Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:01

Christian Fruit And Faithfulness

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Dear friends, when Kennedy Space Center sends off its rockets to the moon or to the International Space Station in orbit, no doubt a lot depends on a proper blast off from the launching pad. Taking off properly and getting and staying on course and reaching the designated destination is very related to starting off rightly. As we saw last week, Peter, by God’s Spirit, begins his letter in II Peter giving us the launching pad so to speak not only of the Christian faith but also of the Christian life. In the first of five messages on II Peter we looked at the first four verses of Peter’s letter under the theme, “The Beautiful Beginning of II Peter.” Why is it beautiful? Because it is so steeped and saturated with the gospel of grace and how the whole of the Christian life is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Jesus is the Saviour given to us by God the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit. As we saw last week He is an all-sufficient Saviour for us in at least a seven-fold way. He is almighty Saviour, an ever giving Saviour, a glorious Saviour, an excellent Saviour, a promising Saviour, a successful Saviour and a saving Saviour of sinners in every way in our every need. In other words, Jesus Christ is the most reliable and rich Saviour for sinners like us and as Peter says in vs. 2, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” What is Peter getting at though with giving so grand and glorious foundation to the Christian faith and life? Clearly the apostle, led in his writing by God the Holy Spirit Himself, is calling confessing Christians then in his day, and in our day as well, to live fruitful and God-honoring lives based upon the gospel foundation. In God’s Name, Peter exhorts his readers then and still today to live out this blessed everlasting basis of salvation that he just laid out. How should the Christian gospel truth received and believed by God’s grace be lived out in our lives? Peter is concerned to make that clear because also in his day, yes, already in his day, not only were there lots of false religions out there but also much unchristian so-called Christian teaching and worldly, carnal, false Christianity being preached and promoted. Jesus Himself, while yet on earth with us, stated clearly, as recorded in Matthew 7:20, “By their fruits you shall know them.” What are the fruits, you ask, that surely should come in evidence when our lives are founded upon and building upon and budding forth from the foundation of the gospel of grace as Peter explained that in vs. 1-4? With II Peter 1 open before you if possible, will you notice and learn with me how Peter gives us at least four clear evidences of building your life on the Rock of Christ Jesus in the rest of the chapter? Based on II Peter 1:5-21, the theme today is, “Four evidences of being all out for God and good.” Are you and I reflecting Christian addition in life [vs/5-11]? Christian addiction [vs.12-15]? Christian anticipation [vs.16-18]? Christian appreciation [vs.19-21]? To study these four main fruits and examine ourselves accordingly can’t but be wholesome for us. I pray God to bless it, building up His people in the faith, and awakening the backsliding, and truly converting those not yet saved at all. First then, let us think about this matter of Christian addition in our life when it is well. Peter mentions where there is true faith, Christian graces need to be constantly added in our lives. He connects vs. 5 and following to the first foundation truths of vs.1-4 saying something like, “and now then also” or “for this reason now too.” The opening words in vs.5 teach and show, in other words, that being joined to the Saviour in truth and justified by faith alone also results in, by God’s grace and renewing Spirit, a life of sanctification. The life of sanctification is one of growing in grace and godliness. And Peter brings out now that should show in Christian addition in at least this seven-fold way. To the life of faith must be added more and more the pursuit of virtue, says Peter, meaning moral uprightness and integrity. We must courageously stand for and uphold what is true and honorable and in line with all God’s character and holy will and law. To say you are a Christian and at the same time allow yourself to live in the way of sin and disobedience and evil before God and man is a plain contradiction which we should give all diligence never to allow happen. With virtue, we also need to add knowledge, says Peter. Knowledge of God and His ways and purposes in and through Christ Jesus. Knowledge of God’s word. Increase in spiritual growth and awareness and sensitivity and desire is linked with growth in knowledge of Christ and all His word and will. Are you and I giving all diligence in this regard? Or are we more diligent with knowing what is happening in the movie world, or sports world, or digital world? A true and ever enthusiastic Christian gives diligence to grow in adding virtue and knowledge in his or her life. In addition to this Peter exhorts we should be growing in temperance or self-control. If we fly off the handle easily or so quickly give into the temptations and lusts of the flesh, we are weak in self-control. Who of us doesn’t have areas in life where we need to develop in more self-control by God grace? And to this needs to be added perseverance, that is endurance under trial and steadfastness in the long run. Paul writes similarly in I Corinthians 15:58 in view of Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour of sinners, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Are you and I persevering in our commitments and responsibilities and are we steadfast in adding to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance perseverance? Do you and I give all diligence in demonstrating Christian addition in our lives, adding next, as Peter says, also godliness in life? Do we reflect godliness both before God and people? With the Lord is found for us, says Peter in chapter 1:3, “all things that pertain unto life and godliness”. It shouldn’t be that as we get older as confessing Christians, we slacken in godliness but that we increase in godliness. Are you increasing in godliness day by day, year by year, or is it sadly not so, but rather you are becoming more indifferent and worldly perhaps? Are you into and reflecting with all diligence brotherly kindness, the next grace Peter mentions? That is, are you truly caring for others, especially for all those of the household of faith? And on top of that, Peter goes on, are you also adding to brotherly kindness charity? By charity he means here ‘agape’ love, the highest and ultimate Christ-like love, in all your ways and relations with others. What an addition list of Christian graces we have here. This seven-fold addition won’t happen dependent on ourselves, but drawing from Christ and being diligent in His ways should be something characteristic in our lives. If the whole of it is not there and any single detail of these addition points are missing, we are not pursuing them in faith and diligence. Then you and I are not living the faithful and fruitful Christian life as God calls for and may rightly expect from us as confessing Christians. In vs. 9-11 Peter strongly urges confessing Christians not to be slack in this matter of Christian addition in our lives. There is no legitimate excuse for it not happening in our lives when joined to Christ, and there is every reason to be very diligent that it be evident in our lives. At least, if we would make our calling and election sure, and not be so prone to fall and fail. Often it is the case that struggles and questions with assurance of faith diminish radically when active in the way of faith, giving all diligence also in Christian addition of graces as outlined by Peter. As one commentator said about this second letter, Peter is giving “radiant gospel truth both for an abundant entrance into the world to come and for a fruitful existence and witness in the meantime. But will we listen? Do you listen? Do I? Are we into Christian addition as Peter exhorts? The gospel isn’t just about the good news of justification but also about the good news of sanctification. What the Lord exhorts here through Peter, He also grants and works by His word and Spirit for all who abide in Christ and His word. Remember the gospel foundation from out of which the gospel witness of our lives may be and can be displayed and remain strong and firm. Saying that leads us also now to the second evidence of Christian fruit and faithfulness: Christian addiction. Peter speaks of this in vs.12-15. The focus of what he writes in these verses is that as long as he lives and even after his death Peter is bent on having his hearers and others know the truth and have it always before them and to be continually searching it and staying with it and sticking to it. The true believer, when in a healthy and growing state and condition, has a Christian addiction to Christian worship and Christian preaching and teaching. No matter how much we know, there is so much more to learn. Who of us also doesn’t repeatedly forget truths we ought to know and remember, even texts and stories and lessons from the Bible learned long ago? We need an addictive appetite for God’s word and truth and worship and service for as long as we live. Are you persuaded of this as well, and is this what you promote and practice in your life and that of your family? Peter is insistent on this not only but he will do his level best to help the Christians then and even long after his own death always to remember the gospel truths and to study and learn from it more and more. Verse 15 quite likely refers also to Peter, by means of disciple Mark, giving the memory of the gospel message as told in the gospel of Mark. As one put it, Well-founded tradition has it that the Gospel of Mark is the preaching material of Peter. Shouldn’t we be so very thankful to the Lord for not only giving us Peter’s two letters but also the gospel of Mark plus the other 63 books of the Bible to keep us always in remembrance of the gospel truth? Is the Bible a treasure book for you and me, one that we constantly read and seek to learn from and understand truly and more and more? Strangely and sadly while we have more resources than ever before to help us in reading and studying and understanding God’s word, yet it seems all too often the primary source of Scripture itself is not read through that much. Nor is it studied and meditated on as it calls for. As Peter was addicted to keeping others in remembrance of God’s word, are we addicted, you and I to that word and passing it on to others like Peter was so concerned to do? Are you addicted to Christian worship and teaching and preaching having it as a first love and priority matter, and something you too just need to come back to again and again and again? Let us not miss either that Peter says in this context of always putting us in remembrance how frail life is and how certain death is. When Peter describes his life here on earth saying in vs. 14, “shortly I must put off this my tabernacle” literally he is saying, “my tenting time here on earth is soon going to be over”. That is true for all of us, whether we like to think of it or not, or will admit it, yes or no. We soon fly away and pass on from our brief earthly existence. Isn’t this reality what also caused Moses to write and pray in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”? We have seen so far that the apostle Peter calls for a Christian living and witness that shows in Christian addition and Christian addiction. Notice next the call to Christian anticipation, an eager looking forward to Christ’s triumphant return from heaven and the fullness of His kingdom to come with His return. Doesn’t this come out in what Peter writes in vs. 16-18? Here observe with me how Peter testifies everything told about Christ Jesus in His first coming as foretold in Old Testament Scriptures is historical fact and we have every evidence all the gospel promises about His second and final triumphant coming are certain and most wonderful too for God’s people. We have not followed cunningly devised fables in proclaiming Christ Jesus as the promised Messiah, the one and only Saviour of sinners and Lord of lords and King of kings. In fact, says Peter, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. And then Peter is referring to the time as recorded in Matthew 17 and Mark 9 and Luke 9 when Jesus was transfigured in something of His infinite majesty and glory on the afterward named, Mount of Transfiguration. “And [Jesus] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” [Matthew 17:2]. That was also when Peter and James and John, the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, heard the voice from heaven saying, as stated in Matthew 17:5b, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; hear ye him.” On that same mountain the three disciples saw a miraculous appearance of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus, no doubt encouraging Him to continue to serve as the Christ of the Scriptures and to fulfill all things as the one and only promised Messiah and triumphant Saviour of sinners. And Peter’s point now with bringing up that most extraordinary, indeed, unique transfiguration of Christ that they witnessed, was to verify without question the certainty of Jesus’ triumphant return one day. All of Bible history and prophecy and all the three Persons of the Triune Godhead promise and proclaim the work of salvation begun and accomplished by the Saviour will also come to completion one day with all the elect saved and the climax of Jesus’ return. The Mount of Transfiguration experience that the three disciples witnessed gave such an undoubted assurance Jesus Christ as Saviour of sinners IS the Saviour who, being faithful and true in His first coming, will surely come again too as He told His disciples over and over again. Healthy faithful Christians always keep in view Christ Jesus, not just in His first coming, but also in His second coming. II Peter stresses in all three chapters the focus on the second coming of Jesus as outflow and certain triumphant consequence of His perfect saving work with His first coming. And Peter urges the Christians in his time and for all time, as long as we are in this life to keep Jesus’ second coming as a certain reality with all that that means. When we come to chapter 3 we will focus on this more, but Peter refers to it already here in chapter 1:16 when he speaks of “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and when he mentions also in vs.19 about the dawning of that final day when “the daystar arise[s]” in all His fullness and eternal glory to come. Are you ‘second coming’ minded? Are you ‘second coming’ conscious and conscientious again and again? When we are, it so impacts our lives, doesn’t it? Then often so much that seems to matter above all at any moment in our lives proves actually hardly to matter at all. And then what really matters, namely seeking and serving the Lord above all, trusting and following Him no matter what, again and again becomes our focus by God’s grace. Paul writes about the believers in Thessalonica that their outlook in life in Christian faith and faithfulness before God and their neighbors was, “to wait [not passively, but in holy active anticipation] for [God’s] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” [I Thessalonians 1:10]. This world here and now is but for a time compared to the eternal world to come when Jesus returns for the final judgment day as almighty, righteous, triumphant Saviour God. Are you living in Christian anticipation of Christ’s return? Oh, to be ever ready for Jesus’ return whenever that should be! It will be suddenly and the trumpet shall sound and all the world will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven. To be one of His in that day counts for everything. How blessed will be the day for God’s redeemed people when Jesus comes again. But how terrible and awful for all the unsaved in that day. So the call of the gospel is yet sounded now. Come to Jesus and do not delay. To live and die apart from Him will mean for you to be justly and eternally cast into hell, that place where there will be endless weeping and gnashing of teeth. But for all God’s people, as many as repent of sin and trust and follow Christ Jesus as only Saviour and Lord, that day will be the beginning of eternal glory and joy and peace and praise inexpressible and never-ending. Are you and I as confessing Christians living lives showing Christian addition, Christian addiction, Christian anticipation, and lastly yet, Christian appreciation? With this last point, focusing on vs. 19-21, isn’t Peter exhorting there how we should so appreciate God’s inspired written word? When the apostle says in vs. 19 that with God’s word, the Bible, we have a more sure word of prophecy, he means with Jesus and His first coming we see Scripture fulfilled and verified and promised and pledged in God’s word. And that word of God is more sure than anything of man’s own instinct or intuition. God’s word is the divinely inspired holy Scriptures breathed out under the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Holy men of God spoke as they were moved, carried along, guided by the Holy Spirit. Scripture is not something that may be privately interpreted, making of it whatever we like, but rather we must place ourselves under that word and look for and learn the clear gospel teaching of God as revealed in all 66 books of the Bible. You and I do well daily to take heed to God’s word. To read it, study it, and apply it to our lives in all our needs for soul and body, in life and death, for this life and for the life to come. In this book you find divine answers, blessings, comforts, directions, explanations, and so much more for all the questions that matter in life and death for all mankind in all of history. We ignore the Bible to our terrible loss in this life and to our eternal peril in the life hereafter. Peter says you and I do well to take heed to the Scriptures, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts. Is the Bible thus a lamp to your feet and a light upon your path? The more Bible-minded and saturated we are in seeking and serving the Lord, then, by God’s grace and Spirit, the more Christ-focused we will be and Christ-like we will become. This Paul also teaches emphatically in II Timothy 3:16-17. The Gideons in their little pocket Bibles have sometimes included the following introduction to it that is so true and in line with Peter’s words. The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions [or declarations] are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here too, Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents. Owned, it is riches; studied, it is wisdom; trusted, it is salvation; loved, it is character; and obeyed, it is power.” Are you too, by God’s grace, living in Christian appreciation of God’s holy word and in daily application to it in all your ways? How else can we confront with authority and confidence and boldness and grace all that opposes the one true God and the only Saviour of sinners and only gospel for lost and fallen, guilty, depraved mankind? Is this your conviction and confession of faith too, by God’s grace, or not so? How many sadly are scoffers and despisers of God’s Holy Bible, for as Proverbs 13:13 declares, “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed.” When it is well with our soul and we would live all out for God and good, let us pay heed now to Peter’s fourfold exhortation as found in our text. Let me close now emphasizing yet how the four main points of this message based on these verses in II Peter 1 are surely all interrelated. In other words, you can’t skip out on any of them for balanced and growing, thriving and throbbing, Christian life and witness. If we are healthy Christians and living all out for God and good, then Christian addition in holy graces in our lives, Christian addiction to holy concentration and service, Christian anticipation of Christ’s second and final coming, and Christian appreciation of God’s holy word and allegiance thereto all go together and belong together for as long as we live here in this life. And these Christian evidences will be there, by God’s grace, when living on and out of the gospel foundation as Peter sets forth in II Peter 1:1-4. Thank God for the gospel of grace still sounding and the light of His word still shining in our dark world. Does the light of the only precious gospel of Jesus Christ shine through and out of your lives too in the four ways Peter brings out in II Peter 1:5-21? How urgent that it be so, God helping you and me, because there are many false teachers and misguided people giving another gospel which is not the true gospel. This is something Peter will make very clear to us in the next chapter which we will look at next time, God willing. Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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