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Christian Growth 3. Knowledge

2 Peter 1:1-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

Greeting

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,

As we come to our third week through Christian growth we come to the aspect of knowledge. We are going to continue following Peter’s logic in talking about this tonight. Peter has given the ground of Christian growth is faith; faith that in Christ we have all that we need from God. That essentially the gap between us and God has been restored through Jesus Christ, and this gives us access to the goodness of God.

It is this faith, that becomes what we must come back to live in and live out every day. Now, last week we saw that if we get this; if we understand that God is for us and not against us, it makes sense to live virtuous lives. Not fake goodness, but seek with all our might to be good for goodness sake. Tonight, we will see that to be good, we must add to our goodness knowledge.

And it is here tonight that you will see that what Christ offers us is not an easy life, but one of pursuit, one of struggle. The gospel is not some simple mindless faith that we must just accept and then everything will be okay. It is not complicated to understand, however, if we understand it, it will challenge us to grow especially in what we are going to talk about tonight.

Peter says add to your goodness knowledge. Which leads us to our first point tonight;

  1. Goodness needs knowledge

What I mean here is that Christianity is not a religion purely of ethics. Its primary aim is not simply to make good people. In fact, as C.S. Lewis says, Christianity is not interested in making better men, it is about making new men.

Why I need to emphasize this; is many of us come to church, initially to be better. To be good. But as we saw last week goodness is a necessary result of faith; it flows from the acceptance of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Which means, and this will be our central idea for tonight; If that is true, then the gospel creates a positive feedback loop of goodness coming from faith, which then leads us to a hunger to know that faith, which creates a deeper understanding of that faith which then produces fruits of goodness.

Essentially the wonder of the Gospel creates within us change which then creates a hunger for more information of what that gospel is and means, which then creates more change within us, and so on.

Essentially, Christianity is a truth orientated and knowledge orientated religion.

Which is my second point:

  1. The history of Christianity and the pursuit of knowledge

What is fascinating is that you see this reality throughout the history of Christianity. And you will see this deeply in its roots.

As we look at the Hebrew faith (which Christianity is rooted in) the Hebrews were emphatic about the accuracy and education of the faith. Their Scriptures (the Old Testament) and their history is a testimony to this.

Deuteronomy 6 makes it a command to “…teach all this to your children…”

Proverbs is a book about the education of the young. In fact there is an entire section of the Old Testament dedicated to wisdom. The whole history of the writing down of the Jewish Scriptures was one of accuracy and truth. There is a commonly told story of the scribes who were writing down the Old Testament, if they made a mistake on the scroll that they were copying, they would have to burn the scroll and start again.

There was a culture of the pursuit of knowledge deeply embedded in the Hebrew culture and this is seen in the writing of the New Testament. Paul who is the largest contributor of the writing of the New Testament was an extremely educated individual. He was a student of Gamaliel, who was a highly rated intellectual of his day. Paul was familiar with the writings of the Greek philosophers and top thinkers of his day. You can see him reference them in Acts as well as other of his writings.

This tradition flowed out into the so-called Church Fathers, Polycarp and his writings we highly intellectual. Justyn Martyr was rigorously engaged in the thinking of his day. The Cappadocian Fathers, the two Gregory the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus as well as Basil the Great.

Then we have Augustine, who shaped world thought for the last over 1500 years. This lead to a tradition that was set and maintained throughout church history of rigorous intellectual engagement and pursuit.

We could go through all the names such, Aquinas, Erasmus, Bacon, Kierkegaard, but let’s be real Bacon is the only one that stood out. The reality, is you cannot come to modern thinking, the ideas and ideal that the world you live in without acknowledging that we came here on the back of the intellectual giants of these Christian thinkers. This is the irony of the modern age, it is simultaneously is in debt to Christian though and yet it has such a distain and dismissal of the Christian religion.

The reality is that Christianity by its nature is a faith that demands a pursuit of knowledge and truth. Does this mean that all of Christianity is intellectual, absolutely not! What I am saying is that you cannot go to the Scriptures and really engage them without coming away challenged and educated. They require vigorous intellectual engagement.

All this leads us to the crux of what I want to talk about tonight and our application;

  1. Your faith needs knowledge; and your knowledge needs faith

In verse 2 Peter says; 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

And then commands us to add to our faith, goodness and to goodness knowledge. The lesson is this church; Your faith needs knowledge and your knowledge needs faith. These things are inseparable.

My goal now, is to demonstrate that this is true and then give us an application – what must we do?

The really big, fundamental, questions of life must be attained by faith. What do I mean? Well let’s look at love. Love can be broken down into it’s primary chemical reactions. It is a flood of Oxytocin that leads to a rewiring of the neural pathways that then release progesterone which makes you feel warm feeling and commitment to that person. It can be said that love is Oxytocin. It is the trick your brain plays on your to pass on your genes.

This is accurate in a chemical reality but it is not true. Because even the most ardent atheist who says they completely believes this, does not believe this in such a way that they actually live their life like that.

This is the same as meaning. If you claim we exist in a meaningless universe with an accident as its cause and meaningless heat death as it’s end, why then do you live for meaning? Why does anything in your life and all your striving do; nothing.

Now both of these we can’t prove? You can’t prove love, but you can know it, and the more you know it the more you believe. And the more you believe the more you know of it. Well this is all of life.

It is the famous statement of Augustine credo ut intelligam (I believe in order to understand) that is a reflection of this reality. For much of our lives we have to come from the position of faith to move to the position of understanding so that we can go deeper into belief.

It is the fundamental premise of this entire series that we are going through; if you want to grow as a Christian you have to come from it’s own premise: From the basis of belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is this premise of God’s love for us that develops a natural, self-perpetuating goodness, which then forces us to wrestle with our faith and know it better, which then in turn drives a response of adoration praise and deep character change which in turn drives us to know more and so the cycle continues.

Faith in the gospel is the premise, character development is the result, but the pursuit of the knowledge of faith is the action.

This leads us to;

  1. What we must do and the dangers in this

As Peter suggest added to your faith; goodness and to goodness, knowledge. How do we grow in knowledge? Well that comes through the acceptance of our lack of knowledge and then the pursuit of that knowledge through study. And I have lost you, because school has jaded you here.

Let us look at what we are pursuing; what we are studying. The idea that an infinite being of perfect goodness has loved us and given himself for us. That He has revealed Himself and has died for us so that He might be know us. And He is now calls His creation to the pursuit of that knowing that is something to discover. For when you discover this it puts other things into place, your place in the world, the understanding of yourself, and others, the motivation of others. It opens up your destiny and the destiny of all things. It gives us clarity on our motives and the motives of others. It reveals to us why things are the way they are. It gives us hope and a purpose. Why wouldn’t you seek to understand this?

We don’t want to seek this, we don’t want to know God because what it means. The impact it has on us. And here is the danger. Knowledge as a self-pursuit will always lead you astray and make you arrogant.

Famous author and noted atheist Aldous Huxley wrote quite candidly of his atheism he said:

I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. . . . For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political…[1]

He wanted to do as He pleased and the idea of God and meaning got in the way of that. We might go into the seeking knowledge not to find grace and God, but to justify our own selfish motives. To give us a reason to live as we please. This is why we need revelation; we need insight into our own hearts, into our world, into who we are and what motivates.

I want to suggest tonight that as we rush into that knowledge, we discover our deficiency which opens us up to see His overwhelming grace, which then humbly makes us hungry to know Him more.

Dive deep into the scriptures, long deeply to know Him and commit yourself to seek Him, because He was the one who first sought you!

Let’s pray.

[1] Huxley, Aldous, Ends and Means (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1937), 270.

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