Growing in True Knowledge

Written on: November 6, 2020

Article by: Dave Knutson

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they do not make you useless nor unproductive in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the one who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten  his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choice of you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2nd Peter 1:5-11)

Which of us hasn’t gotten into the car with little kids and just started out, only to hear, are we there yet?

Well…in the New Testament there is a tension between the things that already are, and the things that are yet to come. Tension between what God has already done and what he’s yet to do….especially the work that he has begun in us and that which remains to be done

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The first 4 verses of 2nd Pet. 1 are all about what God has already done. He has revealed his will…fully and finally in Jesus Christ. What Jesus did and said was truth. And when he went back to heaven, he arranged for the Holy Spirit to give the disciples total recall and to lead them into all the truth.

Peter assures us then that this truth and our knowledge of it has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. When we put on Christ in baptism, God made us partakers of his divine nature. And because we share that nature, God’s promise of eternal life belong to us.

God has showered us with his grace. He has caused us to be at peace with him. God has done this through the glory and the excellence of his son. Jesus was God in the flesh and full of glory. His live was sinless, excellent in every way. Together in one man, these provided a pure sacrifice of infinite value able to forgive sins for all time.

God demanded nothing less. It is Jesus who has set us free us from the “corruption that is in the world through lust” with the result that we do not look forward to death…but to life. We are now free – free from sin and free to be godly. We are freed from what we were and set free to fully become what we now are.

It sounds odd to say that ‘free is what we are and freedom is also our goal..

As Paul puts it in Galatians 5:1 “it was for freedom that Christ set you free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery”.

The blood of Jesus has taken our sins away. In him, we have become new people, God’s new creation. And as his new creation we are pure & sinless – holy and righteous. Peter tells us that this is not just wishful thinking. It is God’s wish for us and it has come true in Christ Jesus. But here is the point: that since it is true it is so very important that we believe it to be true

You and I need to know just who we have become – in Christ. We need a new vision. We need to see ourselves as God sees us…in his Son. And we need to let that vision move us.

The text for this article begins with the words “for this very reason”. Because of all that God has already done. Because we are now God’s children in Christ Jesus… certain imperatives flow from this new reality. What God has done, so far, is just the beginning. And what we have done in accepting his grace is also just the beginning.

There is this great power…resident in the word of God. And God is just waiting to let it loose in our lives, if we will let him

Peter says:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

Since we participate in God’s divine nature, God expects us to make progress. He expects us to grow up to be like him, which by the way is not easy. God knows that it’s not easy and Peter is also fully aware also. This is why he wrote: ‘make every effort”. As Christians, we are going to have to put ourselves out, apply ourselves, pulling out all the stops.

If that sounds like work, its because it is. If you think it isn’t easy being green, It’s really not easy being like God. Godly living is done on a narrow road that slopes upward. Growing up into the image of Jesus is never going to happen accidentally, which is why Peter says…apply all diligence

Due diligence mean that we engages in conduct that rises to a standard of care. This kind of diligence does not rush to judgment. It gathers the facts and thinks about them before deciding.

That’s what Peter is talking about. He wants us to do the responsible thing as we pursue godly living

Now its important to notice that the list of virtues that we read about, are things that you and I are supposed to supply. God has high hopes for us. He expects the best, which is what this list is all about.

Peter begins with faith, because in Christ, nothing happens without it. He assumes that it’s there and the foundation of everything else. Therefore all of the other virtues in this list are added to our faith.

But it is vital not to miss this first point., that human effort is essential. It’s the means by which we take hold of the promises of God.

So, what is it that we are to supply?

The first thing is virtue…or ‘moral excellence’. Our faith in Jesus should lead us to live the good life…that he lived.

Peter puts it this way in 1st Peter 1:9

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Our character is supposed to look like God’s. His excellence should be on display…in us. So that when we speak – we sound like him. When we act, we look like him in that we are Christ-like.

Incidentally, people don’t need the bible to recognize moral excellence. All over the world, honesty looks the same. Personal integrity is universal and truthfulness stands on its own two feet.

But people do need the bible to understand that we are not this way on our own – that we’ve been bought with a price & that is to God’s credit. One of the litmus tests of false doctrine is that it produces immoral living. So Peter says…add to your faith moral excellence. Give your faith the only valid expression that there is.

Now it’s a bit puzzling that Peter returns to knowledge, because that’s where he started. He has us add knowledge to our moral excellence. I wonder why he does that?

Let me suggest that there is no part of our lives that can be lived without it. We need knowledge to be saved. Then we need more knowledge to live the saved life.

We need to deepen our faith…to “climb out of the cradle”

Life is not lived in a spiritual cradle…God wants us to grow up.

It seems then that each of these virtues is a foundation for the next. There is a real danger that we will learn what we ought to do, but never get around to doing it. There’s knowing better and then there’s doing better. Moral excellence is a great example of doing the right thing. And when you and I actively do God’s will, we’ll just keep coming back over and over again to God’s word.

There ought to be an ongoing cycle of knowing & doing and knowing & doing. What we learn from God’s word…guides what we do. And what we do, brings us back to God’s word for more guidance. Maybe that’s the reason then, that Peter wants us to add a second dose of knowledge to our moral excellence…

And then…to your knowledge, self-control. This may be one term that needs no explanation But as with many things that ought to go without saying…its hard not to say something. Self-control is all about mastering our appetites. It’s about bringing desire…under control, which makes the self- part of self-control that which we struggle with. The thing is…that God treats us as adults. He just teaches and expects us to learn. He disciplines and expects us to change. He loves us & wants us to do the right thing – because we love him

The kingdom of God is all about inner restraint. The doors are not locked and the keys are in the car. The kingdom of God is about freedom and trust. It’s a place for growing up and taking responsibility for ourselves.

So Peter says…control yourselves. You can do it and God expects it. This is the vision that God has of us and God is not wrong. We can do it and do it we must. And as we do, Peter says – persevere

Perseverance is all about not giving up. It’s about enduring, hanging onto God in order to hang in. There is a is real link between perseverance and self-control. Self-control ought never be…a sometimes thing. Christian living is 24/7. It takes perseverance to be good. And it takes perseverance in godliness to be like God…for God does not change.

But here’s another nuance.

Self-control is about winning out over ourselves…over our desires. Perseverance includes things that come at us from the outside…while self-control handles things from the inside. When we put them together, and we become whole…strong from the inside out. Strong today & growing stronger tomorrow.

When times get tough, let us persevere. Let’s not chuck our faith and swap our morals. Let us stay loyal to God – trusting what God has already accomplished in us while cooperating with all that remains to be done. .

Now, did you know that steadfastness is not just defensive. It’s not like hanging onto a rope in a tug-of-war. Godliness is perseverance in attack mode. At it’s core, godliness is reverence or piety toward God. It’s life in the spotlight of God’s presence. It’s living with a sense…that God is here and he is now. That wherever we go, He goes with us. That there has never been a time or a place without him. That’s the kind of life that Peter wants for us…

So God wants us to be heavenly minded…but he also wants us to be of some earthly good.

Which brings us to brotherly-kindness.

Being aware of God’s presence does not mean that we ignore people. Godliness is not about being a hermit. It’s not about isolation from the world. It’s not about loving God and ignoring your brother.

As a matter of fact, John writes that unless we love each other…we cannot really love God. (1st John 4:20) It’s a lot easier to love people who we can see, than it is to love God. And since real love for God demands that we love people, there is no other way to actually love God. Everything else is just pretense

Now the word that Peter uses is agape. He’s talking about God’s kind of love, the kind that does not depend on our worthiness

Agape is an intelligent love. It is a decision…and not a feeling. It discovers what people need and then sets out to meet those needs. That’s how God loved us. He saw our need from eternity and decided long before the world ever was – to send his Son.

When we think about this list, it seems to me that the bar is set pretty high. I know myself and I’m not sure that I can jump that high. But Peter knew himself too yet the Holy Spirit guided him to write these words. And he didn’t do it to discourage us…by asking the impossible

What he says next – makes all the difference.

I think it’s the key to this whole passage

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

Two things jump right out of the text.

The first is.. that these qualities are supposed to be increasing. In other words, we never fully arrive. Spiritual growth is a process…that never stops. As long as we are alive, we ought to be growing into Christ’s image. When we do, we are useful to God and our lives produce exactly what God is after.

The second thing that I want you to notice is the content of what we are to believe. In the same way that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God…we must also believe that Christ has done what he promised to do

That in Christ, we are purified from sin.

That in Christ, we are righteous and godly

That this is the new normal…and we must never forget it.

As a matter of fact…there are warning signs that we have forgotten it. If we are not growing, then that is a sign

If our knowledge of God’s word is stuck in first grade.

If our morality is in detention

If we are out of control and always giving up…on God, on others and on ourselves…

If we live as if God is nowhere to be found…and we can’t get along with our brothers.

Then guess what…something is very wrong. We are not being useful to God or to his kingdom. We are not being led by His Spirit and we are not a blessing to the world or to the church.

If that’s true, then we need to repent. We need to come back and start over. And the good news is…that God wants us to do just that. But lest we miss the point…God wants us to grow… because we are not there yet”. And just as importantly, there is something that we can do about it.

So Peter writes:

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Let’s think about what’s at stake, and then pull out all the stops. No more mediocrity. No more excuses. Time to get serious about choosing God so that he can choose us.

But once is not enough

Let’s choose God every day…so that we will never stumble. And Christ will be free to welcome us into his kingdom for all eternity

Barrie ON