Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
Diligent for the Faith
2 Peter 1:5-7
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 1. Over these next few weeks Peter is going to continue on from the phrase we talked about last week, being of the “same kind of faith.” And this morning the focus will be on how to live that “same kind of faith,” while next week Peter is going to teach on how to have confidence that we have that “same kind of faith.” Each week I find it fascinating to look ahead and see what Peter will address. And I find, of course, that some weeks are harder than others. And some weeks are harder because the passage might be more difficult to explain, or even worse, when I am struggling to understand what Peter is saying myself. This is one of those weeks that is harder. But not for the reason that the passage is hard to explain or that the passage is hard for me to understand. But the reason this week is harder is that the passage is difficult to live. As teachers, it is always important that we encourage, comfort, make plain, and help direct. But this one is just full of challenges. And this makes it difficult for you, as it may tend to leave you thinking, I can’t do anything right! And it is difficult for me, as it may leave me thinking, they won’t like the teacher this week. Maybe you don’t every week! So, there can be a tendency that in such a sermon, to tune the speaker out as you might think, what does he expect from me? Yet I would direct this passage to myself as well and ask the question, what does God expect from me?
Sometimes we are given character qualities spread throughout the Bible in one of Paul’s letters or Peter’s letters. Or we may study a Bible character and think Lord, give me that kind of faith of Ruth or that kind of courage of David. But in these three verses, Peter blasts us with seven expectations as believers. They come out one after the other like a fire hose. Now remember this is off the heels of the truth that God has given to us His divine power that grants to us “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” We have everything available to strive for these things this morning. We might also think, Mark, this is a list for the giants of the faith. If that was the case there is no sense even preaching the words of Peter this morning as I am no giant of the faith. You might think, Mark, I am just an average Christian, I work at an average job, I raise great kids but am just an average Mom. Or Mark, I am just in high school, certainly this is not for me! But it is for you. It is for all of us average Christians. Because Peter has said to all Christians that we are to “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” There is no copping out of this.
So let’s ask the Lord to help us before we begin. Lord, Your Word this morning is going to teach us how to be diligent for the same kind of faith. May our minds be stayed on You over these next few moments, knowing Your wisdom is best for us, because we trust You. So, we pray that every mind here this morning, every Mom, Dad, adult, and young person, would deeply consider such profound truth. For we ask this in the name of Christ, amen. Middle of verse 1, “To those who have received the same kind of faith as ours.” What is required for those who possess this faith? Well, this is our passage, beginning in verse 5:
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
2 Pet 1:5-7 (LSB)
I warned you. So, Peter begins (vs 5), “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence.” Diligence is the Greek word “spoo-day,” which means a “maximum effort.” Remember last week we spoke about the football players coming out on the field, just about as pumped up as could be. And the difference of the ones who make the team and the ones who do not, are the players who give it their maximum effort. There is such a responsibility here. I believe that our salvation is by the grace of God. I believe that our salvation is an electing call by God on the dead sinner. But, but it requires that we give that call all diligence, maximum effort. And the Christian understands this. As the Christian has been given everything for life and godliness, so that we may be fully equipped. And now we are told to be diligent, indicating an urgency in our Christian walk.
It is a war, being fully equipped, as the battle before us is urgent. Therefore, never underestimate the urgency and effort required here for the battle, because Peter certainly does not. No biblical writer viewed this as a small thing or an easy thing. This is exactly why Jesus said to count the cost, because anyone who chooses to go into a battle, must be aware that it will not be easy. And there is not much room here for finger-pointing, as there is enough here to focus on individually to keep us constantly occupied. There is not a lot of room here to blame the quarterback, offensive lineman, the wide receiver. No, there is enough here set on my plate and thrown on your plate for the need to bear down and do what the Master has called us to do. Being diligent for the same kind of faith. Therefore, be diligent to:
- Live a High Bar (vs 5)
Middle of verse 5, “in your faith supply [or add to] moral excellence [or virtue].” Hard to miss the high bar which Peter presents. Paul also speaks about such living, “I press on toward the prize for the upward call.” Not really looking for second place. We always laugh anytime Canada is playing in the world junior hockey tournament, or the Canadian NHL guys are playing for Canada in the Olympics. And it is truly amazing how Canada often finds a way to win. But the times that we do not win, if our boys are there, Anne will say well at least we got the silver or the bronze. And our guys will quickly jump all over that. Mom, no, it’s gold or nothing. Nobody, especially Canada in hockey, wants second place. That is the picture we get here in this passage. That we are not “playing” in a sense for second place. We are playing for “excellence.” So, this means in the tasks and responsibilities the Lord gives to us, the life of purity that we are to live, our honesty, work-ethic, love, faithfulness, and commitment; in every area of our moral conduct, we are to be diligent to strive for moral excellence, to live a high bar. Next, Peter writes, (end of vs 5), “knowledge.” We are to be diligent to:
- Learn a Lot (vs 5)
Gain a greater knowledge of God. Deepen your understanding of who God is and what He has revealed to us in His Word. Now you might say, I am not a theologian. And I understand that as I don’t really consider myself a theologian either, though we all are, as we all have views of God. Yet certainly not compared with the depth of so many down through history who have studied the Scriptures inside and out. Yet, and back to our football analogy, to say that I don’t desire to know God more, would be like a football player saying, “Coach, I don’t run, I don’t sweat, I don’t get hit.” Can you read? Can you listen? Can you lay aside the distractions of life and the NIV “make every effort” to deepen your faith, know God more.
What would it take for you to read through the Bible this coming year? Twenty minutes a day? What would it take to attend a study you do not usually attend? What would it take to read a book that is a little more theological? Our generation has likely been given the opportunity to “learn a lot” more than most over the centuries, as we have more information in front of us, books, websites, sermons, and greater conveniences to give us more time than ever before. Our health care allows us to live longer than ever before. I have glasses so that I can even see to read. Therefore, be diligent to learn a lot. This is a great responsibility for the Christian. Next, beginning of verse 6, “and in your knowledge, self-control.” We are to be diligent to:
- Practice Wise Discipline (vs 6)
This word means to be self-controlled or self-disciplined. The challenge to have moral excellence is a reference to doing what is right, and to not sin. But this challenge of self-control, emphasizes a carefulness to place some fences around you. Things that are just not wise to do. Some things are just not wise to go to or watch. Not in a Pharisaic way, but just good wisdom living. Yes, this might be okay in my life, or this might be an option for me, but is it the best option for me, is it the best choice for my family. And being careful that I do not cause others to stumble. That yes, there is nothing specifically wrong with going to this place. But is that the best choice I could make.
The athlete is given freedom in his choices of eating and sleep and exercise. But to be the top athlete, he must be very self-disciplined. And there are times for the believer that he requires rest. And times when we might do some form of leisure that we greatly enjoy. But there are other times that we just might choose to waste time. Things that do not contribute or characterize a person who is diligent about their faith, and disciplined in their life. Therefore, to avoid being drawn into sin, drawn into wastefulness, drawn into being a bad example, the Christian must be self-controlled, he must be diligent to practice wise discipline. Next, middle of verse 6, “perseverance.” Be diligent to:
- Press On (vs 6)
Sometimes the Christian life is easier than other times, you know that. I’ve been to conferences where you are so encouraged by the speakers and it becomes easy to be passionate about your Christian walk. Sometimes circumstances can encourage us. Things are going well at work; our kids are unusually well behaved. We have been able to save some money for something we have been wanting. Ministry is going well, we are connecting well with others at church. Our Christian friendships are growing. We are just excited about what God is doing!
Whereas other times something is not going all that well. Circumstances have caused you to get down. Work or family or money or health issues are overwhelming. My excitement for church or devotions or the ministry I am involved with is being a little more of a struggle. Maybe loneliness, or the challenge I am going through. No one seems to be coming alongside of me. Peter says it is at that time to “press on,” persevere. Don’t allow troubles to move you away from God or lose faith in God, but may trouble turn us to God. Jams 1:12, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial.” Paul told the Roman Christians that trials and sufferings produce perseverance.
Why do some when life gets extremely difficult grow bitter, discontent, spiritually dead? While others deepen their faith, their connection to the Lord is rich? Why? Because they possess a real faith, they see the responsibility to press on. Did you know the quality of perseverance actually is proof of our faith? Jesus said in Matthew, that the one who stands firm will be saved. He said in Luke, if you abide, you are truly my disciples. This does not mean that someone is a true believer and then fell away because he or she did not persevere. No, it means that the one who is a true believer will abide, will continue on, will persevere. And this is not the power of positive thinking. This is a deep-rooted trust in Christ that I will continue to serve Him and find joy in Him, even when my situation becomes so difficult, I press on. Remember 1 Peter started out with this statement:
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Pet 1:6-7 (LSB)
I think we are all aware of Paul’s struggles in Romans 7, where he writes that he does the things he does not want to do, and the things he wants to do, he does not do them. This is life. This is the perseverance of our sanctification. Understanding that until I am someday glorified and become sinless, that this is going to be part of the battle. Yet listen to the words of Paul in Romans 7 as he fights this battle: (vs 19) I desire to do that which is right Lord; (vs 21) inside of me Lord, I want to do good; (vs 23-24) I hate the sin that battles against me; and (vs 22) I love the law of God. The unbeliever does not have this struggle. The unbeliever either enjoys his sin or justifies his sin. The believe cannot so this. The believer hates his sin. John Piper wrote:
“[T]here is a war raging on in the world between Christ and Satan, truth and falsehood, belief and unbelief … there are weapons to be funded and used, but these weapons are not swords or guns or bombs but the gospel and prayer and self-sacrificing love … [and] the stakes are higher than any other war in history; they are eternal and infinite: heaven and hell, eternal joy or eternal torment.”
John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life 105
So, this path of faith, this same kind of faith. Not a path that we take to get faith. But the path we will take if we possess true saving faith, this same kind of faith. Yes, there will be enemies who will come against us along to way, false ideas, false teaching, false ways in which to live. Yet, the true child of God will hold to this same faith. As those who have gone on before us. That those who come behind us will find us faithful. That will enable us to persevere, to press on. Proving the genuineness of our faith. Next, end of verse 6, “and in your perseverance, godliness.” Be diligent to:
- Think Godly (vs 6)
This one was the most enlightening for me, as I would suggest that it encompasses each of these qualities. The word godliness literally means a reverence for God. This is the picture of Christ in the Garden when everything as a human was caving in on Him, yet He desired the will of His Father. Some might say that this godliness is so much part of our Christlikeness, as this is having an eternal perspective while still in a temporal body. Our thinking, our thought-process moves ahead. Not that we become unrelatable to people, no, our concern for people and ministry grows so much deeper. Why? Because we care about deeper, more important things than just surface issues. And this is not easy, as humanly we are thinking about ourselves, and the here and now, and our welfare. And those things are not bad things. Yet, this goes beyond that to the spiritual health of ourselves, our family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. That co-worker, I don’t just care about his vacation he went on, though I will. But I care for his eternal soul.
Do you understand what we are saying here about godliness? Listen to what Paul told Timothy, “but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Do you see the timeless quality this godliness is? In other words, this kind of character quality matters now and it will matter then. Jumping from the present to the eternal. A deep reverence for God, godliness. It changes our thinking. It re-arranges our priorities. It has an effect on our time, our energies, our finances. Think godly. Then verse 7, “brotherly kindness.” Be diligent to:
- Esteem Others (vs 7)
This elevates others, it places a high value on other people. Treats others as you wish to be treated. Philippians 2, it considers others better than yourself. Christ was asked what is the greatest commandment, He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 [LSB]). And finally (vs 7), be diligent to:
- Love Like Christ (vs 7)
For us to love correctly, we first must learn to love from God. Obviously, a whole sermon could be preached on the love of God. In fact, a whole sermon series could be preached on the love of God and it would still never touch the depth nor the measure of God’s love. The song writer knew this didn’t he?
“Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.”
Frederick M. Lehman
And this love has been bestowed upon you and I as His children.
“See how great a love the Father has given to us, that we would be called children of God; and we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not been manifested as yet what we will be. We know that when He is manifested, we will be like Him.”
1 John 3:1-2a (LSB)
Did you catch that? “as yet what we will be.” That’s what? Looking ahead, godliness, revering God, Christ-likeness. When we speak of someone being godly, we are really seeing them as a greater manifestation of what they will eventually become in their perfection, when they are like-Christ. And the Bible says that “God is love.” For in eternity past, there was and continues to be a love relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Notice the Bible never says that “God is wrath.” Michael Lawrence writes:
“There was a time in eternity past when God’s wrath had no expression. But there has never been a time when God was not love, for the love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father is eternal. Absent sin, God could still be God without wrath. Absent sin, God could still be God without mercy. Absent sin, God could still be God without patience. But God cannot be God without love, for God is love, and there has never been a moment, and never will be a moment, when he is not.”
Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: 147
Let’s pray. Lord, would You help us with the task of being a believer. Give us the strength we need, the determination we need, to be diligent for the same kind of faith, amen.
Love. You know, we ourselves can even question the love of God. As it sometimes can revolve around me and my problems. And therefore, if things are going well, then God must love me, and if things are not, then God must not love me. But this is not the work of the love of God. For loves you so much He is not satisfied with fulfilling our earthly goals and dreams or making sure that everything in your day goes well. And I understand that great challenge this is for us. But again, we must think godly here, we must think ahead. For what the love of God is doing in us is conforming us into the image of Christ. And that takes struggles, trials, disappointments to come into our lives. See, I don’t think we are aware of the quality of the finished product yet. For to get us from where we are, to what Christ is like in His humanness, there are a lot of barriers to overcome. There is a lot of height to accomplish. This is why Paul writes to the Ephesians:
“But God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus [again, this godliness kind of thinking, looking beyond], so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Eph 2:4-7 (LSB)
May we not lose sight of the finished product. And what the Lord must do in us to being us to such a place. And to know the kind of love He must have for us. And this is how God wants us to love others, that yes, cares for the current needs of others, absolutely! But especially their spiritual health and depth. Lord, make us godly. Might we be a people who look well beyond the temporal, towards the eternal. Might we live a high-principled life, might we be ever-learning Your truth. Might we be disciplined. Lord, grant to us perseverance, that we would press on. May we think godly, esteeming each other, and learning to love like Christ. And we say thank You for such a change that You are doing in the heart of each believer. And all God’s people said, amen.