The Proper response is Diligence

Diligence Peter

Sunday 01/15/23

Message – The Proper response is Diligence

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The Proper response is Diligence

Last week we started 2 Peter, a letter he most likely wrote as a followup to his former letter. It is hard to tack down precisely who it was that Peter was specifically writing to, since the content of the first letter appears to indicate a largely Gentile audience, yet his introduction would seem to indicate a Jewish one. Knowing Peter however, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Early on, even before Paul, it was Peter who was convinced by the Holy Spirit that there was NO difference between Jews and the rest of the world when it came to message and the truths of salvation by faith in Jesus through Grace. 

We only covered the first two verses last week since they so richly set the pace for all that he was to write in the rest of the letter.

In the first verse he addressed what I have already indicated and that is that regardless of who you are, the message and the person of Jesus revealed in the message of the good news is identical for all and because it reveals the heart of God the Father through the revelation of His Son. It is valuable and priceless beyond the telling.

In verse two Peter evokes a sort of blessing on them, and by extension all believers of all time by saying… 

(2)  May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!”

That is to say that this Grace and Peace, which we defined last week, WILL BE poured out lavishly upon any and all Christians AS they GROW in Christ… and we will see today, that growth in Christ is directly tied to our commitment and dedication to Him.

Now, just to bring you back up to speed with where we are, let me remind you what the words grace and peace mean in this context.

Grace, in this context is pointing to God’s goodwill, favor, blessing, acceptance, kindness towards us in Jesus which causes gratification and joy. 

Peace means the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, fearing nothing from God and as a result that person is content with their earthly lot, whatever it is. 

This peace is the direct result of redemption and consists primarily of a state of conscious reconciliation with God.

So our growth into Jesus and His image is directly tied to our moment by moment conscious awareness of our reconciliation with God.

This awareness creates a settling in our hearts from their restlessness and it is LAVISHED upon us AS WE GROW in the experiential and rich knowledge of the Father through knowing the Son, Jesus our LORD!

This settling is MOST important, for without it, we either live in constant despair or striving. 

I think this truth is beautifully captured in one of my favorite quotes from Augustine. In his Confessions he wrote, 

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

I’ve tried to illustrate this for you in times past by comparing the truth of our human condition to that of a fish. A fish was not made for land, much less the desert – it was made for water. Water is the native environment for aquatic animals and they can neither have satisfaction nor life if they attempt to live elsewhere.

I’m like manner, God is the native environment for all humans and we will know neither satisfaction nor life if we attempt to live elsewhere.

It was in view of this that we read the passage in James, where he pointed out that the unsettled condition of our souls expresses itself outwardly in fights, arguments and envy. He then said, this was due to our selfish ambitions and intentions. 

We want the wrong things because we are looking for satisfaction, fulfillment and life in something other than what we were designed for, namely God. That is what makes it wrong. 

So we don’t get it – all we get is more frustrated. We then try to “spiritualize” our carnal desires by asking God for them. God will not fulfill those desires because what we are asking for is wrong. Not necessarily because of WHAT is desired, but because our motive for asking is entirely selfish.

Praying wrongfully is any prayer where our flesh born desires are the primary focus and we are the primary beneficiary. 

Flesh born desires run  contrary to the spiritual life and, going back to our illustration, makes us fish out of water.

This week we will begin with another example of this which is even clearer because it points out God as the source of our real contentment.

Turn with me to Hebrews 13:5-10

In our primary passage – the 2nd letter of Peter, he tells us that as we grow in our experiential knowledge of Jesus, these cravings for external things diminish and are replaced with a satisfied knowing of the deep value of those things we already possess, the greatest of which is acceptance with God coupled with His everlasting favor. 

Show me a truly dissatisfied Christian and I will show you a Christian who has forgotten the favor and the peace they have in Him!

Let’s read this passage in Hebrews 13 beginning in verse 5

“(5) Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” 

(6)  So we can say with confidence, 

“The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?”  

(7)  Remember your leaders, who spoke God’s message to you; reflect on the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.  

(8)  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!  

(9)  Do not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings. For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not ritual meals, which have never benefited those who participated in them.  (10)  We have an altar that those who serve in the tabernacle have no right to eat from.”

You know I was thinking yesterday of a visual which could help illustrate the need for salvation to the lost who cannot wrap their head around why a God would make a race that would need saving in the first place. What is it about our “fall” that makes salvation necessary?

Well it is the same thing that makes the believer discontent!

Jesus illustrated the relationship of the believer to Him and the Father by comparing us to branches of a vine.

In that analogy, He points out both our purpose as humans and also our native environment.

We will not be happy until we are like Him which is what the “fruit bearing” is all about. The rub is, that we cannot produce fruit outside of union with Him – we were never designed to! 

This is NOT a result of the fall – it was and IS an absolutely necessary result of being the created rather than the Creator.

It would be impossible for God to make ANYTHING that did not NEED Him because He IS the source. 

Even if God made humans so that they could produce fruit outside of intimacy with Him, it would still be God Who gave them that capability – He would still, of necessity, be our source.

When we, through rebellion, severed our connection with God, we immediately became aware that we were different from Him and so began – instinctively, attempts to bear fruit FOR HIM, which would make us comfortable, content and accepted in His presence. 

The problem with this is that a branch cannot bear fruit outside of its connection to the vine. A severed and dead limb cannot produce fruit – it needs both a connection to the vine and the life of the vine flowing through it in order to fulfill its purpose. Without that, a branch can NEVER be satisfied, it can never be truly happy and it will never find true and lasting contentment.

What did Augustine say?

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

This is not some curse that fell on us at the fall so much as it is simply the natural condition and result of being severed from Him. 

Even now, as His children, as we buy the lies of the devil, namely, that contentment can be found elsewhere, we experience that lack and that restlessness afresh. It is the result of seeking for identity and contentment outside of our union with Him.

That is what Peter was addressing from the positive rather than the negative in our key text. 

Deep soul satisfaction and blessings are lavished upon us as we grow in our union with the Father through the Son.

Back in our primary passage in 2 Peter, Peter is so confident in this prayer for them BECAUSE of what the Father has done for us in Jesus!

2Peter 1:3, 

“(3) I can pray this because His divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the One Who called us by His Own glory and excellence.”  

Life is of course union and intimacy with God – it is described as the highest place of blessedness any created being can have and enjoy!

Godliness is lived out in many ways, but at its core it simply means devotion to God. Devout and reverential love!

So Peter, a man who perhaps more than most due to his history with Christ was deeply motivated to really know Him, is telling us that all God’s power has given to us all that is needed for coming to know Him intimately and become like Him, through experiencing Him in the now. 

All we need for growing and ongoing intimacy with God and reverent devotion to Him is gained THROUGH the rich and experiential knowledge of Him.

Who makes the acquisition of this knowledge possible? Who do we have encounters with, by which we come to know Jesus and the Father?

The Holy Spirit Whom we have received as the downpayment of our great inheritance!

God has invited us into this excellent life of deep soul satisfaction, joy and delight and transformation into the likeness of God by means of His Own glory and virtue or excellence.

What does that mean? 

It means that it is due to and by means of God’s internal character of glorious and excellent perfection that He drew us and invited us back to Himself through faith in the revelation of His Son!

This reminds me of something I heard in a message entitled, “A Grain of Wheat” from Major Ian Thomas, a mid-20th century British evangelist and theologian. 

He said,

“It was the life of Jesus that qualified Him to die our death, and it was His death that qualified us to live His life.”

You will see this all the more in these next few verses.

Peter tells us that the Father’s glory and excellence is the means of our great gifts and promises in Christ Jesus.

2Peter 1:4->

“(4)  Through these things He has bestowed on us His precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the Divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.”

Some of the promises:

  • 1Jn 5:11, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
  • 1Jn. 2:25,“And this is the promise that He has promised us-eternal life.”
  • 1Jn 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
  • John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Not to mention the person of the Holy Spirit was also a promise of the Father…

  • Luke 24:49, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

We take on God’s nature – His likeness which we were created in and for, by means of the promises He has given us – AFTER we have escaped the corruption of the world which is produced in us by evil, fleshly desires.

Those same desires James spoke of which causes us to be unsettled, restless, fighting, warring, arguing, envying…etc.

You know this list is mentioned again in James and I think it makes the situation appear as grave as it really is. It is found in the 3rd chapter, beginning with verse 13…

James 3:13-18,

“(13) Who is wise and understanding among you? 

By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.  

(14)  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth.  (15)  Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic.  

(16)  For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.  

(17)  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical.  

(18)  And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.”

2Peter 1:5->

“(5)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge;  (6)  to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness;  (7)  to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.”  

I can’t help but think of another passage which stresses our sober and diligent response to God’s promise who in this case is the Holy Spirit. 

It is Phil. 2:12-13,

“(12) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (13)  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

Now, the idea of adding one to another or producing the subsequent one by the former is not the central idea here – at least I don’t believe it is.

The word “Add” is epichorēgḗso, from epí meaning upon, and chorēgéō meaning to furnish or give

So fundamentally the idea of “add” is to furnish in addition to, to supply further, to add more unto.

I mean it seems simple enough but I even read from one commentator that the order in which these virtues appear are inconsequential and yet, if one logically follows the other or if one is specifically produced by the other, then it would seem that order is in fact paramount to the meaning.

In the end though I would argue that it doesn’t matter intellectually, because if there is an inherent order to these things, then by submitting yourself to the inner work of the Spirit, one will automatically begin to emerge from or be produces as a result of the former and your knowledge of which is to produce which is immaterial.

The larger notion here, which is also stated is, that because God has furnished us with such great promises and such great means by which we can and are to become like Him, the proper response is to meet that benevolence with diligence on our part.

If it really means anything, then it literally means everything! 

Christ IN US is the entire purpose and scope of the New birth and as such, cannot be treated passively IF it is truly believed and appreciated. 

In recent months I’ve found myself drawn to a public figure whose ongoing struggle between the necessity for morality and its connection with a God Whose character is the very definition of morality has really gripped me. 

His name is Jordan Peterson. He is a Canadian media personality who used to be a clinical psychologist and professor at Harvard.

In my view, though his story and the potential outcome of his story may be radically different, his struggles remind me in some measure of those of Martin Luther the German monk and primary figure of the Protestant Reformation

This Canadian professor clearly has brushed up against God, in that he cannot and will not deny His existence and that he has come to the moving and inescapable conclusion that true belief equates to actions and transformation. 

When he speaks on topics which are immediately close to Jesus, faith and transformation his emotions catch up with him and reveal a man who is inwardly wrestling with God.

I took the time yesterday to take a sampling from some of his interviews and lectures which illustrates this point we just read in Peter that in view of the investment God has made in and towards us in His Son, His promises and the potential of realizing genuine transformation into His character we MUST meet that investment with diligent action.

Here’s the clip – 

He said…

“Who would have the audacity claim that they believe in God if they examined the way they lived? Who would dare say that?

To have the audacity, to claim that means that you live it out fully.

That’s what it means to believe.

It doesn’t mean to state it, it means to act it out!

And unless you act it out, you should be very careful about claiming it.”

So Peter says…

2Peter 1:5-8

“(5)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge;  (6)  to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness;  (7)  to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.”  

(8)  For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.”  

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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