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Add to Your Faith- Part 1

2 Peter 1:5-8
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let me start off with a little illustration of the Biblical concept of progressive sanctification. Imagine you are walking through a morgue, you reach drawer 119 and decide to open it up. You pull the body out and you have a sudden realization. The guy on the slab is dead. Amazing. You punch him in the nose, but he doesn’t care. You call him names, but he doesn’t respond. You tickle his feet, but he doesn’t laugh. He is definitely dead. Dr. Frankstein comes along side of you and hooks up his equipment to Mr. 119. Bang, lightning strikes and 119 is now alive. Marvelous. A dead man has been made alive. That is a very crude description of what happens at salvation. The one who is dead in his trespasses and sins is made alive by the Holy Spirit. However, this is not sanctification. Some of you have been around those who have had a serious stroke, or heart attack. Some of you have seen some with portions of their bodies paralyzed. You know that they did not wake up the next morning, hop out of bed and run a couple miles. The only way that the paralyzed individual is able to regain mobility is through and intensive process of training and help. That is sanctification. To put it simply, sanctification is teaching Mr. 119 how to get off the slab and walk like a living man again. We as Christians have to learn how to walk like living people. We were dead in our sins, we walked in all the dead things of the world. We now need to engage in intensive, lifelong spiritual therapy so that we are constantly changing to look more like the children of God.

There are a lot of misconceptions about this doctrine of growth. Some have taught that it is a marvelous thing that will happen to us at some time after salvation, and after that event we will basically be mature in Christ. This is called a second work of grace, some have called the infilling of the Holy Spirit, others have said it is the point of sanctification. Whatever it is called, it is not Biblical. Paul makes very plain that we are to be growing, walking, finishing the course, striving and battling to grow in Christ. This is not an instantaneous event that happens and makes everything all better in your life. That is unrealistic and unBiblical. Others have taught that at this point in your life you will be filled with some strange emotions. Some cry, some feel a great joy, some laugh, some break out in ecstatic sayings and many other emotional things have been associated with sanctification. Let me say this very plainly, your feelings have nothing to do with the fact of growth. Let me give you an example. I hate the morning. My idea of a good morning is to sleep straight through it. I don’t feel like getting out of bed, ever. That is my feeling. My alarm clock goes off in the morning, I don’t feel like getting up. I want to stay in bed, but I get up and begin my morning. I get in the shower, wishing I was in bed. All of my emotion at that point is centered on the feelings of laziness. Does that mean that I am in bed? Does it mean that I am still asleep? No, absolutely not. The reality is that I am up, awake and beginning to attempt to function. The facts of my growth are not changed by what I feel about it. So many people base their opinion of their spiritual growth on how they feel about certain actions. What is at stake in the disciplines of growth are the actions themselves, the feelings will fall into line later. To help us fully understand this, let me draw a quick distinction; emotion is not the same as motive. Motive is the reason we do what we do, emotion is the feelings we have about events. Our motive must be right for the action to be right. The emotions can be all wrong, but if we continue on in the course of what is right, they will begin to fall into the proper place. Also, on this same note, don’t let what you feel make your decision for you. Don’t skip church because you don’t feel like coming. Don’t not witness because you feel scared. Don’t refuse to teach because you feel nervous. All these things are simply feelings. They must not direct us. Paul talks about people who are directed by what they feel. He says in Philippians that their god is their bellies. So many Christians are belly worshipers. Let the truth of the Bible guide your decisions and make your stomach do what you tell it to.

Christians growth is not some vague, mystical thing. It can be very clearly measured. If there is growth in your life, it will be seen by others. If there is growth in your life you will very clear signs of it. You will see that you are functioning more in obedience to the Bible, you will see the increasing working of the Holy Spirit in your heart. You will see the fruits of the Spirit being manifest in your life. You will see some very clear signs that you are walking closer to God. This growth process can be very plainly seen and defined and we are not given the option to coast through. Every time the Bible describes the nature of this growth it describes in terms of great, continual effort. We are striving, wrestling and warring. This is how Peter starts the growth process, “giving all diligence, add to your faith.” We must not be content to grow by happenstance, we must not be content to coast along. We must give all diligence to this effort, so that we will ensure our growth. Diligence is great earnestness, an intense interest in our spiritual growth. How many of you can honestly say you are intensely interested in your growth in Christ? How many of you can say, I did these specific things so that I will be growing in Him. I am not asking what duties you performed this week, nor what you have done that you have always done. We can develop habits of spiritual disciplines and we can maintain those habits without ever really being earnest about our growth in Christ. The issue right now is not what habits you have developed, but if you are intensely seeking to grow into Christlikeness in your spiritual walk. What is your passion in all the Christian duties you do perform? What is driving you? If you are driven by the self centered desire to tell someone else you have done such and such this week, you are not giving all diligence. If you are not working to improve your walk with God, you are not giving all diligence. If you are comfortable and doing what you have always done, you are not giving all diligence. We are not called to stay put spiritually, we are called to grow in Christ. We are commanded to be progressing so that we will truly be mature believers in Him. I could say much more about what it means to be a mature believer, but I will say this and then move on. Being a mature believer is not being saved longer than someone else, or coming to church longer than anyone else, or having a great opinion about your walk with God. Being a mature believer is being as close to Christlike as you can possibly be and helping others increase in their Christlikeness.

The process of adding to your faith is much like teaching a dead man how to act alive. This process is spiritual therapy. Therapy that strengthens and retrains you, so that you can function as a child of God ought. Once you have been made alive, you need to now begin to add to your faith. This process is not some relaxed task that we do as we think about it or we get the feeling to work at it a little more. This is not some leisurely stroll around the block. This is an intense, in your face workout. Don’t go out their half heartedly, poking around and fiddling around about the whole engagement. Go out there like you are in the midst of a great battle (you are) and that your very life depends on it (it does). So many Christians take this idea of growth as some optional thing that they can fool around with and maybe one day, if nothing else is pressing they will get serious about growth in Christ. Let me tell you today, very plainly. If you don’t get dead serious about growing in Christ, you will not grow like you are commanded. If you do not get dead serious about growing in Christ you will fall very quickly to the traps of Satan. It is shameful that most Christians will get more intense about a professional ball game, or some foolish toy in the garage, or some mind numbing computer game than they will about daily growing according to the plan laid out in the Bible. Get serious. Don’t play games, don’t fool around, don’t be half hearted, don’t be double minded.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 4:10) 8

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:8)

Be focused and be intense and add to your faith virtue. The verses above indicate that the virtue we are to be adding is more than just not doing bad things and doing certain religious activities. Yes, the saved life should be characterized by an absence of evil deeds. The Christian must not be engaged in sinful activity. I think that is a given to all of us. We cannot sin. However, it is not enough not to sin. This word virtue points us to a moral excellence in our life. What we must be adding to our faith is a holiness and a real striving after that holiness. We must be daily putting off the old man, being renewed in the spirit of our mind and putting on the new man. We must be constantly striving to be holy even as God is holy. We cannot be content to continue to live in all of our old sinful habits. We must not go along in our life without taking care to put away sinful speech. We must not allow the filth of this world to be attached to our life, but we must work constantly to put off all the filth of the flesh. I could point to many different passages in the New Testament that demand we live this life of moral excellence. Let me give you just one that really gets to the heart of the matter. Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” These two verses sum up both sides of this equation. Cultivate and discipline your mind so that your thoughts are consumed with virtue, honorable things, pure things, lovely things, praiseworthy things. On top of that, do those things which we see exemplified in men like Paul. Put off sin, put on good works. We have to be actively doing good deeds. This mean church attendance, this means faithfully giving of your money to the needs of the church. To throw our formerly dead friend, Mr. 119, into this process, it is not enough for him to stop sleeping in a morgue. To go through the process of rehab, he has to get up and begin to walk around. He has to start moving, slowly and painfully at first, all of his arms and legs, his fingers and his toes. He has to start chewing and swallowing. He has to begin with each of the daily little things and slowly add onto them. It doesn’t matter if he gets off the slab and then lies down in the hospital bed without ever moving again. He still is acting much like a dead man. So as Christians, we have to get up and learn to do all the daily good things. Many people complain that they cannot do something because they are not comfortable doing it, or they don’t like it. Let me ask those of you who have been through physical therapy, did you enjoy starting the process? I personally hated going through physical therapy. It hurt, it was boring, it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. Physical therapy was essential if I was going to regain my legs proper use and strength. Similarly, the regular activities of growth and work for the Lord are vital to our walk with God. Many Christians today are struggling because they have not taken the work and pain to grow. James 2 lays this responsibility out very plainly for us. If you have faith, you have works. If you do not add to your faith works then James says that your faith is dead. The addition of virtue to your faith is something that takes time and work. It is not comfortable. It may mean that you begin teaching a group of kids, and you don’t really like teaching kids. It may mean you fix a meal for someone and you don’t even like cooking. This addition of good works is not finding the things that we enjoy doing and doing only those. It means we look for any chance to do good, whether we enjoy it or not, and we do it.

“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:1-5)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Add to your virtue, knowledge. This is not just any knowledge, so that you always win at Trivial Pursuit and out score all the Jeopardy contestants. This is not just knowing facts about the Bible and theology. Peter is not saying, add to your good works a Masters Degree in Bible. Peter is saying, add to your good works a full understanding of the things of God. This knowledge is the wisdom of the factual knowledge of the Bible applied to my life. If we act like Sergeant Friday and never get beyond just the facts, we do not get to this second addition to our faith. This is the facts of our faith applied to our life so that we are totally transformed by their truths. Good works without a proper knowledge of God is worthless and leads to arrogance. The proper knowledge of God is knowledge that teaches me about myself. Psalm 139 is a good indication of the knowledge that is being described here. In that marvelous Psalm David walks through the amazing facts about God’s creation, His knowledge, His presence, His compassion and His holiness. David then takes those incredible truths and practices this 2 Peter kind of knowledge as he prays search me, know me, try me, see me and lead me in the way everlasting. This is knowledge that seeks to intimately know God, and then allows that knowledge of God to work some marvelous renovation within your life. Just having a great knowledge of the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean that knowledge will be accurately applied to your life. Just turn on a television documentary about the Bible and you will see displayed a line up of people who have the most incredible knowledge of the Bible. They know it in detail much greater than most of us, but they have that knowledge in a head which has refused to apply the clear truths to their life. They know all the verses, but they do not let that knowledge impact their life. Some have knowledge, and they even have belief, but even that is not sufficient. James says that even the devils believe, they believe so much that they tremble. What good does that belief do them? None, because that belief has no changing influence in their life. The knowledge Peter is pointing us to is a knowledge that knows, believes and changes. This is the knowledge of God we need to have. Our former corpse gets this type of knowledge when he studies the way he is to move his legs and then goes out and moves them. He gets this knowledge as he learns the proper way to close his fist and then practices it. Experiential knowledge is what the Bible talks about here as it tells us to add to our faith knowledge. The knowledge that Peter is calling us to have begins with increasing what we have in our head about God and His word and then taking that increase in information and living it out in our life each day. Have you been adding to your good works the experiential, life changing truth of God’’s Word?