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Certainty In Uncertain Times

March 2012
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The Gospel of John

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The Gospel Cannot Be Contained

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Our Highest Priority

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Penetrating the Darkness

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Let me ask you a question. Do you consider yourself to be Christian? If so, do you know what “will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8)? The Apostle Peter tells us clearly in his first chapter (the first of three very important chapters we need to heed) of his second letter–2 Peter. Let’s read what he had to say in 2 Peter 1:3-11:

3His (Jesus Christ) divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Now let me ask you a second question. Do you really want to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (I Peter 1:4b)? If you are more inclined to live life on your own terms and desires while professing a faith in Jesus Christ, you might want to stop right here and examine your true motives. If your faith is in things you can see, it is not true faith. Your faith must be anchored in Jesus Christ, the only true way to salvation.

Peter tells us several things in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that we must add to our faith in order to be effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, and they build on each other in this order:

*to our faith, add goodness;
*to our goodness, add knowledge;
*to our knowledge, add self-control;
*to self-control, add perseverance;
*to perseverance, add godliness;
*to godliness, add brotherly kindness;
*to brotherly kindness, add love.

Of the seven attributes listed above, the first one, “goodness,” can trip us up at the outset. Goodness is often mixed up with “good works,” and a lot of folks think they can work their way to heaven by doing good works—but they can’t. We can only receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ—not by anything that we do or accomplish on our own. While it is true that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:16-20), we must first come to Jesus Christ in faith not because of anything we have done, but because of what He did on the cross. We cannot earn our way to heaven through good works. Note also that we are to “add” goodness to our faith. Therefore, our faith in Jesus Christ must already be established. And it is our faith in Jesus Christ that propels us to do the works that He would have us to do.

The attribute of “goodness” is  internal—it is who we are at the core of our being that makes itself evident outwardly in how we respond to others—it is genuine; whereas “good works” is external–what we “do”–which could come from selfish motives such as trying to impress others or earning a place in heaven (which cannot be done). Genuine “goodness” comes after faith, and instills in us kindness, benevolence; it builds good character and makes us trustworthy, and we become generous with others—treating others well (even our enemies). It is the very character of Jesus Christ living in us that produces these qualities of goodness. We cannot produce them on our own. We may try, but we’ll fall woefully short.

To goodness we are to add “knowledge.” Because our faith is grounded in Jesus Christ, our knowledge also comes from Him. And the source of that knowledge comes from the Bible. We must be grounded and established in the Bible on a daily basis. That is where we learn how to live wisely and not be tossed “to and fro” by all the temptations in the world. We learn to stand up for what is right, even if we end up standing alone. We don’t follow the crowd, but stick close the Source of our strength (Jesus Christ). There are all kinds of “knowledge” out there, but the knowledge to live a life that is pleasing to God is found in the Bible.

To knowledge we are to add “self-control.” I think most of us are aware of our shortcomings in this area. For example, America ranks #1 in the world for obesity. Our excesses are killing us, whether those excesses are in food, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, and that list goes on and on. Now remember we are building on faith, and we’ve already added knowledge. It’s that knowledge that will help us in the area of “self-control.” Just saying “no” is not enough. Start by putting on the armor of God every morning (Eph. 6:10-18) to be armed for the battle you will face throughout your day.

To self-control we are to add “perseverance.” Ah, “there’s the rub,” as Hamlet said in his soliloquy, “To Be or Not To Be” (Shakespeare). Perseverance—enduring—is where we fall flat on our faces many times. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the fainthearted turn back. It’s where, as the Newsboys sang in their song, Stay Strong,” “sin becomes cliché” (YouTube Video is at the end of this post). It’s where we make excuses for our behaviors (read that as “sins”) that we just don’t want to give up. It’s where the truth of our convictions become evidently clear to a watching world. As Heb. 12:1-3 clearly states: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (listed in Hebrews 11), let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance [emphasis mine] the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart [emphasis mine].

To perseverance add “godliness.” If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know that your perseverance will add godliness because it is Jesus Christ who has brought you this far, and the only godliness we will ever have comes from him and not anything in ourselves.

To godliness add “brotherly kindness.” Can you see now how this walk of faith builds itself up—one building block after another? First we started with faith at the very core, then added goodness, then knowledge, then self-control, and if you’ve stuck with it that far, perseverance which in turn gives you the godliness that only comes from Jesus. With all of that being built up in you, you can now express genuine brotherly kindness to others, including your enemies, because the focus has been taken off of yourself and you’re clearly running the race as Jesus intended.

And to brotherly kindness, we are to add the most important attribute on this list—“love.” I Corinthians 13, known as the “Love” chapter, states at the end, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We started out with “faith” and ended up with “love”—the kind of love that is from God which we are now able to extend to others–in fact, to the rest of world. It’s the kind of love that sent Jesus to the cross on our behalf—true, genuine, sacrificial love.

Peter concluded this section by stating, “But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:9-11).

“For if you do these things, you will never fall . . . .”

So let’s go out there and run this race.

YouTube Video:  “Stay Strong” by the Newsboys

Photo credit here

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