Seven Virtues of Christian Growth
Copyright © 1978
Indian Hills Community Church
2 Peter 1:5-7
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh on Feb. 25, 1996)
We are studying 2 Peter, Peter's last letter, which was written in the shadow of his impending execution. His remarks in chapter 1, verse 14, indicate that he believes his death is imminent. His letter clearly indicates a burden and a concern that the people of God to whom he is writing in the churches of what we know as Asia Minor would be faithful and on guard against false teachers and false doctrine.
We talk about false teaching and false doctrine because there is not a more important subject to be clear on than the subject of our salvation. This is the bottom line - the foundational doctrine - for us. How can a person be right with God? How can we have forgiveness of sins and be assured of eternity in heaven? Sadly, most people are confused on the Biblical doctrine of salvation. And even more tragically, the confusion is eroding the stability of the church that claims to belong to Jesus Christ.
There is nothing more confusing than the relationship of faith and works, and what part works plays in salvation. Some people, perhaps very earnestly, believe that they can be saved by doing their best, by keeping the Ten Commandments. Paul said of Israel in Romans 10:2: "...they have a zeal for God, but not according with knowledge." They say they know God, but their minds are not set upon the truth. I find it very sad and tragic when people say, "Oh, yes, I am trying to keep the Ten Commandments," as if that would get them to heaven. "I am doing the best I can," they say. And yet the God who will judge all humanity has already said in Romans 3:20: "...by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight..." People persist in saying they hope to go to heaven because they are trying to keep the Ten Commandments and are trying to lead a good, moral life. Yet the One who will judge them has already declared that not one person will be justified before Him by works of the law. I find that very sad. The verdict already has been rendered. You cannot have righteousness on that basis.
Paul went on in Romans 4:5 to say, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." The only way to receive the righteousness of God, which is what we all need, is by faith in what God has done in providing salvation by the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. So it is not possible for works to produce salvation or to bring about salvation. Works have no place or role in accomplishing salvation in a heart and mind. In fact, Isaiah, the prophet, wrote hundreds of years before Christ that all of our righteous deeds are like polluted rags in the sight of God.
Confusion over the role that works plays in accomplishing our salvation has corrupted many churches and confused many people. However, in reaction to that, many people have become confused about the role that works do play in the context of salvation. The Scripture is very clear. Salvation is not a result of works, but salvation always results in works. Works don't result in salvation, but salvation always results in works. The distinction is absolutely essential. Those who were born into God's family will manifest the character of God.
Turn back to James 2:17: "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." Drop down to verse 26: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." In this context, it's clear that James is saying that true, saving faith will always result in works. Now, if God had asked my opinion, I would have told Him it would probably be better if He said certain things differently. In my Bible, we would not have had James 2:24, which says: "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." I say, "Oh, Lord, You could have saved me a lot of grief by not including that verse that way. That's just so confusing to people." But you know what? It doesn't confuse the elect. And there's no way to sort out the confusion of the non-elect. James is saying that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone in this context: a faith that doesn't produce works is not a saving faith, so works are part of salvation in the sense they are the result of true faith, but they don't bring about salvation.
In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul first talks about the wretched, lost condition in which we all found ourselves before the grace of God intervened. Then look at verse 4 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved.)" Grace, by definition, excludes works because it's something undeserved or unmerited. Verses 8-9 state: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." So you see, our salvation is a result of the work of God's grace that brings us to faith in Christ. It is not a result of our works. Verse 10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..." You see, when you're made new in Christ, you do the works that God intends for His children to do.
1.Essential Doctrine Is Corrupted
I am appalled at the depth of confusion and corruption that is infiltrating and pervading the church today concerning this doctrine of the essential nature of works as an evidence of true salvation. We had a speaker scheduled to come here not too long ago. I had read some of his material. I had heard him. I had visited with him. I thought he would be very helpful to our body. Then I read an article he wrote that decried the fact that some people believe that works are necessary as a result of salvation. I had to call him on the phone and tell him we had to cancel his visit here.
How is this infiltrating the Church? Through confusion that is at the very heart of the issue - the relationship of works to salvation. Many of us think we're all clear on this. No, we're not all clear on this. This confusion has really taken hold because of a professor who used to be at one of our evangelical seminaries. He taught there for years and trained men in this kind of thinking. He has re-interpreted the Scripture to fit his conviction, so that James 2:26, which reads, "...faith without works is dead," to him means that some Christians have a dead faith and some Christians have a living faith. He re-interpreted 1 John 3, which shows the obvious differences between the children of God and the children of the devil, and taught that there are two kinds of Christians - some who are children of the devil and some who are children of God. That kind of interpretation is seen in the commentaries on certain books of the Bible that he has written. How did this ever take hold in the evangelical church? It is obvious that not all of us are clear on this. We must be well grounded in truth, and that is what Peter is writing about.
2.Salvation Provides Necessary Qualities
Come back to 2 Peter and remember what he has done very quickly in his letter. God's work of salvation has been established in the opening four verses, particularly in verses 3 and 4. This salvation is by faith, and faith is given to us by a sovereign God, according to verse 1. Peter is writing to those who have received the faith. That faith has been given to them as part of God's gift of salvation. This salvation brings us into the true knowledge of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we see in verses 2 and 3. This salvation provides everything necessary for godly living, which we see in verse 3: "...His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness..." It is this salvation that has enabled us to become partakers of the divine nature. Look at the end of verse 4: "...having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." The two go together. We've become partakers of the divine nature, and God's character is manifested in us because we have escaped the rottenness that is in the world. The rottenness is there because of the corruption and lustful passions of fallen humanity.
In verses 5, 6 and 7, Peter is going to build upon the foundation of our salvation and draw attention to the responsibility and obligation that God places upon every one of His children to be growing and maturing in the life that He has given them. The new life that you receive - the new birth in Christ - is a dynamic, active life, not a static, dead life. It's a life of growth, and it's to be a life of usefulness and productivity for God. Note that Peter begins verse 5 by saying, "Now for this very reason..." This refers back to what he said in the first four verses, which is what we just summarized. We have seen God's work in our salvation and what He has provided for us in that salvation. We have the true knowledge of Him. We know that He gives us everything necessary for a godly life. We have become partakers of His divine nature, which has allowed us to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. Now, Peter says, for this very reason He places a strong obligation upon us. We'll see the strength of emphasis given by Peter as we move through this section piece by piece.
Now, for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence..." I've mentioned before that the Greeks could rearrange their word order to give emphasis to a word or a phrase. In these three words - applying all diligence - the first word in the Greek order is diligence. Put it right up at the front and you see the emphasis and stress that is placed on diligence. It's a word that means zeal or earnestness. It sometimes is used as a contrast with sloth or being lazy. Believers are to be characterized by diligence, not by sloth and laziness, when it comes to carrying out God's plan for growth. And the all diligence means you give yourself without reserve. There is no holding back in the zeal and earnestness that you apply to the task of your growth as a child of God.
Now we come to the word applying. Some of you are studying Greek. If you're using your Greek New Testament, you'll note that this word has two prepositions on the front of the basic word. It's a participle here. The prepositions are for alongside of and into. The idea of the word is that we must bring into this relationship with God the seven qualities that will be listed in verses 5, 6 and 7. It's a responsibility placed upon us. This responsibility is not something that comes from our own reserves and strength, but it's part of what He has provided. It is now obligatory for us to act upon it, draw from it and implement it in our lives. It doesn't spring from our human efforts, but our responsibility is to bring it alongside of what God has done for us. It is important that we don't get confused by this. If you don't build on the preceding verses, you get confused. Context is essential to proper understanding. That's why verse 5 begins, "Now for this very reason..." We've already laid the foundation of our salvation and what God has provided. We are partakers of the divine nature, and He is the one who has provided everything by His divine power. God has given us the strength to do these things, and it is our responsibility to do them.
Look over in Philippians 2:12, where the Apostle Paul basically writes along the same line. "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed..." - note how the context is their action; how they obey what God instructs them to do through Paul - "...not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling." That's where Peter is moving. He wants to show that it is our responsibility to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are to apply all diligence in implementing and carrying out what God has done in our lives. Now note what Paul says in the next verse: "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." There is the balance. You work out your salvation because it is God working in you.
3.Motivation Is to Come From Within
Now, which is it? Are you to work it out or is God going to work it out? God is going to work it out as you apply yourself with all diligence to obeying Him and doing what He instructs you to do. It can only be done in His power. It's His work in you. But you must understand that His work in you depends upon your submission and obedience to Him; otherwise, all of our failures, shortcoming and lack of growth is God's fault, not ours. Some people take the attitude that because He didn't do it, He didn't want it done. That kind of passivism - quietism, as it has been called - is not a Biblical principle. God will do it if you apply yourself totally and completely. But the idea that I sit back and God just does it is the reason there so many Christians who are less than they ought to be. They think, "So God didn't do it, huh? I guess if He had wanted me to do it, He would have motivated me to do it." No. The motivation ought to be that He told you to work out your salvation. Apply all diligence.
Come back to 2 Peter. Now you have Peter's main command - the word supply - right in the middle of verse 5: "...in your faith supply..." You might want to circle or underline that word. It's an aorist active imperative. That's the strong, sharp command. This is what you must do, applying all diligence, supply.
We get the words chorus and choreography from the original word supply. Originally, it referred to someone who provided the funding for a chorus or a production. We have people of wealth today who do philanthropic things. They make a provision for a park or something like that. It's a declaration of their wealth, and they also get credit for using their money to benefit others. If a person wanted to put on a musical production, someone of wealth would fund it, underwrite it. This word supply came to mean providing the funds for something. If you were going to do this as a show of wealth, your goal was to provide as lavishly as you could in order that you got the most credit. As people watched that production, they would say, "My, can you believe what he spent?" It later came to mean providing abundantly, and that idea is always coloring the word. It's not just supplying a provision, but it is supplying a very ample, bountiful provision.
4.We Are to Abundantly Supply Faith
So we are to provide and supply more than abundantly, with diligence to what God has done in our salvation, the following seven qualities. We are to apply all diligence to this effort because of our salvation. Faith is the foundation of these seven virtues. Faith is the soil in which these fruits will grow. Faith is the atmosphere in which this development will take place. Just a reminder: This is in the context of God's work in our lives because verse 1 told us that this letter is being written to those who have received a faith of the same kind. It is the faith that God has given. Now, it wasn't given to be a static, dead faith, as James talks about. It is to be a living, active, life-transforming faith. So we see that a vibrant faith is the root from which these things will grow and develop. It's true, as Peter states at the beginning of verse 3, that God has provided everything necessary for a godly life.
In the context of that faith, seven qualities or character traits are to be built into the life of the believer. And they require your effort, your diligence and the complete commitment of your person to their production. Each of these seven will be connected to the previous one by the preposition in, which clearly shows these qualities are intricately related. One flows out of the other, and they all work together to produce true Christian character. Also in the Greek text, each of these qualities is preceded by the definite article the. We don't translate that in English - it is not the perseverance, the godliness, the brotherly kindness - but it makes each quality specific. Peter doesn't just give us some general qualities in a nebulous kind of picture. These are specific character traits that must be built into each of our lives as God's children. If we're not building them into our lives, we're in sin because He has given us a strong command to supply them. Not doing it means that I am rebelling against God's command.
In order to comply with God's command, we start at the bottom and work up. The bottom - or the root, the foundation - is your faith. In your faith you supply these seven qualities. So the faith is not one of the seven qualities because it's the environment or the soil in which these qualities will be produced. These commands all presuppose salvation. They are not commands given to unregenerate man for the improvement of his life. These are commands specifically given to the child of God who has been born again, who has the power of God working in him, who partakes of the divine nature. We are the ones who are to be producing these qualities.
There are a number of similar lists found in the New Testament. One of the most familiar is the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 - "...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." It was characteristic of earlier times, when people didn't have a Bible to read, that lists would be put together so items could be much more easily remembered. That would have been the case for these people to whom Peter was writing. They could listen to them being read, write down one or two words in the list and mull them over as they thought about them.
In your faith, the first quality to be provided is moral excellence. Moral excellence is one word in the Greek text, and it is the word used of Christ and translated excellence at the end of verse 3. There it refers to virtue, and the word is sometimes used to mean moral excellence - all that He is that causes us to praise Him. That's one emphasis of the word, and moral excellence certainly would fit here as being a general quality. But the word also has a more specific line of meaning - moral courage - which may fit here since each of these seven qualities has to do with moral excellence. One Greek work says the word means moral power, moral energy, vigor of soul, energy in the exercise of one's faith. The idea is for them, with all diligence and zeal, to supply the moral courage and vigor of soul that is to characterize a Christian. Christians are not born again merely to be cabbages waiting for eternity. There is to be an active, dynamic quality about the believer in his pursuit of righteousness and the character of God in his life.
Let me read you what Martin Lloyd Jones said in one of his sermons from 1946: "Is there not something languid so often in our Christian life and Christian activity as you contrast it with the life of the world outside? Is there not this curious tendency for the element of passivity in our conception of the Christian faith to predominate, as if we regard faith as nothing but an attitude of waiting? A kind of lethargy and languor spreads over us, a curious kind of lassitude." That is not what Peter says. "No, no," he says. "Let your faith be energetic. Let it be vigorous. Let it be alive. Stir yourself up. See that you are alive and alert, active and alert."
5.We Are to Be Enthusiastic Christians
But it was true in 1946, and it is true today: There is a passive indifference that characterizes much of Christianity. So what do we do to combat it? We try to adopt the world's methods of stirring excitement. We embrace the world's efforts to entertain and capture the interests of believers as well as unbelievers. No, that's not what we are to do. We have a personal responsibility to supply this vigor of soul to our service for the living God. It ought to be there. Does my life reflect the fact that I am an enthusiastic Christian? Am I here today because of the vigor and energy that I have for the things of God? Am I here to fulfill an obligation? I would really like to get on with God's work. Time is rushing by, and I have places to go and things to do.
Some of us in staff were talking this past week about a worship service in another part of the country and what characterizes it as different. One observation I made is that it is much less hurried. It's in a much more hurried part of the country, but the people there seem to be relaxed and in no hurry to go anywhere. And it enables them to relax before God and concentrate on Him. I sometimes think that we can become tense because we have to get here by this time, there by that time, and we don't leave any time to talk, think, or enjoy God and His people. I would rather take time to pause, reflect and enjoy my God and the fellowship and worship of His people. Do I come with that kind of energy and activity in the pursuit of Him?
The second quality to be provided is added knowledge, and I think the order is important. In your moral excellence - or vigor of soul - supply knowledge. That verb command supply was given at the beginning, but, of course, it relates to each of these seven qualities. Supply knowledge. In other words, we're not just to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Sadly, this is what characterizes much of the church. "Oh, this is an active church." Wonderful, but I want to know what you're active about. "We have a lot of people involved." Wonderful, but I want to know what they're involved in. A football team also has a lot of activity and a lot of involvement. Being busy is not the measure of faithfulness. Our activity - that vigorous, energetic service for God - must be shaped by knowledge.
The word knowledge here is not the compound word. We have the compound word epignosis in verses 2 and 3, which is that full, complete knowledge of God and His Son that we have come to in our salvation. The word in verse 5 is simply gnosis, not the compound word. It has a practical emphasis. It is a knowledge that is implemented to discern right and wrong, good and evil. So this would be the knowledge of God's word and God's will applied to our lives. It shapes my activity and determines what I am going to do with the energy that I have committed to Him. The consuming vigor of my soul in serving Him needs to be shaped by knowledge. That knowledge, of course, comes from His word. But we're not just talking about that foundational knowledge into which we've entered in our salvation in Christ. We are to be continually growing in that knowledge, continually increasing in our understanding.
6.Believers Are to Supply Knowledge
When our children do something they shouldn't have done, we sometimes say to them, "You should have known better." You are not saying they didn't have the basic foundational knowledge. You're saying in that situation that they didn't properly act upon the knowledge they already had. As believers, we are to be supplying knowledge. Why do we study the word of God? So that we can act properly in all the circumstances and situations of life. Such knowledge allows us to direct our energy and activity properly and to be a discerning people. What you choose to do for God this week might not be considered the most enjoyable activity in the context of fun, but you do it because you are determined to apply yourself with diligence. You want to give the energy necessary to come to know more of the will of God so that you can apply it properly.
I think Romans 15:14 puts this word knowledge into context and gives it balance. Paul writes, "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge" - there's our word - "and able also to admonish one another. " Now you see the context. They are filled with goodness, which allows them to properly conduct their lives. It shapes their living. They are able to admonish one another. It governs their relationship with one another. In the middle of this is the phrase "filled with all knowledge." So the proper action in the context of goodness is that they can discern between good and evil. They can make proper decisions rather than improper ones. They are able to admonish and correct others because they are "filled with all knowledge." We can apply the knowledge and understanding of God's word, and thus God's will, to our lives and to the lives of others. We clearly are responsible and commanded of God to be supplying that to our lives.
Come back to 2 Peter 1:6. As I'm demonstrating, you could preach a sermon on each one of these seven qualities. The next one is self-control - "and in your knowledge, self-control..." I like this word. I don't like to do it, but I like the word because it literally means having the ability to take a grip of one's self. When you see somebody who is starting to unravel, perhaps under emotional pressure, you might say, "Get hold of yourself." That's this word. "Get a grip on yourself. Get it together. Get yourself under control." Self-control means controlling your passions and desires rather than being controlled by them.
7.Children of God Submit to Spirit
Understand, now, that this is not the same kind of self-control that the world emphasizes when it talks about self. Again, we have to keep the definition within the context. He has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. It's His power at work. We have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. We are partakers of the divine nature. Therefore, you are commanded to supply self-control, to have yourself under control in light of what He has done. So this is something for the believer who has been redeemed by the grace of God. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23. One of the things the Spirit produces in the life of a child of God is that the child submits to the control of the Spirit. Nothing here states that the unbeliever ought to be told to get himself under control. An obvious flaw develops when believers try to get unbelievers to live like believers. God never said the unbeliever can get himself under control. He's a slave of his passions and desires. He's the slave of his sin.
This is a very important concept for believers to understand. Note the order - in your knowledge you supply self-control. That understanding of God's truth and God's will is now to be implemented in our lives by having ourselves under control. Self-control is based on knowledge. Paul uses some athletic metaphors to portray the Christian life in 1 Corinthians chapter 9. We see in verse 24 a picture of the discipline that is necessary for a runner to win the race. Verse 25: "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control" - there's our basic word, a form of the word that we're talking about - "in all things." Paul knew he could use athletics as a point of comparison because athletic competition was something very familiar to the people of Corinth. Self-control was essential, and they prided themselves. We still talk about stoicism and the discipline that the stoics displayed. It wasn't a godly discipline. Stoicism was a philosophy that men should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief.
Now, this concept of self-control is simple, but it's not easy. Paul says we must exercise self-control, but it wasn't easy for him. Look at what he says in verse 27: "I beat my body and make it my slave..." You know why? There's no other way to be pleasing to God. You get disqualified if you don't do it according to His instructions. That word beat comes from a word that meant to hit under the eye until it turned black and blue. So Paul is saying that he disciplines his body by beating it black and blue in order to make it slave. He is not a slave of his body; his body is a slave of him.
We have people who don't come to study the Word the first hour because they just can't get out of bed in the morning. "My body just doesn't go," they say. "I'm not a morning person." Well, 1 Corinthians 9:27 to you. I have to do it. Why shouldn't you? I'm not a morning person, either. See, the point is that when I don't feel like doing it, I give my body a good, hard slap and say, "Get on the road." And when I want to turn over on my cot, I give my body a good boot and say, "Get rolling." I tell my body what to do. My body doesn't tell me what to do. That's self-control. I get a grip on myself. In light of the knowledge I have that shapes the vigor I have in serving my God, I discipline my body to accomplish what He wants me to do.
There are some broad ramifications that we don't have time to get into. But note that chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians begins with For, and then Paul uses Israel as an example of the lack of self-control that was evidenced in their lives. Then he gave a variety of other things that were wrong in their lives. God wasn't pleased with most of them in verse 5. Verse 6, they craved evil things. They were idolaters. They acted immorally in verse 8. They tried the Lord in verse 9. They grumbled in verse 10. Oops! Grumbled? Why do you put grumbling in with a list that includes immorality and idolatry?
8.Self-Control Is Responsibility of Believer
The whole counseling program that's in the church has been implemented primarily on the basis of the denial of the simple command of Peter to exhibit self-control. If we tell people today who claim to be believers that they need to get a grip on their lives, they say, "Boy, you're hard-hearted. You don't have compassion." All right, let me say in love, "Get a grip on your life." I mean, that's what God says to do. And it's your responsibility to supply it. I'm not responsible for supplying it for you, and you're not responsible for supplying it for me. You supply, applying all diligence, self-control in your life. Some people just mope around. They are moody. They are grumblers. They are never quite content. Get a grip on your life. "Well," you say, "I'm just a moody person." Well, that is obvious. The old man is moody. Get out of it. The new man is not.
I have got all kinds of things that have built up, and I need counseling for months and years because I just can't control my life. The number one problem is that we're trying to offer godly direction to ungodly people. If you're not born again, you're a slave of your passions. If you have no self-control, maybe you ought to go back to the beginning. Maybe you're not in the faith. And God never promised the unbeliever power that would bring him under control.
But if you are a believer, there's another problem. Sometimes we just don't want to do it. I might say, "Sometimes I feel like being depressed. Would you leave me alone? There's a certain self-satisfaction I get out of just feeling in the dumps." If I am moody, then it's easy for me to grumble. But somebody needs to get in my face and say, "Get a grip. Bring it under control." What if I say that I don't know if I can bring my life under control. Then you say, "Do you understand the word of God? Do you know what God said about this? Have you been building knowledge into your life? Do you have any zeal and vigor of soul to be obedient to Him? Then do it."
I find this tremendously encouraging. Isn't it good to know that He has, by His power, provided everything necessary for a life in godliness? That includes self-control. I don't need to go into a 12-step program to try to get it together. His power is better than 12 steps or seven steps or four-and-a-half steps. Praise the Lord. That doesn't mean you do it in your own power, but it means you apply all your energy and strength to build into your life what He says must be there, and that's self-control.
9.Endurance Is Mark of Mature Christian
Back to 2 Peter 1:6: "...and in your self-control, perseverance..." Perseverance flows out of self-control. Do you know what perseverance is? This is a compound word that means to live under something, to remain under something. Self-control exercised over time produces endurance, perseverance. The mature believer does not give up in the face of difficulty and stress. As I build self-control into my life by God's grace, I develop perseverance, the ability to stay with something under pressure. That's essential. Little children have no perseverance. They have to develop it. But some do not. We all know adults 40 and 50 years old who have never developed maturity. They bounce off this and that because when the pressure comes - and it always does - they just can't handle it. They're out the door. They never developed any self-control. They never produced any endurance. One of the clear marks of a mature Christian is endurance. We know when we get into battle that some are going to bail out because they haven't been building endurance into their lives. We need to be doing it. We must be doing it. We cannot be mature, godly people if we don't.
The key to endurance is that we keep our focus. Remember in verse 4 that God has given us His precious and magnificent promises, which include the new heavens and the new earth, according to 2 Peter 3:13. Focusing on those promises produces endurance. In writing to the church at Thessalonica, Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 spoke of the steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same word - the perseverance of hope. The endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ helps us keep with it. In Hebrews 12:2 we're told that Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. It's the same word - persevere. We as believers are to be focused on those precious and magnificent promises, the hope of glory. As we discipline ourselves, we endure with that hope.
In perseverance, you add godliness. Godliness is that desire of heart and mind to be pleasing to God in every area of life. It includes our conduct in how we relate to others. It also includes our behavior and attitude toward God. The life that we live indicates our desire to be pleasing to God. Note where godliness comes from - "...in your perseverance, godliness." You say, "Oh, yes, I want to be a godly person. I want to be a person who is pleasing to God. But, no, I'm not producing endurance. No, I'm not exercising self-control. No, I'm not building knowledge into my life." Wait a minute. If you're not willing to do what He says is necessary for godliness, you're a hypocrite. Here is the flaw with some of the organizations and movements that are saying, "Oh, we want to be godly. We're going to produce godly men." You just don't jump in at godliness. You have to start in the faith, then you supply moral excellence, and in that knowledge, and in that self-control, and in that perseverance, and in that godliness. They're all intricately related, and they all build on one another. Some people just want to jump in at godliness and say, "Here's how we're going to do it." But if it gets done, I think we need to find out how God says it's going to be done.
The next quality we must supply is brotherly kindness, verse 7: "and in your godliness, brotherly kindness..." The Greek word here is philadelphia - brotherly love, brotherly affection and compassion. This is love directed toward other believers. We are to be characterized by the family love and relationship we share with other believers. A lot of people have left Indian Hills for a variety of reasons. Praise God for those who are in other Bible-believing churches and are being used of God. But it greatly grieves me when I meet people who have been gone for some time and ask where they are now going to church. "Oh, we're really not going anywhere." Oh, living in sin, huh? In rebellion against God? "Well, no, we're just not going to church." But the word of God says you're to be supplying in your godliness brotherly love. You can't do that unless you are involved with one another in the body, in the church. We are to be characterized by a fervent, burning love for each other. If you're born of God and love God, you will love God's people. In that context we will have brotherly love, and we will display all the actions that spring from that love.
10.We Are to Supply Brotherly Love
Displaying brotherly love is not always easy because sometimes we become an inconvenience to one another. It is just like your family. When you live near other family members, that's a blessing. But it also adds certain burdens. I have little involvement with members of my family who live a thousand miles away. But we become involved with those who live in the same community. They create more pressures for you as well as bring more blessings. It's the same way with the family of God. We are to be building brotherly love. Is that really a characteristic of my life? Am I building brotherly love in my life? "Look, don't bother me. I like to get in this service, sit in the back and get out. And if I don't have to talk to anybody, all the better." Well, we are concerned for you. We're not looking for your money. We're not looking for you to do something just to be doing something. But God says if you are a believer, you have to be supplying brotherly love in your life. "Well, I'm just not a people person." Too bad God didn't know that when He gave His instructions. He's saying what His people must do. If we are obedient to God, we must be supplying brotherly love.
Brotherly kindness climaxes in agape love, the last of the seven qualities. This is not a higher love. It is a different kind of love. Brotherly love has a mutuality about it. It's family affection, friendly love. Agape love is a love of the intellect or the mind. I do what is best for you, period. There is nothing in it for me. I am not looking for any return. It's self-sacrificing love and is given for the benefit of the one loved, period. It's the greatest. 1 Corinthians 13:13: "...but the greatest of these is love."
We start with faith. We climax with love. In between, we develop and build Christian character, which climaxes with the love of God in its greatest manifestation - He sent His Son to die for us. 1 John 4:10: "...not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins." Is Christian character produced by just sitting back and letting God work in your life? No. As the dynamic power of God works in your life, you must apply yourself with every ounce of energy to pursue that which God has set before you. By God's grace, you must have the determination to be everything He has created you to be. There are no excuses, no exceptions, no substitutes. What a joy it is to be involved in the work of God in building the character of God into our lives. Whose work is it? Sure, it's God's work. But by His grace I am privileged to be a necessary part of it.
11.None of 7 Qualities Can Be Ignored
Examine your life as you work through these seven qualities. What happens to character if I ignore just one of them? My character begins to unravel. I must realize that they are intricately related and intertwined. I find I'm not weak in just one area if I ignore one quality. This weakness begins to pervade my whole character. A crumbling takes place instead of a strengthening. By God's grace, He has provided. Now we are privileged to build. The starting point is that you must come into His salvation. Have you ever been born into God's family? You might look at these seven qualities in your life and see some major weaknesses. You might see some total lax. In fact, quite frankly, you might see that you are not doing very well on the list, period. Go back and start at the beginning. Don't presume upon God. Don't assume something that may not be real. Have you ever been born again? Jesus Christ died so that you might be. If you believe in Him, you will be. By God's grace, if you do, you'll be different. And that difference will be better. Praise God for Christian growth. Let's pray together.
Thank You, Lord, for Your character. Thank You for Your salvation. Lord, all that we are and all that we will ever be in time and eternity is a testimony to the magnificent grace that You have shown to us in Christ. Lord, I pray that we might take this truth to heart, that it might thrill our souls and be the delight of our life to pursue these matters that You have set before us. I pray that we seize the opportunity to build into our life by Your power, Your grace and all that You have provided, the qualities that will manifest Your person in us in all of our ways. And, Lord, for those here who are struggling, who are discouraged, who are defeated and down because they do not know You, by Your grace open their blinded eyes to see and believe. Lord, for those who have just been lax and lazy and indifferent, may we kindle the fire again of our enthusiasm and zeal for pursuing without reservation the goal of maturity in our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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