Growing and Glorifying
Growing in Christ and glorifying Christ while awaiting the Second Coming of Christ
Maturing and worshipping in anticipation of Christ’s return–2 Peter 3:18
Growth is fascinating. Growing plants is a science and an art. Watching insects grow through their transformations is incredible and horrifying. Watching children grow is amazing too. We’ve asked our grandsons to not grow up anymore, but they said, “No, I have to.” Why? “God wants me to grow!” And they are correct.
I remember in Junior High, growing pains hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep. Or I’d wake up with cramps, get up and look at my legs in horror–they were longer. Shoes or pants never seemed to fit. My mom kept buying my shoes two sizes too big in anticipation of growth. I felt like a clown. Regardless of the pains and struggles, every child wants to grow up. And every Christian wants to grow up as well, though we don’t always act like it. But the good news is, one of the changes God brings about in the lives of those who anticipate His soon return is to mature them, to grow them up as Christians. Anticipation of Christ’s return results in sanctification and exaltation.
Open your Bibles to our 34th sermon in 2 Peter–our last sermon in 2 Peter chapter 3, and follow along in your outline. In verses 1 to 10, Peter was focused on the certainty of the return of Christ. In verses 11 to 18, Peter emphasized the changes God will make in your life when you anticipate Christ’s return. After the destruction of verse 10, Peter summarizes verses 11 to 18 with one main statement in verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
Literally Peter says to Christians, if you truly believe that Christ is returning, then “how astonishingly excellent you ought to be.” The phrase, “what sort of people ought you to be” is a reminder that you are a foreigner on Earth. You don’t speak the language, you don’t follow the customs, you are not trendy–because this world is not your home. Peter says you are to live holy, meaning unique, different—not odd, but godly, which is like God, like Christ, and God-pleasing.
Following the verse 11 summary, verses 12 to 18 describe the unique lifestyle you will adopt when you daily anticipate Christ’s return each day. How will you live different?
#1 Living for ETERNITY–Longingly
Read verses 12 and 13, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
You Christians will be “looking”—meaning anticipating of the Day of God. After God destroys the existing universe, He promises to create a totally new heavens and earth, where everything is perfect. When you know everything in this world is going to burn up, you will live more for eternity than for this world–with an eternal perspective. You will also find yourself . . .
#2 Living with sweet internal PEACE–Diligently
Verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace.”
In the midst of a brutal, sin-saturated world, which causes most people to live in fear–beloved believers know that Christ’s return will end all the evil, terminate all injustice, stop all foolishness and finish all worldly temptations. So believers will uniquely live saturated in God’s internal peace–banishing worry, destroying fear and removing anxiety. Christ’s return will cause you to pursue . . .
#3 Living for Christ-like PURITY–Genuinely
Verse 14 ends with, “spotless and blameless”
Spotless describes Christian character and blameless describes Christian reputation. As you live ready for Christ’s return and the judgment of believers, you’ll desire to live with integrity–trying to please Christ when no one is looking. And you will add . . .
#4 Living for Faithful Gospel PROCLAMATION–Evangelistically
While you long for Christ, believers will not grow idle or isolated from people, but they’ll pursue their spiritual responsibilities to share the Gospel while they have opportunity. Verse 15, “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” The Lord only delays His return in order to save the remainder of His elect–which creates for us a window of responsibility for believers to proclaim the Gospel. But that heart will require . . .
#5 Living for Doctrinal CLARITY–Wisely
Read verses 15b-16, “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Peter calls for a second opinion from the apostle Paul on the truth about all the eschatological events of the Day of the Lord. And in verse 17, Peter commands His readers to guard against the errant ideas of the false teachers. Peter is saying, Paul and I are together on this truth that Christ is returning. This is God’s inspired, living Word–given from two apostles, Peter and Paul. Not the errant ideas of non-inspired false teachers. Which forces you to be . . .
#6 Living for Biblical DISCERNMENT–Guardedly
Verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” Since Christians know there will be false teachers who will appear, twisting and distorting the Scriptures, they should be all the more on their guard. The Greek verb “guard” is a middle present, meaning continually be guarding yourself.
Hey, Peter’s readers knew the truth, just like many of you. But Peter warns them anyway, because knowledge alone was not a sufficient protection. They had to be alert and keep watch, like a guard over a dangerous prisoner. Peter’s concern was not that his readers would lose their salvation, but that they might slip from doctrinal stability. And catch this, lose their confidence in the truth. And the answer to that danger is the final verse of 2 Peter.
#7 Living for Spiritual GROWTH–Progressively
Verse 18a, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Why is it, in every church there are those who deepen in their walk with God quickly, while others remain immature? Why are some Christians seen so fruitful, spiritual and godly, while others are unfruitful, fleshly and worldly? Why do some younger Christians grow quickly, while others who are old never seem to grow? Peter will answer those questions in this verse.
Peter began 2 Peter with a challenge to grow and now he ends this letter with a challenge to grow and mature. Pursuing Christian maturity and a deepening knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will lead to doctrinal stability and prevent any Christian from being led astray.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“But” is in contrast to verse 17, “so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” When Peter says here, “But grow,” he is stating a counterbalancing positive duty. Continuing spiritual growth is the effective safeguard against falling from steadfastness. Falling from steadfastness meant to lose your steadiness, to lose your confidence in God’s character or lose your reliance upon God’s Word.
You’ve known unsteady Christians, and many of you have felt unsteady yourself. Some of the believers in Peter’s churches were losing their confidence in God’s Word because of the manipulation of sound teaching from false teachers. So how do you regain a steady confidence in God and His Word? To grow in Christ. It is so important, God commands you to grow.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Peter commands growth–these believers were persecuted. They battled against false teachers, but Peter commands them to literally keep on growing. Growing implies you’re already saved. Peter already taught the Asian churches in 1:3a, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” God has already given you what you need to grow. The Lord has already implanted new life in you, and that will motivate you to continue to develop.
Like Peter said in 2 Peter 1:5,7,8, “…applying all diligence… 7…in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Each child of God, is born with everything they need to grow and serve. All you need is the spiritual food and exercise that will enable you to develop.
But Peter commands you to grow, because your Christian life must not be static. Why? Because continuing growth is the unfailing panacea for all spiritual ills. The Greek command for grow means to advance, to progress to increase. You and I are not to remain the same, but to mature in Christ. First John 2 teaches, in the Church there will be children, young men and fathers–categories of increasing maturity. It is great to be a baby, but God expects you to grow up, move beyond babyhood and mature. “You are no longer to be children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but grow spiritually in Christ.”
Pursuing Christian maturity will lead to stability and strength. The prevention and cure to falling prey to the schemes of false teachers is to grow mature. The Greek verb is not only a command, but it calls you to actively pursue growth continually. You must have growth in Christ as a lifetime goal–each one of you. You must move from the bib to the apron–from being fed to feeding yourself. To do that, you must actively pursue the means of grace which cultivate growth.
What does it mean to grow? How do you grow? Seven F’s.
FILLED–with the Spirit, dependent obedience to God’s Word. From dependently living saturated in God’s Word, confessing all known sin, serving in ministry and sharing the Gospel with the lost. Be filled with the Spirit.
FEEDING–on spiritually nutritious food, called the Word of God, the Bible, reading, listening, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word.
FELLOWSHIPING with God through intimate prayer.
FRAGILITIES–your weaknesses, battles with sinful bents, temptations will drive you to live more dependent upon His strength and not your own.
FATIGUING TRIALS–those are the weights you use to spiritually exercise, and you need.
FAITHFUL MINISTRY–which is the exercise God uses to grow you to maturity.
FAMILY–from baby to older saint, you were meant to grow in a local church family. The Church is God’s nursery for the care and maturing of Christians. The Church is the God-ordained environment designed to mature Christians.
Make no mistake, growing is what God does in you and through you. Philippians 1:6 even affirms this, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God is sovereign in your growth, but your choices, dependence and labors to grow are also a vital, responsible part of you fulfilling Peter’s command here. “Work out your salvation, for God is at work in you.” Whatever is stopping you from growing must be put aside and the means of grace which encourage your growth must be fought for. But what are we to grow in?
“in the grace and knowledge of”
If it’s only grace or only knowledge, you will become warped. But grace and knowledge together are the content of maturity. Spurgeon warned, “How easy it is to grow in knowledge but not in grace! All of us know far more of the Bible than we really live. Knowledge without grace is a terrible weapon, and grace without knowledge can be very shallow. But when we combine grace and knowledge, we have a marvelous tool for building our lives and for building the church.”
Because of His grace, God forgives the sins of His children. They in turn feed on Scripture and commune with Christ, thereby increasing in their knowledge of Him. Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God bestowed upon guilty people in Christ. Grace spelled out is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is giving hellbound sinners what we could never earn or deserve on our own. “Grow in grace!”
Think of God’s sovereign grace–how God planned your redemption before time even began, before the foundation of the world! Think of God’s sustaining grace–how Christ not only saves but sanctifies. Even though the journey is dangerous and the road difficult, His grace will see you safely home. Think of sufficient grace–whether demons, disease or death, Jesus conquered them all. No matter what kind of needs you have, there is abundant grace for each of you, for all situations, and for all sins. God’s grace flows into your life like a mighty river.
After appropriating God’s grace by faith for salvation, we grow in grace in sanctification by living by grace through faith–seeing grace grow deeper in our hearts as we comprehend its giver and its vastness in our lives.
Peter also teaches, Christians are to grow in the realm of knowledge. Knowledge plays a vital part in the development of Christian maturity. This knowledge is personal, intimate knowledge-which is capable of expanding and deepening. Get to know Christ–that is the ultimate secret of the Christian life. The word for knowledge conveys the thought of knowledge acquired by learning, effort, and experience. From the moment of salvation, you have begun a lifelong pursuit to know Him.
In his earlier letter, Peter had commented on this very process in 1 Peter 2:2, exhorting his readers, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Peter is teaching here, as your knowledge of God’s Word increases, leading to intimacy with Christ, you are better prepared to fend off destructive doctrines and spiritual deceptions. But remember, this grace and knowledge are about a person. Christ is our . . .
. . . our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hang on, friends–the original Greek here is not clear. This phrase may mean . . .
1 Grow in the grace of which Christ is the author, in the knowledge of which Christ is the object, or
2 Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the source and fountain of both grace and knowledge, or
3 A growing knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom you embrace as your gracious Lord and Savior
Regardless, it is clear Peter wants you to increase in intimacy with Christ. “Knowledge of Christ and knowledge about Christ are both safeguards against heresy and apostasy, plus they are the means of growth in grace.” Peter exhorts you Christians to become more like your Lord by displaying His characteristics in your life. God’s will is for you to come to Christ and become like Christ. Do you know Jesus Christ more intimately than you did last year? Peter uses this full title, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, four times in 2 Peter. And the center target is obvious–to grow in the knowledge of our precious Savior.
Pursuing a deeper understanding of the fullness of Christ’s person, both in His saving work and His lordship, will provide you with the doctrinal stability you need to avoid being misled. Ephesians 4:14 and 15 teach the same. “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
Christian, live every day with the simple dependence of a child who relies on God, just like a child holds the hand of his father on a walk. But also live every day like an engaged single who desires to learn every detail about his soon-to-be spouse. Learn every doctrine, every detail, every love of Christ, knowing He’ll soon be our groom. He is coming any moment. What will motivate such a desire to learn, such a desire to depend? His love for you–not your love for Him. But dwelling on His great, unfailing, deep, permanent love for you, and that He is coming back soon. That will lead you to the end of our study.
#8 Living for Continual PRAISE: Worshipfully
Peter concludes his second inspired letter with a doxology. Verse 18b, “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Peter closes this great letter calling believers then and today to adore Christ. Calvin says, “This is a remarkable passage to prove the deity of Christ; for what is said, cannot belong to any, but to God alone.” Such a call for glory to Christ demonstrates again, Peter considered Christ, the one he lived with for three years, to be deity–equal in honor with God the Father.
First PERSON “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Here is a doxology directed toward Christ. It is addressed to Him whom Peter has just acclaimed as “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is the only New Testament doxology which is unquestionably addressed to Christ. Jesus is the one Peter has exalted in this epistle, and here Peter names Christ as the fitting recipient of “glory”. The summation of all of God’s character is glory.
For a Jew who is committed to the truth of Isaiah 42:8, “I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another,” this doxology is a clear expression to the deity of Jesus Christ. Peter fully accepted John 5:23, “that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Make no mistake, friends–Christ is not a nice guy, a godly teacher, or a cool philosopher. Christ is God, Creator and the Lord you will box to, even if you reject Him.
Second PATH “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Peter takes his readers back to the Mount of Transfiguration, where Christ’s glory was displayed, turning Peter into a stuttering fool. Now Peter shouts, “To Him be Glory!”, for when Christ returns, all humanity will see His glory. Like Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” And 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I know your heart, Christian–just take a minute to remember what Christ did to save you, and how He has blessed your life in innumerable ways since then, and you will automatically want to bring Him glory. When will you bring Him glory?
Third PROCESS “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
The ESV and KJV use the word “forever”, but it is literally “to the day of the age”. This unique saying appears to be linked to the coming of the Day of the Lord, when time dissolves into eternity. To Christ, you who are redeemed gladly offer your worship both now and forever. You and I are to give Christ all the glory, both now and in eternity.
You all now join Thomas in John 20:28 acclaiming Christ as “my Lord and my God”–and you will do so forever, literally into eternity’s day, a day which is an eon without end. Peter is carrying the worship of Jesus Christ into the eternal future. And with that, all of us are . . .
Fourth PLEASED “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Can you say, “Amen”?–so be it, we agree, we want to be a part. That is our heart also. With that, Peter puts his pen down. Not long after, an unexpected knock came on Peter’s door. Nero’s evil finally caught up with Peter. The apostle was arrested, sentenced to death, and by Peter’s choice, history tells us Peter was crucified upside down–simply because Peter didn’t think himself worthy to be crucified the way Christ was.
And in a moment, Peter was absent from the body and present with the Lord. We can almost hear his voice rising in unison with all of the other ransomed saints of God, “To him be glory both now and forever!” Followed by a resounding, “Amen!” Anticipation of Christ’s return results in sanctification and exaltation.
A A Christian grows by living in the SPIRIT and not by living in the flesh.
Before Peter was filled with the Spirit, he would bear witness of Christ one moment, then argue with Christ the next. He’d refuse to have Jesus wash his feet, then ask for a total bath. He’d promise to die for Him, then deny Him three times. Peter learned the importance of being filled with the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers Christians to grow in maturity and to glorify God with their lives.
See the line written in your outline between the flesh and the Spirit?
FLESH X——————–average——————–X SPIRIT
Put a mark where you think you normally function as a Christian. Are you on the Spirit side or on the flesh side, or are you somewhere in the middle? Put an X on the line. Most people usually put themselves just to the left of average. Please forgive me, but biblically, the only place you can put an X is either on the flesh X or the Spirit X. The Bible affirms you are either one or the other. You are either in the Spirit or in the flesh, never in between–there is no scale. You are either under the direction of the Spirit or under the direction of your flesh.
When Christians say, “It was only natural that I was angry, or that I listened to that gossip, or that I argued, or that I was critical, or that I had that bad attitude”–that is right. It is only natural and takes no effort at all for you to be in the flesh. But to live in the Spirit, it requires you completely depend on the Spirit in everything you do, confessing and repenting of all known sin, being saturated in God’s Word and while you rely on the Spirit, exercising your will to live in obedience to the Word of God.
Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the spirit.” It requires your dependent obedience, living every moment relying on the Spirit by living according to God’s Word. Here is the kicker—why am I telling you this? You only grow when you are filled with the Spirit–and you only glorify God when you are filled with the Spirit.
B A Christians’ age doesn’t guarantee growth or MATURITY
Spurgeon warns you older saints with these words, “Do not imagine that because you are getting old, you are growing in grace.” Why did he say that? First Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Once we get a little older, we rely on our experience, our age, our position or our relationships instead of God’s Spirit. Then in our pride, we stop depending on the Holy Spirit by His Word. You who’ve been believers for decades, beware. You need the Spirit to grow and to glorify God just like a baby believer. First Peter 5:5, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
C A Christians’ Growth requires WORK
Spurgeon also reminded believers, “Nobody automatically drifts into spiritual growth and stability, but anybody can drift out of dedication and growth.” Hebrews 2:1 warns, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” We need regular feeding on the food of God’s Word, the fellowship of prayer, the spiritual exercise of faithful ministry, and the close relationship of a local church family in order to grow mature in Christ and bring Him glory. God is sovereign in your growth, but you are responsible. What steps are you taking?
D A Christian is one who has EXCHANGED their life for Christ’s life
Mark 8:34, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Bow your heads in prayer with me. Come to faith in Jesus Christ today. Do not come like a Pharisee, telling God what you have done, how often you have gone to church, how many good works you have done–no, come to Christ as a poor, lost, undone, damned sinner. Come to him broken and He will accept you.
Do not be proud, but be poor in spirit. Do not present yourself as something, but present yourself as nothing. There is no salvation except it from Christ. Exchange all that you are for all that He is. Die to self and live to Christ. Depend on Him by faith, turn from your sin in repentance, and find new life now and eternal life in Heaven forever. Not turning to Christ means you are damned and tormented forever. But turning to Christ means you are rescued and blessed forever. Do not wait another moment–turn to Christ right now, cry out to Him for salvation from your sins.
For believers, take some Spirit-empowered steps to fire up your growth in Christ. Trust a sovereign God, but be responsible to pursue Christ with all your heart.