Thursday, December 4, 2008

II Peter 1:8-9 The Necessity of Christian Growth

If a person is a Christian, they have been made alive spiritually. Until that point, their spirit is dead. Oh, they’re walking, talking, living, breathing being on the outside and every person that knows them or sees them would affirm that they are a living being. Truthfully, they are alive physically but the Bible teaches that they are completely dead spiritually. One of the clearest evidences of life in a person is growth. A baby grows and develops into a toddler and eventually grows into an adult. If you or I met a person that never grew or developed we would probably think that something was wrong. In much the same, a Christian who has not matured beyond spiritual infancy should be unusual. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. In fact, as Peter observes in these verses a lack of spiritual maturity should be a cause for concern.

Peter writes in verse 8 that a Christian should be indentified by godly living. He writes “if these qualities are yours and are increasing”. The qualities he speaks of are the ones listed in verses 5-7 of this chapter. He writes that these qualities “are yours” (Greek hurparcho [5225]-this means to legitimately possess something). Because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are now enabled to live differently. These qualities are not something that we should hope for or strive for but they are qualities that we now possess in this present reality and we should live them. In fact, not only should we live them but they should be “increasing”. As we exercise these qualities we will see more of them and the more we see of them the more we should exercise them. As an apple tree bears apples a Christian should bear Christian fruit. Our fruit is evidence of being a Christian.

In fact, Peter makes that same point when he says these qualities cause us to be “neither useless or unfruitful” in our Christian lives. The word “useless” translates the Greek word “argos” (692). The word argon, one of the Noble gases on the periodic table, comes from this Greek word. The Noble gases are known as inert—they don’t react with anything. That is the basic idea behind this Greek word. Peter here is saying that a growing, maturing Christian will not be idle or inert. When we see people who need to hear about the love of God we will seek opportunities to share that love. We will want to be involved in ministry. There are no cheerleaders in the Christian faith—we’re all called to “get in the game”. Peter also says a maturing Christian will not be “unfruitful”. Jesus Himself said that if we abide in Him we would bear fruit (John 15:5). It is by exercising the qualities listed in verses 5-7 that we bear fruit. It is simply the natural outgrowth of being a new creature in Jesus Christ. However, Peter says that if someone claims to be a Christian and is not bearing fruit, there are two possibilities.

Peter says in verse 9 that “he who lacks these qualities is blind (Greek tuphlos-5185). This is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 23:16 to describe the Pharisees and as it is used here it also means spiritual blindness. Peter is saying that if a person claims to be a Christian and they lack these qualities in their life one possibility is that they may not be a Christian at all. Perhaps you are reading this and outwardly people see some of these qualities and think you’re a Christian but you know deep in your heart you’re just putting on a show—an academy award performance. Brother or sister, let me exhort you that you might fool some people but you’re not fooling God. Peter declares here that someone who does not exhibit these qualities and is not growing in Christlikenes may, in fact, not be saved at all but they might, in all reality, be spiritually blind and unredeemed.

Peter says the second possibility is that the person is “short-sighted”. They can’t see past the nose on the end of their face. This person is saved but their spiritual growth is stunted. They are not progressing in holiness. They are not being obedient to the commands of the Bible and, quite frankly, are in a position where they are inviting judgment by God. God disciplines His children when they are disobedient. He disciplines them out of love. A Christian who is not growing is one who is not witnessing or studying the Bible. They are not involved in ministry is any substantial way. Their disobedience is a sin and God will judge that sin. However, Peter gives here the root cause of this lackadaisical approach to the Christian life. A person who does not grow in godliness is one who has “forgotten his purification from his former sins”. That is the key. You and I need to remember what God saved us from when He called us to Himself. Now, maybe you weren’t an outlaw and you might not have been that bad, comparatively. However, from God’s perspective you were an outlaw and you were incapable of saving yourself or making yourself right with God. You were doomed. You were helpless. You were God’s enemy. However, because God is so merciful and on account of His Son’s death, burial, and resurrection God saved you when you repented and placed faith in Jesus. If you ever need motivation to serve the Lord, I exhort you to remember what He saved you from. When you meditate on that, I believe you will be motivated to serve Him out of a thankful heart filled with love.

4 comments:

Nathan W. Bingham said...

@Joe: What an appropriate reminder, and a message that is not often proclaimed from pulpits on the Lord's Day.

Your concluding two lines are crucial, and something that many who 'desire' holiness often forget:

"If you ever need motivation to serve the Lord, I exhort you to remember what He saved you from. When you meditate on that, I believe you will be motivated to serve Him out of a thankful heart filled with love."

The gospel is not only for unbelievers, but is a necessity for every believer, every day.

Thanks Joe!

Joe Blackmon said...

Wise words, my friend.

It's like the old hymn says:
I love to tell the story
for those who know it best
seem hunbering and thirsting
to hear it like the rest

Thank you for the encouragement.

candidchatter said...

Great post and further evidence as to the "why" behind the award.

On to spiritual maturity and beyond!!

Heidi

Joe Blackmon said...

Heidi

You are too kind. Press on toward the calling, girl.