There is nothing more disturbing than being around individuals who profess to be Christians, but they never throw a punch for Jesus. Never. Somehow they simply flow along with everybody else. There is hardly any dust raised where they are; there are hardly any souls saved where they are. What’s their secret? What is it that makes these individuals so ineffective and unfruitful?
How To Be Ineffective
Fruitlessness is actually a result of ineffectiveness. Ineffectiveness is a result of not being busy about the Lord’s work.
Ineffectiveness is a result of not being busy about the Lord’s work.
It is a sad reality that many Christians are ineffective in their knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Greek word that is used here – ‘argos’ – can be translated as lazy, or idle, or useless. In other words, it’s referring to individuals who are inactive; they are indolent in how they steward what is given to them.
The Secret To Being Unfruitful
On the other hand some believers are unfruitful in their knowledge of Jesus Christ. This time the Greek word ‘ákarpos’ that Peter uses, can also be translated as barren or unproductive. Like a mango tree which appears healthy but does not bear fruit in season.
Fruitlessness is actually a result of ineffectiveness.
What is the cure for ineffectiveness and fruitlessness in the Christian life? Quite simply, growing up as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, we can actually see the fruitfulness and effectiveness of our Christian lives. Do you help those in need around you? To you have a positive impact on the people you live with? Do you inspire others to investigate living for Christ?
Listen to Conrad Mbewe as he urges us to look at our lives and behaviour. Are you ineffective? Are you unfruitful? Maybe you need to wake up and ask Jesus to save you.
Christian, Grow Up!
This sermon is part of Conrad Mbewe’s sermon 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 calls us to add steadfastness and resolve as we journey with Christ. Next we were told to add godliness to all these qualities and to add love for the saints (or brotherly affection) to all of this.
At each stage we are growing and developing – all the better to serve our heavenly Father
The last command is to show love. At each stage we are growing and developing – all the better to serve our heavenly Father and persevere in our walk with Christ. First we need to understand what Peter means by the word love. Then why we must love our non-Christian neighbour.
In this sermon Pastor Conrad illustrates that the result of nurturing these qualities is to bear spiritual fruit. If you neglect this growth, you will inevitably be ineffective and unfruitful.
Text: 2 Peter 1:8
Date preached: 26 April 2020
Location: Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia
Introduction to 2 Peter 1:5-8
This morning we are continuing in our series of sermons entitled ‘Christian, Grow Up!’ We are in 2 Peter 1. And I am recommencing from verse 5 and making our way to verse 8. 2 Peter 1:5-8: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If these qualities are yours and are increasing they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful
Last week we came back to this passage of scripture. And what we were really seeing last week were the two assumptions that the Apostle Peter makes. Two assumptions. The first is that you possess these qualities. And the second is that you are growing in your possession of these qualities. So that, and I will read from verse 8, “for if these qualities are yours and are increasing.” And what we saw there is that this really is the fountain; what gives birth – or what spurs us on – into the whole realm of being effective, and being fruitful. Which is really the point that Peter is making here.
[Audio begins] Verse 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.”
The Awful Reality
Today, I want us to pause for a moment and look at the awful reality of ineffectiveness and fruitlessness. The very reason why Peter is concerned about Christians growing up is because he saw – he was a witness to – in the midst of his own ministry as an Apostle – to so many individuals who profess faith in Christ. In other words they claim to know Christ. But they are ineffective. They are unproductive. And he was concerned about this.
Consequently he gave the instructions that he is giving here. That this is the medicine – this is the cure – of ineffectiveness and fruitlessness. And it is what? Growing up as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
And I must admit I am in the same shoes as the Apostle Peter here. I’ve been around the Christian faith long enough. And there is nothing more disturbing than being around individuals who profess to be Christians, but they never thrown a punch for Jesus. Never!
Just because I warmed my pew on Sunday I have done my bit for Jesus Christ… What a sad reality
Somehow they simply flow along with everybody else. There is hardly any dust raised where they are. They are hardly any souls saved where they are. There are hardly any believers who are mentioning their names in terms of ‘I was helped here in my Christian life. I was helped there in my Christian life.’ They never appear in any of these.
Somehow they tend to think that “just because I warmed my pew on Sunday I have done my bit for Jesus Christ.” Ineffective. Unproductive. What a sad reality.
What is Ineffectiveness?
Let’s look at this very quickly together. First of all, ineffectiveness. It is a sad reality that many Christians are ineffective in their knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Greek word that is used here ‘argos’ can be translated as lazy, or idle, or useless. In other words, it’s referring to individuals who are inactive. They are indolent. They are individuals who just sort of hung around as the day passes by.
The Parable of the Vineyard Workers
We have the example of this in a parable of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 20:1-6. Listen to this. It’s referring to an individual who was hiring other people to come and work in his vineyard. The Lord Jesus Christ says – starting with verse 1.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.2 After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” Now listen to this. “And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’”
Let’s jump verse 5 and go to verse 6. “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
We Are Familiar with Idleness
Now this is not a strange sight. All you need to do is to visit a lot of our compounds and you will find that there are individuals who are just standing on street corners. Seated on street corners. Doing… nothing! Minutes are turning into hours and they are just talking, and talking, and talking. Allowing time to pass.
They are completely idle. And some of them are sitting just outside the premises of their own homes and when you look behind them the grass is this high! They cannot even think in terms of trimming the grass. Looking after the property. No, no, no. They are just idle. Waiting for somebody to come and call them for a meal in the house.
Now that’s the issue that Peter is talking about here. It’s that same phrase. Idle, inactive, indolent and so forth.
You Can Be Busy, But Unproductive
Now it is possible to do a lot more than simply sitting doing nothing. It is possible for you to be apparently doing something, and yet it is something that is not useful at all. And in as sense that’s where this word ineffective and unfruitful go together. In other words a person who is effective is productive.
They are talking, talking, talking. But their words are not helping anybody.
It’s possible to be an individual who is up and about, but there is nothing to show for that up and about. A few good verses will prove the point. Turn to Matthew 12:36.
We Will Be Held Accountable for Idle Talk
We read here Jesus warning. He says “I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Now the word careless there is actually the word idle. Every idle word they speak.
In other words they are talking, talking, talking, talking. But their words are not helping anybody. They are not helping anybody! And we shall see one or two examples of that in a moment.
Turn with me to 1 Timothy 5:13. This is what we read there. About widows by the way. Especially younger widows. We read there in verse 13 “besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.”
Rumours, Gossip and Fake News
Again, you can’t miss this picture. It’s referring to individuals who you find when you go to different homes they are there! They are occupied with talking when they are there. But when you listen to what they are talking about it is nothing but gossip. It is “have you heard? You know I picked this up. Have you heard? You know this one did this…” And that’s all they are doing!
Forwarding this and forwarding that! It’s all nothing but rumours that we are spreading.
So they are talking – but they are not helping anybody!
Idle Talk With Your Cell Phone
Now today, we can do that quite a lot through texting. So it’s not necessarily going from home to home. Especially during COVID. Nobody wants you to go through their front doors. But we do it still with our little cell phones. “Have you heard?” And especially forwarding. Bam! Forwarding this and Bam! Forwarding that and Bam! It’s all nothing but rumours that we are spreading.
Well Jesus was saying you will have to give an account for all this information that basically amounts to rumours, to gossip, or to borrow a more modern term now – fake news. Fake news! You are not helping anybody!
And Titus 1 also says the same thing. We read there in Titus 1:12. The Apostle Paul says “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts,” and then listen to this “lazy gluttons.” Lazy gluttons. Idle gluttons. In other words when they have eaten – when they have fed their stomachs – what do they do? They simply now sit back and engage in nothing but lies. Engage in nothing but gossip.
Well, that’s what the Apostle Paul is really referring to in these passages. That’s what Jesus was referring to in Matthew, and that’s what Peter is also referring to in this passage.
God Is Not Idle
You see it is the exact opposite of the very nature of God. Jesus once said when he was on earth that “my father is always at work.” And then he throws himself in as well and says the son is basically doing the same thing.
We who claim to belong to him must be individuals who are also being deliberately effective.
God is not one in terms of the way he has shown himself to be an idle God. No. He exerts energy. Not only in creation. He also exerts energy in upholding the entire universe. And we who claim to belong to him must be individuals who are also being deliberately effective. Deliberately not idle.
Does Your Life Count For Anything?
We are living in days of COVID-19 aren’t we? Where people are constantly thinking about God. They are thinking about death. They are losing their jobs, they are stuck at home and so on. What days of opportunity we have! But let me ask, are we being effective in such days? Or are we also simply now becoming idle? And simply participating in spreading stories, spreading rumours, spreading gossip?
Are our lives counting in the days in which we are? Can people say with truth that we have ministered to them in these very, very difficult times? Can they speak in those terms? Well Peter is basically saying that if we are growing as believers it will drive us to being effective. Even in the days of COVID-19 we will be effective, because the life of God – like a stream – will be flowing through us. Flowing through us in order to impact other people.
Let’s go on quickly to the area of unfruitfulness. That’s another area of real sadness.
What is Unfruitfulness?
“Some believers are unfruitful in their knowledge of Jesus Christ.” The Apostle Peter says there “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful.”
This time the Greek word ‘ákarpos’ that Peter uses, can also be translated as either unfruitful – which we’ve seen here – or barren or unproductive. It’s a phrase that we often use in Agriculture don’t we? We speak of an unfruitful mango tree. And some of us have had that experience to be in an area where it is now the rain season, and our neighbours mangos the trees there are bearing a lot of mangos. And then here we are in the midst of our own property, in the midst of our yard, and there is this tree. It is green. It is full with leaves. But no mangos!
To be fruitful is basically to produce your own kind
Well, we are going to have to buy mangos from the shops, from the market. We have a mango tree on our property and it’s not bearing any fruit. That’s really the picture that is being captured here by being unfruitful.
What is Spiritual Unfruitfulness?
Now spiritually this means, what is one area, is of winning souls. Because what do we mean by fruitfulness? Well, to be fruitful is basically to produce your own kind. It’s to produce your own kind. So you have got a see which is a mango seed. You plant it into the ground. It becomes a tree – well – you are looking forward to the day when that seed will now produce many mangos. And consequently many seeds.
It is evangelism and it is also edification – the two going together.
When we speak about a fruitful womb, we are speaking in terms of a mother who produces children. So in the same way being fruitful, one of the ways we apply that is in terms of – yes. When I got converted I was alone. But by the time I die, there will be so many other individuals who will be rejoicing that through my life, through my labours, they came to know Christ! And consequently they are now believers. That’s one way.
Evangelism and Edification
Another way in which we are productive, or fruitful, is in terms of passing on our godliness to others. Building them up. So it is evangelism and it is also edification – the two going together. Individuals being saved and individuals being sanctified.
We are having that impact on others.
We are having that impact on others. So that they are able to say “when I lived with him, when I lived with her, my spiritual life received extra impetus. I was pushed further in order to live for the Lord Jesus Christ. Because this person impacted my life that way.” Well that is what fruitfulness is all about spiritually.
Let me ask, are you being fruitful? Are you? Are individual lives being transformed in terms of salvation? Are individual lives being transformed in terms of sanctification?
Factors that Hinder Our Fruitfulness
Now often, this is hindered by our failure to lovingly help people’s failed needs. By failing to lovingly help people’s failed needs. What do I mean by that?
Failing to Meet The Needs of Others
You see often when we begin to relate to people what causes us to come into their lives is not so much that we have seen that they need to go from the Kingdom of Darkness to Light. Or that they need to be enhanced in their spiritual life. Often it’s basic things. Like food, transport, school fees, and so on. The basic issues in these days we might even through in medical help. And as people’s failed needs are met by you, you come alongside them, you help them with a little bit of your hard earned kwatcha.
They begin to look at you with a different eye. They begin to think you are different from so many selfish and self-centred individuals. You are helping them without any hidden agenda! How come?!
It opens their hearts. It opens their minds. And then you are able to say to them “I’m a Christian, that’s what makes the difference. The Lord Jesus saved me. He can save you too.”
Let me emphasise that. Because often that’s where we miss the point. We think that evangelism is simply going out of our house, standing by the roadside, and beginning to talk to the first person that passes by. Well that’s also evangelism. But it’s often the needy individuals that Jesus brings into our lives and our willingness to meet them at the practical, social, physical level. And when we do that it pops up their ears. They want to hear.
Missing Christian Qualities
Now what is it that stops us from being effective and productive? It’s as I said, the absence of these qualities. Let’s go to the very last one for instance. The one that says “add to brotherly affection, love.”
You will fail because of your worldliness
Well when you yourself, for instance, are in love with the world more than you ought to be in love with God, then inevitably you will fail because of your worldliness. Or let’s use another example. And that is when you have a lack of knowledge.
2 Peter 1:5 the last part. That you are to add to your virtue, knowledge. On other words, you have not growing in your appreciation that God your father is in sovereign control of our everything. In your life. And that even COVID-19 has not come as a shock to Him. Because you have not come to grasp God that way. You are always full of worry! Worry, worry.
The Cost of Worry
I meet believers who, they’ve got a job. You can see it’s a steady job. And when you’ve tried to find out about their lives they are telling you “ah. You know… if I lose my job I don’t know what might happen to me. And so you know I’m trying to do this studies and those studies. And I am trying to be best here and to be best there…” And they are so worried, that they are not being productive now!
Worry is an opportunity cost. All because you are not growing in your knowledge of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ in his parable of the sower in Matthew 13 puts it this way. Matthew 13:22 the parable of the sower explained. “As for what was sown among thorns, this the one who hears the word but the cares of this world, that is worry, and the deceitfulness of riches” again remember what we talked about there? Loving the world. “they choke the word.” And as a result it proves unfruitful in their lives. And inevitably they also prove unfruitful in the world.
You see the point? Worry is an opportunity cost. All because you are not growing in your knowledge of God. You are not deliberate in studying who God is and his words. You are not doing that. And as a result are being robbed of time of productivity.
Fruitlessness Comes From Ineffectiveness
Before I get onto my last point it’s worth stating that fruitlessness is as a result of ineffectiveness. Ineffectiveness is as a result of not being busy about the Lord’s work.
Ineffectiveness is as a result of not being busy about the Lord’s work.
Can you believe that there are christians who when you ask them “how’s today?” They say “Ati. It’s boring.” Boring! How can a Christian’s life be boring!? How can a farmer’s life in the midst of famine be boring? How can a soldier’s life in the midst of war be boring? Tell me – how?
Right now there are people who are in need of physical things.
The Apostle Paul ended his letter to Titus with these words. Titus 3:14 “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” There it is. Let our people learn to be committed to good works. To be busy about the Lord’s work. To help cases of urgent need.
In other words right now there are people who are in need of physical things. In need of food, in need of transport, in need of medical help, in need of this that and the other. They are there right now. School fees desperately needed now!
And the Apostle Pauls is saying let our people be busy about this. Busy. Busy rather than being unfruitful.
Let me hurry on to my last point.
Why Does Being Effective and Fruitful Matter?
Why should we as Christians be concerned about living a life that is not ineffective and not unfruitful? Why should that be the case? Well let me suggest to you that it is because the Bible has given us a peep into eternity. So that we can see God’s attitude towards those who claim to be his children who are ineffective and unproductive.
Let me say that again. The Bible has given us a peep into eternity. It is functioning like a stethoscope. You can put it against the heart of God in eternity – in heaven – so that we can see how does God view us on earth when we are idle. When we are lazy. When we are barren and unproductive. How does God view it?
God does not take kindly to half-heartedness and coldness.
And the reason why God, through his word, has given us that peep is so that we can have a sucker-punch to hit us between the eyes saying “wake up!” Before it is too late. Because God does not take kindly to half-heartedness and coldness.
Let’s quickly look at a few of these examples. Go back to Matthew 25. This is our Lord drawing to the end of his earthly ministry. Matthew 25. The whole chapter really is worth reading but I don’t have time to do that. So we will just read sections of it.
The Parable of the Talents
First of all, the parable of the talents. I will read just the first part Matthew 25:14-43: “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” This is what the kingdom of heaven is like. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”
Listen to what these three men did. “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.” In other words, he was productive. Definitely not lazy. He was productive. He was effective. “So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.” He was effective, he was active, he was fruitful. Listen to verse 18. “But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
Well we know the story. The master praised the one who had been given five and got five more. The master praised the one who he had given two and brought two more. Let’s go to what he said concerning the one who was unproductive.
The Fate of the Unfruitful Servant
We read there, verse 24: “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
And listen to this “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
Now that’s serious! Our Lord is actually teaching here that the unfruitful servant was thrown into hell! Now how does that fit in with my Calvinistic theology – that a person who is saved never loses his salvation? Quite simple. And I will prove it in a moment. And it is this. That often and unproductive soul is a soul that is actually not saved.
Religious yes. But not really saved by the spirit of the living God. The proof is in the ineffectiveness. It is in the fruitlessness.
Let’s hurry on.
Christians Are Commanded To Care
Because sometimes you’d almost think that Jesus is teaching his salvation by work. Let’s begin with Matthew 25:31.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.” Now let’s skip the sheep for now. Let’s go to the goats.
A Back Door Into Hell
Matthew 25:41. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And trust me, that’s hell. That’s hell.
Now why was he sending these people to hell? Well simple. They were ineffective and they were unfruitful. Beginning at a physical level. Listen to this Matthew 25:42:
“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’”
A slothful, lazy, indolent Christian life leads to hell. Trust me! It’s a back door into hell.
Yes! You did not care. There was no love – brotherly affection – in you. Nothing! And so we read in verse 46: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The Parable of the Fig Tree
If there’s a parable that gives me the chills, it is in Luke 13. And clearly our Lord was deliberately using these pictures in order to, as it were, send that blow – that sucker punch – between our eyes. To wake us up. That a slothful, lazy, indolent Christian life leads to hell. Trust me! It’s a back door into hell. Because it’s not real Christianity – a thousand times no!
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning
Listen to this. Luke 13:6-9:
“And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.” Remember it’s a parable, it’s an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Remember that.
“And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down.” That’s what gives me the chills! “Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Putting on Manure to Help Fruit Grow
It’s an earthly story, but with a heavenly meaning. And this vine dresser is saying “allow me to get a fork and dig in the soil around the roots and put in some manure in hope that as we work around this there might be fruit.”
Often God does this. He brings difficult times in our lives… to shake us up!
And often God does this. He brings difficult times in our lives. He brings sickness, he brings death, he brings a loss of employment, he brings situations like COVID-19 in to our lives to just shake us up! To see you are in the sleep of death! Wake up!
And sadly many of us can go right through COVID-19 the way we began. Right the same way at the end. Ineffective. Unfruitful. And our time is over and God says to the Angel of Death “cut him down. We’ve wasted enough time. Cut him down.”
True Faith Never Comes Alone
That’s Jesus giving us a peep – a peep – of how God feels concerning individuals who claim his name, who claim he is their saviour, but they are still little, warped, selfish, self-centred souls. Ineffective, unproductive, idle, gossipers, slanderers. That’s all they do!
Friend, if that’s your life you are on your way to hell. Trust me. You are on your way to hell. You might not like what I am saying but I am warning you! Based on these stories. Because true faith, the gift of God, never comes alone. It comes with works. It produces works. That’s what James tells us. It produces works.
You cannot be an individual who’s come to know that God gave his Son, his only Son. He sent him from the glories of heaven to come into a sin-ridden world, to live a life of poverty and finally die on the cross, in order to bring your soul from hell to heaven. And then you realise all that and you all remain in a selfish life. You can’t! You can’t!
The more you know, as we said you add knowledge to virtue, you bring in self-control, you bring in steadfastness. You bring in godliness, inevitably it works itself out into love and brotherly affection. It is inevitable.
Christian, Grow Up!
So here’s my plea again. Christian, grow up!
I’m not asking that at the end of this one sermon suddenly your life might be transformed. No, no, no. It won’t happen. I am saying grow up. Add these qualities to your life. It’s only as you add them to your life that it stops you from being ineffective. It stops you from being unproductive.
There’s a work for Jesus ready at your hand. A task that the master has planned. Just for you.
If that doesn’t happen you most likely are just not saved. And the sooner you cry to Jesus saying “Lord, why is it that my life is just about me, myself and I? Despite my church-going. Despite my professing faith in you. Lord save me. Save me now.”
And you will find, as we shall be sining in closing, that there’s a work for Jesus ready at your hand. A task that the master has planned. Just for you. And you will haste to do his bidding, you will seek to serve him truthfully. Because there’s a work for Jesus, none but you can do.
You will give yourself to him. Working for Jesus day by day. Serving him ever, never faltering. Obeying Christ, yielding your service to him because your life is full of virtue, of knowledge, of self-control, of steadfastness, of godliness, of brotherly affection and of love.
Christian, grow up. Amen.