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Monday, May 13, 2013

Knowing and Growing


2 Peter 1 (NASB)

15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth, which is present with you.
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           Verses 15 and 16 are above the rest of the passages because they explain why Peter wrote to the people of the church. Peter had preached and taught orally. He was near the end of his life and wanted to make sure the followers of Jesus remembered accurately what he had told them while training them. Peter wanted them to remember that what he and the other disciples taught them were not myths. These lessons were facts which the disciples experienced first-hand. They heard and saw these things. 
We must now understand what Peter wanted to make sure they understood and believed. Peter’s first statement wished the followers would be so familiar with Jesus they would possess God’s grace and peace. What Peter wanted most for them is the peace God gives through the gracious gift of Jesus, who was the sacrifice for their sins. Peter wanted them to recognize and believe this in their hearts, so they could have eternal peace resting in the hope He gives of eternal life with Him in His kingdom. Peter knew God’s power is so great that not only does He give life through birth, water, food, and protection, but God has the power to bestow on “us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” 

What do we need for life and godliness? The obvious I stated above are air, food, water, protection, and shelter. What else, though, do we need? We need love, acceptance, and a purpose for our lives. Each of these God gives to us as we live out our belief in Him. God did not say, “Ok, you believe. Great. Goodbye.” No, He gives us a standard of life that is greater and far better than anything we can produce for ourselves. This life comes through our walk with Him. Yes, you must follow Him by doing. Remember, James said in James 2:17 (NASB), “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead.” If a person has faith in Jesus Christ, he will want other people to have faith in Jesus, too. The person will be “driven” by the love implanted within him to act out Christ's love by acts of love and kindness. This is where the fruit of the Spirit enters. The Spirit inside of a person manifests itself when a person allows himself to be a conduit of Christ’s love. The person will show acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  

This journey of faith is what Peter is getting at in this first chapter of 2 Peter verses 5-7. He says to add to your faith, with all diligence, moral excellence and, to your moral excellence, add knowledge. First, we need to decide what “diligence” means. Diligence means earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. Diligence is taking a sincere and earnest interest into what one believes. Diligence by someone is not a lukewarm interest, which so many people express in their commitments. Diligence is the internal drive of a person to become so involved in what he or she attempts to perceive or do that his or her life is shaped by it. That being said, Peter now tells the hearers and readers of this letter to make sure you strive to learn more and more about Christ and His way of living. Come to understand more and more about being a Christian. Do not just make a profession that Jesus is God’s Son. God said even the demons recognize Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one and shudder (James 2:19). That is not a profession of faith. A profession of faith is life changing. When you study under a great teacher or leader because you want to learn from him or her, your life is changed to be like his or hers. This commitment is what Peter was saying concerning being a Christian. You not only hear the Word and profess He is the Son of God, but you let it be the driving force that leads you to change your life.
 This changing of life Peter speaks of occurs as you begin to be more acquainted with God. See verse 6, “in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness.” Knowledge leads to changing your life if you are an earnest student/follower. You will gain more self-control. The knowledge of Christ affects your mental processes and, through the Holy Spirit, you will let it guide your mind and impulses so you have better self-control. You have the best self-control available through Jesus. As you gain self-control, you will develop perseverance. Perseverance here means endurance and constancy. You will not let a desire sway you from the truth. You will not be swayed from your deliberate purpose and loyalty to your faith, even by the greatest suffering and trials. This perseverance in life leads to more stability in life, and to godliness, which is piety toward God. This is reverence and respect for God. We see in verse 6, this diligence of increasing in knowledge gives us control of our impulses and thoughts (self-control) and makes us strong so we do not waver in our faith (perseverance). We grow in our piety, our respect, and our reverence of God. This is the vertical relationship, our relationship with God. 

Consider verse 7, “in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” Once you control yourself and you give God control of yourself, then you can begin to see changes in how you relate to other people. This is the horizontal relationship. As we come to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ and experience Him more in our lives, we experience and express brotherly love to other believers. This word comes from the old Greek filadelia meaning love of brothers or sisters. Fidelia in the New Testament meant cherishing other believers. If we cannot love those who have been forgiven and redeemed, how are we going to begin to let the love of God shine through us to non-believers? We can diligently begin to develop love for all people. Remember, diligence is earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. We must be earnest in choosing to love everyone. Loving everyone will not be easy to do in every case. It must be done in the strength of Christ. Christ had to overlook sinful people to be able to love them. He gives us that same strength to love others. Loving like this may not come easy, but it will come because the Spirit of Christ lives within us.    

Peter commends believers that they must always earnestly strive to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). He says growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus is an ongoing activity. If you do not get it right the first time, keep working on growing like Him. Verses 8 and 9 say,  

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 

We will sincerely want these qualities because we earnestly seek to resemble Christ, our Lord and our leader. We will continue to strive to develop these areas of our life. We will not give up because we understand it is possible and preferable to living as an unbeliever. We are not blind or shortsighted, unless we stop growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we stop growing, then we have stopped reading our Bible, praying, and attending worship services.  

There is still hope, though; Jesus has not given up on us. Verse 10 states, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” Is this not a great reason for continuing to follow Christ, so we may not stumble? I would love to live without stumbling and messing up something. Usually when I make a mistake, I realize I have let myself choose what to do or say without considering what Christ wants me do or say in the situation. Christ's way is best. Hence, we must be diligent in practicing these things, acquiring faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. We must remember this growing in Christ is not a linear map to perfection but a rotating guide. We start with faith and desire moral excellence so we seek knowledge from the Word, which then leads us to one or more of the other actions. We then return to the Word and learn another new thing which we put into practice. Peter states, “In this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (vs. 11). You realize your salvation, without a doubt, because you do these things, the fruit of the Spirit grows within you. See how similar Peter’s list is to Paul’s list in Galatians?  

In the end, Peter stated, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you”  (vs. 12). Peter determined he would remind followers of Jesus of these things. He was going to make sure it occurred; therefore, he wrote this letter. How would Peter have known his writing would last over 1900 years and continue to remind believers to follow Jesus? This is why he stated in verse 15, “And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” Peter  felt accountable to God for the followers who came to believe in Jesus through his ministry, so much so, he wanted to leave a written testimony of what his life’s work had been, to preach and teach Jesus Christ’s love and power for them. He reiterated to make it known without a doubt, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (vs. 16). Peter tells us stories of the Lord and Savior and he tells us truth, which he witnessed himself. He was compelled to write this epistle. 
           Peter wanted two main things for his hearers: 1) multiplied grace (God’s unmerited love for us) and 2) multiplied peace. God’s peace is a tranquil state of the soul assured of its salvation through Christ, so, fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot. God multiplies this grace and peace in you when you come to know Him more each day. With this closeness to God, we grow closer in likeness to Him and exhibit more of His love to others. Growing more like Christ will show your faith, which has come about to affect your work and life, as James says in chapter 2. This growth is the call of God and His purpose for us, to come to Him, receive His grace and peace, and to grow throughout the days of our lives. These are why Peter felt persuaded to write this letter. Two questions remain; do you know Christ and His saving power in your life? Are you growing in knowledge of Him, which leads you to be more like Him every day?