Respond • Inward Changes
We just spent the last eight weeks exploring what it means to experience a relationship with God.
But that begs the question:
Once we’ve truly experienced His presence, what should our lives look like?
Today we’re starting a two-week mini-series called RESPOND.
So why is there a 20 foot cellphone on stage?
You know that good feeling when your texting someone you care about, that excitement you get when the 3 little dots show up, telling you that they’re about to respond?
But sometimes those little dots on your cell phone disappear because the person changed their mind or… they’re trying to figure out how they want to respond.
Sometimes that’s us with God. We want to respond, but we don’t know how.
Have you ever considered that God is excited for us to respond to the promise He sent us?
During these two weeks, we’re going to dig into 9 verses found in 2 Peter, Chapter 1 that look at how we respond to the promise He sent.
And as God’s promises appear on this text screen, ask yourself “How will I respond?”
So go ahead and turn or swipe to 2 Peter in your Bibles.
It’s way in the back on your Bible (or at the bottom of your scroll) and if you’re using the Bible Available at Brookwood, it’s on page 981.
And while you do that, let me give you a little context about this letter written by Peter.
2 Peter is written to the church as a whole. The first people to read it may have been the believers in modern-day Turkey because that’s who his first letter was written to, but Peter clearly addresses the letter to the entire body of Christ.
But the most important thing to know about this letter is this:
Peter is about to die and he knew it. That means it was written around 66-68 AD, likely from a Roman prison, just before Peter was executed.
…it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live. For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life, so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone. 2 Peter 1:13-15 (NLT)
--This letter is Peter’s dying words of advice and encouragement to believers.
--He’s desperate for them to hold on to God and avoid false teaching.
--He’s desperate for them to be transformed and live a life of purpose and mission.
**The question is, do you want to live a life of purpose and mission?
I want you to think about that question as we go through this passage over the next two weeks.
Because at first glance, these verses will seem like they’re about character development (and they are), but they’re actually all about our purpose in this life.
You can’t experience God without being changed,
And you can’t be changed by God without developing a consuming compassion for those who don’t know Him.
***It is impossible to love God and be passive about the mission of the church.
Peter’s got one last chance to instruct the church, one last chance to train them for their purpose in Christ.
And he writes this:
Starting in verse 3.
By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the One who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)
So, is it possible to live a godly, holy life that’s set apart for purposes of God? Absolutely.
Let’s unpack this verse.
Look at the first sentence:
By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.
2 Peter 1:3a (NLT)
It says God’s divine power “HAS given.”
In both English and Greek that’s written in the past tense.
It’s already happened. So living a godly life is for right now… not tomorrow, not eternity. Right now.
Then it says, He’s already given us SOME of what we need?
No. EVERYTHING we need to live a godly life today—from the moment we become saved, we have access to the power necessary to live a godly life.
But here’s a fair question:
If our salvation is assured (which it is), why strive to live a godly life here when we know God will transform us into our perfect, glorified state in eternity?
Well, we said it over and over again in the Experiencing God series…
Obedience is the outward expression of our love for God.
But as we obey God, we grow in Christ-like character, and that produces fruit.
Christ’s perfect life was lived on earth for a purpose He was called to fulfill ON earth.
And in Christ, we’re called to live a godly life on earth for a purpose we’re called to fulfill ON earth.
***We will be fully perfected when Christ returns, but too many of us use that as an excuse to stay imperfect here.
Our desire should be to draw as close to that perfection in Christ as possible before that day arrives.
Because if we wait until Christ’s return to seek a godly existence, we will have missed the opportunity to fulfill the purpose He’s called us to here.
Eternity is where we will perfect worship, but this broken world is where we’re called to perfect service.
So how do we access this power to live a godly life?
The next sentence in verse 3 tells us.
We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the One who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3b (NLT)
The word “know” here doesn’t mean “I casually met Him in the Concourse at church.”
It’s an intimate word… to fully and personally know someone.
And the word “know” is sometimes translated as what?
We receive this power by experiencing God.
I like the way the Passion translations words this sentence:
>>“For all this was lavished upon us through the rich experience of knowing Him.” (TPT)
And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)
The promises of God enable us to share in God’s divine nature.
(That’s an incredible offer, and we’ll dive into what that really means next week).
But the promises of God also allow us to escape the world’s corruption and live a godly life.
So what promises?
How many promises has God made?
It’s estimated that there are at least 30,000 promises in the Bible.
John Bunyan once said:
“The pathway of life is strewn so thickly with the promises of God that it is impossible to take one step without treading upon one of them.” –John Bunyan
30,000 promises that enable us to live a godly life.
God’s promises of:
-Guidance (John 16:13)
-Wisdom (Proverbs 2:6-8)
-Instruction (John 14:26)
-Strength (Psalm 18:32)
-Freedom from sin (Romans 8)
-The power to persevere (Philippians 4:13)
-Escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13)
-Victory over evil (James 4:7)
I’ve got 29,992 left… should I keep going?
The question is not the sufficiency of God’s promises.
The question is how we RESPOND to those promises.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT)
Peter, in his dying words, lists 7 things we should make every effort to add to our faith:
-Love for everyone.
That’s an intimidating list.
But there are two very important things to remember as we look at these elements of building Christian character over the next two weeks.
The FIRST is that we are incapable of living a life filled with these qualities without the Holy Spirit.
The power to achieve these things are in the promises of God alone, but we respond by pursuing the results of those promises.
The SECOND thing we need to remember is that these are the qualities we should see growing in our lives in RESPONSE to our salvation… not a prerequisite for salvation.
And that’s what we’re talking about.
After Peter gives the list of Christian Character traits, he says:
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:8 (NLT)
Actually, the NLT is somewhat kind here,
Because the Greek actually highlights the negative.
“Unless you’re continually growing in all these things, you will be unproductive and fruitless.”
Look at this verse carefully.
Do we want to be growing?
Do we want to be productive and useful as we experience God?
Because the sad reality is that many people who call themselves Christians are not productive at all.
***Many of us have a “come to church” mentality when we need to have a “mission-focused” mentality.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day.
Veterans understand the concept of mission better than most civilians do.
We think we get credit for just showing up to church.
Soldiers don’t receive Medals of Honor for training exercises.
They receive Medals of Honor for courageous actions in the line of duty.
The Christian life is not about sitting in church. This is our place of training.
Our medals, our rewards are found in the mission of the church.
This plan for building Christian character is about training for that mission.
The first 4 traits are about inward changes we should seek in our lives.
The last 3 are the outward expressions of those inward changes.
We’ll look at the inward changes this week, and the outward expressions next week.
Back to verse 5:
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence… 2 Peter 1:5a (NLT)
The first thing Peter tells us is to be forever growing in moral excellence.
We respond to God’s promises by…
- Growing in MORAL EXCELLENCE.
What do some of your other translations say?
KJV says “virtue”
NIV says “goodness”
The NLT is probably the most accurate translation: moral excellence.
But what’s missing from ALL the English translations is the sense of courage that’s implied by the Greek.
Moral Excellence with Courage (Write that in parenthesis on your outline).
We’re talking about mission, right?
This word, aretē (arr-ah-tay) was used in Greek culture to describe moral heroes—an unattainable ability to fulfill heroic, courageous deeds with virtue and excellence in every aspect of the hero’s life.
But Peter says it IS attainable—through the divine power of Christ.
He encourages us to focus our thoughts on pursuing this kind of lifestyle.
…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent [That’s the same word Peter used for moral excellence] and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Do you want to live a courageous life?
Do you want to live a courageous life of moral excellence? (Not as quick to answer)
Because it takes courage to live a different kind of life.
-It takes courage not to gossip.
-It takes courage to not lie.
-It takes courage to live in sexual purity or take in a child that needs a home.
-It takes courage to give sacrificially.
-It takes courage to have moral excellence and not become so prideful that you judge non-believers who don’t.
The only thing that separates us from the immorality of the world is God’s grace, but Christians have a tendency to forget that and take on a sense of superiority.
We must learn to live a life that’s different from the world while still reaching out with compassion to that same world.
It doesn’t do the Kingdom any good for a Christian to be among non-believers and live exactly as they do.
But listen carefully, it also doesn’t do the Kingdom any good for Christians to have moral excellence, but isolate themselves from anyone they don’t agree with.
**Moral excellence is about having a transformed life that’s so unusually attractive to the selfishness of this world that it draws broken people to God.
We [also] respond to God’s promises by…
- Growing in KNOWLEDGE.
This second trait is all about acquiring the mind of Christ.
…Supplement [or add to] your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5b (NLT)
This type of knowledge isn’t just about learning information (although that’s part of it)—It’s about experiencing God’s truth in such a way that it becomes infused into who you are and how you live.
This kind of knowledge leads to wisdom and discernment.
So it’s not just about information BUT it does take effort and study.
-Learning the Word of God,
-Having His instruction become part of our character and
-Meditating on God’s promises.
**How much of our day is dedicated to that?
That’s a question I struggle with—and I’m being honest here.
If I believe the Bible is the actual words of God—a message from God to me, then why is this book not in my hand every spare second I can find?
Peter is saying that our lives should be like the believer described in the very first psalm:
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
Psalm 1:1 (NLT)
That’s moral excellence, right?
Text me verse 2:
But they delight in the law of the LORD,
meditating on it day and night.
Psalm 1:2 (NLT)
“Law of the Lord” refers to the books of Moses, so meditating on God’s word day and night,
Growing in the knowledge of who He is.
Which leads to verse 3:
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
Psalm 1:3 (NLT)
Unswaying, rooted trees that are bearing fruit.
And that’s the life we’re being called to here in 2 Peter.
Remember, Peter was specifically writing this letter to Christians who had been exposed to false teachings, so he wants to make sure they’re rooted in the truth of Scripture.
That problem hasn’t gone away. There’s no end to the number of false teachings in this culture.
People who have never read a single verse of the Bible are absolutely convinced they know what’s in this book—that’s both non-believers AND believers.
Even worse, there are many people who DO know what it says and purposefully mislead you anyway.
The only way to protect ourselves from false teachings is to study this book ourselves.
Acts 17:11 says the Bereans were of more noble character and received an extra blessing because they listened to their preachers with an open heart, but then they searched the Scriptures daily to be sure what they were being taught was true.
Don’t let anyone tell you what the Bible says…
Have an open heart to listen, but don’t simply accept everything Perry says.
(Accept everything I say, but not Perry—no don’t blindly listen to me either).
The way cults maintain control is by convincing people they’re not capable of understanding truth, so you have to blindly accept what they teach.
Biblical Christianity doesn’t mean checking your brain at the door.
Grow in knowledge. Question things. Dig into Scripture to find out what GOD says, not man.
Be like the Bereans. Be teachable, but search the scriptures to confirm truth.
Ask yourself this question every day:
What have I learned about the character of Christ today?
If we want to be more like Christ, we need to grow in our experience and knowledge of Him.
Are you willing to pursue a deep and intimate knowledge of God and His will?
Moving on to verse 6 in our text:
…and [supplement] knowledge with self-control 2 Peter 1:6a (NLT)
We respond to God’s promises by…
- Growing in SELF-CONTROL.
Where else have we heard the phrase, Self-Control?
It’s a virtue in the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
And it’s our favorite.
As we talked about earlier, the Greek word used for Moral Excellence was used to describe courageous heroes. The Greek word used for self-control was used in reference to sports heroes—athletes.
It was used to describe their intense training, and their willingness to abstain from sinful behavior like gluttony, drunkenness, and sexual immorality. Why? So they could focus on what really mattered.
They not only trained their bodies, but their minds.
That’s exactly what we’re called to do (Romans 12:2).
We should view the Christian life as continual, focused training for the mission God has given us.
This is what Paul was talking about when he said:
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NLT)
And by disqualified, he means disqualified from rewards, not disqualified from salvation.
He understands that we are here for a purpose.
Do you come to church because it’s the thing to do, or is it part of a training regimen to reach a lost world?
Sin and self-indulgence interferes with our ability to train.
It inhibits how effective we are for the Kingdom.
We’re not called to pursue a life of godliness and self-control just so we can say we were good.
We’re called to pursue that kind of life so we’re ready for the opportunities God gives us to affect the lives of other people.
And if you say, “But God never seems to show me opportunities to impact the lives of non-believers.”
The entire New Testament says He will, so if you’re not seeing those opportunities it either means:
-You’re not listening
-You’ve isolated yourself from non-believers in church activities, or…
-You’re not living a life that would impact their lives for the Kingdom.
That’s why we chase after moral excellence and an experiential knowledge of Christ.
And the more we grow in those two traits, the more we need to pursue His power in building self-control.
Because the enemy will attack us.
He doesn’t want us to grow in Christ.
He doesn’t want us to grow in these virtues.
He will attack us with temptation after temptation.
He will attack your weakest point, but WHY?
You’re already saved. He can’t take that away from you…
So what good does it do Satan to make you stumble?
It’s not about threatening your salvation.
It’s about stifling how effective you are IN your salvation.
It’s about the witness you have in the lives of non-believers and your ability to mentor new believers.
Oh, Satan loves to see you fail… but he loves it more when you fail in front of a non-believer, because then he whispers in their ear, “See, that guy’s no different from anyone else. If God doesn’t make a difference in his life, how could he possibly help you?”
But here’s what we have to understand about the temptations of our enemy.
They have no real teeth.
James 4:7 says:
So humble yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7 (NLT)
There’s another one of those 30,000 promises that help us live a godly life.
Humble yourselves before God, resist the devil and he MIGHT flee from you?
No. He WILL flee from you.
Okay… so here’s the secret to growing in self-control.
Are you ready?
The secret to growing in self-control is realizing that enemy only has one move—convincing you not to stand up to him.
Every attack against us—every attack against our family is really just a distraction to keep us from fighting back.
Because he knows the moment we actually stand up and say no, he HAS to flee.
He has NO authority over you. You have authority over him.
**The reason we don’t have self-control in our lives is because we surrender it to an enemy who has no weapon.
But that doesn’t mean those attacks by our enemy don’t hurt.
I don’t want to minimize the suffering that can be inflicted.
We face trials in this world, which leads us back to verse 6:
…and [supplement] self-control with patient endurance… 2 Peter 1:6b (NLT)
We respond to God’s promises by…
- Growing in PATIENT ENDURANCE.
Patience is my least favorite.
I’m slowly being transformed but I, by nature, am not a patient person. When I want something, I generally want it now.
But this idea of patient endurance isn’t really about waiting for something we want.
In fact, patience is too passive of a word.
Cicero (sis-er-oh), working from the Latin translation, described this word in Scripture like this:
Patientia is “the voluntary and daily suffering of hard and difficult things, for the sake of honour and usefulness.” —Cicero
There’s that word, “useful” again. Because this word, which is sometimes translated perseverance, never means accepting hardship so you can simply survive the trial.
It’s always looking forward to how God will use the trial for good—moving forward in the hope of God’s promises.
***Struggles can either break us or draw us closer to God in our brokenness.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. Romans 5:3–5 (NLT)
Do you face your struggles with hopeful endurance?
Because God’s not the only one who sees how we respond to hardship. So does the world.
Christians have got to stop whining, and start embracing the promises of God. Every time we complain, every time we express a negative, defeated attitude in front of an unbelieving world, we’re saying is, “This problem is bigger than my God.”
That doesn’t mean we’re fake with people.
It doesn’t mean we put on a mask.
It means we evaluate our heart in all circumstances—because the way we respond to our trials is the biggest witness to a world filled with brokenness.
Some people think the best way to spread the gospel is puffing up our blessings to non-believers. No, that just annoys them.
They can explain our blessings away as hard work or luck—but what the world cannot explain away is how we move through struggles with integrity and hope—how we thrive and grow in the seemingly un-survivable.
That doesn’t mean we don’t grieve.
But we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4).
**The gospel isn’t the promise of a perfect life. It’s the hope we have in a life that isn’t.
That’s what we’re supposed to show the world.
But we can’t do that if our lives look just like everyone else’s.
No. Growing in a life of
Is not about living a perfect life.
It’s about responding to the promises of God, loving Him enough to be transformed to be more like Him—so we can be productive and useful in a broken world.
We need to pursue these inward changes because it affects our outward expression toward God and the world.
That’s what we’ll explore next week.
But ask yourself, “Where am I stuck in my spiritual growth?”
Which one of these sting?
Because that’s probably where God wants to work in you.
If you want someone to pray with you, we’ll have Care Volunteers down front and in the Care Connection Room after we close.
Seek people to pray with you.
Because this is what Scripture says about the age we live in:
… understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
This is all around us.
That’s what our neighbors are drowning in.
That’s what many of us are drowning in.
How will you respond?
Because the sacrifice of Christ promises something better.