Saturday, May 3, 2014

Healthy Fruit or Rotten Tomatoes?

    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. ~ 2 Peter 1:5–7

How well do we know these words?  If we know them at all.  Knowing is living.  The seven qualities in this classic passage are the necessary fruit of a healthy Christian life.  They are not multiple choice. They are not for picking which ones we'll practice today and which tomorrow.  If you call yourself a Christian, are these true of you?  If you have placed yourself in the camp of believing in Christ rather than Christ calling you out of darkness and into His marvelous light then not only will you lack these qualities but they will be completely foreign to your way of life.

It is my prayer that anyone reading this will carefully consider what follows and might be encouraged to cultivate a life that imitates Christ.  Doing so is not only right and good but it brings glory to the One to Whom glory is due.  So the question begs, will we reflect that glory or will we smell like week old trash that everyone plugs their nose at as they walk by?

First, what reasons?  Why should we apply all diligence?  Well, we must take a bigger bite to get the full picture.  We see Peter has given us four reasons here but the list could get very long if we consider the work of Christ deeply.

4 Reasons to Diligently Pursue

  • We have been given everything that pertains to life and godliness
  • We have been given exceedingly great and precious promises
  • We have become partakers of the divine nature
  • We have escaped the corruption that is in the world 

Think about this for just a moment and every one of us that possesses life in Christ should be brought to our knees, no, brought to our very faces in humble adoration and amazement at the manifold mercies of our great God and Savior! 

Number one, the scriptures are fully, absolutely, completely, authoritatively, all-sufficient to give us, the believer, everything, all, we need in this life to direct us. We need not look outside of scripture.  We need not look beyond scripture.  No, instead we must search the scriptures, for within we will find everything pertaining to life and godliness........and everything means everything!

Secondly, we have promises!  The promise of eternal life, of an abundant life, of fullness of joy, of power to overcome, of freedom from sin, of the removal of guilt, of divine completion, of One who bears our load, of never stumbling, of being carried up to glory.  

Third, that we might be made partakers of the divine nature.  Huh?!  Really?  Before you go too far, it's about Him!  Not you, not me.  No, scratch the thought of becoming a god, even a little one.  There is only one God.  He shares His glory with no one.  We're just small moons reflecting that glory.  What we are is a partner, a companion.  We have innate properties that make us different from the person who does not believe in, who does not trust Christ.  

Faith is the gift of God that no man should boast. ~ Eph 2:8-9  

Jonathan Edwards said, "grace planted in the heart in a new birth is a principle of holy action and always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert." 

Lastly, we've escaped!  Escaped what?  Corruption!  We will not escape, we have escaped.  Oh dear, believer, if you've escaped, since you've escaped, stop going back into the cesspool of sin!  Flee youthful lusts.  Pursue righteousness. (2 Tim 2:22)

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:11

Some of what?  This was our camp.  

the unrighteous......the fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

We were not on our way to inherit the kingdom of God but are now in it, one day to fully realize it.  So we have a new nature and we are no longer enslaved by sin to seek our own gratification but instead find our greatest joy in Him.  You're dead man! 

How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?............For he who has died has been freed from sin. ~ Romans 6:2, 7

....having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. ~ Romans 6:22

Beloved, there are our reasons to apply all diligence.  So let's see what application looks like.  Let's see what a healthy Christian walk looks like.  

We must apply, we must bring in or supply besides.  John MacArthur said this about applying, it "implies making a strong effort to provide something necessary."  And we must do so with diligence. That is, to do so with great earnestness, with haste, with a striving after.  It is so crucial to have that we pursue with the greatest effort as if our very life depended upon it.  If that is not the case for you dear reader, have you comprehended the depth of the forgiveness you have received?  Have you understood the height of His love toward those who believe?  Do you really and truly possess salvation and forgiveness of sin?

So what are these qualities, these traits?

  • Moral Excellence
  • Knowledge
  • Self-control
  • Perseverance
  • Godliness
  • Brotherly Kindness
  • Love

In all these we begin with faith, lest we forget, it is the gift of God that no man should boast.  Faith is the foundation.  Without faith these qualities are houses of windows with no structure, cars without engines. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "it is not enough to say we have faith; we must apply our faith, we must relate it, we must see that it is where it ought to be at any given moment."  Brethren, our faith must be active and vigorous!  We must labor and strive, knowing that it is the power that works within us.  We must be doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  (1 Tim 4:10, Eph 3:20, James 1:22)  That said, we give maximum effort.  After all, where would we be if Jesus gave less?

To be morally excellent is to have a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action.  It speaks of a moral goodness. (Strong's Enhanced Lexicon)  This is a demonstrated purity that flows out of our life naturally.  It is not only good but it glorifies God.  (Matt 5:16)

"It was such a lofty term that it was used for moral heroism, viewed as the divinely endowed ability to excel in heroic, courageous deeds. It came to encompass the most outstanding quality in someone’s life, or the proper and excellent fulfillment of a task or duty (cf. Phil. 4:8). Aretē never meant cloistered virtue, but that which is demonstrated in the normal course of living." (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (p. 40). Chicago: Moody Publishers.)

In order to supply to our faith this moral excellence we must supply knowledge.  This knowledge is not the mere knowledge of the world.  It is a moral wisdom obtained by carefully searching the scriptures and meditating upon the truths therein.  
  • We must be diligent
  • We must search
  • We must meditate

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. ~ Acts 17:11

         O how I love Your law!
         It is my meditation all the day. ~ Psalm 119:97

We cannot be slothful.  We cannot depend solely upon a weekly feeding from the hands of our teachers. We must do the work.  We must dig and mine the precious jewels of the Word that will provide encouragement and sometimes a swift kick in the back side.  This pursuit of knowledge is not for the bloating of ourselves, to show the world how smart we are.  This knowledge is so that we would be conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom  8:29)  It is essential that we saturate our minds with the Word of God for the sole purpose of transforming our minds into conformity to Christ rather than the world. (Rom 12:2)

In attaining moral wisdom we will be able to practice self-control.  We must master our desires and passions.  As we seek Christ in His Word our desires will match His desires.  They will be holy desires, profitable and good.  This life is a fight.  We will always battle against sin within ourselves but as we mature we will sin less frequently and the fight will be against smaller sins than when we were less mature in the faith. Since we died....

do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 
and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. ~ Romans 6:12–13

We must be proactive rather than reactive because when we're reactive we are unprepared and we hamstring ourselves to good decision making.  So we attack the temptations that come our way.  We get on the offensive by proactively praying beforehand.  We often know when or where we will face the temptation to sin.  Knowing this we pray up and read up and then when that mortal enemy of our soul arises we slay it with one swift blow.

We must also possess perseverance and godliness.  We are steadfast and enduring of troubles and trials knowing that it is the Lord who is working all things according to His Sovereign plan, not ours. Nothing happens by chance, even the "bad", because His love is towards those who are His and called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)  We are characterized by an unswerving loyalty in every and all trials. 

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. ~ 1 Peter 5:10

we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
and hope does not disappoint. ~ Romans 5:3–5

Godliness is an inner quality that bleeds out of our life.  Many can be morally excellent but with no substance. Remember the illustration of a house of windows with no foundation, no walls to support it. Godliness comes by careful examination of God's Word, our hearts and our motives with an intent to diligently put to death the old man and the sins that beset us and to put on the new man.  (Col 3:1-17, Eph 4:17-32)

Lastly we must possess brotherly kindness and love.  We must love and cherish those of the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and those outside of faith.  Love is sacrificial.  It gives.  It does not seek its own. It does not boast.  It is not rude.  It gives honor and preference to others.  It does not hide truth.  No, no.  True love speaks the hard things but always in gentleness with the goal being the benefit of the other.

Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. ~ Romans 15:2

    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. ~Philippians 2:3–4

After all, was this not the attitude of our Lord?

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4–6

With all that said, we can be one of two men, or two women.

The Fruitful Man and the Unfruitful Man

We can abound or increase or we can lack and be blind.

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. ~ 2 Peter 1:8–9

We must be careful to maintain good works, not unto salvation but as proof of salvation. (Titus 3:8, 14, James 2:14-26)  We must remember that we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. ~ Titus 3:3

In all this our goal is holiness for without it no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14) and our reward is heaven.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. ~ Hebrews 11:6

So are you a barren tree or a fruitful tree?  Are you blind and short-sighted or are you increasing in these qualities?

Beloved, we must be diligent in our faith to supply moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  When we abound in these qualities we will be fruitful, we will not stumble and we will gain an entrance into the eternal kingdom by the abundant supply of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He must increase!
~ Kevin

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