I always appreciate the hymn that we’ve just sung because, when I’d just got converted I recall how it really moved me to the depth of my own heart to realise that I could give my everything to the Lord – because of what he’s done for me. He is indeed a good and gracious God.
We are looking at 2 Peter 1 in our ongoing series of studies entitled ‘Christian, Grow Up’. And while you are turning there let me again remind you that ‘Christian’ is in the singular. And it’s fairly deliberate. It is in the singular because of the fact that we shouldn’t hide within a crowd of so many believers. Rather, we should as individuals – Christian, me, as I am, as an individual – grow up.
We Have What We Need to Grow
So the challenge is not only to us a Christians generally. The challenge is to each and every believer. We saw from the earlier section of 2 Peter 1, that everything that we need for life and for godliness has been provided to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is seen is 2 Peter 1:3. And we’ve been there a number of times previously.
There’s no reason why you should remain a spiritual toddler for years, and your friends should be making spiritual progress ahead of you.
2 Peter 1:3: “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.” So there’s absolutely no reason why you should remain a spiritual toddler for years, and then your friends should be making spiritual progress ahead of you. So you should not be saying to God “that’s the way you made me – you deprived me of the spiritual graces that you’ve given to these people who seem to be miles ahead of me.”
Going Beyond What Is Given
But then we went on to see that the burden of this chapter is specifically about growing up. In other words, yes, we have been blessed this way – all of us. But we need to go beyond what we have been given. And so for a while we were looking at 2 Peter 1:5-8. And we are basically coming back there today.
And the passage reads:
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 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.”
Anyone who is a true spiritual giant is somebody who has made exceptional effort to be there.
You see there, therefore, that what difference shapes us as believers one from the other, is that little phrase “make every effort.” In other words we have too many believers who are just spiritually lazy. Somehow they think that spiritual growth is going to happen while they are, as it were, going through horizontal championships. In other words, lying on their bed somehow, and they’ll just find that spiritual power is oozing out of them. that doesn’t happen.
Anyone who is a true spiritual giant is somebody who has made exceptional effort to be there. And it is in these areas that we have already seen: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness and so on in each of these areas.
Peter Makes 2 Important Assumptions
In the last two weeks we took time to look in the details of verse 8. First of all we saw the assumption that Peter makes.
1. Believers Have These Qualities, And Are Growing in Them
And Peter makes the assumption that those of you who claim to be believers, number one, that you possess these qualities. But number two, that you are growing in these qualities.
Peter deliberately makes that assumption. And I also emphasised that if this is not true of you, most likely you are unconverted. And you need to seriously address this matter. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself after death going to hell, and you will be shocked about it.
It is a reality that we have so many individuals who claim the name of Christ, but who never strike a blow for Jesus
2. The Sad Reality of Unfruitful Believers
The second aspect that we looked at – and that was now last week – was the sad reality of ineffective and unfruitful believers. In other words, the very issue that burdened Peter, is an issue that ought to burden us as well. Because it is a reality that we have so many individuals who claim the name of Christ, but who never strike a blow for Jesus.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase – it’s a fairly popular one – that within the context of a Christian church, you find that almost everything is being done by a third of the membership. So a third of the membership is busy working. Then there is the next third of the membership who are just watching what is being done by the first third. And then the last third have no clue what’s happening. Absolutely no clue.
Don’t Ignore The Price Paid By Christ
And it’s sad. Because ultimately, we speak in terms of the fact that as believers, Jesus Christ has paid a dear price for us. He’s died for our sins. He’s died that he might be Lord over our lives. He’s dies so that we may love him back. He’s died so that we may serve him with all our ransomed powers. And then to have two thirds of ransomed people not throwing in their effort so that they might be effective – that they might be fruitful for Jesus – is a sad reality.
Well, we spent our time on that last week. Today, I want us to conclude our study on this verse, that is 2 Peter 1:8, by using a very practical application. So let me try and put it this way to you. Although Peter couches his words in negative phrases, verse 8 is actually a positive statement.
Two Negatives Make A Positive
So let’s quickly see that together. Peter says, in verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you” that’s a negative phrase – they stop you – “from being ineffective or unfruitful.” That’s also a negative phrase: ineffective and unfruitful, “in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So Peter uses two negatives. Now, mathematicians will tell you that two negatives produces a positive. In other words, it’s actually a positive statement he is making. He is saying something like this: for if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they make you effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me give an example – in case you are still a little confused. And the example I have in my notes is this. Loving your spouse keeps you from being unfaithful in your marriage. Let me say that again. Loving your spouse keeps you from being unfaithful in your marriage. Now that’s actually a positive statement. What it is saying is this. That loving your spouse makes you faithful in your marriage. So it’s a positive sentiment. You are using two negatives in order for you to make a positive statement.
So, the burden of Peter here is not a negative thing. It’s actually positive. He is saying if you can possess these qualities, and possess them in an ever growing way, you are going to be effective. You are going to be fruitful.
The Question Of How
The questions that begs to be answered is the question ‘how?’ And I think it’s fair that we should at least have one sermon in which we are answering the question ‘how.’ How does possessing these qualities, adding as we have seen here, virtue and knowledge and self-control and steadfastness and godliness – brotherly affection and love. How do these things – adding them to your faith – how do they make you a truly fruitful believer?
In 2020 We Are Living In Extraordinary Times
And the way I want us to answer this is by applying it to today’s situation. We are going through the Coronavirus Pandemic. Now if you don’t realise this I hope what I am about to say will make you wake up. And it is this. That we are living in extraordinary times. Extraordinary times. That history, from this day onwards, will remember 2020.
In schools around the world, as they are teaching world history, they will teach 2020.
The way in which you remember 1918 – the First World War. And you remember 1939, or 1945 with respect to the Second World War. If the Lord tarries 100 years from now, we will all be dead. In schools around the world, as they are teaching world history, they will teach 2020. They will teach that there was a pandemic that affected the whole globe. The whole globe. No less than 2 million people on the globe got it. No less than 200,000 people died. And we are living in it. We are living in it. Extraordinary times.
How Can We Be Truly Fruitful in 2020?
And so it only makes sense that I should seek to apply how Christian growth makes you truly fruitful in these unprecedented times today.
How does it do so? Well let’s go back to verse 5 and we will make our way through those qualities one at a time. Verse 5 says “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.” So, you already have this faith – it’s been given to you. It’s a precious faith – like that which Peter has – he has already talked about it earlier. You already have it. Now you are adding virtue to it.
Add Virtue To Your Faith
What did we learn about virtue? Well, we learnt that virtue is a passion for excellence. That’s what it is. In other words it is you saying “I will never settle for averages. I won’t just want to be there.”
In other words, with respect to being a Christian, “I want to be the best Christian that I can possibly be.” With respect to being a husband and wife, or an parent, or an employee, or whatever it might be – you are saying that “I want to be the very best.”
Virtue is a passion for excellence. Saying I want to be the best Christian I can possibly be.
And with application here, it is the fact that you want to, obviously, be the best – spiritually speaking – you want to be the best Christian in whatever context you might be. Well let’s apply it to COVID-19. What you are basically saying is that this which has impacted the globe, by the divine will of God, I want to be the best Christian in the midst of this pandemic. I want to be salt. I want to be light! And not just a little bit of salt or a little bit of light – I want to give the greatest impact that I possibly can – in terms of excellence as a believer in the midst of COVID.
How To ‘Add Virtue’ During COVID-19
Now, immediately that changes everything. Because you see the average individual, who calls himself or herself a Christian, they don’t think like that. It is simply – bam! The viruses have come, let me go and find a hole and hide into that hole – until this whole thing is over.
I want to be salt. I want to be light! And not just a little bit – I want to give the greatest impact that I possibly can
Well, if you are somebody who’s adding virtue to your faith you are looking at this situation and you are saying how can I be the most spiritual, godly Christian in the midst of this? How can I with excellence glorify God?
Already it is setting you on a launching pad of real effectiveness and fruitfulness. Already, when that becomes true in the way you are responding to this situation.
Add Knowledge to Your Virtue
Comes in the second. Verse 5 puts it this way. That you are then to add knowledge to virtue. Let me read it. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge.”
We have said that knowledge is how you add virtue to your life. In other words, it is by turning on the light. It is by getting to know. You know this God. You know his ways. You get to know salvation and the way in which God has saved you. You get to know the depth of the doctrine of salvation. You get to know how that salvation works itself out in your life. As a person in the context of the Church; as a person in the context of the world.
You are deliberately becoming an intelligent Christian… You are putting your brains to it because you want to know!
You are deliberately becoming an intelligent Christian, a knowledgeable christian. You want to know! And so you are going to church. And when you are being taught you are very deliberate in wanting to really understand what is being taught.
You are reading your Bible. You are buying or borrowing Christian books too. You are putting your brains to it because you want to know! You want to understand. That’s the only way that you can be someone who is excellent in that specific area.
You engage with fellow believers. You discuss those issues together. Why are you discussing them? It is because iron sharpens iron. And so you are engaging them in those discussions. And consequently you are getting to be more and more knowledgeable, and as a result of that you are able to be excellent.
How To ‘Add Knowledge’ During COVID-19
Let’s apply it to COVID-19. Well what is it that you are deliberately doing? A person who is saying “this virus that has come, what is it?” You deliberately want to learn about it. You read about it. You hear other people teaching about it. You speak with doctors about it and so on. You want to know. You are not at the mercy of individuals who simply pick stories here – and are immediately spreading it there – and you are believing everything that is being said. No. You really want to know!
You want knowledge! So that you can have a truly spiritual way of dealing with this pandemic in your world today
And then you get to your Bible. You say “OK. How did God bring plagues and pestilences across history? Why did he do so? Again, you want to have the mind of God with respect to plagues, with respect to pestilences. You want to know! So that you can have a truly spiritual way of dealing with this pandemic in your world today.
You want to add knowledge. And then you go beyond the Bible. You say – “well, this is not the first plague that has happened in history. There have been other plagues. How have Christians dealt with these plagues? How has the Church responded to these plagues? How have preachers and others responded to these plagues?” You want to know. So you dig into Church history.
You become a knowledgeable believer. And therefore as everybody else around perhaps might be running to and fro, scared, full of fear and so on – there is you who is having this knowledge. And as this knowledge is filling up your being, you are an individual who is able to excel in the midst of this all. Let’s quickly hurry on.
Add Self Control to Your Knowledge
We come to self control. What did we say about it? We said that self control is the discipline that stops you from giving in to trials and temptations.
Verse 6: “and knowledge” you are supplementing knowledge, “with self-control.” You are supplementing knowledge with that ability, that self-discipline, that says “I will not yield, out of self-love, to trials or to temptations. I will learn to say in the midst of that pressure, and everything in me is saying scamper for cover! I am going to learn to say to myself. No. This is not a day for cowardice. No! I must do what God wants me to do.” That’s self control.
How To ‘Add Self Control’ During COVID-19
You don’t need to be a genius to realise what this means to us in COVID-19. Learning to say no to fear, which has gripped so many believers that they are basically in caves. They are not relevant to the day that they are supposed to be. Because of fear. Fear!
Self control is enabling you to say no to yourself in that moment when fear shouts the loudest.
In other words, self-preservation has completely paralysed them. Paralysed them. You also have the fear. Because you are human. But you are saying to yourself, “Conrad, no! This is a day of warfare. I must pick up my guns and pick up my ammunition and put up a gallant fight for Christ.”
So for our day today, it is primarily fear that’s gripping so many people and making them ineffective. But for you, you have added this quality of self control to your life. And it is enabling you to say no to yourself in that moment when fear shouts the loudest.
Shall we go on. We have added to faith virtue. We have added to virtue knowledge. We have added to knowledge self control. And now we are adding steadfastness.
Add Steadfastness to Your Self Control
What is steadfastness? Well it’s the fruit of self control. It is that positive energy that keeps you going long after your peers and your friends have given up the fight. Steadfastness. And as you know, all of us can do amazing things for a very short time. We can!
We can all run very quickly when the race is two meters… But when it comes to the marathon race, that’s something else.
We can all run very quickly when the race is two meters. We all can. But when it comes to the marathon race, that’s something else. Many you begin with, give up along the way. As their muscles and their sinews and their lungs and everything in them is saying “stop! You are now tired. Give up!” And so on.
That extra pocket of strength, that can be spoken of in terms of self control, but – more positively – in terms of energy, keeps you going. And marathon runners will tell you that there’s a point at which the body gives up the fight. And beyond that, they can go. And keep just going. And keep just going. And keep just going. The body itself has long given up. But because of that extra pocket of energy, that keeps them going.
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn rising ever brighter until the full light of day.
Well friends, that’s what the Apostle Peter is saying. Add it to your self control. Be an individual that becomes absolutely unstoppable! Long after your friends have given up the fight, you’ll still be going, and going, and going.
The Bible says the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn rising ever brighter until the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18) It’s a sun that never sets. It doesn’t go to dusk and then finally night. No, no, no. It just goes, and goes, and goes, and goes! Until bang! Like the sun at lunchtime, Bang! Gone into heaven. Gone into heaven. Steadfastness.
How To ‘Add Steadfastness’ During COVID-19
Well, let’s add it to COVID-19. How shall we put it there? It is this. That if it was simply a seasonal flu that came to day and tomorrow is gone, many of us would sort of rise to the occasion and say “come on. Let’s do something for Jesus.” And so on and so forth.
But when it lasts, and it takes a stand, it’s 100, it’s 1000, and the numbers continue to swell among us. And days are turning into weeks, and turning into months, and the needs are just multiplying. Not just the dying, but the many that are losing jobs and they don’t have income, and then it’s so much money in order for them to survive. And the needs multiply!
Many give up. It is too much. Their Christianity is short circuited. It is then that those who know the Lord continue.
It’s so easy that the numbers that were so many to begin with begin to go down. Many give up. It is too much. Their Christianity is short circuited. It is then that those who know the Lord continue. Continue. Bearing fruit. Continue. Being effective. Continue. Being steadfast. Bearing fruit to the glory of God.
That’s how we can apply steadfastness here. There will be many that will give up. But it is those who are steadfast who keep going.
Well, the final fruit of this is godliness. Back to our text.
Add Godliness to Your Steadfastness
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness.”
What did we say about this when we were studying godliness? Godliness is actually the apex. It’s where all this has been leading. Godliness is that desire and outworking of a life that wants to know God. To love God. To obey God. To serve God. To worship God above everything else.
Godliness is actually the apex. It’s where all this has been leading.
That these aspects are the combustion chamber that produces the life that everybody is seeing.
When we are speaking about excellence, that’s where it’s leading. It is saying virtue – “I want to be excellent in my knowledge and love and obedience and service and worship for God.” When we are speaking about knowledge it’s the same thing. It is “I want to know this God. So that I may love Him and obey Him and serve Him and so on. It is all, again, God-ward. It is God-centred.
When we speak about self control and steadfastness again is the same thing. That’s how I want to express my love for God and my service for God and my obedience for God and my worship of God.
In other words, godliness is about a God-centred life. A God-centred life. And that’s what motivates me in everything I do – that God might be glorified in me.
How To ‘Add Godliness’ During COVID-19
Shall we apply it to COVID-19? It’s quite simple. That’s what motivates you in the midst of this pandemic. It’s not about me and my little life and how I can survive these difficult times so that I might find myself on the other side – happy with my wife and my children. And at least we’ve survived! Others have died, but at least we’ve survived. No no no no! A thousand times no!
To a godly person COVID-19 is still about how can I be the best possible child of God in the midst of all this.
To a godly person COVID-19 is still about how can I be the best possible child of God in the midst of all this. How can COVID-19 help me to know my God more? How? I want to know God in the midst of all this.
How can I be obedient to my God in these extraordinary days that have come? How can I be obedient to Him? What are his commandments to me in the midst of such times? How can I serve my God in the midst of these perilous times? With, as it were, bullets of viruses flying past my head. How can I serve my God? How can I worship in the midst of these realities? How can I worship the living God? How?
That’s a godly person. That’s a godly person. In the midst of COVID-19 adding to his life the quality of godliness. As I said, that’s the apex. You have reached the top of the mountain. The great boulder was being pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed until finally that great rock has reached the top. And now you have a God-centred life. That’s right at the top. And then you push the boulder downhill.
And there are two things that begin to take place – that begin to happen – as that boulder begins to gain momentum going downhill. The first is brotherly affection. Brotherly affection.
Add Brotherly Affection to Your Godliness
Let’s read again verse 5 downwards: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,” and here it is verse 7: “and godliness with brotherly affection.”
What did we learn about brotherly affection? We said it is the love that you have for God’s children. For believers. For your fellow church members. For those whom you know who name the name of the Lord. The love that you have for them. And remember, it’s a practical love.
A Practical Love
The Lord Jesus Christ illustrated it towards the end of his life when he gave that story concerning the Son of Man coming in the clouds of glory. Separating sheep from goats. And do you remember how the sheep were commended? When he said “what you did for the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.” When I was sick or in prison you visited me. When I was hungry you fed me. When I needed clothes you clothed me. It’s very practical. A very practical life of love for believers.
How To ‘Add Brotherly Affection’ During COVID-19
Brethren, you obviously don’t need me to try and convince you that that’s going to be the first area of application for a true child of God who is growing. Because what you will find is that you will deliberately use technology to call your brothers and sisters to find out how they are doing. How are they doing? Spiritually. How are they doing? Socially. How are they doing? In terms of their physical needs? How are they doing!
You will be calling them up and finding out. And when you find out areas of need, try and do practical things in order to be of help to them. That’s what you are going to do. You won’t say “well, God bless you. Yes. I’ve heard. I’ll pray for you it’s be alright. God bless you.”
You won’t go into this cave, lock the door, and then sort of reappear 6 months later and say “hey. Is anybody else alive?” No.
No, no! You will say “what have I got I can use in order to bless my brother? In order to help my sister?” So that they too can bless God – that they belong to brothers and sisters in Christ.
Inevitably that’s what you’d be doing. You won’t – again as I always say – you won’t go into this cave, lock the door, and then sort of reappear 6 months later and say “hey. Is anybody else alive?” No. In that same period you will be doing everything you possibly can in order to be a blessing to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
And then quickly, the last.
Add Love to Your Brotherly Affection
2 Peter 1: 7. “and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Love. Really, brotherly affection is also love. The difference is this is love that now goes beyond the brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a love that reaches your neighbours. Those whom God brings in to your path; into your way.
That you are concerned about them. That you are tossing and turning in your bed at night because of your neighbour, because of your work mates, because of your school mates. Because of the needs that suddenly multiply in front of you.
How To ‘Add Love’ During COVID-19
Again the application in terms of COVID-19 is something that we cannot overlook. You don’t need to be a genius to see that. Because what COVID-19 has done, is not only to bring death into the world, but also economic disaster.
So many individuals have lost their jobs. Companies have closed down. Schools and colleges have had to lay off so many people. Workers in the hospitality industry – hotels and restaurants – are now out there with no jobs.
That person who’s adding these qualities to his life is a person who says “we are living in unprecedented times. Let me go out of my way to find out people in my immediate community, in my society, and further afield, what their needs are, and do something about it.” Do something about it! Because they are made in the image of God. The God I claim to love. The God I claim to worship.
Yes. He is the one who has thrown unprecedented times upon our day. But it is in order for those of us for whom he has supplied, to be able to nourish the souls of those who are lacking.
Surely, if there was ever a time for the Christian church to show the love of God it is now.
Now I know in our part of the world, in Zambia, we are not so much speaking in terms of deaths. But we are speaking in terms of fear. We are speaking in terms of people undergoing depression. We are speaking in terms of people losing jobs; having no income.
We’ve just gone from April into May and it’s amazing how many people are saying “we don’t know how we will pay our rentals. We don’t know.” Surely, if there was ever a time for the Christian church to show the love of God it is now. And if you are a one who is a growing believer, you don’t need to wait for somebody somewhere to be the one to say “come, let’s do this.” No! Your heart is already full of love! It is that big boulder that is going downhill with so much energy that it just must love! In practical ways – to meet the needs of others.
Well friends, at the end of that verse, “brotherly affection with love” Peter says “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.”
With All These Qualities, How Can We Be Unfruitful?
I have a question. And the question is this. How can a person who has these qualities be ineffective and unfruitful in their spiritual lives in COVID-19? How?
Christian, Grow Up
It’s impossible! We’ve just seen it. It is impossible! And that’s the reason we have been saying instead of hitting Christians on the head saying “hey! Be committed, be committed, be committed.” Nah! It’s simply this: “Christian, grow up!” That’s it!
Instead of hitting Christians on the head saying “hey! Be committed, be committed!” It’s simply this: “Christian, grow up.” That’s it.
Possess these qualities! These God-given qualities. Possess them – and possess them in increasing measure. You don’t even need to think “well, let me make a name for myself in this century. So people can write my biography. That in 2020, when there was this crisis, this is what I did.” Forget it. You are not even thinking about yourself.
It is that as you are growing – as you are adding to your faith this desire for excellence, to be the best for God. And you are adding knowledge. And you are adding self control. And you are adding steadfastness. And you are adding godliness. And it’s pouring out in terms of brotherly affection and love, you become unstoppable. Completely unstoppable.
Coronavirus cannot stop you! Out of the question altogether. This great God – who is working in your soul through these very qualities – is going to be the one to make you the champion for the day in which you live.
It makes you effective. It makes you fruitful in your knowledge of God in today’s world.
Now friends, we can apply this into many other areas. It doesn’t need to be during COVID-19. The bottom line is this. That whichever area you apply it to, whether it is as a Christian husband, or a Christian wife, or a Christian child, or a Christian parent, or a Christian employer, or a Christian employee, or simply a Christian who is in the community, in the workplace, in the school or wherever else it might be. Whichever area you can apply it to – at the end of the day my dear friends – the point is these qualities make you effective and fruitful. Inevitably.
You Will Count
And even in the Church. You will count. You will be among the third that is doing everything. Not the third that is watching things happening. And definitely not the third that has no clue what’s going on. You will count.
The day you die, the church leadership and your fellow church members will be looking for how to replace you. They won’t just cry “our friend has gone.” they will be saying “so who will we find to fill this gap! Because here was a life that was effective. Here was a life that was fruitful. A live that was bearing fruit.”
That’s why the appeal is “Christian, grow up.” Grow up. That’s all! Keep adding those qualities. Grow up. And when this generation of Christians are buried, the next generation will write and say “spiritual giants walked this earth. They have gone to their Lord. But while they lived they were convinced they needed to serve their God. They impacted the world. They bore fruit to the glory of God.” Amen.