You don't get much exercise coasting downhill on a bike. It doesn't take much effort. And showing up and sitting in a church pew every Sunday can be like spiritually coasting. Today on Truth for Life, we'll learn how we can actively improve our spiritual health as we strive to follow Jesus. Alistair Begg is teaching in 2 Peter chapter 3. What you have here from 14 through to the end is Peter wrapping up this letter with some very straightforward and helpful instruction. First of all, in verse 14, so then, dear friends, since you're looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. You'll notice the logic in Peter's exhortations. We saw it in verse 11, since everything will be this, then at the end of the verse, you ought to be this, since so.
And as he proceeds through that and gives instruction concerning the promise of Christ's return, the wrapping up of the cosmos as we know it, he then on the basis of what he has said, makes application and the linkage is there in the opening two words in our English translation at least, so then dear friends. Now the verb is not unique to Peter. It's used throughout the New Testament.
Paul uses it frequently himself. For example, just one reference in Ephesians 4, he says, make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. And that is the same word that is being applied here. Now what it is is straightforwardly a reminder of the responsibility of every true believer to exert himself or to exert herself in developing Christian conduct. Now let us be very, very clear, and it's important that we always are, this is not a call to ethical activity. This is not a call to men and women, as it were, to pull up their socks and to try their best. There's nothing worse than coming to a church building Sunday by Sunday, feeling yourself to be fairly impoverished and wretched, and just to hear somebody throw at you a great number of exhortations.
Come on now, pull your socks up. You can do better than this. And you find yourself saying, well, I have had such a pathetic week last week that I certainly can't draw any impetus from that at all, and I'm not sure where I'm supposed to find the energy to make this progress. Well, of course, you need to go to Philippians 2 and to Paul's classic statement along these lines in verses 12 and 13, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. That is something we're called to do. It's a responsibility. And then he immediately reminds us, for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. In other words, we are called then by the energizing power of the Spirit to work out what God by his regenerating power has placed within the core of our being. And that journey is an active journey. It is not a passive journey. And therefore, effort, exertion, is involved.
So let us pause immediately and pose the question to ourselves. Am I making every effort in seeking to make progress in Christian living? Make every effort. There's an aerobics class that takes place every so often in a place that I sometimes go, and there's one lady in there who really intrigues me. She's always on the back row and in the corner, and she never does anything.
She never does what you're supposed to do. I mean, I hear the music is boom, boom, boom, boom, and the man up front is just reaching for the stars, you know, it's like, and one and a two and, and when I'm, you know, like this looking in every so often, I'm not making any claims for myself. But I mean, if the if the thing is one and a two, she's like, one and a two to one. And if it's kicking, you know, she's, she's like, and then they go on the other side, and she takes about seven steps to make the change. You know, you're supposed to immediately go, she gives herself a minute and a half and eventually she gets over just when they're going back the other way again. I want to say to her lady, you know, why do you do this? Why do you go in there? You're getting out of this exactly what you're putting into it.
Nothing. Please don't write me letters, especially if you're the lady. I'm only describing my wife. There's nothing personal in this.
Everybody knows that isn't true. So the question is ours to ask. I'm asking the question. Is there any effort? Or am I coasting? Am I coasting? Am I running uphill?
Do I perspire? Does anyone see in me anything that suggests that I'm making an effort? The longer I go in my Christian life, I thought the longer you went, the easier it would get. The longer I go, the harder it gets. I thought by the time you reached a certain point, you would overcome the chronic inertia, you would have some great surge, and you'd be, you know, off.
It doesn't happen like that. So often my Christian life is nothing more than spasms of enthusiasm swallowed up by chronic inertia. I'm challenged by this.
I hope you are too. The focus is on being like Jesus. He is the one who was without spot and blemish. He is the perfect Lamb of God without blemish or defect, as Peter says in his first letter, chapter one, verse 19.
He has described the blots and the blemishes, the false teachers in chapter two. And he says, come on now, I want you to make sure that you don't succumb to their nonsense, that you don't become like them, and that you live at peace with him. You say, well, I am at peace with him. The doctrine of justification, Romans 5, says that therefore, being justified by faith, we have presently, past tense and for the future, peace with God.
True. And we can never enjoy… You see, sin in the Christian life—because we sin in our Christian lives—sin in the Christian life does not remove us from our relationship with the Father. The relationship is intact.
The enjoyment of the relationship is impaired. And the peace goes. And the cloud settles, because of the way that we have treated the Father, because of the way we have responded to his Son, because of the way we have grieved the Holy Spirit. The exhortation is straightforward, isn't it?
Make every effort. It's a matter of Christ-likeness. Secondly, in verses 14 and 15, he begins, bare in mind. Focus on these things, he says. Keep in mind… And he gives us a word here about salvation and the Scriptures, and actually how salvation and the Scriptures are interwoven. Peter exercises, if you like, a ministry of reminder.
He begins his letter essentially with that, or he doesn't actually begin it in terms of verse 1, but in verse 12, the key that opens up the letter is, So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them. And in keeping with this ministry of reminder, he's encouraging his readers here, you will see, to think about the real reason for God's apparent delay. The scoffers, whom he has already addressed in chapter 2 and 3, were saying to these believers, You know, your notion of Jesus coming back again is a silly idea. After all, where is he? You know, if Jesus is really coming, why doesn't he come?
Your ideas about the world not being cyclical or circular but being linear, we can't find any evidence for that at all. And they were scoffing and calling in question the truth of Jesus' words. As you see me go into heaven, so in the same way I will come again. And so Peter says, I want to remind you, folks, that it is because of God's patience that Christ has not yet returned. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation. In other words, the patience of God had meant that his readers had time to be saved and to learn to live at peace with God. And the patience of God this morning means that Jesus is not yet returned, although he will, and he provides those of us who as yet do not believe the opportunity to cast ourselves upon his mercy and to trust in his promises.
And he says, I'm not saying this on my own. You will find it also in Paul's letters. Now, let me pause for a moment and just say a word or two about the doctrine of Scripture, because there is an insight here that we would be very able to slide over. Here is early evidence of the fact that Paul's letters were being both collected and circulated, so much so that Peter is able here to make reference to the letters of Paul. Now, remember that by the midpoint of the first century, believers had only the Old Testament Scriptures and the spoken words of the apostles. But when the Gospels began to be written, and when the epistles began to be written down, the apostles then were the very first to acknowledge the fact of their authority.
But it was a huge shift for them to start referring now, for example, to the Gospels along with the Old Testament as the Scriptures. And what Peter is doing here in cross-referencing himself with Paul is pointing out to those of us who are alert the way in which the canon of the New Testament begins, if you like, to dawn on the minds of those who are its very writers, men who are picked up and led by the Holy Spirit, as we saw earlier in our studies. Let me show you what I mean if you turn to 1 Timothy 5 and verse 17. 1 Timothy 5 verse 17, just one illustration, and we'll keep moving.
Paul is giving advice to Timothy concerning the way in which the church is to operate, and in making comment on the affairs of the elders in the church, in verse 17 he says, the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. Now notice the next phrase, for the Scripture says. First quote is from Deuteronomy 25.
Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain. Second quote, the worker deserves his wages, from Luke chapter 10 verse 7. As the Scriptures say, first of all, let me give you an Old Testament Scripture, let me now give you a New Testament Scripture. And the cohesive way in which the doctrine of Scripture unfolds within the Bible is quite wonderful. So it is important for us to remember at least these three things always about our Bibles. First of all, to study the totality of the Bible. Beware of anybody who cuts the Bible up for you and shows you that the key to it is in all these ways of building the blocks. It is in the totality of the 66 books that we have in the Bible that God's revelation is complete.
It is incomplete without its totality. Also, in terms of the unity of the Bible, that it possesses a wonderful unity as it focuses on the Lord Jesus Christ. And also in terms of the sufficiency of the Bible, so that we are finding our confidence in the Scriptures as the Spirit of God illuminates them to us.
Now again, we could camp on this, we daren't. But in terms of the sufficiency of Scripture, let me remind you of just three little incidents in reverse order. In Acts chapter 8, when Philip meets the Ethiopian fellow who's writing on the chariot, whom he discovers to be reading from Isaiah chapter 53, and the man who is reading from 53 in his chariot asks Philip, who's been sent by the Spirit of God to meet the man, he says, Who is the prophet speaking about himself or someone else? And Luke tells us, Philip began at that very passage, and he explained everything in the Scriptures from that point. When Jesus addresses the downfallen walkers on the road to Emmaus, when they tell him, not realizing with whom they're walking, that a Palestinian grave has swallowed up salvation history, he doesn't say to them, Oh, no, it hasn't. I'm the Messiah.
What does he do? He preaches a sermon to them. And beginning with Moses and the prophets, he told them everything in the Scriptures concerning himself.
Why? So that their confidence would not be in the fact, so that they would not be running around saying, You know, we personally met the Messiah. But they would be running around saying, The Messiah preached the most unbelievable sermon and we have discovered in the Scriptures the basis for our life and for our hope. Listen, my dear friends, as much as ever in history, it is imperative that you as individuals, for the sake of your own spiritual progress, for the sake of the generations that come behind you, that you take seriously the issues of becoming men and women of the Bible in its totality reading it, in its unity rejoicing in it, in its sufficiency trusting in it.
Because there is everyone and their uncle out there telling you, Oh, I had a vision of this, and I met this person, and my confidence is in this. Our confidence should be where heaven's confidence is—in the Scriptures. And so, when you listen to people teach the Bible, you need to listen not simply to what the person says, but you need to examine their approach to the Bible. You need to examine my approach to the Bible and all who teach you here at Parkside. Certainly, the Bereans listen to Paul's sermons with a critical ear.
They examine the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so. You need to ask, Is there anything about the way in which I'm taught the Bible that would appear to me to be an evidence of the pastor or the teacher resting the Scriptures the way these unstable and ignorant people do? You see, the problem with the hard bits in Paul's letters are not ultimately problems for those who are diligent in their study of the Bible. The difficult parts in Paul's letters have become an issue because of ignorant and unstable people who distort the Scriptures. But they don't just distort the hard parts of Pauline letters. They distort all the Scriptures, and they do it to their own destruction, and they want to distort other people's minds as well. And the books are legion.
So you need to be careful. You need to say, Well, I hope this fellow is not distorting the Scriptures. Does he ignore passages?
Or does he work through the passages? Does he dismiss sections of the Bible as no longer relevant at all? Or does he say that all of the Bible is absolutely essential for us? Although some parts are more applicable, obviously, than others. Do you have from your pulpits cleverly rehearsed anecdotes, wonderful stories, pious thoughts? Or do you have the exposition of the Scriptures where you have your Bible and you seek to read the Bible, explain the Bible, and apply the Bible?
Those are the questions you need to ask. And if that is not happening, you don't need to come here and hear the theories about the philosophy of ministry at Parkside Church. There are other ways for us to convey that. You don't need to come here and find esoteric information that is remote to your Christian pilgrimage. You need to come here and be taught the Bible. And you need to make sure that those who teach you the Bible are not distorting it to their own destruction and to the destruction of those who listen to them. Have you thought lately about the fact that I, along with my colleagues, will give an answer before the throne of Almighty God, not only for every sermon preached but for the motive of our hearts in preaching the sermons? I think you'll make us prayerful, don't you? Bear this in mind, he says.
The Scriptures, 1 Timothy 3.15, are able to make you wise to salvation. Verse 17, be on your guard. Be on your guard.
Be on your guard. Oh, Peter. This is a word from Peter, isn't it? Because he wasn't on his guard.
That's why he fell. And he recognized from his own sad experience that Satan attacks those who think they're on their guard, who think they're secure. And Peter's great words to Jesus, Jesus, even if all fall away, I will never desert you. You can count on me, Jesus.
And within three hours, he had denied him vehemently and repeatedly. It's really the same thing as Paul in 1 Corinthians 10. Let the one who thinks he stands take heed in case he falls. Don't be naïve. Don't be self-confident. May your confidence be in God and in his grace. Beware of the company that you keep, not only in terms of friends but in terms of books. Because the warning here is a warning to all of us, lest we be carried away by the error of lawless men.
It's been sad to see bright and shining stars fall out of their system and deny the very things they once so proudly held to. Be on your guard. And finally, verse 18, grow in grace. Grow in grace.
He really comes full circle as he ends this. The process of sanctification is active. It's not passive. Is it purposeful that grace comes before knowledge? Probably. Grace and knowledge. Knowledge by itself just tends to make people conceited, dreadful bores. Let me tell you about what I know. No, you see, unless we grow in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may just have fat heads but not changed hearts.
Knowledge, of course, in an anti-intellectual world is very, very important. This is straightforward. You just listen to God's Word. You trust his promises and you obey his commands.
Listen to his Word, trust his promises, accept his invitations and obey his commands. Do what, in closing, this young lady has done. I have this letter. It's my favorite letter at the moment. I have a favorite every so often. My favorite letters all have been written by a pen, as you will know. Email is not real mail, as far as I'm concerned, and I don't reply to it all and I don't pay attention to it all.
But anytime anyone has a pen and an envelope, then it has my attention, as did this one. Dear Pastor Begg, my friend invited me to Parkside Church on March the 25th, 2001. At first, I attended Faithful Friends Life Group.
That's our class for those who are either physically or mentally impaired in some way. I attended Faithful Friends Life Group. Now I go to the Berean Life Group. March 25th, 2001, friend invites her. In August of 2001, you preached from the book of Ruth and I came to trust Christ as my Savior. I was baptized on April the 14th, 2002. On November the 10th, 2002, I became a member of Parkside. I love to go to Parkside Church.
I look forward to it. I love God. I listen to you on the radio. You and Joni Earecks and Tada are my favorite programs.
I wish Joni could come to Parkside to speak. Love in Christ. It's not easy.
It's straightforward. Friendship. The story.
A grasp. Faith. What do I do next? Follow Christ. Let's go. How do I get involved? Become a part of the group. Let's go.
What do I do now? Love Christ. And keep going. There's only one way to finish, isn't there?
The final sentence. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg with a reminder that growing in faith is an active journey. It requires serious effort coupled together with God's grace. Today is the last day of our study in the book of 2 Peter, and I hope you have benefited from the warnings that come from the Apostle Peter about false teaching, the encouragement he provided to the early church.
Clearly these same truths are vital for us in the 21st century. If you missed any of this study, you can catch up online. All of Alistair's teaching can be heard or watched for free on our website or through our mobile app.
Use the search feature to find the series titled A Study in 2 Peter. Alistair titled today's message Grow in Grace, and we have a book we've been recommending that is an excellent supplement to this message. It's called Habits of Grace, and this is not a book about how we earn God's grace. There's no way to earn God's grace. This is a book that will help you cultivate practices that prepare you to receive God's grace. You can request your copy of the book Habits of Grace today when you make a donation to support Truth for Life's teaching ministry.
Go to truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church this weekend. Join us Monday as we begin our next series by asking who or what is the church? And there's more to that answer than you might think. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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