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CHRISTIAN MATURITY - GLIMPSES FROM 2 PETER
SALVATION AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
KNOWLEDGE, TEMPTATION, YIELDING, AND PRAYER
TEMPERANCE - SELF-CONTROL
CHRISTIAN'S RESPONSE TO TRIALS, PERSECUTIONS, AND SUFFERINGS
BROTHERLY KINDNESS AND CHARITY
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All Christians are concerned with change, or at least should be. Change for the Christian starts with one's basic approach to life from being a selfish person alienated from God to a repentant follower of Christ. A person is brought to this point of basic life change by God's grace through the wooing power of the Holy Spirit. The question arises, "How does change occur thereafter for a follower of Christ?"
Change in the total person is based on the growth of God's creative act within the interior part, not the reformation or transformation of what is called the old man (Colossians 3:5-9) or old self (Romans 6:6).
The old man is commanded to be mortified in Colossians 3:5. Mortify means to deaden, or to bring to inactivity. Nowhere is the Christian told in Scripture that this old man is going to be eradicated. Nor is the Christian told to transform or reform the old man. As a matter of fact, Ephesians 4:22 states that "he" is growing more corrupt according to "his" deceitful lusts (or passions). He is going down not up. It is what was crucified at the cross of Christ (Romans 6:6 and Galatians 5:24). And we are told to no longer live in "him" (Ephesians 4:22). But this does not mean that the change process is a passive one. 2 Peter 1:5-7 tells us that, while always looking to God, Christians are to be actively involved in the change process by "adding" certain things to their initial faith in Christ. Christian maturity requires this active participation.
This is a study series on salvation and spiritual growth. There are six lessons in all. When answering the questions, try to answer thoroughly, according to your understanding. For unity, this study uses the King James Version of the Bible. Other quality versions are certainly worthy for reading and study of the Scriptures, but some of the questions in this study rely on word order and spelling. So, dig in and go to work; your time will be well spent.
What is it? Salvation is not just, as some think, an escape hatch from hell. It is much, much more. It is the reconciliation between God and the forgiven sinner; it is righteousness in Christ; it is an eternal future with God; it is relationship with God; it is promises of blessing and protection; it is eternal life. God does not just save us that we might escape the penalty of sin, but saves us that He might bless us as well. God's desire is to bless every person with eternal life, but man's sin stands in the way of that blessing. Not only does sin stand in the way of blessing, but it also brings penalty along with it.
God's holy and just nature requires that the crime of sin be punished. The sentence is eternity apart from God. This is called the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). The first death is the separation of spirit and body (James 2:26). The second death is the eternal and complete separation of the unforgiven sinner and God.
But thank God that His desire is to have close fellowship with each and every human being. Through this desire, His love motivated Him to provide a way for us to come out from under the penalty of our sin and into eternal life. Romans 5:8-9 says it clearly:
But God commendeth (shows) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
So, in other words, God's love provided a way for His holy and just nature to be satisfied, while at the same time accepting sinners into His presence.
He did this by providing a Substitute Penalty Taker for us! When a person receives the Substitute to him-or-herself, that person is acknowledging that the Substitute needed to die in his or her place (Romans 5:6). The Substitute took that person's penalty on Himself (1 Peter 2:24). That Substitute is Jesus Christ!
In this first lesson we are going to look at this Substitute and what He did for us.
Who is He?
Because of the truths above, the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary (John 20:30) is priceless and able to pay for the sin of the whole world (1 John 2:11).
This is only the first of six lessons. The remaining five lessons will deal with the growth of the Christian based on God's already accomplished work in his or her life.
The first lesson in this series covered the start of the Christian life-salvation. Salvation, as was said in the last lesson, is more than an escape hatch from hell. A person does not just receive Jesus Christ in salvation then continue on as before salvation, because repentance is involved (Acts 20:21, Acts 26:20) in the receiving (John 1:12) of Christ Jesus. Repentance means to have a change of mind that results in a change of direction. In the case of man and God, repentance means to turn from yourself and your sin unto God through Christ (1 Peter 1:19-21). Assuming, therefore, that the asking of Christ into one's heart and life is genuine, then that person has turned unto God.
This being true, God then places His Spirit within that person (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19-20, Romans 8:9). This is called the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Spirit then begins a process that, if allowed to proceed to its fullness, will lead to Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). This simply means that it is God's desire to make the believer to be like Jesus Christ.
The next five lessons will attempt to give you the framework of basic information that will help you to understand and yield to this process.
The Bible passage that deals with this growth process is 2 Peter 1:5-7, 10b. We will, in the remaining lessons, study this passage plus related verses that will help us understand this important subject of Christian growth.
2 Peter 1:5-7, 10b:
And beside this (or - "For this very cause"), giving all diligence, add to your faith (the initial trusting of Christ in salvation) virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (perfect love)…. For if ye do these things ye shall never fall (stumble).
In this lesson we are going to look at the first thing listed in these verses, virtue.
Whatever this virtue is that we are to add to our faith, it is so important that it is listed first. It should be understood at this point that the goal or pinnacle in this list is the last thing listed-charity or perfect love. Since we, as sinners, fall far short of perfect love, and since it is this quality of behavior that God wants us to live by (John 13:34, Mark 12:30), then in order to take us to that point of perfect love is the purpose behind the indwelling of the Spirit within the believer. There is no way that the Spirit will be able to work this out fully in our lives unless all things listed in 1 Peter 1:5-7 are present to their fullest.
Now what is virtue? It is moral excellence, or right behavior with the right attitude. It is a righteous life. The Bible breaks the life that is morally excellent into two halves. These two halves are: 1) Things that the Christian should avoid, or things he or she should not do or be and 2) Things that the Christian should seek after, or things that he or she should do or be.
Humankind is not guilty of sin (Romans 3:19, 23) just because of what it does wrong, but also because of the good it does not do that it should. This means that if you neglect to do something when you know you should have done it, you have sinned (James 4:17).
These two aspects of sinful behavior produce what is known as the grieving and quenching of the Holy Spirit. When a Christian does wrong he grieves (to cause pain or grief, Ephesians 4:30) the Holy Spirit, and when he neglects to do right he quenches (to put out as you would put out a fire, 1 Thessalonians 5:19) the Spirit-for the Spirit will always lead the believer to do right.
How do we know what is right and what is wrong? The Bible helps us by either giving us direct statements concerning a topic where there is little doubt as to what God considers wrong, or it gives us moral categories by which we might made wise judgments. The Word of God is what we will study in these lessons on Christian growth. Read the verse(s) and write down what behavior or attitude is the focus of the passage.
Some verses related to that which is to be sought:
Some verses related to bad behavior (which are to be actively avoided):
In our next lesson we will learn how to deal with the temptations that will arise in our lives, plus what we must do if we should sin.
In our last lesson we looked at virtue. We saw that virtue meant "moral excellence" or "right behavior". We also saw that right behavior could be broken down into two halves. These were things that you should do or be and things that you should not do or be. Another way to say it would be-things that you should seek after and things that you should avoid. Good behavior should be sought after and bad behavior should be avoided!
You will not have to be seeking to live this way very long before you discover it does not come naturally. We, as sinful beings, do not react to situations that arise in our lives perfectly, as Jesus Christ did when He walked on this earth. He reacted the way He did because of who He was, God in human flesh. He always behaved in a holy, just, loving, and compassionate manner. The Bible says that He was sinless. This simply means that He always walked totally in the will of God the Father. This means that He never did evil and always obeyed the Word of God. Jesus never did one thing contrary to the good behavior the Word of God teaches.
Unfortunately, we, as sinful men, do not react perfectly to all situations. We do things that we should not, and at the same time, do not do the good we should. So, what is the answer? How then do Christians live like Jesus Christ, the sinless Perfect One? As we said in the first lesson, this does not happen instantly at the moment of salvation (the receiving of Christ as Savior), but it is a process that is worked out in our lives if we yield to it. As the Christian does the yielding, the Holy Spirit does the changing.
The Christian must understand that he needs to walk in, or yield to the control of, the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) that indwells him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that he might do righteousness and live like Jesus Christ.
What kind of knowledge is this, and what part does it play in this growth process? The knowledge talked about here is practical knowledge. It is the practical effect that knowledge has in our lives. It is not that we study the Bible in order to impress people with how much we know. In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul scolded the Corinthians because they thought they were spiritual because of how much they knew, but in reality they were not spiritual but sinful because the knowledge they had did not affect the way they lived their lives but only puffed up their egos.
Now let us go on to study (2 Timothy 2:15) some subjects that are very important to the Christian life. We are going to look at temptation, yielding, and prayer.
Now that we saw how to resist the bad, we must now look at how we yield ourselves to do the good.
An important and vital part of the Christian's growth is communication with the Lord. This is called prayer. In this part of our lesson we are going to look at when we should pray, how we should pray, and what we should pray for.
Prayer is something that God wants His children to do. We, as Christians, are to pray for a number of reasons. Some of these are: 1) seeking the Lord and His guidance, 2) confession of sin, 3) thanksgiving toward the Lord, 4) strengthening in our Christian life, 5) when in distress or trouble, 6) that our needs might be met, and 7) praying for others.
When we come before the Lord in prayer, we are to come in truth. Or another way to say it would be, in the name of Jesus Christ. To pray in the name of Jesus Christ simply means that I am praying in accordance with truth and His will. As an example, it would not be proper to pray for riches, but it would be proper to pray for your needs. If the Lord blesses financially, that is fine. Thank Him for it. But to pray that you might be rich, would be a selfish prayer and would not be in accordance with truth. As truth says, the Christian should be humble, not proud, and not selfish. So, when we pray, we should examine ourselves to see if our prayer is selfish or not, and if it is, change it!
There are many things that could yet be said about prayer; such as, the Lord answers our prayers in different ways. Sometimes He answers them exactly as we pray them; sometimes His answer exceeds our request; and at other times, because He knows best, He answers differently from what we requested. When those answers occur, we, as Christians, should not rebel. We must also look at our prayer to see if it was proper or not. And if it is proper, we should then praise the Lord for doing what He knows is best.
We have looked briefly at three important subjects: temptation, yielding, and prayer. These are necessary to the Christian life and to have this knowledge is important. There are yet many more subjects to know, and the more you study the Bible and live what you learn, the more knowledge you will have.
In our next lesson, we are going to look at what we should do with this knowledge. We are going to look at the third thing listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, temperance.
In our last lesson we looked at knowledge, the second thing listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. We saw that with virtue, "moral excellence" or "good behavior," we are to add biblical knowledge. This knowledge is that practical knowledge that is life changing. The knowledge that a person gains from studying the Bible, God's Word, is meant to affect that person's life. We do not study the Bible to impress God or other people with how much we know, but we study it that we might learn more about God and what God would have us do with our lives. We saw in the last lesson a sample of three important subjects: temptation, yielding, and prayer. We looked briefly at these subjects and saw that God has something to say about each.
In this lesson we are going to look at the next thing in our list, temperance. Temperance means "self-control." Like virtue, temperance can be understood by looking at two of its general characteristics. These two are: 1) self-control of the knowledge one has toward others and 2) self-control of oneself that one continues to live what one knows to be right. We will deal briefly with each of these two aspects of temperance.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:20-21 that God teaches us that we might teach others. We do not gain knowledge in order to exalt ourselves, but for two other reasons. These are 1) that we might live like Jesus Christ and 2) that we might teach others to live like Jesus Christ. The Christian is to be a witness for Jesus Christ. It is understood that a Christian is to be a witness, but how, and in what way should he be a witness? He is to be a witness by word and by action. He is both to speak and live the truth. Temperance, or self-control, is involved in both the speaking and the living.
The Christian must not be overbearing, rude, heavy-handed, arrogant, or selfish when dealing with others, as if he or she were superior. How then should a Christian behave and speak to others? With what sort of attitude should he or she live life? We will now look at some verses that will give us the answer to these questions.
We have seen that temperance involves the controlling of the knowledge one has toward others, that one be not abusive toward others but patient, meek, and gentle toward them. We have also seen that temperance involves the controlling of one's life that he or she will continue to yield to do the good he or she should for Christ's sake.
In our next lesson we are going to look at patience and godliness, the fourth and fifth things listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7.
In this, our fifth lesson, we are going to look at what could be considered pivotal, a turning point, in the Christian life. This important factor is the Christian's response to trials, persecutions, and sufferings. Until now we have not talked about the world's response to a righteous life, a life that is lived for Christ's sake. So, very briefly, we are going to look at what the Scriptures have to say about some of the possible ways the righteous can be persecuted by the "wicked".
Job 12:4-5-They laugh at the righteous.
Psalm 119:51-They mock the righteous.
Psalm 119:69-70-They lie about the righteous.
Psalm 11:2, 37:32-They shoot at the upright out of the dark.
Psalm 56:5-6-They twist the words of the righteous and often search for a way to hurt.
Psalm 119:78-They deal crookedly without a cause.
Psalm 119:85-They do not always play by the rules.
Psalm 119:95-They wish ill to the righteous.
Galatians 6:12-The life of the righteous is a rebuke to them, and because of this they attempt to bring the righteous down to their level.
Amos 5:10-Hate and speak against the righteous.
These are a few of the non-physical ways the righteous can be persecuted. This persecution can get even more severe when it includes physical beatings and death. Paul lists the physical abuse he endured in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. Notice I said that Paul endured these things. It is this word "endure" that is our fourth thing listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. The word in 2 Peter is patience and it means endurance, patient continuance.
Whether a trial is persecution from without, fighting the sin that is within, physical affliction, or temptation, the Christian is to maintain his faith (2 Thessalonians 1:4), he is to endure. As James 1:3-4 tells us, the trying of our faith works patience (endurance) and when endurance is perfected it yields her perfect work. 2 Peter 1:6 tells us this "perfect work" is godliness, the fifth thing listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. What does it mean to endure in Christ? Is it the same as a soldier enduring the heat of battle and coming out alive?
Well, in a sense, but instead of the soldier maintaining his life, the Christian is to maintain his faith and obedience toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 14:12, 13:10). He is to maintain a righteous life no matter what the opposition may be (1 Thessalonians 5:15, Galatians 6:10, Matthew 5:44-48, Romans 12:18-21). He is to trust in the promises of God (Hebrews 10:36). He is to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and this includes through the bad times as well as the good. It is during the bad times that patience or endurance comes into the picture. It is during the struggles, the hardships and the periods of rejection that require endurance if one is ever going to come out of them according to godliness (James 1:3-4, 2 Peter 1:6), instead of with bitterness, hatred, scorn, or distrust toward the Lord.
How does endurance produce godliness? The tangible elements produced by endurance in trials are given to us in Romans 5:3-4. Let us look at this passage: "… knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope." The tangible elements recorded here are experience and hope. Experience simply points to learning that God indeed is faithful and will deliver in His promises. Knowing that God is faithful increases our hope and desire to receive the fulfillment of the promises that are yet future. In 1 John 3:3 it states that the Christian who has the hope of seeing the Lord face to face is purified by this very same hope. This purifying is godliness. Now what is godliness? It is that inner attitude that does that which is well pleasing to God. It is not just yielding oneself to doing right, but doing it because you want to please Him. It is that inner attitude that shows itself in a holy manner of life (2 Peter 3:11).
This is the final lesson in the study of 2 Peter 1:5-7. We will complete this study by looking at brotherly kindness and charity, the last two things listed in verses 5-7. As was said in lesson two, charity is the pinnacle of attitude and behavior God desires to work out in our lives. But, in order for that to be true, the previous things listed must also be a reality in one's life. As it is true that we grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is also true that we grow in love (charity). But before we see that love encompasses all the good and just behavior, we need to look at brotherly kindness first.
The word translated "brotherly kindness" in 2 Peter 1:7 simply means the "love of the brethren" or "brotherly love." This points to that affection which cherishes the object in question. In this case, it is an affection that cherishes others who have truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Bible states (John 3:3, 1 John 5:1) that the believer is born of God, or born-again. A believer, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, is given spiritual life and thus has been born into the family of God. Through physical birth, humans are placed into an earthly family, and through spiritual birth into God's family. All who have received Christ Jesus as their personal Savior (personal guilt requires personal forgiveness) are brothers and sisters in Christ.
When a person comes to Christ, God places His Spirit within that believer, and because of this, there is a natural affection, produced by the Spirit Himself, toward other born-again believers. This cherishing affection grows toward the brethren as we personally grow in Christ. To show you that this should be natural to the Christian (because of the indwelling Spirit) 1 John 2:9-11 states, that if this is not present to some degree then that person is simply not a Christian.
This affection for born-again believers is separate and above any affection one might have for any other people; for the cherishing of God's people, you truly cherish Christ Himself (Hebrews 6:10, Matthew 25:34-46-other suffering believers). This affection for other believers should cause Christians to help and minister to each other even in the face of personality differences that may arise; much the same as earthly brothers and sisters support each other when trouble arises. This earthly family affection is called "natural" in Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3. The affection for other believers is also "natural" because of the Spirit that indwells all believers.
Charity is the behavior the Christian should seek after. Since men and women are not perfect in love, the Bible describes and lists the qualities of charity for us. The individual qualities are what the Christian yields him-or-herself to as he or she seeks to please God. As this is done, the indwelling Spirit works it into the believer, changing him into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 1:16-17, John 1:16).
Charity reduced to a sentence would be: "That love that values and esteems, is unselfish, ready to serve, unconditional, and is extended to all regardless of whom it may be, friend or enemy.
To summarize this study, it must be said that salvation, freedom from the ultimate penalty of sin and the receiving of eternal life, happens at the moment one receives Jesus Christ as Savior, and spiritual growth is a process that occurs in the Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Christian yields to Christlike behavior. Please do not confuse the two!
It is strongly hoped that this study has been beneficial for you. It seems fitting to end with the prayer of Paul in 2 Peter 3:18: "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen."
WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? | CULTURAL REALITIES AND TRENDS IN MISSIONS - An Informal Report by a Team of Missionary Trainers | AT THE SCENT OF WATER - Linda Nichols' Writing Mission | CHRISTIAN MATURITY - GLIMPSES FROM 2 PETER | SHAPED BY GOD | WHAT GOOD IS YOUR SCRIPTURE ALONE THEORY?
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