Sermon Manuscript . . .
Growth is Evidence of Life
The necessity of developing character in the life of a believer–2 Peter 1:5-7
Growth stick–here is my boys’ growth chart. It’s a stick–originally it was on a door jam. But when you move, you can’t take it with you–so I transferred it to a stick. Someday I might actually fix it up and post it permanently to the garage wall. I found it super fun to measure the kids’ growth–and they enjoyed it too, though Dan the youngest typically wondered why Matt was always bigger. Like everything else between them, it almost seemed a competition.
With my boys, as they grew, we would all wonder why there were spurts of growth during some years and slowing in other years. But it was great to always see some growth–it meant everything was functioning the way God designed. Nothing was off, and you could rest in the fact that some growth had occurred.
I remember the same competition with my brother and me–sibling rivalry. When we were making noise at night by goofing off, my dad would bang on the wall to warn us to be quiet. If we kept making noise, we would hear my dad get up and stomp towards our room. It was at this point, my big brother would haul off and hit me as hard as he could right in the face in order to make me cry, so when my dad opened the door, he’d see it was me that was making noise–and not my “trying to sleep, lying creep” of a brother.
Somehow I knew I would grow to be bigger and stronger than my brother–and when that day came, I knew he would reap the whirlwind. Payback was gonna be sweet. But the sad, yet glad, part of the story is–by the time I got bigger and stronger, I got saved and no longer wanted to bash my brother. Now if you wanted to bash him.
The point is, the most important growth is not physical growth, but spiritual growth. I loved to see my boys grow physically, but what brought us unbelievable joy was to see them grow spiritually. To love Christ, to see them want to please Him, to obey His Word on their own, to be faithful in marriage, to love their wives and train their children biblically, to love their church, serve the Lord, wrestle in trials, and overall to see the unique way each of them put Christ on display is a thrill. Why? Because growth is evidence of life.
As Peter writes a bunch of churches in now modern day Turkey, he will now affirm the same truth–that growth is evidence of life. Peter wants his readers to avoid false teaching by understanding salvation. Remember your salvation, in verses 1 to 2. Rely on your salvation, since it is sustained by God’s power in verses 3 to 4. And now, rest on your salvation because it is confirmed by Christ like character and growth, verses 5 to 7.
Peter wants to make certain our knowledge is true knowledge, biblical knowledge. So he reminds his readers that salvation itself brings the gift of knowledge, verses 1 to 4. And salvation itself requires the growth of knowledge, verses 5 to 11. And the Word of God alone provides the ground of true knowledge, verses 12 to 21.
In verses 3 to 4, Peter just informed his readers of God’s power, Christ’s provision, the Spirit’s promptings, and the Word’s promises you and I now have because of salvation. Part of the promises of God in salvation is providing the power of Christ to live like Christ through verse 4a–a new nature, a divine nature, a nature given to us by God.
And the second part of the power of Christ to live like Christ is found in verse 4b, the ability to escape from the sinful corruption that saturates this world and invades our own lives through our own strong desires/lusts. And because of this new nature and new ability, it will produce a different kind of character in a person, resulting in a Christlike lifestyle. If you’ve truly been transformed in salvation, if you have genuinely been born again, if you have a divine nature and ability to escape the power of sin in your life–then you will live uniquely like Christ, demonstrate the qualities of Christ, and give evidence of the character of Christ in you.
Growth is evidence of new life, is what Peter teaches his readers in verses 5 to 7. And Peter gives three evidences of genuine spiritual life, three confirmations you’re born again. You look in your yard and wonder, “Is that plant alive or dead?” You look at an old dog in your neighbor’s yard in the same spot, “Is it alive or dead?” And as you look at your friends, you wonder, “Are they saved or not saved?” And as you look into your own heart, “Do I have eternal life or not?”
Peter answers three ways–first by looking at who you are. If you’re in Christ and Christ is in you, then He’ll make a huge difference in how you live.
1 Your new PERSON: A new DISPOSITION to show
Now that you’ve been made new, live like it. Once you’re converted, you’re not the same–you’re made new. You have a new constitution, a conversion constitution. Right? Read these three verses as a reminder. Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Matthew 12:33, “The tree is known by its fruit.”
When you become a Christian, you are a new creature with a new heart, with the indwelling Holy Spirit who produces Christlike fruit–you are a new person. This is how Peter begins verse 5–do you see it? “Now for this very reason also“–what is Peter referring to? Verses 3 and 4. Remember what Peter said? You have the power of God to live out the promises of God, because you have a new nature, and a new ability to overcome the corruption of the world and the lusts of your own flesh. You are now like Christ and you are no longer corrupt like the world or subject to lusts.
You are a new person. As he begins verse 5, “Now for this very reason also,” Peter is referring back to all the power, provision, promptings and promises of God which enable a believer to live for Christ and overcome sin. “This very reason” is saying because of what God has done to you in saving you in verses 3 to 4–God has changed you, and as a result you will live different.
When you’re a caterpillar, you look gross, act disgusting and crawl in the dirt. But after you have been transformed into a butterfly, you look amazing, flutter on the wind and travel from flower to flower. Christian, once you’ve been given a new nature, one that’s from Christ Himself, you will live differently in life. You no longer crawl in the dirt and act disgusting–you no longer act like you did before you were transformed. Romans 6:4, “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Newness of life–you have been made new, therefore you act new. You used to be men and women of the flesh, now you are men and women of the Spirit. Which one describes you–the flesh or the Spirit? You know Galatians 5:19 to 24, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Christian, you have a nature that is from Christ, and you’re no longer corrupt like the lost. You now live with the indwelling Holy Spirit and are no longer enslaved to your flesh. When you are in Christ, you are a new person–verse 5, “Now for this very reason also” describes the transformation of verses 3 and 4. Have you been internally renovated by Christ? A second evidence of Christ in you and you being in Christ is . . .
2 Your needed PURSUIT: A new DILIGENCE to pursue
Now that Christ has suffered, sacrificed, died, and rose from the dead to save you. Now that Christ chose you before the foundation of the world, then called you in time. Now that Christ has given you a new nature that actually wants to obey and please Him. Now that Christ did all the work to save you, who were helpless, hopeless–yet now transformed. Now there is an expectation for you to work for Him.
If Christ would do all He did for you–which you didn’t deserve in any way. Is it too much for you to do all you can for Him, who deserves everything you could possibly do? Since what Christ did for you was intense, He wants you to respond with intensity. Since what Christ did for you was the ultimate example of love, He wants you to respond with examples of amazing love. Since what Christ did for you was incredible in its selfless character, then Peter says respond in kind.
Read verse 5 and see if you can pick up the intensity of this command. The NASB says, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply” . . . ESV says, “make every effort to supplement your faith” . . . NKJ says, “giving all diligence, add to your faith.” There are three words here which together scream intense commitment, dedication and service.
The Greek word translated supply, supplement and add is the main verb in these three verses. It’s a general command, meaning to grant, give, furnish and support. This main verb supply comes from the term “choirmaster”. In ancient choral groups, the choirmaster was responsible for supplying everything needed for his group–so the term choirmaster came to refer to a supplier.
William Barkley explains the background of this word, which helps you understand its intensity. Supply comes from a noun which literally means the leader of a chorus. Perhaps the greatest gift Athens gave to the world was the great plays of men like Sophocles. These plays needed large choruses and were very expensive to produce. In the great days of Athens, there were public-spirited citizens, who voluntarily took on the duty at their own expense, of collecting, maintaining, training and equipping these choruses. It was at the great religious festivals where these plays were produced.
In fact, in the city Dionysia, they produced three tragedies, five comedies and five dithyrambs. Men had to be found to provide the choruses for them all. The men who undertook these duties out of their own pocket and out of love for their city were called chorēgoi–suppliers, the word that is used here in verse 5.
And this supply has a certain lavishness in it. It never means to equip in any miserly way–it means to lavishly pour out everything that is necessary for a noble performance. The Greek word supply went out into the larger world and it grew to mean not only to equip a chorus, but to be responsible for any kind of equipment. It can mean to equip an army with all the necessary provisions, it can mean to equip the soul with all the necessary virtues for life. And it continues to mean to supply lavishly for a noble performance–a lavish command.
To intensify this command, Peter attaches a participle to this supply command. The participle is applying or bringing to bear, to making something yield more. By itself, it means to bring forth something additional–to yield more. So Peter commands his readers to equip an army with all the necessary provisions–then adds to it a continual exhortation to bring something even more. Then Peter adds a third Greek word–a noun, diligence, which means to be eager and zealous with a strong sense of urgency, applying all diligence in your faith supply.
Now that you understand each Greek word, you should be overwhelmed as to the level of commitment, passion, and aggressiveness you and I are being commanded to pursue in displaying the character, person and work of Christ. Because of the “precious and magnificent promises” of verse 4, God has given believers “everything pertaining to life and godliness” of verse 3, “and for this very reason,” believers must and will respond with maximum effort toward living for Christ.
This is the same truth God expressed through Paul in Philippians 2:12 to 13, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Work it out with fear, with trembling–go after your growth.
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply“–because Christ did everything to save you, and Christ did everything to sanctify you, and Christ did everything to glorify you. How have you responded to that? You say, “I give a little, serve a little, attend mostly, love a few that I like”–then Peter says, “applying all diligence.” Killing all half-measures and calling you to be all in. You are either indifferent or indebted, cruising or committed, self-centered or sacrificial, maintaining or a maniac for Christ.
Today, what’s the pace in your pursuit of Christ-like character? Are you sitting, walking, jogging, running or sprinting as fast as you can go? Peter is calling his readers, and you, to run and occasionally sprint for Christ. What are you supposed to look like? What are the evidences of growth? Growth is evidence of life. What does new life in Christ look like?
Verses 5 to 7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” Growth is evidence of life, so how is that growth seen?
3 Your necessary PROGRESS: A new DESCRIPTION to demonstrate
Now that Christ has demonstrated the most amazing character you have ever seen–Christ has sacrificed everything for you, Christ gave you everything you need now and later, including Himself . . . verses 1 to 4. Now that Christ has given all that, the response by anyone with a Christ-like nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit would be to make progress in becoming just like Christ Himself. So Peter describes the character of a born again, new divine-natured,
empowered Christian with seven Christlike qualities, plus one necessary step. What’s that?
Read verse 5 again, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence.” With one word Peter reminds you, you can’t live for Christ in your own strength. You and I need to exercise dependent faith–you and I “applying all diligence in faith“–meaning we pursue, we obey, we work very hard, we struggle, we die daily, we discipline ourselves, we deal with sin, we get accountable. But we do so trusting, depending, relying by faith upon God Himself.
Faith is your personal reliance upon the Lord and His Word. Faith is your subjective trust in your Savior and the foundation of your spiritual life. You believe Christ will work in and through you, so you depend on His Spirit and His Word to sanctify you and sinister through you as you step out in obedience.
Remember verse 1, look–“To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours.” You received a faith, you’ve been given a faith, God gifted you with faith–so now live by faith. God gave you faith in salvation, now live by faith in sanctification. Christ gave you the faith to believe, now exercise faith to grow. All the other character qualities that follow are unattainable unless you live by faith. What are they?
First MORAL EXCELLENCE
Verse 5, “in your faith supply moral excellence“–excellence is a lofty term used for moral heroism, the divinely endowed ability to excel in courageous deeds. To the Greek philosophers, it meant “the fulfillment of a thing.” When anything in nature fulfills its purpose, that is moral excellence. The land that produces crops is excellent because it’s fulfilling its purpose. The tool that works correctly is excellent because it is doing what a tool is supposed to do.
Moral excellence is a student who embraces everything God says about his home, his school, his job, his money, his girlfriend, his possessions, his time and his friendships. The excellent student seeks to love his parents, does his best at school, works hard at his job–is pure with his girlfriend, is generous with his money, and treats his friends with love and respect. He learns, then seeks to live everything the Word of God says about every aspect of his life. This is the student who is morally excellent.
Ladies, do you know what the Bible says about your role and are you pursuing it? Men? Grandparents? Singles? Children? Learn what God says, then be diligent to live it. Look back at verse 3, “through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Christ is excellent in all things–and now that you have Christ, you too will desire excellence, making excellence an evidence of salvation.
Verse 5, “and in your moral excellence, knowledge“–to mature, live by faith and grow in knowledge. The Greek word knowledge implies we use our minds, gain insight into our circumstances, and seek to know the moral quality of the people we meet. We put our knowledge to work by using common sense in everything we say, do, and think. We know what is good, we are aware of what is better and pursue living what is best.
The Greek word here means “full knowledge, knowledge that is growing, intimate knowing, practical knowledge or discernment.” Knowledge here refers to the ability to handle life successfully by growing in spiritual discernment and wisdom in life. Knowledge is learning the truth of God’s Word properly understood and applied, which comes from diligent study and meditation on it, so as to acquire the mind of Christ. All of this means you are committed to lifelong learning of the Word.
Look back to verse 3–you were given intimate knowledge through salvation, “through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Now the Lord desires you to grow in your intimate knowledge in sanctification. Now that you already know Christ, grow more intimate in your knowledge of Him. Also grow in . . .
Verse 6, “and in your knowledge, self-control“–self-control is esteemed all throughout the Bible. Proverbs 25:28, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” First Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
The New Testament writers often compared the Christian to an athlete who must discipline himself. Self-control literally means holding oneself in–hold in your desires, tuck in the loose ends of your life. Just like athletes are to be self-restrained, Christians are to control their flesh, their passions, and bodily desires, rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by them. First century self-controlled athletes would abstain from rich foods, wine, even sexual activity in order to focus all their strength on their training routine.
Believers never allow emotions, desires, urges, or appetites to master their lives, but only serve their lives. Christians do not depend upon or live by emotions. Genuine Christians use their minds to keep their desires in check–they follow the Word of God and not their impulses. Remember verse 4, you were freed from the slavery of sin in salvation–“having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” And if you’re saved, then you will seek to pursue self-control in your life through sanctification. Now that you’re freed from corruption, don’t live enslaved to it. Add/supply self-control.
Verse 6, ”in your self-control, perseverance“–perseverance is patience or endurance in doing what is right, and never giving into temptation or trial. Perseverance is spiritual staying power that’ll die before it gives in. Perseverance is the quality that can prevail, not with resignation, but with a hopeful endurance in doing what is right, while resisting temptations and enduring trials. Perseverance is difficult to translate from the Greek–it means to remain strong under the pressure of an unwelcome, painful, grievous hardship, but always with a hope in the future.
Jesus demonstrated perseverance in Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Christian steadfastness is the courageous acceptance of anything life can do to us, yet seeing even the worst event as an opportunity to grow and glorify God.
This character quality is from a compound verb from hupo (under) and menō (to remain), painting a picture of steadfastly bearing up under a very heavy load. Self-control has to do with handling the pleasures of life, while perseverance relates to the pressures and problems of life. Are you developing Christlike character? Often the person who gives in to pleasures is not disciplined enough to handle the pressures or problems either, so he gives up. Do you give in and give up? Or are you developing perseverance? If you are a Christian, you are and you can.
Look back at verse 3, you were called–“through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Now that you’re called in salvation and held firm by Christ Himself, Peter says you now hold on to Christ with perseverance. An evidence you are saved is perseverance–remain faithful to the salvation you’ve been given. Also develop the character quality of . . .
Verse 6, “and in your perseverance, godliness“–an attitude of reverence that seeks to please God in all things. Godliness desires a right relationship with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life. Godliness keeps the believer from becoming hard and defiant toward opponents or succumbing to the temptation of stoic endurance. Godliness distinguishes the true believer from the ungodly false teachers of chapter 2.
Godliness simply means God-likeness. In the Greek, this word meant to worship well. In Greek thinking, godliness encompassed all the rituals related to worship and loyalty given to the pagan gods–offering respect to all that’s divine. Early Christians sanctified the Greek definitions and directed them at the one true God. Godliness described the man who was right in his relationship with Christ and all others. Godliness is the quality that makes a believer distinct.
He lives above the petty things of life, he lives above the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do God’s will in all things and seeks the best for others. The godly Christian makes biblical and wise decisions–he doesn’t take the easy path to avoid pain or trial, because he is committed to doing what is right, always following the Word of God. Peter reminded you in verse 4 that you have a new, godly nature. Now here in verses 6 and 7, live that out in life. Live who you are–godly.
Sixth BROTHERLY KINDNESS
Verse 7, “and in your godliness, brotherly kindness“–flowing out of the vertical godliness with the Lord is the horizontal quality of brotherly kindness. The companion of affection for God is affection for others. Peter acquired this quality the hard way–the disciples were often debating and disagreeing with one another.
If you love Jesus Christ, you must also love the brethren. You practice 1 Peter 1:22, “Fervently love one another from the heart.” You don’t pretend to love others. Like Hebrews 13:1, “Let love of the brethren continue.” And Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” The fact you love your brothers and sisters in Christ is one evidence you have been born of God.
Brotherly kindness expresses a warm affection between those who are spiritual relatives in the family of God. It is not merely that you like people, but brotherly kindness shows itself in overt acts of kindness toward them, like Galatians 6:10. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” It was this affectionate relationship, the bearing of burdens, the forgivenss of failures in the Early Church among Christian converts in spite of their diverse status and varied backgrounds, that amazed the pagans around them.
In 2 Peter, Christ the God-man has been extremely kind to His brothers and sisters in salvation, so you be diligent to pursue brotherly kindness in sanctification. “Brotherly kindness” is an evidence of the new nature and new life in Christ.
Verse 7, “and in your brotherly kindness, love“–which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Love. Peter almost seems redundant in his emphasis on love, until you remember that the Lord does not want you to restrict your love to the members of the Church. Peter knows the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies,” and Romans 13:8, love is a debt we owe our fellow man. You can limit the application of brotherly kindness to the Christian community, but you are unable to restrict the practice of love to merely the Church.
First John 4:16, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” There is more to Christian growth than brotherly love–we must also display the sacrificial love that our Lord displayed when He went to the cross. This is the kind of love spoken of in verse 7–agape love, the kind of love that God shows toward lost sinners. This is the love the Holy Spirit produces in our hearts.
Beyond brotherly kindness, agape here is a love which sacrifices for others–if they are not a brother, even if they’re an enemy, in spite of differences. This is the greatest of Christian virtues, and forms the natural conclusion to Peter’s portrayal of character, growth and evidences of salvation. From love God gave you His salvation in verses 1 to 4. So now in verse 7, He commands you to grow in your love for Christ, for Christians and for all people.
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5 to 7). Be a doer of the Word today, along with this.
A Does your changed person, diligent pursuit and progress in character EVIDENCE you are a real believer or a make-believer?
Faith without works is dead. The fruit of your life indicates the kind of tree you are. Those born again with a new nature and indwelt with the Spirit of God live like Christ. If you’re a real believer, you will grow as a person, you’ll see an intensification of your diligence to pursue Christ, and you’ll see an actual increase of Christ-like character. Not in a day, but in a year. Friends and family will notice–do they?
Peter tells you on the basis of God’s great salvation of Christ in you in verses 1 to 4, will always result in God’s great sanctification of Christ through you in verses 5 to 7. Your growth is evidence of life.
B Are you DEPENDENTLY diligent on the development of Christ-like character?
You can’t mature as a Christian and become like Christ in your own strength–you must live by faith, dependent upon the Spirit of God, relying on the promises of God. Are you trusting in God’s sufficient resources described in verses 3 to 4? Are you using all the means of grace–corporate worship, discipleship, shepherding, Bible study, reading, memorization and prayer in order to develop Christ-like character?
Do not fool yourself today into thinking you’re growing as a believer, if you’re not using all the means of grace to dependently pursue becoming like Christ.
C Will you accept the challenge of pursuing Christ-like CHARACTER?
The qualities listed in verses 5 to 7 are there to remind the believers to live what God has done for them in salvation, to strengthen the believers against the false teachers, to give evidence of genuine salvation–and for you today, to provide you with a goal for each day of the week. Seven qualities, one per day, to be like Christ. Let’s pray!