Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Day 48 - Precious And Growing Faith

2 Peter 1:1-2 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

Seven times in the books of first and second Peter we come across this word precious. Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines it as: "1. Of great price; costly; as a precious stone. 2. Of great value or worth; very valuable. 3. Highly valued; much esteemed." Something precious is worth more because of its rarity. For example, think of a precious stone - worth much more than a common stone because it is rare. Here are the seven things that Peter declares are precious:

a) The Trial Of Your Faith

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

b) The Precious Blood Of Christ

1 Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

c) A Living Stone (ie. a true believer - precious to God)

1 Peter 2:4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,

d) The Corner Stone (Christ)

1 Peter 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

e) Jesus

1 Peter 2:7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

f) Like Faith - 2 Peter 1:1 (quoted above)

g) Exceeding Great And Precious Promises

2 Peter 1:3-4 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

As these verses clearly state, God's Word (and the precious promises found therein) are given to His children to enable us to live in a godly manner in this present evil world. Godliness means "Godlikeness, holiness." Corruption means "Depravity; wickedness; perversion or deterioration of moral principles; loss of purity or integrity." The Lord wants us to be like Him in this world, holy, separated from sin and wickedness. We are to cling to these promises and walk in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord, a manner that refuses to give in to the corruption and moral decay around us. According to God's Word, with these promises and the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, we have all we need to live for the Lord and to do His will.

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

It is worthwhile to note that 2 Peter 1:3 states that we will be able to do this, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

It is through walking with the Saviour day by day that we learn to be more like Him. As we diligently spend time in His Word and grow in our knowledge of Jesus, then we will become more like Him, as this verse teaches:

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

One main theme of Second Peter is that of knowledge. Seven times this word is used in this book: 1:2, 3, 5, 6, 8; 2:20; and 3:18. It is this knowledge believed and applied that will set us free from sin.

John 8:31-36 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Consider this verse:

2 Peter 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

In this case, they had a knowledge of Jesus Christ, but it wasn't taken to heart - it wasn't believed; therefore these apostates being referred to went back to the pollutions of sin that they were entangled in before.

But we do not need to be like them! If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, you have His precious promises and the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

Virtue means "Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue, as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion... A particular moral excellence... Excellence; or that which constitutes value and merit."

2 Peter 1:5-7 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

We are not to be lax in our spiritual growth, but are to be diligent in it, earnest, taking the effort needed to ensure that we grow in our walks with the Lord. If we are living (ie. spiritually alive), there should be evidence of it, there should be growth. Of course, each believer will grow at different rates, depending upon their exposure to the Word of God (how much it is understood and applied); upon their fellowship and service in their local New Testament church; upon their separation from sin and any teachers/teachings that contradict God's Word (see Psalm 1:1-3); among other things. According to Peter, growth will take effort on our parts.

If you are saved - if you have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation - then you have a measure of faith, but we are to add to that, to build upon it. The word giving in the phrase "giving all diligence, add..." means "to bear in alongside, i.e. introduce simultaneously." While I do believe that this passage presents an order for spiritual growth in our lives, it also indicates that we are to keep working on each of these areas as we move to the next one - we are to keep introducing these seven characteristics simultaneously as we walk with the Lord. We are not to work on the first area and then abandon it when we get to the second one - but are to build upon each element of growth already strengthened. The word add means "to furnish besides, i.e. fully supply, (figuratively) aid or contribute." Like doing renovations on a house, we keep adding and building, furnishing the house, making the structure better over time; even so, we are to keep working on these seven areas of growth, diligently taking and applying these characteristics to our lives, and building upon each element as we mature in the Lord - furnishing our lives with these seven things.

1. The first thing we are to add is Virtue.

"[Virtue] characterized the very finest of Roman manhood: strength, valor, courage, and excellence. My friend, these same qualities should also characterize your life and mine. How the world needs believers who have the courage to stand for that which is right and to stand up and be counted for God in this day! Therefore Peter is saying, 'Add to your faith courage.' (McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers] 2000, c1981.)

2. Then Knowledge.

We are to learn more from God's Word, about the Saviour, about His will for our lives, about Bible principles and promises - letting the Word of God be the filter we gauge ALL our life by, every part of it. The Bible is to be our sole authority in all things for faith and practice. That means it is to be where we obtain all our beliefs (doctrines) from, and also where we look to see how the Lord would have us live day by day.

One thing that puzzled me a little when I was studying out this passage months ago, in preparation for preaching it, was that we are commanded to add virtue first, then knowledge. Why? On a practical level, we ALREADY know much that we should be applying to our lives - and I believe the Lord is indicating that we should be putting into practice what we already know. If we do that, we have this promise:

Mark 4:23-25 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

When we take and apply what we already know, the Lord will give us more. When we disregard what the Holy Spirit has been teaching us, then the Lord states that we will lose what we already have. Personally, I believe this is why many professing Christians have a difficult time remembering what they have learned and studied from God's Word - they are not applying it! It is all head knowledge or entertainment to them - but the Lord wants us to live what we learn - then He promises to give us more.

3. Then Temperance.

Notice how each of these seven characteristics build upon one another. We are to add virtue, then knowledge, then temperance - each of these being continually developed. What is temperance? Self-control. First I take courage and work on those areas I need to; then I build on that knowledge. When I know what I need to do, then I use self-control and apply that knowledge and virtue to my life.

4. Then Patience.

This word, as used in the Bible, is different than how we use it today. Strong's Concordance gives this definition of patience: "from 5278; cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy." #5278 means "to stay under (behind), i.e. remain; figuratively, to undergo, i.e. bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere." Patience is the ability to stick with the trial, to work through it, to undergo the trial and learn what the Lord would have you to learn. Without patience, we would flee the trial and not grow or be strengthened as believers. But the Lord wants us to continue to apply His Word to our lives, to continue applying what we know to be right even in the midst of the trials; adding to that knowledge, and being temperate in those areas we have already grown in.

5. Then Godliness.

This is becoming more like our Saviour, more like God (Godliness equals Godlikeness). Strong's defines it as "piety," and Webster's defines piety as "Piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of his character, or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to his will and devotion to his service." Combining these definitions, we see that godliness and piety indicate a drawing closer to the Lord, becoming more like Him, more devoted to Him. Our growth should not just be outward - ie. putting things out of our lives and adding other things in - but should also be inward - ie. developing a love and devotion to our Heavenly Father that is strengthened and increased over time. Otherwise, I think we could be in danger of merely going through the motions, and that will eventually fail us and cause us to stumble when our love grows dim.

6. Then Brotherly Kindness.

Love for our brethren is next. As we grow in our virtue and knowledge, and learn how to apply that to our lives, then patiently endure and persevere through the trials, showing Christlikeness to those around us, then we are to add brotherly kindness to our lives. That means caring for other believers - for our spiritual family. This is the proof of our growth. It is easy to say we love others, it is easy to change some outward things in our lives - but how do we treat our brethren? Do we love them? Is that evident in our actions and attitudes towards them?

Kindness is defined by Webster's as "Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature."

The book of 1 John gives brotherly love as one of its tests to indicate whether someone is a true believer or not:

1 John 3:14-18 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

1 John 4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Are you loving in word (ie. with just your mouth), or in deed (ie. with your actions) and in truth (ie. according to the Word of God)?

7. Then Charity.

Matthew Henry defined charity as love for both God and man. When the translators believed just one was in view, they translated the word as love - but when the context indicated both God and man were being spoken of together, charity was used. The word charity comes from the Greek word agape - which is the deep, selfless, sacrificial love of God. We are to learn to love our brethren first, then we are to learn to love the rest of mankind - the lost - with the selfless love of God. And we are to grow in our love for God too. In fact, this passage lists the order of love toward God and man:

Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Love is shown by obeying God, doing His will, obeying His commands.

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Love is an action word. To actively love others, I will obey God's Word (and commandments) in my dealings with them - I will treat them as Christ has treated me. I will not steal from them, or lie to them; I will not lust sexually for them (ie. neither commit physical adultery with them, nor adultery in my heart), nor covet anything they own; I will not kill them, or bear false witness against them. But true love isn't just limited to what we shouldn't do, it also focusses on what we should do to our neighbours - yea, even to our enemies:

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Luke 10:29-37 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Matthew 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

1 Corinthians 13 gives a wonderful description of charity (agape love) as an action word:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth...

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Growth involves becoming more and more like (ie. being conformed to) the Lord Jesus Christ, day by day:

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Growth involves renewing our mind and being transformed by His Word:

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Growth involves becoming more holy in our walk, more godly - more Godlike and Christlike:

1 Peter 1:14-15 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

When we take and apply these seven elements of spiritual growth:

virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity,

then we have this promise to claim:

2 Peter 1:8-11 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As long as we are abounding in these seven areas of Christian growth, we have God's promise that we will not stumble or fall in our faith; instead, we will be fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is when we cast off these seven characteristics, when we stop diligently working on these seven areas, that we are in danger of getting blinded by compromise and sin - and that is a road we do not want to go down. It is a scary place to wander so far from the Lord that we no longer have that inward assurance of our sins being forgiven. Better to walk closely to the Lord, keep short accounts with Him, and have that full assurance of hope, faith, and understanding that can be ours as we keep our eyes and hearts clinging steadfastly to the Saviour.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Colossians 2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

One last verse for you today:

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Are you growing in your walk with the Lord?

Is there evident growth in these seven areas of your life?

Are you closer to the Lord, and more like Him, today - more than last year, last month, yesterday? If not, why not?

2 Peter 1:5-7 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

Give all diligence!

August 7th/07
Jerry Bouey

60 Day Devotional Series: Numbers In The Bible

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Thank you for this post....very helpful and encouraging

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