Saturday, August 27, 2016

2 Peter 3:18 – Growing Up – a challenge toward spiritual maturity

2 Peter 3:18 – Growing Up – a challenge toward spiritual maturity

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

A family from rural Tennessee made their very first trip to the big city. They checked into a grand hotel and stared in amazement at the impressive lobby… the gleaming marble, sparkling chandeliers, rich wood and polished brass.
Leaving the front desk, they stood before the elevator.  

They had never seen anything LIKE an elevator before.  They just stood there staring at it, wondering HOW it worked and WHAT it was for.
Just then, an elderly lady walked up to the metal doors, pushed a button and ‘DING’ - the doors opened.  She got in and the doors closed behind her.  15 seconds later, a light flashed, another ‘DING!’ and out came a beautiful young woman.
The father of the family couldn’t stop staring at this INCREDIBLE device!  Without even blinking, he elbowed his son and said, “Quick, son!  Go get yer mom!  I want HER to try this thing!”

It would be nice, don’t you think, if as a Christian you could just get into a magic box, and DING! – all the struggles you’ve had with sin were gone and you always acted like a mature and wise believer.  Wouldn’t it be great to know the Bible with clarity and to always pray with great faith, and to be able to handle life’s difficulties without stress?  

“Spiritually MATURE!” - That’s what we call it.  

Would be awesome to have some sort of magic device that would instantly transform us into Christ-like believers, but it doesn’t work that way.
Spiritual growth takes time.  It’s a process – and depending on your level of cooperation and commitment, it can be a very LONG process :)

When a person becomes a Christian, the Bible says he IS a NEW creation.  All of his past is forgiven and he now has
  • the Holy Spirit living INSIDE him to guide, grow, and gift him.  
  • The Bible is there to teach him how to live.  
  • The Church comes to his aid to equip and encourage.  
  • Those further along in the faith - MENTOR him.

We come INTO Christianity as Spiritual Babies… infants… with very little understanding and much to learn.  We are completely dependent upon the Lord and those who would mentor us to show us the way we ought to go.
AND… after time in God’s Word and walking in the Spirit, we grow.  
  • We learn how to feed ourselves
  • how to make godly decisions
  • and before too terribly long - we can offer help to OTHERS who are new in their spiritual journey.  As we grow and become what the Lord wills for each of us - we are THEN able to help others with the help we have received.  

THAT is spiritual life in the family of God… at least, as it SHOULD be.
But Sometimes things don’t happen the way they should.  

Think for a moment how a person would feel if they had a baby that never grew. They take their baby to the doctor for it’s regular check-up.  The doctor is concerned – their baby isn’t developing like other babies their age.  They want to run tests because their baby ought to be developing at a faster rate.  PARENTS would be GRAVELY concerned, don't you think???

If that happened to us or someone we know, we would do whatever it took to solve the problem.  And well we should!
But why is it that we don’t have that same sense of urgency when it comes to our SPIRITUAL babies?  Why is it that we show so little CONCERN when we aren’t growing or others in the congregation aren’t growing as they should?  

It is tragic how some Christians have been saved for decades but have the maturity of an infant.  
  • They aren’t reading God’s Word.  
  • They don’t pray.  
  • They are dogged by bad habits
  • and very shallow in their faith.
Like a doctor with his patient - it’s time we ‘run some tests’ to find out ‘Why they aren’t growing.’

Peter was very concerned about the lack of maturity he saw in many Christians.  As a pastor in the early church, he longed for the growth of God’s people.  After all, many of the problems they experienced could be traced back to their lack of spiritual maturity.  

Peter himself knew what it was to be stretched and challenged by the Lord.  When he first met Jesus in John 1:42, Jesus said, “You ARE Simon… but you SHALL BE Peter.”  This is very significant – for the name, Simon, MEANS “sandman.”  And Peter means “ROCK man.”  In effect, Jesus was saying:

“Peter, keep following me and you’re gonna change from the shifting and unstable person you ARE to a solid man upon whom I will bestow the responsibility of building My church.”
Peter knew what it was to grow up – and he wants the same thing for those in his church.  And so HERE, Peter offers three lessons in spiritual growth.

1.  First, Peter offers the Building Blocks of Growth – a person cannot get on the road to change and maturity and Christlikeness, without the Word of God!

If you want to become mature, you need to HEAR the Word of God - STUDY it - LIVE it.  

The Christian life begins with the Word – As Peter explains 1 Peter chapter 1, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”  

Your success as a Christian is directly linked to the value you place on the Word of God.
Someone might argue, “We are saved by FAITH.”  And of course that is true… but how does faith BEGIN?  Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  

The Word of God is essential to your growth –
  • that’s why you need to read it…
  • why you need to come to Sunday School and Worship and Wednesday Night Bible Study.  
  • You need to imprint God’s Word on your mind and heart – and as you do, you will grow.
Someone might ask, “Is church attendance really all that important?”  You better believe it is!
I don’t know how things were when YOU fell in love, but for me, I wanted to spend every chance I could with Ms. Debbie.  I wanted to hear her voice.  I wanted to see her face.  I wanted to hold her hand – and learn what she liked and disliked.  Listen, when you love somebody, you want to spend as much time as you CAN with them.
But somehow that doesn’t seem to translate into our walk with Christ – we treat HIM almost as an afterthought.  Folks, that’s not love.  
  • When you love the Lord and His Word, then you want to spend time hearing the Bible explained and taught.  
  • If you love Him you will have a desire to be around His people.  
  • You will want your friends and family to be here too – because you believe that God’s truth is important and your family is exposed to so much error in the world – you should seize every opportunity available to pour the truth of God into the lives of your children.
We need to cultivate an appetite for the Word of God, because Peter says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
You know what happens when babies get hungry, don’t you?  They cry… and it doesn’t take too long before a baby’s health is affected if it doesn’t receive proper nourishment.  BUT, if it gets the milk it needs, it grows and eventually develops an appetite for stronger food.
Just as a baby needs the nourishment milk provides, you need the nourishment the Bible provides if you would grow.
I would strongly encourage you – as your friend – to do whatever it takes to make time in your schedule for God’s Word.  If you commute to work and you struggle getting up early enough to read, get the Bible on CD or listen to some quality preaching on your way to work.  Even if it is exposing yourself to just a paragraph of the New Testament on your break – you will be surprised at what that daily exposure will do to your heart and mind.
The building blocks of growth.

2.  Second, not only does Peter share the Building Blocks of Growth, that is - getting in the Word of God and letting the Word get into you, he also shares the Blessings of Growth when says verse 18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To HIM be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
When you study the Bible, two things will happen:
First, you will “Grow in Grace.”  What does that mean???  Simply, you will become more and more aware that you are saved, not because of how good YOU are, but because of how good God is.  You will begin to see yourself through the eyes of grace – making you humble, thankful, and FAITHFUL.
You will see OTHERS through the lens of grace too.  Instead of being demanding, critical, and judgmental; instead of writing people off as ‘hopeless causes,’ you will begin to see people through God’s eyes.  You will become compassionate – you will understand that underneath that rough exterior is a heart that needs Jesus.

If there is anything people NEED – it is grace.  When we are filled with grace, people will see the love of Jesus in us.
Peter tells us that we will also Grow in Knowledge.  Why do we need bible knowledge?  Because, sometimes I find myself in difficult situations I don’t know how to handle.  The world will tell me to go one way – my flesh will agree that the world’s way is right – and BOTH will lead me to destruction.  

I need to grow in the knowledge of the bible because there I find TRUE wisdom that will lead me in the way I should go.
  • When a skeptic challenges my faith
  • or when circumstances cause me to question God, my knowledge of God’s Word will combat “stinkin’ thinkin.’”  
  • When someone who is searching for truth asks me a serious question about God, my time in the Word will prove invaluable!

3.  But not only do we see here the Building Blocks and the Blessings of Growth, third Peter shares the Barriers to Growth.  Notice verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”  

Peter says “TAKE CARE.”  “WATCH OUT!”  “There are challenges out there that will trip you up… that will ruin your testimony and destroy your influence.”  Two specific barriers are mentioned:
The first barrier to your growth is the world - all those people you spend time with on a daily basis offering their advice or direction… lost people who have a different set of values and convictions, will challenge you, and will say how “foolish it is to trust the Lord.”  “WATCH OUT!” says Peter.  There are people all around you seeking to influence you in a way that would dishonor the Lord.  

Be careful!  It DOES matter who you spend time with.  You are NOT so strong that you can easily overcome the influence of an ungodly man.  

That’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Don’t be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.”

Think back to your youth.  How often you got into trouble because someone encouraged you to do the wrong thing – you did things you would never have done had you been alone,
  • but because you felt the pressure of friends
  • or wanted to be the BIG SHOT
  • or FIT IN,
you did things your parents would have beat the day-lights out of you for doing, had they known.   
Remember this - Just as the Word is a positive influence, the World is a negative one.  Their counsel will lead to folly and will act as a Barrier to Growth.

The second barrier to growth is YOU.  

  • Maybe it’s a fear of commitment – you’ve tried so many times to do right, and you have failed again and again – so NOW you are afraid of making a commitment because you have no confidence in your ability to keep it.
  • Or maybe you think – “Awww, I hear what you are saying preacher, but I don’t really want to get that serious about the Lord.”
  • Or maybe you keep telling yourself “I can do things MY way.”  “Me and God have our own thing worked out… He knows my heart…”  

Your biggest obstacle to growth is not the world… it’s not even the devil.  It’s YOU.  You are going to have to make up your mind about this thing.  You can’t go about the Christian life half-heartedly.  There are going to be times you don’t FEEL like going to church.  Times when you would rather do something else.  You will be tempted to make allowances and justifications and create excuses for why you aren’t obeying the Lord.  BEWARE, says Peter, lest you be “carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your OWN stability.”

The commitment to GROW must come from you.  I can’t make it for you.  Those who love you can’t make it happen either – YOU have to do it yourself.
You should put everything else out of your mind and pray:

“Lord, I need you more than anything… and I need you to help me.  I realize that I can’t grow on my own – I need you working in my life.  There are many things influencing me to go the other way, Lord, help me to hear YOUR voice that I might grow and be what YOU want me to be.  When I stray, help me to hear the Spirit’s voice.  When I need encouragement and perseverance, be my strength.  Oh, Lord, I commit myself to You!”
Is that your prayer this morning?
Imagine you had a child – the love of your life – and that child was 10 years old, but it was JUST as dependent upon you as it was the day you brought it home from the hospital. It hasn’t grown.  It hasn’t passed all the milestones other children their age have passed.  

What would you do?  

I know what you would do!!! You would be praying for them and taking them to every doctor or specialist you could find – doing whatever was necessary to help your child.
My friend ⇒ that’s how God feels about you.
Will you make a fresh commitment to spiritual growth this morning?  Now is your chance.  Let’s stand…