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A Fruitful Faith (2 Peter 1:8-15) – Mark Ottaway

Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time

A Fruitful Faith       

2 Peter 1:8-15


Turn to 2 Peter 1. Do you ever question your salvation? Or we might say, do you ever question your faith? These are actually two different questions. For saying, I question my salvation really is saying, I believe God’s Word, I believe that Christ came and lived and died for sin and was buried and rose again, that there is a real heaven for those who trust in Christ, and there is a real hell for those who do not. But I question whether I am of that group, the saved? Why? I just have doubts about my own salvation. Maybe I do not know for certain a time when I was saved. I am not sure I really understand everything about biblical salvation or conversion. My lifestyle does not convince me that there has been a real change in my life. So, though I believe in the biblical story, I am not convinced that I am part of the group that will be saved. Now saying, I question my faith is a little different. For when I say I question my faith, I am really saying, I am not sure that the Christian faith is the only faith, or maybe there are more ways to God than only through Christ. In fact, though I claim to believe in Christ, how do I know the Bible is completely truth or even truth at all. Is there a real heaven and hell? Was there really a Man named Jesus who died for the sins of the world? So, to say, I question my salvation, is really saying I believe, but I am not sure I am saved. To say, I question my faith, is really saying I believe, but I am not sure that the faith we read about in the Bible is actually the faith.


Now to complicate matters, we are also very emotional people. Therefore, sometimes circumstances make us waver in our faith. That at one time you might have been so certain about your faith. But because of life, disappointments, and discouragements, now I am not so sure. Maybe when you were a young person and came to Christ, you were so excited about your faith, and it seemed that nothing was impossible. But now maybe because of some disappointments or a lack of growth in your own life, discouragement has caused you to have some doubts. Or maybe because of the lack of growth in others, those who may call themselves believers, who, at least to you, show no signs of being a true believer. Yes, many believers struggle with this assurance. Maybe thinking that my life must attain some kind of standard in regard to the law. I am too sinful! I don’t know if I have been forgiven. Or believing that somehow I earned my salvation, therefore, I must earn my continued salvation. Lord, I still struggle with sin, it is still a battle for me. Or Lord, if I am truly a Christian, then why is this going wrong in my life or why has this happened to me?


Yet we do see certainty in the lives of some in the Bible. Someone like Job even in his despair seems to be certain. “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will rise up over the dust of this world. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall behold God” Job 19:25-26 (LSB). Or as Paul seems to know writing, “knowing, brothers beloved by God, your election” (1 Thess 1:4). Or the writer of Hebrews seems to know as he speaks about his readers. Heb 10:22, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”


Well, this is a big topic. The blessing of knowing, being certain, and having a full confidence that I am truly a child of God, that I share the same “kind of faith” as these early New Testament believers. We have been learning on Sunday evenings that faith is the belief in who Jesus is. It is the belief in what the Bible tells us that He existed with the Father in eternity past. That He came to earth as a Man, lived, died, was buried, rose again; appeared to hundreds of people, now lives with the Father, and is coming back to receive those who are His. See, faith is not some abstract thing that helps you get better, or believes that you will get that job you want. No, faith is believing in what Christ did and promised to us. And the assurance of faith is that I believe in Christ and everything the Bible says about Him. And therefore, I will serve Him as my Master and Lord. So that when something difficult comes into my life, my faith still says, Lord, I still believe in You. That even during life’s storms, Lord, I will wait upon You.


And therefore, the true Christian, through all the ups and downs of life, does not bail but perseveres in serving Christ. So, let’s begin by asking the Lord to guide us this morning in our study. Lord, may we be guided this morning by your Spirit. May Peter’s words be a warning to us. But also an encouragement to us as he speaks about a fruitful faith. Lord, this is a dear congregation, continue to stretch us and grow us. Help me to communicate the truth this morning, that we as a congregation would know Your perfect will for our lives. And may we desire you will. Amen. Look how Peter begins in our passage this morning:

“For if these things are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Pet 1:8 (LSB)


What are the things he is referring to? Verses 5-7, the things we looked at last week: moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Notice how Peter expresses this (vs 8) if these things are yours? and are increasing? That phrase is huge in understanding our sanctification. For if he had said, if these things are yours, we might get the impression that if these things are not part of my life fully on a day-to-day basis, then I am not of the same kind of faith. But he says here, if these things are yours and increasing. What does that tell us? That tells us that yes, we are to be diligent to apply these things to our lives, but they are not perfected yet, by the insinuation that they also need to be increasing. So, may this be an encouragement to us that yes, I have not fully attained these things yet, but am increasing in these things. But may we also understand the fact that Peter expects us as believers to be diligently striving after these things. Because look what he goes on to say that if these things are yours and are increasing we are not useless or unfruitful.


Now the ESV says “ineffective or unfruitful.” In sports, that would be like saying, you’re not doing much out there. The NIV even softens this even more, “ineffective and unproductive.” Come on, pull up your socks a little, then you will be okay. The King James and New King James make this a little harsher, “barren nor unfruitful.” Hey, time to bear down or you’re going to be sitting on the bench. Whereas the Legacy Standard Bible and the NASB say, “useless or unfruitful.” Now, in our day and age we are not used to anymore saying to someone, “hey you guys are useless out there.” The Greek word “ar-gos’” is hard to interpret nicely, as it literally means “complete laziness” or “completely inactive.” In other words, you’re “useless” out there.


Here is the warning by Peter, and it is a firm warning. Professing Christian, if your energy is not into striving for such things as moral excellence, and that includes a lot, with little desire to know more about God. If you are not self-control in your choices and things such as anger. If you’re not pressing on for Christ, not striving to be godly, and not learning to love like Christ. If all those things are not urgent matters in your life, then spiritually, you are useless and unfruitful. Now you might say Mark, if you were the hockey coach that would be a little harsh. But if you are like me, we sometimes all need a kick in the pants. And besides, this is not me speaking. This is the Holy Spirit of God speaking through Peter. And why such an urgent message? Well, Peter has already said in 1 Peter 4:7, that the end of all things is at hand. Because it is time to be urgent, for there is still a lot of work to accomplish.

“For if these things are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Pet 1:8 (LSB)


Notice what we are striving for is the full knowledge of Christ because we are not jogging on a course so that when we die we can put our feet up. No, we are running a race that when completed we are to be like Christ. In the novel A Christmas Carol, Marley speaks quite bluntly to Scrooge about his life. Causing Scrooge to respond, Jacob speak comfort to me. The Bible is full of comfort. But as I mentioned last week, this passage is not one of them. Because Peter goes on:

“For in whom these things are not present, that one is blind, being nearsighted, having forgotten the purification from his former sins.”

  • Pet 1:9 (LSB)


In other words, if these spiritual qualities are not present and increasing in your life, not only are you useless and unfruitful, but spiritually you are blind, and near-sighted. In fact, you are actually living as if you have never been forgiven of all your sins. In other words, it would be like standing before the Lord in heaven someday, and the Lord saying, you know, you lived and acted like someone I never even forgave! So, where does Peter go with this? He has thrown out words like useless, fruitless, blind, and near-sighted. Is this you and I? Is there something that the Christian needs to do here?. It seems so:

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure; for in doing these things, you will never stumble.”

2 Pet 1:10 (LSB)


Am I to question my salvation? Could this be the Christian who is floundering around and stumbling? Or could this even be an unbeliever? Let me suggest to you whom Peter is addressing here to help you to understand this passage. One is the group of those who are believers and who possess the qualities that Peter has already talked about. And these same qualities are increasing in their lives, far from being perfect Christians, but with a great desire and therefore a great striving after godliness. The second group is those believers who need that spiritual “kick in the pants.” Who have become stagnant in their progress, and will take heed to the words of Peter. And would agree that yes, I need to bear down in my commitment to Christ.


Now to make clear here, we must be careful to understand these two groups of people. That this list of character qualities does not make someone a Christian. No, this list of character qualities exemplifies the true Christian. The work here in the true believer is the work of God. Paul writes that we are His workmanship. But we participate in that. God’s work allows us to participate. Our work has nothing to do with our salvation. But the life which has been given to us as a gift, causes our lives to change. I believe it is John MacArthur who says that from our perspective, I must persevere; and from God’s perspective, you will persevere. Will those who have faith in God, yet with little fruit to show for it, will they be saved in the end? Well, Paul speaks about this judgment day in 1 Corinthians 3:

“each man’s work will become evident, for the day [Judgment Day] will indicate it because it is revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

  • Cor 3:13-15 (LSB)


Will they be saved in the end? Yes, for no true believer will ever be saved by works. As this 1 Corinthians 3 passage is referring to eternal rewards. Salvation is a free gift from God. Rewards are greater blessings to those who give greater service to Christ. But here is the warning by Peter. Does this true believer, who has little to show in eternity, does he live and breathe and exist with a confident knowledge of his salvation and live with a thriving relationship with Christ? No, he does not live with any kind of assurance of his salvation in Christ. This is why Peter asks, are you stumbling all over the place? Are you dabbling with sin? Are you in a sinful relationship? Are you stealing? Lying? Living a hypocritical life? Acting like a Christian before say a Christian group, but very different when alone or before another crowd? Then you better make sure that you have truly been changed.


Hence, a third group. And I do not believe that Peter addresses this group specifically. For he addresses his letter (vs 1) to those who are of the same kind of faith. But indirectly, for (vs 10), make your calling and choosing sure assumes that there may be some who are sitting in Peter’s church, and maybe some who are sitting here this morning, who have yet to come to Christ. And if this is you, why would you put this off? Why would you not make your calling sure?


I know people who have claimed Christ, but they did not truly believe. They may have been baptised, they may have been part of ministry, yet they are not serving Christ today. In other words, what was maybe apparent on the outside at one time, was never a true transformation on the inside. And if you are a believer this morning and you know you are stumbling all over the place, why would you not strive for your Lord, so that you will (vs 10) not stumble? Alistair Begg said this:

“Failure to fulfill a call of duty, and a willingness to muck around with sin, will never in your life or in mine, be accompanied by the experience of assurance.”

Alistair Begg


He said the only possibility of assurance for someone who is living that kind of life must be a “delusion by Satan,” causing the person to believe that they have the assurance of salvation when they do not. And Begg concluded that “disobedience and assurance don’t sleep in the same bed.” Believer, we need these kinds of warnings, to make sure that we possess the “same kind of faith.” And unbeliever this morning, I plead with you to search your own heart regarding these things. Well I want to leave you with some encouragement this morning about this “Fruitful Faith.”

“Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been strengthened in the truth which is present with you.

2 Pet 1:12 (LSB)


  1. A Fixed Faith


I like how Peter said that he would always be ready to remind them of their commitment to Christ. We need this, don’t we? The reminder of our faith. Though as Peter says, even though you already know these things. That’s why you don’t want to miss church. And when you are away, to make sure you join with a body of believers. For the Lord has built into us the need for reminding. We also see here the benefit of hanging around those who remind you of your faith, to have strong believers around you that encourage and strengthen you. You need that and I need that. Young people, good to have other believers in your life, kids your own age, parents, and church family. Never underestimate the value young people in having godly relationships with adults.


Notice Peter here says we all need to be strengthened in the truth which is present with you. Romans 8:16, the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God. Sometimes my spiritual growth is directly related to how much I am willing to expose myself to spiritual truth. Therefore, if I limit study, listening to good messages, or church-life, I will relapse in my faith. But if I allow input from God’s Word, prioritize church and ministry, make sure that much of my life involves fellow believers; the result is a faith that will grow firmer. A faith that is securely fixed within me, that will stand firm to the end. A fixed faith, that does not stumble, but is unshakable and unmovable.

“I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.”

2 Pet 1:13 (LSB)


  1. A Flourishing Faith


To stir you up. There is that spiritual “kick in the pants.” We all have different personalities. Some of us may be more excited on the inside, while others show it more on the outside. While attending a session at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. A big black teacher said that you white guys like to say “amen” on the inside! I think we have all been somewhere, where there has been a great sermon, and there are a lot of “amens” going on. So encouraging! My Mom and Dad were raised Salvation Army. And when I was young they started to attend a Baptist church. Now the Salvation Army does not have believer baptism. So, both my Mom and Dad were baptized in the Baptist church, where they served in Baptists churches for the rest of their lives. And my Mom and Dad became Bible students of the Word and grew greatly over the years. They appreciated so much some of the deep biblical teaching they received. But my Dad would often joke, that the water baptism put some of that fire out. Insinuating that the Baptists were not quite as excitable as the Sally Ann’s.


I think we all know personalities. But we also know that whether it is an outward excitement, a heart that is moved to tears, or just a deep-seated love for the Lord, it is good to get stirred up in the faith. And I have called this a flourishing faith, because this type of deep faith flourishes in the life of the believer, but it is also contagious in that it stirs up others. And good for us to be able to stir others. The ability to take people where they are spiritually and move them along. Good to (not nag at our kids) but be able to stir them up. Learn to do that well. And likely the best way is a great desire to be stirred up by God yourself. And Peter again stresses the urgency of this, as he says, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling. A flourishing faith.

“knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has indicated to me.”

2 Pet 1:14 (LSB)


  1. A Forever Faith


Remember last week we spoke about the quality of godliness. The ability to live with a heavenly outlook. To be able to look ahead to really understand what is the most important thing. And Peter understands this as he says, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent.” That is a great perspective. That I am engaged in the lives of people. That my faith stirs others up. That I am thankful for every moment the Lord gives to serve and honour Him. Yet, at the same time, understanding that this is only for a time. That our earthly bodies may be taken from us at any time. Not in a morbid way that we would despair of life. But in a godly way, knowing that the Lord has full control of me. So, whether the Lord chooses to leave me here, I will rejoice in Him; or if the Lord calls me home, I will rejoice in Him. So, this is a faith that understands now that it is a forever faith. That quality of godliness that thinks eternal things. That is able to look at life from a spiritual perspective, understanding what really matters in eternity. A forever faith. Finally,

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

2 Pet 1:15 (LSB)


  1. A Factual Faith


Peter’s desire was that these truths would be truths in our minds. That faith is not some kind of wishful, out-there belief, that might take some kind of a leap of faith. No, faith is an intelligent belief in a Man who lived on the earth. That the entire Old Testament said that He would come. That over 100 Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ. And He came as the foretold Deliverer, the foretold King, the foretold sacrifice. And He came fully God and fully Man. Christ did exactly what the Scriptures said that He will do. And the Bible has told us that he will come again. Because the Christian faith is based upon truth, factual events. We have been learning Sunday evenings that the fact that the Word of God was written over 1500 years with over 40 authors, with themes woven through it, is an incredible tribute to the work of the Spirit in delivering the Scriptures. For God is not asking us to believe in nothing. God has placed the within you and I a conscience, giving us much direction in what is right and wrong. God has placed creation in front of us. And there is absolutely no kind of explanation of such a universe being created without the mind of a sovereign Designer and Creator. And God has also given us His Word, truth. That reveals to us the fact of God and the human dilemma of sin. And that God has resolved that issue by sending His Son. And everything we need to know about being saved has been given to us in the Bible. We have talked about a flourishing faith, that should grab our hearts. But realize that it is a factual faith, that should grab our minds.

“for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

2 Pet 1:11 (LSB)


Do you see what Peter is teaching here? “In this way,” all the things that Peter has been speaking of, the striving for the qualities he has been preaching: moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. And living a kind of faith that is fixed, flourishing, forever, and factual. All these things are incorporated in his words, “in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom.” Notice he does not just say the eternal kingdom. But the entrance to the eternal kingdom. This assumes that there is an anticipation that the entrance is open to the believer. Do you believe that? That as soon as the Lord chooses to take you from this world, that the entrance to God’s eternity is open for you?

“for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

  • Pet 1:11 (LSB)


That’s assurance, isn’t it? Knowing that the gates of heaven are open to you and the Father will receive you into His kingdom. We have many challenges in life: work, family, people, finances, and health. Our own challenges to do what is right. We also have the challenge of our culture. How sad to see it continue to spiral downward. And I don’t hold any great hope for the culture short of the Lord’s intervention in the hearts of people. And so, we might be inclined to get discouraged over a family issue. Or mad at our boss (Tammy does). Or disappointed over our health or our financial situation. Or just totally disgusted with what is going on in our society. But congregation, this is my heart for you, and would suggest that this is Peter’s heart: that you might be absolutely thrilled about a sovereign God, thrilled that He saved you, thrilled that your life has meaning and purpose because you have been called by Him, and thrilled that eternity has been opened up for you. And then, your life would now stir up those around you to be thrilled about having the same kind of faith. And all God’s people said, amen.