Everything You Need for Life
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 10 February 2001
I am going to take a week's break in our study on how to find the right marriage companion and resume that subject again next week because today I was led by the Spirit to talk to you about another though related question, and it's this: What do we need to be equipped for life? And even though some of you may feel close to the end of your lives, I think you will find what I am going to share with you useful and interesting.
I am sure that almost everyone will agree that most of our life is filled up with routines. Day in and day out we do mostly the same thing. We get up in the morning, get washed and dressed, eat our breakfast, and then start our day either at school, at work, or at home. We pause for lunch, carry on working again, stop work, come home, relax, eat supper, relax again, wash and go to bed. Many of these things are identical from day to day so we think little of them.
Then, of course, our lives are interrupted by unexpected things - some pleasant, some horrible. We get a gift, the car breaks down; someone is extra kind or thoughtful to us, someone says or does something thoughtless and hurtful. A friend gives birth, a loved one dies. The sunshine suddenly fills us with delight, dull and wet weather makes us feel gloomy. A new job comes up, suddenly we become redundant. We do well in a test at school, we flunk another. Things are happening all the time. Life, when it is being lived, is busy. When it isn't, people get bored. When God made us He knew that our happiness would be dependent on being productive and helpful to others and that one of the worst things that could happen to anybody is to have nothing to do. And yet He tells us that no matter who we are, rich or poor, talented or untalented, there are always useful and productive things we can be doing no matter where we are. Our conditions, however apparently limiting, are pregnant with possibilities. And what's even more amazing, is that our situation or circumstances have been created by God to make the best of them.
Life - it goes on, you can't stop it. You see it all around you all the time. Leave a bare patch of soil and in matter of days it is teaming with plant life. But it's not until you take a close look at it, and study it carefully, that you begin to understand the processes that are in action - and they're far more complicated that you might at first imagine.
One of my hobbies as a boy was studying pond life. They were easy to find and were always teaming with life. Most of them looked fairly dull and uninteresting but once you started peering down a microscope a whole wonder of opened itself up. I never failed to discover new and exciting things in those seemingly uninteresting drops of pond water. Some of the organisms were extraordinarily beautiful in their construction and complexity.
And then as I looked closer I discovered a life-and-death struggle taking place - a struggle I had not imagined could be taking place in what seemed such a lifeless piece of pond water. I remember looking at a beautiful creature called a Vorticella which looked a bit like a trumpet covered in thousands of tiny beating hairs. The pattern they created was beautiful. Then one day I watched as a little creature called Paramecium got sucked into the trumpet-like creature and was dissolved alive. What I had thought was beautiful was, in fact, a trap that led to death. In fact, some of the most beautiful displays in nature can be not only to attract mates for the purpose of multiplying the species but lures for potential victims.
You will remember that Yah'shua (Jesus) taught in one of His parables that the fellowship of Christ was like a field planted with corn, but that Satan crept in and planted weeds alongside. Yah'shua (Jesus) said that the weeds must be left to grow alongside the corn until both reach maturity because only then it will be safe separate them. Try to pull the weeds out too early and you risk pulling up the good plants as well. Thus in almost every church you will find true believers living alongside false ones. As the false believers reveal their true colours, so they can be identified and separated from the true ones
But the same principle is true in us also. In our human make-up there are a lot of contradictory things. Even after we have received the New Birth in Christ, the battle of good against evil in us isn't over. We have bad habits, bad attitudes, wrong beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about God, that stem from our carnal nature. Our life is like that field full of good plants and bad. The problem getting those weeds out before they choke out the good plants - the good habits, attitudes, and beliefs we have about ourselves, others and God.
The other day in our Bible Class we were discussing the various parables that Yah'shua (Jesus) used to teach His disciples and we were struck by how often he used illustrations from nature and in particular farming. For instance, everyone has heard the Parable of the Sower which is an illustration of four different kinds of people in terms of the way they react to the Gospel when they hear it. We noted that only the seed the fell on good ground actually took root and grew to maturity and was fruitful, and that the key to its success was all the hard work in preparing the soil. If the message of Christ is to not only take root in us, but also grow and come to fruition, we have got to work hard on the soil of our souls, making sure all the rocks of disbelief are dug out, the hard soil of rebellion is broken down, and that the heart is watered by lots of pure and godly emotions. Finally, we have to warm the soil, which is love. Only when you have all the right ingredients do you have a crop. Only when you work hard to perfect yourself can you become fruitful in your Christian life.
One other point about weeds that you need to be aware of. Many weeds, we all agree, are fairly ugly things and aren't too hard to spot. But there are weeds that are really quite lovely to look at. Some weeds make the most beautiful flowers. And in observing that, we should be warned: many ideas, attitudes and forms of behaviour may seem good but are nevertheless evil in their nature. Thus the first thing we have got to do is get some training - we need to be shown by experienced gardeners what are true crops and what are the weeds, just as we need mature believers to point out the dangers that lie along the way of life, and in particular the dangers that are constantly lurking within.
The apostle Peter who perhaps more than any of the other apostles knew what it was to get a rough personality straightened out by God, began his second epistle thus:
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Pet.1:3, NIV).
Now this is quite a promise, isn't it? He's telling us that the divine power that is Christ's - which is given to us when we believe and obey - gives us everything we need for life and godliness. The moment we possess the power of Christ in our lives we are set up for life - rather like a person receiving a huge legacy in a will which means he never has to earn a living again. The promise given to us is that no matter what we may encounter in our sometimes complex and unpredictable lives, the power of Christ "sets us up" to deal with it. But more than that, this power also equips us to be godly. That means, we can, through this power, become like Christ Himself, which is what we have been commanded to be.
I am sure you will agree these are two wonderful promises. But Peter says more:
"Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (v.4).
By living in this power in our lives, we start to participate in the divine nature of Christ Himself. We start to become like Him by sharing that what makes Him what He is. Once we start doing that, we are empowered to escape the corruption of this world. And what causes that corruption? Is it people acting on us - people doing bad things to us? Not at all. The corruption we are trying to escape comes from own evil desires.
Like it or not, the source of all evil is from within. It's there. You're born with these desires. And the Scriptures tell us that these evil desires are inherited from generation to generation all the way back to Adam and Eve who by rebelling against God fell from grace. They acquired a nature that was antichrist through first listening to, then believing, and then finally obeying, Satan. You all know the story of the serpent in Eden. All was well until they started listening to the snake, believing the snake, and then finally obeying the snake. That snakelike nature is in you - here and now. Becoming a Christian doesn't get rid of it - it merely enables you to see it and gives you the power to resist it and then overcome it. That's what Peter said by the Holy Spirit.
Now I want you to listen very carefully to what Peter said next, because he now goes on to tell us how to defeat these evil desires from within. I'll read the verses in question all in one go to begin with and then we'll take a close look at them one by one. You'll find them very instructive.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is shortsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins" (vv.5-9).
You will notice that the first thing Peter says is "make every effort". This battle won't be won by being lazy. A field doesn't plough itself and you'll never prepare the soil of your soil to enable the seed of Christ's power and goodness to grow within you unless you get your own soul cleared out first. It's common sense, really, and yet you'd be surprised how careless Christians are when it comes to cleaning their own homes out.
So, effort is required - not a little effort, not some effort, but every effort. One of the hardest jobs there is is ploughing a field. We have lived on or next to farms for many years and we know what's involved. Today farmers are blessed by tractors, but before they used horses and oxen. And the very poor used to pull the plough themselves with their bare hands. Some still do in poor countries.
The next thing I want you to notice is the word "add". Peter gives us a long mathematical equation of different things we need to "add" to our lives, rather like a cook adding different ingredients to make a cake. You have to add things in the right order and in the right amount. The list Peter gives is just like a recipe. You don't, for example, put the oven on for a couple of hours, turn it off, and then put the unbaked cake in after it has got cold. Doing things in the right order is most important.
Let's look at Peter's recipe. The first ingredient is FAITH, or in other words, belief or trust. Our spiritual life begins by believing in Yah'shua (Jesus). But faith without deeds, as James reminds us, isn't much good, just as dough without yeast isn't going to give you bread.
Peter says: "add to your faith goodness." A man who says he is a Christian isn't a Christian just because he believes. If he isn't being good, he isn't much of a Christian, is he? When we accept Christ and believe in His power and His teachings, we start putting his teachings into practice. We start a course in 'Practical Goodness'. Being good is the second ingredient. I shan't go into what being good it as I shall assume you all know that.
What's next? "to goodness, [add] knowledge". There is no such thing as an ignorant Christian. You can't be good unless you know what being good is, and you can't have faith in Christ if you don't know everything about Him to know that there is. We've all been to school, or are at school now, and know how important learning is. There aren't many good jobs in the market place for the ignorant. If you want to be a computer engineer you have got to do a lot of studying. Similarly, a Christian has got to study his Bible carefully all his life as well as the people who are mature in their Christian living. In fact, we can learn something useful from practically everything around us. But by far the most important is God's Word.
Here's the fourth ingredient: "and to knowledge, [add] self-control". Some of the most useless as well as dangerous people are those who have no self-control. Self-discipline in the form of controlling one's temper, for example, is vital. A missionary who starts beating up people because they won't accept his message isn't going to get very far, is he? Winning someone to your point-of-view will not be accomplished by someone who is impatient. Faith, goodness, and knowledge aren't enough. Imagine you are a computer engineer sent to repair someone's computer that's broken down. You are brilliant but you start getting frustrated because you can't find the fault and start smashing your customer's computer with a hammer. Do you think you'll be in a job for very long? Never forget self-control and self-discipline. Learn to control your tongue, your temper, and indeed your whole life. Get organised. Don't waist your life away being lazy, sleeping, or doing nothing. Be actively engaged in something that is useful and good wherever you may be. Right now, right where you are, is where your Christian discipleship counts. That's why Yah'shua (Jesus) taught that we should only worry about one day at a time and leave tomorrow to tomorrow. We are neither to live in the past or the future, but in TODAY.
That's four ingredients. Faith, goodness, knowledge and self-control. I wonder what the fifth is? "and to self-control, [add] perseverance". Perseverance means "staying at it", not giving up. Of course, it goes without saying that we have to persevere in the right things. It's no use persevering as a criminal. We are to persevere as disciples of Christ. And the fact that that word is in Peter's list should immediately tell us that Christian discipleship isn't easy and becoming like Christ takes a long time. Otherwise we wouldn't have to persevere, would we?
The sixth ingredient is this: "and to perseverance, [add] godliness". Now I wonder what that could mean? What is it mean to be 'godly'? The dictionary probably gives the best answer I have seen: "To be godly means having a religious character, to be pious and devout". Put into simple words, what that means is this: to be godly means to be living the Christian life in all its essential ingredients. I am sure you could make your own lists. However, without a doubt some of the most important things are having an active prayer life, having an active praise life in giving your testimony of God's goodness in your life and in singing psalms of praise together with other Christians. Godliness is not only a personal things but very much a "together" thing. That is why Christ said: "I will built my church" (Mt.16:18), meaning, that He would call Christians to come to pray, worship, study and serve together. The word "church" is better translated as an assembly, fellowship or gathering. One thing that true Christians love to do is get together as often as possible. How often might that me? Well, we only have to look at the early Christian Church to find that out. Listen to this: "Every day they continued to meet together... They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Ac.2:46). Godliness is a family affair - a gathering together daily of God's people to do godly things.
Number seven is: "to godliness, [add] brotherly kindness". Now how on earth can you show brotherly kindness to other Christian brothers and sisters if you never meet with them? Yes, we are to be kind to all people, but that which builds up the soul, that which gives us the divine power to build up the godly life and give us everything we need, comes through sharing kindness with fellow believers on a daily basis. Do I need to ask you what the word 'kindness' means? Probably not, but just to be safe I will.
To be kind is to have a friendly nature or attitude. It means being helpful to others, being considerate, courteous, pleasant, and mild. It means, in short, not doing anything that would harm anyone. And you need people if you want to practice kindness.
Finally, the eighth and last ingredient: "and to brotherly kindness, [add] love". Love is always the goal, isn't it? In actual fact, all those previous ingredients allow you to love. Remember the illustration I gave of the hot oven? The hot oven is the last stage in baking the bread. But usually the oven has to be heated up first - it doesn't arrive at the correct temperature in one second. Love isn't something you learn in one day. Like good manners and self-discipline, it has to be cultivated through regular practice. If you have no-one to love, how can you learn to love? Again we see the vital necessity of the church or fellowship of believers.
The qualities of love are defined by all the previous ingredients. Love is faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and brotherly kindness. The test of the eighth ingredient is all the rest. When you have them in your life, you are loving.
Let's now recall how Peter concluded his list of ingredients. This is what he said: "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is shortsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins".
Notice how he says these things must be increasing all the time. You can't be perfect overnight but you can be constantly improving. As you increase in these virtues, you will become more effective as a Christian and more productive in your knowledge of Christ. In other words, you will be able to put all your knowledge to practical use - use that glorifies God and brings souls into His Kingdom.
Then, his sober warning: "But if anyone does not have [these qualities], he is shortsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins".
We cannot afford to ignore this last statement of the apostle. If we are lacking in any of these qualities, we are both shortsighted and blind. We can't see. We may thing we can discern God's mind and will for us, but if we are temperamental, impatient, lacking in kindness and consideration for others, failing to gather to pray, worship, sing and study with other Christians. If we are a bit short on love, then what are we? Shortsighted and blind.
Do you remember the quotation I gave you the other week from the Swedish writer from Värmland, Selma Lagerlöf? She wisely said: "The restless always take the wrong path". King David understood this when he said: "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes" (Ps. 37:7, NIV). ""Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps.46:10, NIV). Inner peace and stillness is one of the characteristics of a person walking with God. It doesn't matter what is happening on the outside if we are at peace with Yahweh. When His power lives in us, and we are walking in obedience to His ways, then our problems become His problems. We can leave things beyond our power to solve to Him. That's one of the great blessings to having Yah'shua (Jesus) as boss.
Peter's last remark is eye-opening. He says of the one who is not demonstrating the qualities of godliness in his life: "[he] has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins". This, then, is the master key, for the power which gives us everything we need to live victoriously as His children, lies in the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of our Messiah. Our inner garden is full of snakes - the passions and desires that lead us away from all that is ungodly, and which cause us to keep doing wrong deeds. Every time we sin, another weed is planted in the garden of our soul. And the more we sin, the more weeds there are. And if as they multiply, so the goodness in our lives is choked out. The good crop is destroyed. Therefore that sin must be removed. It's not enough to stop planting weeds - the problem is the ones that are already there!
The solution is simply, but it requires humility, surrender of self-will, and repentance. It means apologising to those we wrong, apologising to God for offending His holiness, and promising not to repeat them. Once we have done these things, we can call upon the cleansing blood of Christ to wash those sins away - to pull up those noxious weeds - and make more space for good seeds to be planted.
My prayer is that you will obtain everything you need for life, and more importantly, the next life, by following Peter's recipe. It's easy to find - the opening chapter of his second letter - and it's easy to do. It starts with faith and ends in love. Just be sure you don't forget all the things in-between! Amen.
This page was created on 21 February 2001
Last updated on 21 February 2001
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