Sermon Manuscript . . .
Don’t Rest Assured–Prove Your Assurance
Motivation for Spiritual Growth, 2 Peter 1:8-11, part 1
It definitely happened to you–the circumstances were unique. But someone attacked your character. The statement hurt you, but it also motivated you–you were motivated to change because of what they said. They said, “You’re a no-good, good-for-nothing, lazy bum.” So you determined to worked hard to prove them wrong. “You’re a wimp.” So you start back at the gym to prove them wrong. “You are totally self-centered”–so you start serving. “You are a terrible parent”–so you tighten your approach. “You are an awful husband”–so you bring home flowers. “You don’t care about anyone”–so you hand out candy.
They say you’re a bad driver, so you wash your car. They say you’re a lousy cook, so you alt your food. They say you don’t look well, so you move from Hemet. You get fired up. You’re motivated with your life to prove them wrong.
The apostle Peter will tell you today, if you are an uncertain Christian–like nobody can tell for certain if you are born again, or no one is sure you’re going to Heaven. When they say at your funeral you’re in a better place–everybody wonders. You think you’re saved, but in 2 Peter the apostle challenges back–prove it. Prove it biblically. Make sure your claim of assurance is biblical, not cultural. Peter wants you to be certain. He will tell you, “Do not mess around with your eternity. Do not play with your salvation. Do not rest in an unsure place, but make certain you are saved.”
Some of you have been taught poorly. Your assurance rests on error, not truth. Others of you made a decision once, but your life shows no life of Christ. Others of you are following your own form of Christianity, but will end up in Hell. A few are relying on family, or church, or your own lifestyle for assurance. But Peter now teaches you just how dangerous that is. Peter teaches the only truth. And there are many who rest in their assurance–they’ve seen fruit through their lives in the past, they were used of God sometime ago and now they believe they’re secure. But Peter says, “Don’t rest assured, prove your assurance now, today, currently.
You say you’re a Christian today. Peter lovingly gets in your face and says, “Prove it!” You and I know, faith without works is dead. James 2 means your faith is useless, that those who don’t obey God’s commands but claim to be Christians, are liars (1 John 2:4). And today Peter adds, “Prove it–don’t simmer in the stew of uncertainty, don’t depend on past actions, don’t wonder in fear then do nothing. Prove you’re saved–demonstrate Christ’s life in you and through you, right now, currently.
Assurance of salvation is not based upon a decision, but a direction. Not a moment in your life from the past, but a movie of your life including the present. Maybe you’re held eternally secure, but the way you know you’re Christ’s possession and possessed by Christ is by who you follow, what you obey, the truth you believe and the current focus of your love. If you follow Christ, obey His Word, believe the Gospel and love Christ first–you will gain assurance. But if you don’t follow Christ, obey his Word, live his Gospel and love Christ above all else, then you will have no assurance. You are a question mark.
This is what Peter now teaches his readers and you in 2 Peter 1:8 to 11. Remember verses 1 to 2? You have been given Christ in salvation. Verses 3 to 4, now that you have Christ, you have all you need in Christ–He is sufficient. Then 5 to 7, now that you have Christ, you’ll pursue Christ-like character–He is your goal. And today, 8 to 11, now that you have Christ, you’re assured by pursuing Christlikeness–He’s your assurance.
Last week, the Lord taught us true spiritual life is evidenced by spiritual growth. Genuine born again Christians become like Christ. If you have Christ in you, then His character will leak out. If Christ is in you, He will show through you. Your growth comes through the Spirit and the Word in sanctification. This process of sanctification is dependent obedience, relying by faith on Christ, but also stepping out as an act of your will in obedience to the Word of God. So in your Christian life, you are vertically holding onto the Lord’s hand, while you horizontally step out in obedience to the Word of God.
But there are some other necessary directions in sanctification which result in your growth. Your sanctification involves fleeing and pursuing–running away and running toward. First Timothy 6:11, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Second Timothy 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
First Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality.” First Corinthians 10:14, “Flee from idolatry.” First Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love.” Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Too many friends define their faith merely by what they don’t do. They don’t drink or smoke or chew or go with girls that do–thus they must be okay. They don’t party, watch porn, cheat, steal, or cuss–therefore they think their saved. They don’t lie, gossip or malign others–therefore they believe they’re a Christian.
But the Bible says it is not only fleeing sin, but pursuing character that proves whether you are a Christian or not. Do not rest assured, prove assurance. Peter taught Christians in verses 3 to 4, you have a new nature to empower pursuit, and a supernatural ability to overcome the corruption of sin to empower fleeing.
Then next in verses 5 to 7, Peter makes it clear all Christians will grow more like Christ. In fact, Peter declares all true believers will diligently pursue Christ-like character. All genuine Christians, from newborn believers to old, godly saints will each one, without exception, manifest the character of our Lord Jesus. Peter lists the traits–self-control, godliness, brotherly kindness, love, perseverance and moral excellence. And now in verses 8 to 11, Peter states our pursuit of those qualities proves assurance (maybe you’re feeling it here).
Peter makes some really shocking claims in verses 8 to 11. The truths Peter affirms in these next verses are in contrast to modern ideas. These principles are foreign to many churchgoers and possibly strange to some in this room. But these verses are the truth and any teaching disagreeing with them is lies. What are these shocking truths? God requires you to manifest Christ-like qualities in order to know you’re saved. God calls you to grow in Christ-like character to be assured of your salvation.
Just as you flee sin, you are to pursue these virtues in order to know you are genuine. Peter affirms that living these qualities will cause you to know Christ more deeply. Peter warns neglect of these character traits will result in spiritual loss and uncertainty. These truths were so pointed to the Early Church, 2 Peter was one of the last New Testament letters affirmed in the Canon of Scripture. And they are so shocking today because they fly in the face of what is accepted belief and standard behavior.
Friends, the Bible commands you, make certain you are saved–2 Corinthians 13:5. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Today we will study verses 8 and 9, and next week verses 10 and 11, where Peter challenges you with this truth–you claim you’re a Christian? Peters shouts, “Prove it biblically.” Verse 8 says positively prove it, and verse 9 says negatively prove it. So with love and concern for believers who are battling with false teachers who have no character, Peter says, you make certain you are genuinely born again.
Read aloud with me verses 8 to 11, and allow God’s Word to change your thinking, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:8 to 11).
Peter says the character qualities of verses 5 to 7 must be seen through your life. As they are, verse 8, you will be fruitfully used of God and grow intimate with the Lord. But if they are not seen, verse 9, then your assurance is uncertain. As a result, verse 10, make certain you diligently pursue the qualities of verses 5 to 7. As you do, you will remain stable, and verse 11, you will experience true assurance of salvation in Christ. How does Peter say it? He begins with . . .
#1 The NECESSITY of Christ-like Character
Verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing“–God certainly does not want His children miserable, nor doubting His gift of salvation. Instead, the Lord actually desires your joy and confidence in your salvation. Some believers have such a low view of God, they think He desires their misery. The Bible says the opposite.
Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Acts 13:52, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Praise God, He is a joyful God–who would want to spend eternity with a joyless God? And thank Him, He’s given you a path to know Him, enjoy Him and experience genuine assurance.
You have two options, two paths to pick–verse 8 is positive and verse 9 is negative. Verse 8 will bring you joy and assurance and verse 9 will bring you sorrow and doubt. He starts verse 8 with the positive, “If these qualities are yours and are increasing.” Peter calls Christians to pursue character. When Peter says, “For if these qualities,” he’s referring to the character of Christ and the character Christians are to pursue just described in verses 5 to 7.
True believers are not merely to taste of these qualities. They’re not merely to be seen on Sunday, then forsaken on Monday through Saturday. These qualities are to be present at church and at home, while driving, privately in your room, attending classes, at your job, in your marriage, dealing with your parents–all the time. Why? Because they are character–part of you. Therefore they are shown everywhere you go. How do we know? Because Peter says three facts about these qualities–they’re to be . . .
First PRESENT in your life
“For if these qualities are yours“–existing. Peter just said, in your faith you are to manifest moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. These character qualities are to be literally existing in your life. The participle (translated these qualities are yours) means existing. These qualities are to be existing in you. They’re to have an ongoing presence in you. The Greek word existing actually refers to owning property in a strong, abiding sense. These traits are fully yours. All of them are germinally found in your life in order for you to truly be assured of your salvation.
These qualities are all found in Christ–but get this, last week verses 5 to 7 told you these qualities also come to you automatically when you are given faith. When you are genuinely saved/born again, you now have these qualities in germinal form. They come from the new nature you have in Christ. Peter describes in verse 4. Then as you live in Christ, these qualities will show themselves in and through you.
When people observe your life, do they see these verse 5 to 7 qualities in your life? What do those qualities look like? Do they see you doing your best, fulfilling your purpose, living intimate with Christ, exercising self-discipline, remaining steadfast, worshiping the Lord with your whole heart, showing kindness to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and do they see you sacrificing for all? You know you are a Christian, you prove you are a true believer, you gain assurance of salvation when you demonstrate these qualities/characteristics in your life. Are they?
They should be so solid in your life, it’s as if they’re your property–like a wedding ring on your finger or a shirt on your back or a pair of favorite shoes worn all the time. These traits exist in your life like a tract of land you own–always with you. Prove it. But Peter says these qualities are not only present in your life, they are also to be . . .
Second GROWING in your life
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing“–if these character qualities are existing in your life and abounding, that believer will enjoy solid assurance of salvation. You will prove your assurance. The Greek participle increase means to become more, to become great, to grow, and to be present in great abundance. It actually literally describes too much and in excess. These Christlike qualities are to be in excess in your life–not a light touch, but lathered in life.
All of us remember running into someone wearing too much jewelry–you don’t say anything, but you wonder what they are going for, apart from having everyone notice. Do you recall running into the guy with too much hair? You’re thinking, “Werewolf–how does he shave? Man, that must be hot,” and other bizarre thoughts. I run away from the lady wearing too much perfume–it almost stops my breathing. It’s hard not to stare at the person with too many tattoos or too many scars–you can’t forget them, because they excel in the obvious. You automatically become aware of their abundance, since it is over the top. You notice their excess because it is beyond normal in every way.
That is what Peter means by, these qualities are yours and increasing. Peter says these qualities shout and are not subtle–they’re loud in your life, not soft. They are obvious through your life and not obscure. This is how you prove your assurance–these qualities are over-present in your life. This is what makes believers certain and settled–they see Christ through them. They see salvation’s fruit grow bigger and Christ-like character become obvious in their lives.
These Christian virtues are in contrast to the external morality of the false teachers who are messing with the churches Peter is seeking to minister to. So Peter wants his readers to be obvious and in contrast to these false believers who are causing problems. Plus, these qualities in your life bring about great . . .
Third BLESSING through your life
“They render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These qualities in our life do something dramatic to your life. They open up three doors. Peter says this is a fact–these qualities continually bring about, set in order and lead to usefulness with fruitfulness for and intimacy in Christ. When Peter says, “they render“, he means these qualities appoint, bring about, make, put in charge, place and lead to–telling you these qualities will always make changes. They will not allow you to remain the same. They will always produce fruit. What kind of fruit?
1 You will grow USEFUL
“They render you neither useless“–meaning inactive or idle. In the New Testament it always describes something inoperative or unserviceable. Paul used it to describe the Cretans in Titus 1:12, “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.'” Useless does carry the idea of unworking–not the man who lost his job, but the Father of four who avoids work. “They render you neither useless” means the opposite for believers. This double negative means believers who grow in Christ-like character become incredibly useful.
With the virtues of verses 5 to 7 increasing in your life, a Christian will not be useless or ineffective, but amazingly useful in God’s service. You become a sharp, effective, faithful tool in your ministry for Christ–is that you? And . . .
2 You will grow FRUITFUL
“They render you neither useless nor unfruitful“–no genuine Christian alive ever wishes to be barren or unfruitful or unproductive. The aspiration of every branch of the true vine is to bring forth much fruit. Only fake Christians continue to live unfruitful. Only phony believers don’t produce fruit. Matthew 13:22 describes false believers, the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns. This is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Jude 12 describes false teachers. “These are the men who are hidden reefs …. clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead.” When the Christ-like qualities of verses 5 to 7 are not present in a believer’s life, he’ll be indistinguishable from an evildoer or indistinguishable from a superficial believer.
Now unfruitful can describe a believer who lives unproductive for a season. Titus 3:14, “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” But unfruitful is not an ongoing, permanent description of a Christian. If a believer pursues the virtues Peter describes, their lives will be increasingly productive spiritually. But if those qualities are not present, believers are likely to be indistinguishable from superficial professors and they will lack assurance.
True Christians bear fruit. Fruit is thinking, attitudes and actions which are in obedience to the Word of God, done the power of the Spirit, usually directed at others, for the purpose of the Gospel or their growth. Fruit–everyone is known by their fruit or their lack of fruit. Matthew 12:33, “for the tree is known by its fruit.” And every believer who is growing more Christ-like will be more fruitful, and as a result more assured of their salvation. Proven and . . .
3 You will grow INTIMATE
Knowledge–“they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The increase of Christ-like character in the life of a believer will increase his intimate knowledge of Christ. The more you become like Christ, speak like Christ, act like Christ and think like Christ, the more intimate you know Christ. Those who have been granted the knowledge of God will grow in their personal, intimate friendship with Christ.
Spurgeon put it this way. “Christ! And knowing Him! That’s it! That is the genius of Christianity! Christianity is not a dull creed or a sterile set of rules. It is a living, loving Lord. For more than thirty years, He modeled and exemplified the Christian life. All of the things that Peter tells us to add to our lives were present—in their full beauty, fragrance, and loveliness—in His life at all times, from beginning to end. He lived the life. He was the life. Christianity is Christ. These things, the things that Peter lists here, were in Him and abounded in Him. Peter had studied His life day in and day out for three and a half years. He himself now lives that life. The things he tells us to add to our life had been added to and abounded in his life. As a result of his knowledge of Christ, he was neither barren nor unfruitful. His… was… no academic knowledge. It was a knowledge that had transformed his life. That kind of knowledge will transform ours.”
Some of the most effective Christians are those without dramatic talents or special abilities, or even exciting personalities–yet God has used them in amazing ways. Why? Because they are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. They have the kind of character and conduct that God can trust with blessing. They are fruitful because they are faithful. They are effective because they are growing in their Christian experience. These beautiful qualities of character do exist within us because we possess the divine nature. But we must cultivate them so they will increase and produce fruit in and through our lives. If a believer doesn’t increase in character, Peter warns them in verse 9 . . .
#2 The DIFFICULTY of lacking Christ-like Character
Verse 9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” Peter presents the negative option for his readers to avoid. If someone who claims Christ fails to pursue virtues and fruitfulness, and lacks these qualities, he is blind or short-sighted, unable to discern his true spiritual condition.
The Greek verb “lacks“, from “he who lacks these qualities,” describes an ongoing, consistent lacking of these qualities–and when that’s true, that means that so-called believer will also lack assurance. The believer who’s not experiencing an increase in these virtues will forfeit assurance. A professing Christian who is missing the qualities mentioned above is unable to discern his true spiritual condition, and therefore can have no assurance of his salvation. Why will you lose your assurance? Because . . .
First You experience a LOSS of sight or all of sight is blind or short-sighted
What does Peter mean when he says they are blind or short-sighted? Blind consistently describes a non-Christian in the New Testament, though some affirm a believer can be temporarily blind. I believe that Peter is descriptive–he says those who lack the character and growth in Christ are either unsaved blind, or unseeing short . . . blind or short-sighted.
Blind means blind–you can’t see at all. Short-sighted literally means to close the eyes, like when you squint in order to see without your glasses–you don’t see well, you don’t see distances. If you don’t pursue Christlikeness, you are a make-believer or a myopic believer–phony or fuzzy, a non-Christian or an out-of-focus Christian. Peter says you can’t know and they can’t know which one they are–unseeing or unsaved , until they start pursuing Christ and developing His character, verses 5 to 7. They have no assurance either way–they are either unsaved or unseeing. If they are saved, then they are blind before salvation then made to see, then they slowly fall into shortsightedness. If they remain blind, they are the unsaved.
The unseeing remain unassured, and their problem is they don’t see the need to develop character. They don’t see the importance of learning God’s Word, praying, serving, gathering for worship, being discipled, and all the other means of grace for growth. They struggle with sight because the dust of this world is constantly in their eyes, and without His Word coursing through their veins, they battle with staying focused on Christ Himself.
Once God does open your eyes, you need to keep your focus clear. Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” True believers pursue Christ,because if they don’t . . .
Second You experience spiritual AMNESIA
Verse 9b, “having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” The failure to diligently pursue spiritual character produces spiritual amnesia. Such a person is unable to discern his spiritual condition, and will have no confidence about his profession of faith. He may be saved and possess all the blessings of verses 3 and 4–but without the qualities of verses 5 to 7, he will continue to live in doubt and fear.
The phrase, “having forgotten his purification,” means literally to receive forgetfulness–the Greek word purification is where we get the English catharsis, or cleansing. They’ve forgotten they were cleansed, or they have never embraced Christ’s cleansing. If a believer forgets, that sin makes him unable to be confident he was cleansed and rescued from his former life. He cannot be certain if he has been truly saved, because he does not see an increase of character, fruit or usefulness in his life.
If an unbeliever forgets, he will quickly negate the importance of what Christ did on the cross in order to forgive him, because he wasn’t genuinely forgiven in the first place. Either that person doesn’t understand the Gospel of Christ, or has forgotten its importance. Beware, churchgoer–to content yourself by thinking you’re saved because you don’t cuss as much, or are nicer to your parents, or stopped some bad habits is deadly. This is what Peter is addressing in verses 8 and 9. What should you do about it? Verses 10 and 11–next week. These verses demand action on your part, plus . . .
TAKE THIS HOME
1 You don’t earn your salvation, but you do PROVE your salvation
Salvation is a free gift. Christ did the work to save you by becoming a perfect man, dying on a cross for sins, bearing God’s wrath for sin, raising from the dead and ascending into Heaven in order to provide salvation for His children. Turn from your sin, and depend by faith in Christ–it is free. But proving your salvation is a part of the process of sanctification. You depend on the Lord, but you act upon your will and obey God’s Word.
You study the Word to get to know Christ. You depend upon the Spirit of God in everything. You apply God’s Word in order to become like Christ. You live a dependently obedient life in order to grow more like Christ. PROVE you are saved. PURSUE Christ-like character–do not remain unsaved or unseeing.
2 Are you more CERTAIN or uncertain?
The certain are those who have the character and grow in the Christ-like character listed in verses 5 to 7. Do others see you living out verses 5 to 7–doing your best, fulfilling your purpose, living intimate with Christ, exercising self-discipline, remaining steadfast, worshiping the Lord with your whole heart, showing kindness to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and do they see you sacrificing for all?
Are you productive, fruitful and intimate with Christ, or are you unseeing and forgetful of what God has done for you in salvation? Is your character seen Monday through Saturday, as well as Sunday? Grow certain and pursue the Christ-like character of verses 5 to 7.
3 Stop offering ASSURANCE to anyone who does not fit the scriptural description
It may be a spouse or a child or a parent–stop reassuring them if they are not living out the character and person of Christ in their life. If they are not, Peter says they have no assurance. Therefore stop giving it to them, and graciously, lovingly, patiently begin to call them to true salvation and true assurance. Have the hard conversation–it may mean the difference between Heaven and Hell.
4 Pursue CHRIST with all your heart
Keep your eyes on Him, grow in love with Him, cultivate a relationship with Christ until you can honestly say He truly is your first love. Run hard after knowing Him. Pursue knowing Him. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let’s pray.