Christian Growth 2. Virtue
2 Peter 1:1-5 English Standard Version (ESV)
1 Simeon[a] Peter, a servant[b] and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Confirm Your Calling and Election
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d]4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge,
We are in week two of our series through Christian growth. We are looking at how do we apply the gospel in our lives. How does this wonderful news of Jesus saving us enable true growth and real character development. Tonight we will be looking at the characteristic of virtue or valour. “Essential goodness” is another way of putting it.
Now, one of the great dangers of a series like this is to abandon the hope of the gospel; to essentially leave it at the beginning of the Christian walk and then to look at these steps of Christian growth as personal accomplishments. In other words; Jesus gets us saved, now it is up to us to grow in virtue and knowledge etc.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. All of the Christian life is coming back to the wonder of what Christ has done for us and who He has made us and living out that reality. That is why Peter’s argument for Christian growth is so fundamental here. Peter is so aware of the nature of the gospel is to grow us and change us, therefore faith is the start, centre and end of the Christian walk.
This is what we covered last week. Everything comes down to our faith in the fact that we are participants in the divine nature. And God promise to us in Christ everything we need for life and godliness. Therefore If we get the fact that God is for us and not against us we will abandon our Epithumia (our over-desires) and in this we will grow.
Well we move on from there tonight and we will use the text and our outline tonight so let’s dive in. Our first point is…
For this reason
For what reason? Well for the reason that God has given us “…his precious and very great promises” that we will share in His divine nature through what Christ has done. We have to come back to this. Because our hearts don’t get it.
The only way we are going to grow in the Christian walk is by reminding ourselves (our hearts) that God, in Christ, is for us. He is good to us. He wants to lavish on us His precious and exceedingly great promises.
Why does he want to lavish these upon us? Because we are good? Because we obey all the rules and follow all the Laws? No, because Christ has redeemed us through His death and resurrection!
So, before we even attempt to move on; if you are not growing in your Christian walk, if you feel stuck. It may not fundamentally be because you are not trying too hard, rather you are still stuck in a performance mentality with God.
Most of us, fall into this kind of thinking. If I do “such-and-such good thing” (read my bible, give to the poor, ect) then God will be happy with me and bless me and I will grow, and if I do “such-and-such bad thing” then God will be angry with me and will not bless me and my life will be bad.
But that is still the Old, anti-gospel, way of thinking. Why would God bless you at all? Only because of Christ. Will anything good you do impress him? Not really. He is God! Can you be too bad that He will not take you in and love you? No! As Charles Spurgeon said, “No sins can be too back or too numerous for that precious blood to clean.”
And John says in 1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Therefore, our life is now a matter of repenting and trusting God that He has forgiven all our sins in Christ Jesus. It is only if we get that then we can (point 2)…
Make every effort
The Greek here literally is make the maximum amount of effort. But this is in response to the promises. Follow Peter’s logic here. He is making sure we start with the promises, and if the promises are true, then we must bring ourselves through that promise into what Peter is calling us.
If God has blessed you with every promise, if you are now “all-good” with God, the response is a thankful, joyful effort.
The best way I can illustrate this is from an old TV show called Reggies Rush which was on K-TV. The basic premise of the show was that these kids were given 30 or 60 seconds (I cant remember) to run around a toy store and everything they could get into the trolley in that time was theirs to keep. The intensity of the effort these kids put into getting toys was pulpable. As the starter buzzer went these kids would use every ounce of effort they had to gain a trolley full of toys.
Now, Ask yourself were the kids digging deep and running from a sense of duty or joy? Joy obviously!
Now, the illustration has it’s limitation. But the lesson is simple, what are your motives? We must ask what is driving your obedience and effort? What is motivating your growth. This is fundamental. For many of us, We are still the goal, we are the object of our obedience. Why do you want to grow? It is not simply out of delight in what Christ has done, you want to be better for your own sake. God is not the reason nor the goal in your life, you are. And that is why your growth, especially your Christian growth is so haphazard and stilted.
Our effort has to be directed. Where is it to be directed? From faith to God.
Which leads us to our next point…
Add lavishly to your established faith
We are adding to our faith. What is our faith, that God has given us everything we need in Christ Jesus and promised that we will be made like him. To use a quote from Romans; “There is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.” (8:1).
Our effort comes from an infinite resource and moves towards an infinite goal.
The resource: Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of which I am Chief; Jesus’ perfect love and perfect sacrifice is the resource.
The goal: Jesus Himself – we will become like Him and we will be with Him forever.
That is our faith. You have a long way to go, but you have infinite resources to get there. There is always room to improve, but there is always more than enough encouragement and hope to move you forward.
With all this in mind, if everything is yours in Christ Jesus, why not…
Lavishly add Valour
We don’t really use the words virtue and valour in our conversations today. I mean the only modern usage of virtue is when someone virtue signals on social media. But these are good words. The Greek word that Peter uses literally translates as manliness. Only because it was connected to the idea of valour, someone who is powerful but good. To modernise this and make it applicable to both sexes. The idea is of goodness of character. Goodness of nature, or being good for goods sake.
And again, this is why what we have established so far is so important. There is something off about someone who is trying to be good all the time. Someone who is proving themselves as “the nice guy”. It comes across as pretentious and hypocritical. Because they are.
The gospel establishes that we are not good, therefore there is nothing left to prove, but it establishes a grateful love to be better.
I’ll put it this way, if everything in your world was put right what would you want to do? Mess it up again? No, you would want to walk in what is best for you.
Faith teaches us that a good God who has made a good world has done everything you need to be okay with Him, why would you want live against that. You wouldn’t!
Sin messes up our lives, “epithumia’s” leave us feeling empty and lost, running away from God leaves us hopeless, so why do anything else but run into His desire and plan.
As Paul says in Romans 12:1, “In light of God’s mercy give yourself as a living sacrifice, this is your logical act of worship.” In other words we add goodness, or valour to our lives because that is the only logical thing to do.
So, what I am saying is live in the love of God, focus in on what Jesus has accomplished in the gospel, and that creates a desire to be good for God’s sake not for our own. To be really good because it is good to be good.
The gospel helps us start to see that our self-focused, me-orientated way of existence is stupid, it doesn’t work, it makes us worse not better, it leaves us emptier not fuller, and out of grateful hearts we now see that caring for others, doing real good is good for us and is what God designed us for no matter how hard it is.
If Jesus was willing to die for me a sinner, I can go through discomfort for others. If Jesus gave up everything for me, I can live simpler so that I can give to others.
It is there that we are have real valour.
Now there is one final question that needs answering;
What do we do when we don’t?
How do we respond when we are not adding goodness (virtue) to our faith? When we have a bad day, when we find ourselves acting selfishly?
Well, here is the power of the gospel; you repent! Catch yourself, realise why you are doing this and repent. Go back to God through Christ and trust again that He has done everything you need to be okay.
This means you can stop trying to justify yourself and excuse your behaviour, which means then you can actually become a better person.
Think about it, what happens most of the time when we catch ourselves doing wrong or worse are caught doing wrong? We excuse ourselves and self-justify. “I know it is wrong, but it is actually someone else’s fault.” We say or tell ourselves. And because of this we self-justify and try to atone for ourselves and become worse, more guilt ridden.
But the cross stands as a true point of healing; it recognises that you have guilt, you did something wrong; but it then gives you the boldness to own up to that and therefore deal with it. In this you are adding virtue, you are actually being good.
I remember the one time myself and my two kids were trying to fix something in our lounge, I had my new set of screwdrivers and we were all stuck in trying to fix this toy. Lauren, picked up one of my screw heads and was playing with it; so I told her not to as they were expensive (it was one of those magnetic sets that there are many magnetised heads that all fit into a common screwdriver). Anyway, we finished up the project after using a number of screw heads and when I was packing away one was missing. Well, my mind went to the fact that Lauren was playing with one, so I blasted her because this was now gone, we couldn’t find it anywhere. I told myself, I have to be harsh, cause she needs to learn to be responsible. Well after about 15 minutes of me scolding her and us looking for it, I picked up my screwdriver and magnetized to the base of the screwdriver was the missing head. Ever instinct in me wanted to cover that up, because it was my fault not hers that I had lost the head. Every instinct was there to make myself look good at the expense of my daughter. But grace made me own my mistake. “What am I trying to prove” I thought, and I had to eat humble pie and apologies to her for shouting at her falsely.
My point is, it is repentance and faith that forces us out of ourselves to, for the first time in our lives, actually be good.
Not try to be good to prove ourselves, but rather to live good lives because Christ has already made us good in God eyes. So add to your FAITH goodness. Let what Christ has done for you drop deep down into you so that you gratefully, longingly live virtuous lives. You will discover then that this too is a grace, a fruit, not produced from your effort, but from His goodness, which will make you then more grateful, more longing for His grace and goodness and therefore produce more fruit.