HOW DOES ONE CULTIVATE A GODLY LIFE?

 

An Essay on the Book of II Peter

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 “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.

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.”  2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV

 

What is the corruption in the world caused by evil desires? Is it not broken relationships, crime, murder, war, poverty, etc?

It has been said that doctors of old times tested the sanity of a mental patient with the following test: the patient was placed in a room with a sink. The faucet was turned on and a stopper was put in the drain until the sink overflowed. The patient was then handed a mop and the door was closed.

If the patient had enough sense to shut off the water, pull the plug, and then mop up the water, he was considered capable of going home. But on the other hand, if the patient mopped like crazy and never bothered to shut off the water and/or pull the plug, he was considered still insane and therefore needed to be detained a little longer in the mental institution.

Well, when it comes to practical spiritual application, there are people in this world that are mopping like crazy, but the water is still running, and the plug is still in the drain. They may be working hard, but getting no place.  Or they climb the ladder of worldly success only to find out when they get to the top that the ladder was on the wrong wall.  These people are not in mental institutions. Some are even people whom we’d consider quite sane, but they are plagued by their own personal demons and they haven’t figured out how to stop the floods in their lives.  And that includes Christians who still don’t quite understand what it means to follow Jesus as his apprentice.

Most of these people know there’s a problem they just haven’t figured out where to go to solve it. They hear and see what others have claimed Jesus has done for them, but they think, “I’m different”, or “I’m no weakling”, or “I don’t need help”, or “I’ve got my act together.” They want to experience Godly power in their life but refrain from making the commitment to diligently follow the “source of that power”.

It seems the apostle Peter had a similar dilemma on his hands when he wrote a letter (which we now call the 2nd epistle of Peter) to believers that they also needed to remember not to take their calling for granted, but always to focus on the proper goal.  If we were to summarize Peter’s letter in one sentence, we would say it this way:

          “Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ,

guarding yourself against false  teachings and

you will cultivate a fruitful, Godly life.”

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Which raises a Question: How does one grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ? And also, how does one guard against false teaching?

The writer of 2nd Peter provides us with solutions.

First, how does one grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,

to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance,

to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren

nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure,

for if you do these things you will never stumble;

for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly

into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. 2 Peter 1:5-11 NKJV

And the kingdom is something not only in the future, but also a lifestyle for now. Also, to grow in grace and knowledge here doesn’t mean intelligent facts – but insight. It’s understanding the working relationship in practical application between you and Jesus.

Have you ever met someone who graduated top of his or her class; always had the answer, but didn’t know how to make it applicable in everyday life?

We are not talking about acquiring facts, but the practical application of building a relationship where iron sharpens iron.

Notice that each attribute (vs. 5-6) is built upon the other – and each attribute is God’s grace to us.  This is not a simple formula on how you can change yourself to experience Godly power.  Instead it’s the developmental process that God is going to take you through.  And as he does, you are going to be stretched, pulled, and challenged.  However, as you diligently pray asking for a transformed life, and seek his kingdom in your life, he will oblige.  This is what you will learn and become through the process.

 

Faith = “conviction, strong assurance”

Virtue = “moral excellence, goodness”

Knowledge = “correct insight”

Self-control = “self-discipline”

Perseverance = “bearing up under trials”

Godliness = “godly character out of devotion to God”

Brotherly kindness = “love toward brethren”

Love = “active goodwill toward those in need”

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How can you experience sustainable, long-term Godly power in your life?

When you pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ these attributes become your method of daily operations; you will find yourself growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  And as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, your life will become transformed into his likeness and image.  That is the by-product of discipleship.  You become an apprentice of Jesus Christ.  He becomes your mentor, teacher, and yes, hero, redeemer, and Lord.  In return, you find yourself growing into spiritual maturity where the power of the Godly life is yours to experience.

But Peter also writes something we all need to be warned of…false teaching.  False teaching will lead us away from experiencing the real power of Godly living.  And Peter shows us how to identify falsehood by looking at the character of the teacher.

Imagine a family from a remote area was making their first visit to a big city. They checked in to a grand hotel and stood in amazement at the impressive sight. Leaving the reception desk they came to the elevator entrance. They’d never seen an elevator before, and just stared at it, unable to figure out what it was for. An old lady hobbled towards the elevator and went inside. The door closed. About a minute later, the door opened and out came a stunningly good-looking young woman. Dad couldn’t stop staring. Without turning his head he patted his son’s arm and said, “Go get your mother, son.”

Now if one didn’t know any better and based on perception alone, one would believe that one can be transformed by an Elevator.

How about in Australia?  The Australian Jedi Council consisting of more than 70,000 people have declared that they are followers of the Jedi faith, the religion created by George Lucas for the Star Wars films.  Question: Is every following built on a foundation that will achieve Godly results today and for eternity?

Jesus states in Matt 7:15-20 that you will know false teachers by their fruit. Can apples grow from a banana tree?  Can oranges grow from a fig tree?  Likewise, you will know false teaching by looking at the teachers themselves.  But what are you looking for?   What is the standard of character?

Peter outlines certain characteristics that identifies false teachers whose words must be carefully scrutinized…
1. They walk after the flesh (v.10).
2. They despise authority (v.10).
3. They are presumptuous or arrogant (v.10).
4. They are self-willed (v.10).
5. They speak evil of dignitaries (v.10-12).
6. They carouse around in pleasure and they do it openly, that is, along with the unbelievers of the world (v.13).
7. They have eyes full of adultery (v.14).
8. They entice unstable souls (v.14).
9. They are covetous (v.14).
10.They have forsaken the right way and gone astray (v.15-16).
11.They are filled with emptiness and instability (v.17).
12.They speak great swelling words of emptiness (v.18).
13.They lure people through the lusts of the flesh (v.18).
14.They promise liberty, but they only enslave people (v.19).

What do you notice about all the characteristics mentioned?  Are these characteristics of Jesus Christ?  Or are they just the opposite? What is another by-product of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ? Isn’t it that you will be able to more easily identify false teachers and teachings.

Most of us have been educated in the school of performance. In fact, Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”. From the very beginning of our lives we’re taught that we must perform properly in order to get what we want. There’s a direct relationship between how hard we work and how much we’re rewarded. For example, be good & you’ll get a cookie. Clean your room and you’ll get your allowance. Practice hard and you’ll make the varsity team. Study in college and you’ll get a better job. And on the list could go.

The tragedy of this world’s philosophy is that we become so conditioned by it we carry it over into our Christian experience. The grace of God that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) loses its meaning when we’re bombarded with the pressure to perform. And this pressure often comes packaged in religious verbiage such as; God helps those who help themselves. It sounds good; the only problem is, it’s not biblical! There’s only one place where you and I can stop performing and that’s in the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ – He who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The same grace that saves us is what sustains us and enables us to grow. It teaches us how to live here and now without performing!

What is Peter’s conclusion if we’re going to experience Godly power in our personal relationship, in the transformation of our inner self, and success in our outward behavior?

 

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“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this,

be on your guard so that you may not be carried away

by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”  2 Peter 3:17-18 NIV

Or to put it in another way:

Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ,

guarding yourself against false teachings

and you will fruitfully cultivate a Godly life.

By Dr. Mike

Question: What are some simple life applications that YOU do to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?

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