Respond • Outward Expressions
Good morning, Brookwood!
Today we complete our two-week mini-series entitled, Respond.
And the question we’ve been asking is:
How do we respond to the promises of God?
How do we live a different kind of life?
Do we live a life focused on ourselves, or do we live a life of mission and purpose?
Last week we talked about why we have this 20-foot cell phone on stage.
You know that good feeling you get when you see the three dots appear on your phone telling you someone you care about is about to respond?
Well, God gets excited when we respond to the promises He’s sent us.
So as God’s message and promises appear on this phone, I want us to think about how we’ll respond to Him.
If we want to live a life set apart for the purposes of God, it requires us to seek a life that’s different from the way the world lives.
Peter tells us how to do that in his dying words of encouragement and instruction to the church.
We’ve been looking at a section of 2 Peter, Chapter 1. So you can go ahead and turn or swipe to that passage in your Bibles.
It’s on page 981 if you’re using the Bible available at Brookwood.
If you remember from last week, this list of Christian character traits are the virtues we should be continually growing in, not for the sake of “being good” but to prepare us for the mission of the church.
Verse 8 told us that if we’re not continually growing in Christian Character, we will be unproductive and fruitless in our experience with God.
Do we want to live a life that is productive and fruitful?
Let’s look at 2 Peter 1 again. 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)
Remember, last week, we talked about how this really means, “Experiencing Him.”
We receive the ability to live a useful, productive, godly life by experiencing God.
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)
Do you grasp the significance of that?
The promises of God enable us to share in God’s divine nature, escaping the world’s corruption caused by our human desires.
Outside of the Holy Spirit’s power and intervention, we will always be ruled by our own selfish desires.
Our natural tendency is sin.
James explains the human condition like this:
…Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:14-15 (NIV)
We want to believe that deep down, man will do the right thing—but we don’t. Our desires are selfish.
One of the books that’s had the biggest impact on me is The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank.
It’s filled with hope and optimism even though her family was facing the greatest evil in human history—and her family was being hunted by the Nazis.
Probably the most famous quote from that diary is when Anne writes: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
It’s beautiful—and I love Anne Frank, but it’s not true.
We want it to be true—I want it to be true, but it’s not.
***The belief that mankind can be good at heart is the same belief that enables us to walk through most of our days as if we don’t need God.
It waters down the sacrifice of Christ to believe mankind is inherently good when history has taught us—when our own lives have taught us that we’re not.
***Our hope is not in the elusive goodness of man. It’s in the eternal goodness of God.
Left to our own choices, we will always choose pleasure over integrity, power over sacrifice.
I’m not saying this to discourage us, I’m saying this so we might get a glimmer of how important and beautiful this promise is—
that God allows us to share in the divine nature of Christ—
--that we CAN make a difference in this world,
--that we can reach out to the broken,
--that we can right wrongs,
--that we can be a beacon of light in a world filled with darkness…
--but only when we stop relying on ourselves and start sharing in the divine nature God has offered us.
But how is that possible?
We can share in the divine nature because Jesus gave up His divine privileges to be born a human being. And He humbled himself to death on the cross on our behalf
Without the cross, we cannot live the kind of life described in this passage—we can’t even stand before God, let alone share in His divine nature.
Christ took our place in judgment, so that we could wear His righteousness and share in His divine nature—rescuing us while maintaining the Father’s holiness.
In The Attributes of God, A. W Tozer said this:
“Without compromising Himself in any way, God now receives the returning sinner and puts a deposit of His own nature and life in that sinner. That’s what the new birth is.
It’s not joining a church, it’s not being baptized, not quitting this or that bad habit, though everybody will quit his bad habits. The new birth is an implantation of divine life.” – A. W. Tozer
That’s what gives us the ability to respond to God’s promises with a godly life—because the greatest of His promises is salvation through grace—new life through the blood of Christ.
So how do we respond?
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)
-Love for everyone
We covered the first four last week, (and if you weren’t here, I encourage you to watch or listen to the message online).
But for now, write these down:
First, we seek to grow in Moral Excellence, which is about courageously living a life that’s different from the world so we can draw broken people to Christ.
We grow in knowledge as we experience God. Meditating on His word, and learning His character.
We grow in self-control because the enemy and our own flesh will tempt us away from the mission and purpose God has for our lives.
And we grow in Patient Endurance, facing trials and hardship with the hope of Jesus Christ so a grieving world sees the difference Christ makes in our lives.
Those first 4 traits are the inward changes we seek in response to God’s promises.
And last week we talked about how growing in these traits is our training—the things that prepare us to fulfill the mission of the church.
The LAST 3 traits of Christian character are the outward expression of those inward changes.
They are the action steps for us to fulfill the mission of the church.
Now, after last week’s message, several people asked me how I would define the mission of the church.
The mission of the church, and the mission of every believer is 3-fold.
And they’re embodied in our last 3 character traits…
But if you promise not to leave, I’ll give you the whole message in a nutshell now.
The mission of the church is this:
- To glorify God (this is the most important aspect of our lives)
- To train and build-up other believers.
- To bring the hope of Christ to a broken world.
Our lives should revolve around those three goals.
They match our last three character traits in this passage.
They also follow what’s written on the front of your program:
Communicating with God, Connecting with Christians, and Caring for Others.
So let’s explore those three traits and the mission of the church.
We pick up where we left off last week, at the end of verse 6:
…and [supplement] patient endurance with godliness. 2 Peter 1:6c
Godliness. This is an interesting word, because this entire list of Christian virtues is about living a godly life.
Moral Excellence, Knowledge, Self-Control, Patient Endurance, those are all related to living the godly life described in verse 3.
So why is godliness listed as its own character trait?
Because this word is not about our behavior. It’s about the condition of our heart.
It’s not about how we live. It’s about how we approach God.
The Greek word for godliness implies that we should come before Him with reverence and honor.
It implies loyalty and how we adore Him, coming before God with praise.
What does that sound like?
In fact, the best translation of this word might not be godliness. Because it can also be translated, “true worship.”
We respond to God’s promises by… [Continually]
- Growing in GODLINESS through TRUE WORSHIP.
Mission objective 1: We’re called to bring glory to God.
Do we approach God with reverence?
Do we approach Him with a heart of true worship?
The American church has all but lost its reverence for the power of God.
We embrace the grace of God, but we’ve largely abandoned our fear of the Lord.
Yes, God is a god of love, but we should have a healthy fear of His power and holiness, working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)—But because we’ve lost that sense of reverence, most of us don’t truly worship Him either.
This is a difficult truth, but let’s be honest, the definition many Christians have for the word worship…
is the part of a Sunday service when I park my car or get a cup of coffee.
**Worship is about giving glory to God, but when we put things ahead of our worship, we’re giving glory to ourselves.
But just being in the room isn’t worship either. Are you engaging with God in worship?
Last week we talked about growing in a knowledge of Jesus Christ—that the church is a training ground for the mission of the church, and that’s absolutely true. But it’s also the place where we come together for worship.
There is power in corporate prayer and worship.
We should arrive early every week, expecting that God is going to speak to us before the message ever begins.
Are we willing to put aside our other priorities and make God’s majesty foremost in our day?
Next week we’re going to have a Morning of Worship.
We’re going to come before God, open our hearts, and seek an encounter with Him through song and praise.
This isn’t going to be a concert.
It’s an exclamation point at the end of our studies on experiencing God and Responding to His promises.
Are you willing to come with a heart prepared for worship?
Are you willing to come expecting to hear from God?
Because our attitude in worship, makes a difference in every aspect of life.
Look Paul’s instructions to Timothy:
…while bodily training is of some value, godliness [true worship] is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)
The way we approach God holds promise for both the current life AND eternity.
It affects our attitude, our purpose, and our mission.
Look at 1 Chronicles 16:
Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Each day proclaim the good news that He saves.
1 Chronicles 16:23 (NLT)
***Don’t miss the significance of this verse.
It ties our ability to proclaim the gospel to the state of our worship.
If we’re unable to express the joy of Christ to a broken world, it may be because we don’t have the joy of worship in our own lives.
And I’m not just talking about Sunday morning.
Worship goes beyond Sunday morning.
It should be a lifestyle.
It should be in every action and every thought.
It sounds cliché, but we should live with a continual song in our hearts—a life song.
When God sent Israel into battle, you know who marched at the head of the army?
The worship leaders!
And when we’re facing spiritual battle, we should march into it with worship leading the way.
We’re called to live a life of continual worship and reverence in our relationship with God.
True worship will change your perspective in every circumstance.
And when we live a life of worship,
It will always affect how we view others.
Look at James 1:27:
Pure and genuine religion [worship] in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27 (NLT)
Which leads us to the last two character traits in our text.
…and [supplement] godliness with brotherly affection, 2 Peter 1:7a (NLT)
We respond to God’s promises by…
- Growing in BROTHERLY AFFECTION.
Mission Objective 2: Train and build up other believers.
We can only do that when we truly love one another.
And the Greek word that’s used here is one EVERYONE can learn.
The word for brotherly affection is Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is the city of what?
Yes, the word philadelphia was used in Greek culture to describe the healthy love expressed between close family members.
But Peter is expanding that to emphasize the relationship between believers as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We’re called to love one another in a different way.
That’s why Jesus said:
…Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
The way we treat one another is the primary way the world should be able to identify a Christian.
Are we loving one another in that way?
Does the compassion and kindness we show one another in public startle people?
Do we draw people to Christ just by the way we treat each other?
***Listen, Believers have got to stop beating one another up and start building one another up.
We have to stop judging each other and start helping each other.
We need to stop blaming each other and start supporting each other.
We need to stop saying “what do I get” and start saying “what do you need?”
Gossip, back biting, unforgiveness, and undermining has no place in the body of Christ.
We don’t talk about it much in the modern church, but there’s a reason Titus 3:10 says if someone is causing division in the church, warn them twice and then the body should have nothing to do with them.
Matthew 18 calls us to approach believers who are sinning against another believer with compassion and help them right the ship… but if they refuse correction, it directs us to remove them from the body.
Why? Because sin against one another and division are poison to the mission of the church. It’s a cancer.
It’s vital that we build a healthy community and then engage in that community.
How are we strengthening one another in our spiritual growth?
Are we in a small group or ministry?
Are we meeting with one another outside of church?
Are we challenging one another to a deeper faith?
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.
Hebrews 10:23 (NLT)
So again, we’re responding to the promises of God… how?
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
We must learn to put others before ourselves, and love our brothers and sisters.
We must encourage and build one another up. (Romans 12)
We have to take off our masks and be honest.
Christian Rule: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
But we’re not just called to love other believers.
Let’s continue in verse 7:
…and [supplement] brotherly affection with love for everyone. 2 Peter 1:7b (NLT)
We respond to God’s promises by…
- Growing in LOVE for EVERYONE.
Mission Objective 3: Bring the hope of Christ to a broken world.
This is very important to understand:
The words used for “brotherly love” and “love for everyone” in this passage are not the same word.
The word Peter uses to describe our relationship to other believers is philidelphia.
The word Peter uses to describe love for everyone, INCLUDING non-believers, is agape.
Agape is the word used to describe God’s perfect love for US.
It means a sacrificial, un-selfish love—a love that always puts self second.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 (CSB)
What are you willing to sacrifice to introduce someone to Christ?
Are you willing to leave the walls of the church and find people the world has rejected?
Are you willing to leave the walls of the church and find people the church has rejected?
Christ ministered to two types of people—believers and people who would become believers.
When he healed believers, they usually came to Him and they were healed according to their faith.
But the second group of people were non-believers and in nearly every case, Christ went to THEM… and in nearly every case, Scripture uses the word “compassion” to describe why He approached them.
He went to them… he had compassion… he met their needs… and they became believers.
We have the exact same calling:
Go to them… show compassion… meet their needs… and watch God make them believers.
Sharing in the divine nature means sharing in the same passion Christ has—and Christ’s passion is for the lost and broken.
We need to find the same compassion for people in our hearts that Christ has. And guess how you’ll know when you’ve found that passion… it’s when being inconvenienced to help someone else means more to you than not being inconvenienced.
The Greek word agape used here for “Love” literally means (and make sure you hear this) A FEAST OF LOVE.
That means showing compassion to the people you once believed didn’t deserve it becomes your sustenance. It becomes the thing that feeds you.
You’ll stop waiting for people to come to you… you’ll go out and FIND the people who need compassion.
You’ll walk into a room, or a store, or a meeting LOOKING for the person who needs encouragement.
God invites us to be part of the work He’s doing in the lives of others.
Are you intentional in looking for those opportunities?
Are you desperate to see the invitations God puts in front of you?
Because if you say, “God never seems to show me opportunities to impact the lives of non-believers.”
You have to understand, 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 yourselves from non-believers in church activities, or…
-you’re not living a life that would impact their lives for the Kingdom.
That’s what this list of seven Christian character traits is all about. Are we growing in a way that prepares us to make a difference for the Kingdom?
Romans 12 says this:
Therefore, I urge you, [The NLT says, “I plead with you,”] brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1 (NIV)
And the word “bodies” means the whole self.
God’s always asked his followers for a sacrifice. We usually focus on the word “sacrifice” here—but what’s different, what’s new is the word “living”
Living IS the sacrifice… surrendering our desires to a life of purpose and mission.
We can be an army of God’s compassion and hope to a broken world.
We can be part of God transforming this community.
But we have to glorify God in worship, we need to love one another, and we have to have to love those we disagree with.
I’m going to ask the choir to join me back on stage.
And as they come, I want you to think about what this choir represents.
They represent our church.
It’s filled with people of:
Different socio-economic groups,
Different political parties
But they come together to sing one song, in one voice!
They come together to worship God in unity… with a singular purpose.
We are one body!
We can be a people of mission.
We can be a people of purpose.
We can be the church that makes such a difference in our community that God’s power can no longer be denied by an unbelieving people.
But we have to stop living for ourselves. We have to come second to what God wants to do in our lives.
Do you want to be part of that?
Do you want to live a different kind of life?
One of my favorite songs is Lifesong by Casting Crowns.
Some of the lyrics go like this:
Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be your hands and feet
So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you
I want to sign Your name
To the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you.
We have a choice.
At the end of each day, you can sign God’s name because you’ve lived in the divine nature.
Glorifying God, Building up other believers, and reaching out to the broken.
Or we can sign our own name because we lived for ourselves.
Are you willing to make that your prayer?
If you’re willing, let’s stand and pray these lyrics together in song.
And as we sing, our Care Volunteers will come to the front of the stage. They’ll be here and in the Care Connection room if the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and you need someone to pray with you.
Let’s surrender ourselves in worship.
Do you want to sign your own name to the end of each day or His?
Our final verses from this morning’s passage. Verse 8:
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. 2 Peter 1:8-9 (NLT)
Have we forgotten?
Have we forgotten what we’ve been saved from?
Because if we remember how we’ve been restored—what we’ve been rescued from, we will become passionate about caring for one another and develop a consuming compassion for the broken as we reach out to them.
Let’s live a different kind of life.
Let’s be willing to be an army of God’s compassion—and see what He does.