October 23, 2022

Growing in God’s Grace

Passage: 2 Peter 3:17-18

A man in a psychiatric ward told a therapist, “I can only take so much. I lost my job, my wife left me because of that...and then my children don't want to have anything to do with me. Perhaps you can tell me if there's anything for me to live for.” But you know my friends, the wind storms of life we all face from time to time, aren't just about things like abandonment or rejection or hardships. You see, one of the strongest storms that wants to take us away is the storm of influence. Can you appreciate with me that it was the storm of influence Adam and Eve couldn't withstand when Satan convinced them that there was another way than the one God wanted them to follow? And after them many people looked back and thought by
themselves, “My spiritual roots weren't as deep as I thought. It didn't take too much to uproot me.” The apostle Peter wrote to believers who were in the “diaspora” in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. “Diaspora” means “to scatter about.” Those believers were “scattered about” in those provinces after the Fall of Jerusalem. And there were storms they were facing – the storm of persecution, the storm of a lost identity, the storm of hopelessness and the storm of influence.

As Peter wrote to those believers, he was concerned about how deep they were rooted in Jesus Christ. The first piece of advise he gave them was: 1 Don't Be Carried Away. In
verse 17 he says, “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” The concern Peter had for his fellow Christians wasn't oppression; neither was it the hardships they faced that easily could get them to quit their fellowship of the Lord. No, it was all about the influences they were exposed to every day of their lives. It was against the false teachers he wanted to warn them. There was a definite build-up against
them in his second letter. In chapter 2 in particular he mentioned the false teachers. He used language like “destructive heresies, shameful ways” and “greedy and telling made-up stories.” There are much more one can mention from chapter 2 about the false teachers. In
mentioning all those things Peter was literally crying out to his readers; he was pleading with them – “Don't follow their ways.” I want us to let our thoughts go for a minute – if Peter's letter
was delivered in our time; if we were the believers “scattered about” in the world, how would it have read? I don't want to shock you, but I want us to be honest – it wouldn't have read much differently. Because my friends, in the 21st century there are false prophets! We see and hear them on television, we see them in films and they come with messages to our Young people. And they tell us, “You can be committed to more than one faith. You really have to consider
multi-faith like multi-culturalism.” And you know, the storm is getting stronger and stronger. At a convention about The Christian Family under attack, a mother spoke through tears. She
cried out, “What happened to my children? They went with us to church every Sunday when they lived under our roof, but since they went to college they find fault with everything connected with Jesus and His church.” You know it's wrong to put a comment like that in
general – as if it's true in every family. But, we have to be honest – there are the voices out there in our communities. Peter warns us just like he warned his readers in those provinces – “...be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless...”
I know that there are those who would want to cry out right now like a neighbour who told me one day – “But I'm not a bad person. It doesn't make me someone bad just because I don't believe in your Jesus. There's something else that works for me – world philosophies.” But you see – It's not about us living good lives and find approval from people. It's about living by the truth of Jesus Christ. It was He Who claimed in John 14: 6, “I am the way, the truth
and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” That statement was true, is now true and will be true for eternity. And He comes through His apostle, Peter, and says, “Don't be carried away.”

In contrast of being carried away Peter says 2 Grow In God's Grace. We read in verse 18a, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The way to remain in a secure position and to avoid being carried away isn't to stay exactly as you are. One of the greatest wonders of God is a new born baby. How memorable it is when a new born baby is taken home and all family members are rejoicing about the new addition in the family. But you will agree with me – if family members return after 4 to 6 months and find
the baby the same size as what they've seen it the last time, they all will be greatly concerned. The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we can't show growth from 6 or 12 months before, we really have to ask ourselves, “What is the reason that I was so stagnant in my Christian walk?” Now matter how long we’ve been Christians, we cannot rest on years of Sunday School lessons, sermons and educational programs. No, every day represents a fresh challenge. We have to ask ourselves on a continuous basis, “What can I do today to
make sure that I will grow?” There is only one answer my friends. Our growth is to be in the Person, Jesus Christ. You see, you can read all the theologies and dogmatic books that have been written. You can keep yourself busy with apologetics...But, if you don't strive to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ all will be in vain. There was a motivational speaker who said something very true, “We can get so busy with the things of the Lord that we forget the Lord of the things.” Peter urged all believers to “...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” His “grace” is all about building your person around His love and forgiveness. It is to strengthen yourself as a person in the things that would
reinforce your life in times of difficulty or even failure. Then you will remind yourself that your foundation isn't based on things that will cease, but on the foundation that is steadfast and eternal – Jesus Himself. The “knowledge” of Jesus in this verse is to focus on how He was in all situations. You see, it's not a knowledge that we can learn in a book, but a knowledge in our fellowship of Him. That knowledge is about His humility, His submission to His Father, the way He was devout and the truth that He stood for. What do you think God wants from every person who claims to be a Christian? Be bold as you stand for what is true, noble and admirable as St. Paul mentioned to the Philippians. You see, you have to walk away from
secular practices that could pull you away from God. You have to make a conscious decision in your person – For me there's one way – God's way. Only then can we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Rev. Willem H. van de Wall