How much clearer could Peter be when he said:
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)
There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.
As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.
Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:
Virtue (or moral excellence)
This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.” This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.
It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.
A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.
Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.
This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.
I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.
This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.
Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.
Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver. Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.
Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.
Today’s morning lesson moved on from the topic of Virtue and moved to the second item in Peter’s list of characteristics that Christian should develop. In fact, Peter’s lesson is that that these characteristics need to exist and abound. They are the characteristics which seem to be basic foundational characteristics. While you might read Peter’s statement to say “If you don’t have them, you won’t make it; I would suggest that we look at it more as “we have already made it and we need to grow or else we will go backwards” No Christian should fail to make it to Heaven but if you are not willing to grow in these characteristics you are so shortsighted as to be blind.
Virtue coming before knowledge makes sense since Virtue is when we say “I will do it ” and knowledge says “This is what I need to do”. Determining to do God’s will and then being taught it has been the way people of faith have always responded. Israel agreed to do God covenant in Exodus 19 and then learned what it was in Exodus 20.
So we see that the second characteristic is Knowledge. A word that contains many meanings. To know something as a fact, to understand something from study or to comprehend something from experience are all types of knowledge and this time, in Peter, knowledge is likely a bit of all: facts, study and comprehension. If we want to know God, we need to know Jesus. This is more than just a fact but an understanding of who Jesus is as well.
We should not think that we have NO knowledge right now, in fact Peter uses the phrases “knowledge of him” and “knowledge of God” in verses 2 and 3 to show that by this knowledge we have those things that pertain to life and godliness, or put simply: “You are Christians because of what you know of God (implied: obedience to the Gospel). That makes sense doesn’t it? Peter couldn’t very well be talking to Christians who had never heard the Gospel and had no knowledge at all of Jesus.
This is in line with the Great Commision of Matthew where Jesus sends the Apostles out to Make disciples, baptize them, and teach them the commandments. (Mt 28) You make a disciple by preaching the Gospel, those that believe and respond are baptized and then taught the other commands (knowledge) later on. Read though Acts 2 and you will see this exemplified. The Gospel preached, the people respond, the disciples are then taught more things to build upon the knowledge they have.
Two points are worth noting about this. One is that we GROW in knowledge and the other is we need certain attributes to be able to gain knowledge.
As we look through the Bible, we see Abraham, Moses and even the Apostles learning more as they spend time with God and/or Jesus. In fact, in a particular stunning example, Luke records two times in Luke 9 and Luke 22 when the Apostles argued over who was the greatest. (I guess some lessons take longer to learn than others). Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 8 that some didn’t even have settled in their mind such a basic concept as there is only one God and idols are not a god at all. Still, patience is needed with these brethren not criticism. We all grow in knowledge and knowledge is not the basis for our Salvation. Some basic knowledge is needed so that we can have faith but, for example, an in-depth study and knowledge of eschatology (some reading this might think “huh? what’s that?) is not needed to get into Heaven.
An attitude that wants to learn is also needed. The humility that children bring to the learning process, as well as the questions is essential. We need to be teachable. Additionally, we need to be quick hearers and slow speakers. (James 1:19) It is hard to learn when you are talking. A third element is to “NOT” know. When we say that we know or understand or see and do not take the time to investigate and study or listen to a teacher, we remain blind. (Many teenagers fit this category) The Pharisees had this problem as well. They thought they were so tight with God that nothing could shake it. They did not realize that they had a bad relationship with him.
So before we get knowledge, we need to realize we are adding to what we have, we should be patient (with ourselves and others) as we learn and we should develop the attitude that says I want to learn, not I have already learned all I need to know.
The sermon is here.
A lesson like this is hard to preach because it too often applies to me. It affects almost all of us in some way or another and so when I present a lesson like this, there is always a disclaimer: This lesson is one I need too.
In studying virtue, it seems that wisdom must play a part and one of the people who seem to have the least amount of wisdom is the procrastinator. Sloth is one of those things we are encouraged to leave behind in childhood yet it can persist among adults nonetheless. Peter, in encouraging his audience to add good qualities to their faith, did not mention wisdom and yet, it is hard to imagine an a virtuous person who did not have wisdom. Even in the first chapter Wisdom cries out and tries to teach. She says in effect that the calamity that come upon you for lack of wisdom is your own doing. Those who suffer from calamity the most are the sluggards and lazy procrastinators, who will not do what they should be doing.
To procrastinate can be as simple as putting something off but implied in the word (and the reason why we are warned against laziness) is because the procrastinator puts it off to the point of missing an opportunity or causing distress in his life or the lives of others. We are not discussing the problem of procrastinating laundry folding in favor of reading a book (unless the laundry has been piling up for three weeks and you need clean socks), it is more the procrastinating of important things like book reports, Dr. visits, exercising, apologizing or even preaching the Gospel until the opportunity passes.
To help understand the causes of procrastination, we might look at a chart that I first saw in Steven Covey’s book “the 7 habits of highly effective people”. Here is a picture of it:
What we can see from this is that each task of your life can fit into one of those four quadrants. The urgent, important things are usually immediate needs like phone calls, a fire, a heart attack. Whereas the important non urgent items are things like spending time with family, exercising, visiting the doctor for a check-up and things we put off more easily than a ringing phone. Of course, the spiritual applications are many which will be made in further lessons.
The causes then of procrastinating could be from pure laziness. Spending our time on non important and non urgent things because we want to, or because we are afraid to venture out into the other aspects of our life. Sluggards can always find a reason (“There’s a lion in the street” they cry.) Or perhaps it just doesn’t seem the right time. I will plant seed and do a lot of watering to catch up. I want to have fun now!
Sometimes the procrastination is from being too busy. We have put what we perceive to be important things (and they are) so high above other important things that we are out of balance. We spend 80 hours at work and none with our kids, we spend so much time teaching others, we don’t teach our families. We give so much to God, we have none to help the poor or parents with. (Mt 15)
And then sometimes, we just do not see the urgency. There will be another opportunity to do this or that. We, of course, do not even know our own life’s length, much less the length of another’s. The Thorny soil in Mark 4 represented those who were busy. Once I have my fortune made, then I will serve the Lord may will have been their thinking.
The solutions to procrastination may be more involved then this advice, but it is a good place to start: Go to the ant!
Consider how the ant works and gathers and needs no prompting. She gathers for the now and for the winter. Also, you might consider how different the Bible would have read had Abraham procrastinated when God told him to offer up his son Isaac. Yet, the scriptures say that Abraham arose early in the morning for their trip. Gen 22. He didn’t say ” plenty of time, wait for me to enjoy him a few years.” Or even more dramatic, we wouldn’t be reading this blog had Noah decided to procrastinate on the Ark. 120 years goes by fast! What if he had waited a couple of decades?
We should remember that Time is not a savable commodity and while our life may be full of “non urgent” things, the important ones need to be attended too. Bible reading and Bible study (two different concepts), prayer, preaching, and visiting others are all things we can “put off” and perhaps we don’t see the danger now but eventually we will.
A man of virtue will not procrastinate. The sermon is here.