and employment. Father we plead that now as we are here, you might be pleased to speak to us. We have prayed. We have sung your praises. We have given back to you something of that which you have blessed us with. We have quietened our hearts, even as we have read your scriptures. Now Lord, we plead, that you will speak clearly to each one of us for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Different Stages of Growth
We have been concerned for a number of weeks now looking at the subject of Christian growth and hence the title of our theme Christian grow up. And what we have said is that the Christian life is actually a life. And wherever there is life, there is growth. Individuals must never remain the same.
However, depending on your appetite depending on your activities, you could actually be a person who is stunted or somebody who is growing by leaps and bounds. That’s true in the natural sphere. It is also true in the spiritual. And so you can have two individuals who are born again, literally on the same day and yet when you now go forward, a year, two years, three years, a decade or two. You find that one is still to a large extent, thumb sucking like a little baby. And then the other person, is really eldership material. And the same thing happens consequently when we finally reach the end of our earthly Journey, when we are before God on the day of judgment. That one individual is in a state of shame, because an entire life passed through his hands, without being effective and without being fruitful. As Peter tells us in that last verse that we read; it will keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful.
And then for the other, on the judgment day, it is a, “well done good and faithful servant.” You have been faithful in this little, and now you are being blessed with so much. And so the appeal that we are continuing to make week after week, is let us judge ourselves. Let’s search ourselves and ask ourselves ‘are we growing?’ And that we are deliberate about our own growth. Are we putting into our lives the best six necessary for us to ensure that we are making steady progress?
We have been going through the additions that must be put to whatever it is that we’ve already acquired in verse 5 and verse 6. That’s what has occupied us for a number of weeks now.
Additions we Must Make
So, we’ve talked about adding virtue to our faith. We’ve talked about adding knowledge to our virtue. We’ve talked about adding self-control to our knowledge. We’ve talked about adding steadfastness to our self-control and then, we are now talking about adding godliness to our steadfastness.
Now, because godliness strictly speaking is the end of the list. I know there is brotherly affection and there is love at the end of that list, but that’s now simply the final outworking of godliness. In other words, love is the way in which you now exercise on the outside, that which has been growing inside you. Love for the brethren; brotherly kindness. Love for the rest of the world. And that is the love that you are seeing there.
What is Godliness?
So in many ways, we have reached the end. We’ve climbed the hill we are at the top and so we needed to spend some time to appreciate what this godliness is that it is something that grows out of, first of all, our self-awareness of who we are. Creatures, mortal creatures who will soon die. Creatures in desperate need of Salvation; because we’ve got a God whom we must meet. So that realisation, ‘who am I?”
And then secondly, it is who this great God is. Appreciating who He is, is what causes us to now say that’s what I need to aim for. And so that’s the definition. It works out in terms of a supreme love for God, a supreme fear of God, a supreme trust in God, a Supreme obedience to God, a Supreme worship of God, and finally, a supreme hunger for God. That those aspects are what makeup true godliness.
And finally in that, a hunger for joy in God, a hunger for fellowship in God, a hunger for Conformity to God and finally a hunger for thinking hard after God. Just occupying my mind with the great thoughts of this great God of the universe.
How is Godliness Attained?
Adding godliness to your steadfastness, I want us to see how we attain this godliness, in a world that is full of ungodliness. How do I attain it? How do I end up being so different from the rest of the world around me? Because as we describing godliness, I’m sure you could see that this does not grow on natural soil. It must be something that God alone produces in us. So how do we attain this? How do we become spiritual giants in a world that cares nothing about spirituality all together?
How do we become spiritual giants in a world that cares nothing about spirituality all together?
Well, first of all, it is the fact that it is by the grace of God. And we see this, first of all in verse 3. Notice we already have godliness there in verse 3; “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” In other words, that produce life; that produce this godliness. God’s own power has already given us what we need in order for us to achieve this.
How has he done so? It is by His grace. And I want us to see this from Titus Chapter 2 and verse 11. So if you could quickly turn with me there. Titus Chapter 2 and verse 11, I will read verse 11 downwards. And then explain the context, so that you can see what Paul is talking about here. Titus Chapter 2 verse 11. The Bible says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people….” or to all people. Then it says in verse 12, which is the point I want us to really see.
“…. training us to renounce ungodliness…”, which is the negative subject of what we’re talking about here “and worldly passions…” and then he says, “and to live self-controlled, upright” and there it is; “… godly lives in the present age.” In other words, in this same ungodly age in which we live “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from…” and there it is again the ungodliness, “from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people” and there is the godliness again; “for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Living Lives that are Different
So the context very quickly: the apostle Paul here has just been instructing Titus to insist that God’s people should be different from the people of the world. That their lives should be different. That they should live lives that are characterised by true godliness.
So if we go to chapter 2 for instance, very quickly chapter 2. He says this, for that’s verse 1, “But as for you teach what accords with sound doctrine.” He’s not saying teach sound doctrine that he has already talked about in chapter one, but it’s saying teach what accords with sound doctrine. In other words, teach the kind of life that measures up to, that is in line with the doctrine that you are teaching; the sound doctrine.
Spiritual Qualities in Daily Life
So what does that life look like? Well, in verse 2 he says, “older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” What about all the women? How should they be? Verse 3, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, submissive to their own husbands…”. And so on.
He is saying, these are the kind of lives that you should insist on. That should be true of older men, of older women, of younger women and later on here he speaks about the younger men as well; in verse 6, “Likewise urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” He even goes as far as those who are slaves in verse 9, “Bond servants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything.”
In other words, Titus insists that those who claim to be believers, should deliberately show a quality of spirituality in their day-to-day lives, that is strikingly different from that of the rest of the world.
For all Believers
Now, in case certain people are saying well, “Well you know, maybe those who are older believers can live like this; me I’m a young man or I’m young lady. You know, that’s rather difficult for me to attend to.” That’s why verse 11 comes in of chapter 2 because what Paul is saying in verse 11, is that nobody has any excuse who’s a believer to live a life that is contrary to this.
Why? Well that little word at the beginning of verse 11; “For” is simply the word, “because”. The reason why is because the grace of God has appeared. It has come. And what has the grace of God done? It brings salvation for all people. Now, ‘all’ there is not each and every human being that has ever been born on the planet earth. Of course not! Because people have obviously gone to hell already. But it is all kinds of people. That’s what is he talking about there. So it’s in terms of every type in other words, whether old or young, whether male or female, whether slave or free. The grace of God brings Salvation to all kinds of human beings.
Whether old or young, whether male or female, whether slave or free. The grace of God brings Salvation to all kinds of human beings.
So nobody can say, “Because I’m an African.” Or, “Because I’m a white person.” Or, “Because I’m young.” Or “Because I’m old.” This is not possible! No!
The Power to Say No
Because the grace of God is a power that enables a certain lifestyle. And what is that lifestyle that it enables? Well first of all, it enables us to renounce ungodliness and worldly Passions. It teaches us to say no to a certain lifestyle. Not because Titus is saying it, but because it’s growing from the inside. So even when I am alone in my home or among unbelievers in my workplace or school. When it is a lifestyle that is ungodly, there is an energy within me that is saying no to that lifestyle. I will not be like that. Although the people around me; Their passions have been taken up by this kind of life and living. These worldly passions. Something in me says, “No.”
And then the same energy that is growing up within me is saying yes to something else. And what is that? This self-controlled, upright and godly life. You see, most of us think about the grace of God purely in terms of forgiveness. That’s the way we think about the grace of God. That I have been treated in a way that I don’t deserve. And it’s true. That’s the grace of God.
This is the Grace of God
That he has treated us the exact opposite of what we deserve. We sinned against Him, but He has given His son and consequently the grace of God in the death of His son grants us pardon from sin. And we are overwhelmed by that.
But the grace of God is also energy. It’s also a power that works from the inside out to make me live a life that is otherwise completely impossible. The world can’t live like that. But for me, this life is not something I’m struggling to become this life is something I readily become because of the energy that is growing up within me.
Grace is a power that works from the inside out to make me live a life that is otherwise completely impossible.
We’ve already seen this but it’s important that we get back there. And that is 1st Corinthians and chapter 15, 1st Corinthians the 15 where the apostle Paul refers to the change that has taken place in his life. The energy that has driven him to become that extraordinary apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he is attributing all that to this same power. This same energy.
So let me begin from verse 8. 1st Corinthians 15 and verse 8:
“Last of all, as to one untimely born…” he referring to Jesus “appeared also to me for I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God…” Now listen to this; “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I.…” and that is the point “… but the grace of God that is with me.” Not I but the grace of God that was with me. So he acknowledges, that “Look, I’ve written more epistles in this Bible of yours, than all of these other apostles put together. But it’s not me. It’s the power of God, the grace of God that has been working in me. I’ve planted more churches than all these other apostles put together. But again, it’s not me. It’s the grace of God that has been at work within me. So this grace of God is not just divine favour given to me. It is actual energy working from within, that makes me who I am.
For All who are Saved
Now when you get back to Titus then, this is the point. That that energy was not just given to the apostle Paul. That energy is actually given to everyone who gets saved. At the point of our conversion, the grace of God is not just an external favour being given to us by way of forgiveness. It is also this energy that builds up within, and then makes us say no to worldliness and enables us to live a life that is otherwise impossible. And that’s what Paul is referring to here.
And that’s the reason why in Titus in chapter 2, he speaks in terms of Titus, you demand this life because those who genuinely are saved will live this kind of life that you are demanding. As they wait for our blessed hope. The appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his very own possession who are zealous for good works.
When we get back then to Second Peter chapter 1, we see why Paul refers to it as the divine power. Verse 3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
Can You be Differentiated from the World?
Why am I emphasising this? I’m emphasising it primarily to show that look, if you have no real thirst for godliness, if your life cannot be differentiated from the inside out from the people who are around you, if this energy doesn’t pulsate in you… To begin with, it simply means you are not a Christian. You are not saved. That’s all it means.
If this energy doesn’t pulsate in you… To begin with, it simply means you are not a Christian. You are not saved.
Now you may want to say you are saved. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s when you are out there on your own, in the midst of an ungodly world that is pulling you downwards. What is it that’s taking place in you? Are you becoming like them or is there an energy in you that pulsates and pulls you up; And consequently all the rubble that is being thrown onto you is pushed away and there is a life that is completely different from the life in the world.
Look at your Life
Now we can lower the standards. We can say, “look we need so many people in the church and therefore, whatever, as long as someone has said the sinner’s prayer. Let’s bring them in.” But I want to assure you that on the day of judgment. God would say, “I never saved you. I never did. And there is the proof, look at your life. Because the individuals I saved I plugged them to my own energy, my own power, my purity and that enabled them to live a life that was different from the world. A life of godliness, God centredness, God likeness. And your life was not like that. Yes, you went to church. But there’s nothing to show for this divine energy.”
Go Back to the Cross
So let’s begin from there, that if your life does not exude with this energy for godliness, you are not yet a Christian. And the least you can do for yourself, is to go back to the road where you missed it. To go back to the foot of the cross and to plead with the Lord Jesus Christ that He may save you. And that He may save you in such a way, that even if in your workplace everybody else is worldly, sinful; your light will shine. And they’ll be able to see that there is an energy about you that cannot be defeated and your answer will be, “the grace of God within me, the grace of God within me. It’s not me it is this grace.”
people will see there is an energy about you that cannot be defeated and your answer will be, ‘the grace of God within me, the grace of God within me. It’s not me it is this grace.’
Building on a Strong Foundation
Let’s hurry on, because if we go back to2 Peter and chapter one, we don’t just see that it is this divine power producing the godliness. But we also see that there is the foundation of faith. Remember what Paul, rather Peter, had said earlier. Let’s go back to verse one.
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ….” and then he says, “…to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” I mentioned to you then, as we are looking at that verse. That when the Bible is referring to doctrine, it speaks about it as the faith, the faith with the definite article. For those of you who went to proper schools. You know, what definite article is.
But when you have the indefinite article the ‘a’ at the beginning or in Greek, it means there’s nothing there actually. It simply means it’s referring to the actual faith in other words as believing. And what Peter is saying here is that, the same faith that was planted in him is the faith that has been planted in every believer. If faith of equal standing with ours, in other words, all of us have the same foundation for our lives. And it is that same foundation on which we now begin to build. So let’s go to verse 5 and I want you to notice that in fact, that’s where we are beginning to build.
Verse 5: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.” In other words, the faith is there, it’s already established because you’re Christian. God has given you that faith. And now you’re supposed to start building on that faith all these other characteristics; virtue and self-control. And knowledge, and steadfastness, and finally also godliness. And so this faith, this believing, is the foundation on which godliness grows.
What is Faith?
How can we describe this? So I want to just describe this faith a little differently. And I want to describe it as this, an ever-present consciousness of the reality of God, an ever-present consciousness of the reality of God. In Hebrews chapter 11, it is spoken of with respect to Moses. Let’s go to Hebrews 11 and verse 27, Hebrews 11 and verse 27.
Faith is an ever-present consciousness of the reality of God
I’m surprised how time is flying here. But let’s hurry on. Hebrews 11 and verse 27. This is talking about Moses. I can begin from the 23, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Now listen to this, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
So he was somebody who was so privileged that really he could have chosen to enjoy the world. He had the best of the world. He was born in Pharaoh’s… well he wasn’t quite born there, but he grew up in Pharaoh’s household. So, if we are to talk in terms of enjoying the world, he wasn’t going to need to do something. He just had to sit back and was going to enjoy everything. But there was a certain reality, there was a certain consciousness that Moses had. Himself as an individual that was only a fruit of faith.
Giving up the World for God
And because of that consciousness, he was willing to abrogate; to give up the palaces of Pharaoh. To suffer the consequences of that decision. Because with his eyes he saw Christ. The reproach of Christ getting, being better. But listen to verse 27, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king…” and this is the point “…for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” He endured as seeing him who is invisible.
In other words, Moses had this ever-present consciousness of the reality of God that enabled him to make these kinds of decisions. This ever-present consciousness of this great God. Now there were two other experiences that were sort of, that pushed him the extra mile. One of them was, what he saw in the desert when he stood before the burning bush. A bush that was on fire but not being consumed, and in due season the voice of God as it were came out of that place.
There’s no doubt that that experience of God, and with God would have pushed him further in terms of him going back now to go and said to Pharaoh, “let God’s people leave.” Another experience in his walk with God, was when he was completely demoralised by the stubbornness of the people of Israel. He actually even wanted to give up altogether. And then when he met with God, he asked God for only one thing. He said, “Lord show me your glory.” Just show me your glory. And the Lord said, “fine, I’ll do it. But me you cannot see.” So he caused him to get into a little space in a rock, covered him over and I’m not exactly sure what really happened. But God caused His presence to pass before him. Saying various words as his presence was passing the Lord, the Lord great in loving kindness and so on. To the second and third generation and everything else but still holding guilty those that sin against him and so on.
Not exactly sure what happened, but it’s as though he was given the opportunity to see something of the behind of God. What it was we cannot tell, but at least God said so much. And that experience enabled Moses to go the extra mile.
So in a sense, we are talking about this ever-present consciousness of the reality of God. But I don’t want us to lose sight of the actual experiences that we then have with God. Because as we’ve noticed in Moses’s case here, it wasn’t just this ongoing experience of God, but they were at least two pockets of time in his life when we can say that, there was this extra knowledge of the Lord – seeing him who is invisible with the eye of faith.
Your Soul Cries for More
I do want to suggest to you, that it is this, that makes a Christian. Out there in a world of need, a world of ungodliness, a world of wickedness and sin. Maybe even in the home in which he is, people are drinking in sin as if it is water. Perhaps spending their time watching pornography. Or perhaps sort of drinking in this blue movies on the television screen. And the whole soul of God’s child says, “Away with this, away with this! There is a God I have come to know, who is most blessed, most holy and that’s the Lord that my soul thirsts after. He is the God that I intend to live for.”
There is a God I have come to know, who is most blessed, most holy and that’s the Lord that my soul thirsts after. He is the God that I intend to live for
Seeing God with the Eye of Faith
It is this consciousness of God that makes a true child of God. To love God, to fear God, to trust in God, to obey God, to worship God and really to hunger for this God. Their eye of faith has beheld Him. And consequently all my joy, all my desires of fellowship, the conformity to his image and so on. Those are the kind of things that alone satisfy me. The eye of faith the eye of faith.
I’m wondering whether as you sit here, you know anything of that; anything. Let me particularly address the younger among us. Because I remember some thirty years ago, a little more than that. When a number of us were willing to quit our jobs and become pastors. There was nothing great. We’re not thinking that will be preaching around the world. It was to go and take up little churches that didn’t even have church buildings. That had maybe 10 members. There was no sense that we’re going to make names for ourselves. It was just this reality. This God is there.
And all we want is to be with him, to live with him, to allow all our beings to be for him. To win souls to him, to see broken lives beginning to be mended and to flourish in Christ. That’s all. The world thought it was madness. That’s what they thought utter madness. For us it was the thing to do. With the eye of faith, we had beheld him. And we quit our jobs and took up what was next to nothing. I’m asking, why is that not happening with our young people today? Why? What is it that is now making today’s young people think that the more money you have in your bank account, the better it will be for you. What is it?
It’s much much better to be ill-treated with the people of God, than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of this world.
Where the young people as individuals sitting alone, aren’t they beholding with the eye of faith? Something of what Moses beheld. It’s much much better to be ill-treated with the people of God, than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of this world. They are fleeting. They are here today, tomorrow they are gone.
Where are the Soldiers for Christ?
Have we lost this faith, have we, have we? That so many of our ministries are just completely failing to do anything. Completely failing. We might as well close them down. Not because those ministries don’t have systems and places and so on. But because they lack soldiers. Well, where are the soldiers then? Playing. Where are the soldiers? They are where the world is; drinking in the world with the world. Hence the lack of godliness.
That life that causes the world to sit up and say there is a completely different army here, a completely different people and wake up to the fact that this spiritual thing must be real. Look at these individuals. I’m concerned about that especially for the young.
This Faith, this precious faith that ought to move us. Not that we will all become pastors. But that where we are, we have beheld this great and glorious God and consequently, we will be the conduit through which the life of God will impact our world. That’s what we will be. That even in the workplace, they would testify one thing. There’s a Christian who lives here. The rest of us are just religious, but this one…. Because they’ve seen the difference, the remarkable difference there’s godliness here. Where is this faith? This ever-present consciousness. That even in my business dealings, nobody can miss it. You might as well just fire this guy than try and make him bend. That is godliness, it’s godliness.
Faith and Grace: the Source of Godliness
Well brethren, this is the source; the grace of God on the one hand and faith on the other. Our part is not the grace of God. It is this faith, this lively faith. And that’s why Peter says here, make every effort, make every effort to have that kind of faith. That foundation on which virtue is being built, on which knowledge is being built, on which self-control is being built, on which steadfastness is being built, and now even godliness is being built.
Next week we are moving on we’ll be moving on from godliness to brotherly kindness.
Brotherly kindness will not come out of your soul if true godliness is missing.
But please, don’t overlook this reality. Because brotherly kindness will not come out of your soul if true godliness is missing. Forget it, forget it. It would be as if it’s just outward good works being forced upon you. But where this godliness is, where this energy is, trust me brotherly kindness and love will be oozing out. It will be unstoppable, oozing out. And therefore my plea, is that we begin from there. Hungering for that higher ground of the Christian life hungering for it that we might be true spiritual giants all of us. May God help us that effect. Amen.