As I thought about Peter writing this last letter to his beloved brothers and sisters scattered
throughout the Roman Empire, encouraging them to the end that he knew was coming, my mind went
to a beloved brother of mine, Burke. He was pastor of the Baptist Church in Winston-Salem I grew up
in and was there to encourage and mentor me when I came to Christ in my teens. He came to
Burlington to marry me and Cindy in 1982, and at that time he worked for the Baptist State
Convention. He turned 92 this week and is still in my life. He spoke at my mom’s funeral in 2021. I
attended his wife’s funeral 5 years earlier. His most recent letter said, “I look forward to your
Christmas letter each year because I deeply love the Fox family…you will always be at the core of my
heart.” I thank God for Burke and his heart. We get a glimpse into Peter’s heart in 2 Peter 1, verses 12-
Another “therefore” starts this section and makes us look back to what Peter has already stated and
repeated for emphasis. We cannot overstate the importance of growing in godly character because it
makes us effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and because it
gives us assurance and confidence in our calling and election and in the glorious entrance into the
eternal kingdom that our Lord has provided. Peter tells the believers that he intends to always remind
them of these qualities of godly character. In other words, “I will not be careless or negligent about
this; I will not forget to remind you to not forget these important things!” This is an important part of
the job of pastors and elders. One of my favorite examples is where Paul wrote to Titus, pastor of the
church on the island of Crete: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be
obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle,
and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” That’s a good list to display in your home! Great
reminders. This is an important job for parents, who spend most of 18 years and beyond reminding
their children about the things that matter most. It is an important job for counselors and mentors
and disciplers, as we walk beside someone we love, to help them grow in freedom in Christ,
reminding them about what is most important. And it is part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit! Jesus
said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all
things and bring to your remembrance (remind you!) all that I have said to you.”
And these reminders, Peter said, are just that. Reminders of fundamental truths. Any coach who has a
winning team knows that the fundamentals have to be practiced over and over. Even though
everybody on the team knows them, any slippage in executing them can end up in a loss. Peter says,
“you know them and are established in the truth.” Because he loves the people of God and because he
knows that he will not be present to love them much longer, Peter says, “I will make every effort so
that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” Peter is an older man and
facing the death Jesus told him about in that seaside restoration scene in John 21.
I love that Peter was thinking of others even though he knew he was going to die soon. Just like Jesus!
Jesus spent every minute and hour he could with his disciples preparing them for his departure. His
concern was not for his own pain and suffering that was coming, and Peter followed in his Lord’s
footsteps. He knew what we must be reminded of regularly, and that was this: we have a purpose that
goes beyond our comfort in this life and extends to making a difference in the next generation. You
moms and dads who are in the throes and sometimes the woes of raising children know that very
well. What you are doing matters for that generation you are raising and for the ones to come. And
this is true for all of us, whether we have children or not.
Make every effort to grow in these qualities and find ways to help others grow in them as well. And
hey, Burke? Thanks for making every effort to love and serve the body of Christ.
In reprimanding those who depend on their good works for salvation, Paul counters with a picture
of what a Christian is to do. He wrote that we are to worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ
Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.
When you think of worship, don’t think “standing at your pew, singing worship songs.” That’s only
a small part of worship. To become a worshipper means that our direction and our affections are
changed, not just for a few minutes on Sunday and not just in a certain location, but all the time
and in every place. Jesus teaches us that worship is not a service or a religious ceremony. It is not
dependent on a place or a liturgy or smells or bells. Worship is what Christians cannot help but do
all the time, because the Spirit of God has moved in and taken over. I saw a picture several years
ago when I visited with Hilda at Twin Lakes. She was 94, a widow, and a wonderful woman of God
who blessed me every time I went to see her. Hilda was not able to attend church, but boy, did she
love Jesus, and she talked to him all day long. She said once with a wink, “I tell the Lord, ‘Now, if I
am asking too much, you tell me!’”
“Glory in Christ Jesus.” That’s what Hilda was doing. This is just a natural outflow for those who
worship by the Spirit of God, because the work of the Spirit is to glorify the Son.
“Put no confidence in the flesh.” How can we survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of
glory died, and then pat ourselves on the back? Good job reading the Bible this morning! Great
prayer at church, you really knocked that one out of the park! You know gained you some points with
God for sure!
Kind of turns your stomach a little doesn’t it? Beware of becoming the older brother in the story
Jesus told about the prodigal son. The point of the story was not really the penitent prodigal
younger brother, but the proud, pharisaical older brother, whose confidence was in his works,
which made him a stay-at-home prodigal. The older brother, the proud prodigal said in anger to
his father, “Look, these many years I have served you,” while refusing to come in and celebrate
that his brother had come home. Then he said with disgust, “I never disobeyed your command.”
Do you see his ‘religion?’ “Look what I did. Look how many rules I have kept!” Because his
confidence was in his own self-righteousness, he felt justified in being angry with his father, even
accusing his father of not loving him enough. He was a legalist, just like many today who measure
their worth to God, and therefore what He ‘owes’ them, by their own good deeds.
Listen, the flip side is true as well. Many Christians fear God’s disapproval because they constantly
weigh whether they do enough, whether they love enough, whether they serve enough. That’s
prodigal thinking. What brought the prodigal home was not the thought that he really could do
better if he tried harder. No. What brought him home was a confidence that his father would take
him in, even if only as a hired servant. His confidence was in his father, not in his own works. What
a surprise when he was welcomed with a kiss, a ring, shoes, and a robe!
We also can come home every single day with that same expectation and hope, that our Father will
take us in, not because of our pitiful ‘good deeds,’ but because of the work completed by His Son.
One of the wakeup calls that happened in my life as a teenager was when my dad found out I was regularly skipping school about once a week. He sat me down and said this: “As long as you are living in this house and wearing clothes and eating food that I provide for you, you will go to school and work hard. Every day.” There was an indicative: you are loved and provided for here. And it was connected to an imperative: you will work hard at your calling which, right now, is a student. Peter says something similar to his readers, connecting the indicative to the imperative, because they cannot be separated. He says, because his divine power and precious promises and everything that pertains to life and godliness have been given to you by God…you will make every effort to grow up, become established in the truth, live a godly life, and enjoy the fruit of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Why do some Christians think that they have to work really hard and sacrifice much to become a better athlete, a valuable employee, a talented musician, or a better spouse…but being a follower of Christ requires little because, “Hey, it’s all good! God loves me!” He does love you. And it is God’s love and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice that saved us and calls us to grow in character and godliness and good works. The idea is captured by Solomon in Proverbs 24: “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Solomon was talking about sloth and the price one pays for laziness in his work. But the same applies to our life as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and that is what Peter addresses.
Make every effort to do these things, Peter writes. Do it now, with haste. This is urgent where other things can wait. Add to your faith these things that will require sacrifice and effort. Remember, saints, your faith to believe was a gift. You did not add that, God did. Grace is a gift that God adds every day, to build our faith and enable us to add these qualities to our faith. Remember, you are not saved by works, but you are saved to works. Why do we need to make every effort to add these qualities to our faith? Peter tells us that it is so we will be effective and fruitful in Jesus!
This list of qualities Peter tells us to work on, are “Not a legalistic code but rather the desires and features of a transformed heart.” (ESV Study Bible) If holiness were as easy as removing a TV from our homes and making sure our wives and daughters only wear dresses (neither of which are evidences of spiritual maturity), then we could all be just about perfect. But this list goes beyond externals and goes into matters of the heart. These qualities require his divine power that he freely gives to all who ask. So what are these qualities we are told to make every effort to add to our faith?
Read them in the first chapter of 2 Peter.