God’s Grace for Good Conduct
November 19, 2023

God’s Grace for Good Conduct

Preacher:
Passage: 2 Peter 1:5-15

Introduction

Back when Jesus was drawing crowds, performing miracles, and teaching people about the kingdom of God, he had twelve key followers – twelve disciples – who were part of his inner circle. One of these twelve men was named Simon Peter. After Jesus’s death and resurrection, he and other disciples began to spread the good news of Christianity, and they gathered new Christians into churches where they could keep growing in their faith and learning to practice good conduct.

Last week, I explained that Peter here knows he’s near the end of his life. He wants to give special instructions to God’s people here to prepare them – because he wants to make sure they know how to keep growing and enduring, even when they’re bombarded by all kinds of obstacles. We need to be prepared for the same thing. So if you have your Bibles, please turn to 2 Peter, Chapter 1 with me. 2 Peter, chapter 1 – we’ll be picking up in verse 5. But before we do, let’s pray:

[PRAYER AND READING OF TEXT]

Saved by Grace

Last week, specifically in verses 3-4, we saw the basics of the Christian good news. Though we were all once powerless to escape from death and corruption, God has stepped in save us. His divine power has granted fallen human creatures like us all we need to escape from death and corruption in order to have life and godliness. And we can receive all these things simply through knowing and trusting Christ. When we come empty-handed to Jesus, relying on him for life and godliness, God gives us these things freely, not because of our moral cleanness or our accomplishments, but purely by his grace.

But this can raise the question – if we’re saved from sin and death totally based on what God has done – if it’s all a gift, if it’s all by grace – then why does it matter for us to live good, moral lives? Why do we need to care about following God’s commands?

That’s the question Peter is dealing with in the verses we have in front of us. Peter knows there are people out there who are twisting the gospel message, and he wants to affirm that God’s free grace doesn’t excuse us from pursuing goodness, but God’s free grace is actually what establishes and incentivizes good conduct in God’s people.

The text in front of us breaks into three parts. In verses 5-7, Peter gives us descriptions of what this good conduct looks like. In verse 5, too, but especially in verses 8-11, Peter explains some motivations for why we still pursue good conduct. And in verses 12-15, Peter shows us the importance of giving reminders about good conduct. So these will be my three points: Descriptions of good conduct. Motivations for good conduct. And Reminders about good conduct.

Descriptions of Good Conduct

So first, descriptions of good conduct. In verse 5, Peter says “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith…” and then he mentions seven qualities God’s people should be adding to their faith – that they should have in addition to their trust in and reliance upon Jesus.

So notice, here, Peter isn’t giving people eight different moral qualities they should have in life, with faith being side by side with the other seven. But Peter is acknowledging that the starting point of the Christian race – the foundation of the Christian enterprise – is faith in Christ, and it’s faith alone. We are made acceptable and righteous in God’s eyes, not by faith PLUS THESE SEVEN QUALITIES, but through faith alone.

And yet Peter urges these people who have trusted in Christ, and who are right with God by faith – he urges them to keep growing in integrity and good conduct. He urges them to supplement their faith with seven qualities or traits.

First, Peter says, “supplement your faith with virtue.” The Greek word virtue here is the same word that’s translated as excellence in verse 3, when Peter says that God “has called us to his own glory and excellence.” Peter’s telling us here – if you believe God is excellent, if you believe He’s good and has done great things, then start living with the same excellence of God’s character. Practice your faith, so that it becomes visible in your life.

Second, Peter tells us to add to our virtue knowledge. Knowledge isn’t an enemy of church unity, or love. In fact, we cannot stand together for what is good unless we know God and His Word. In a healthy marriage, a husband and wife value knowing each other better. In the same way, a healthy relationship with God will include a lifelong desire to know Him more.

Third, to our knowledge we should add self-control. This means we should learn to manage ourselves. We should learn how to say No to our lusts and selfish desires. We shouldn’t be driven by our instincts and appetites and passions like wild animals are. But if we learn to manage ourselves rightly, we’ll be prepared to manage other things in a manner that honors God.

Fourth, Peter says we should add to this steadfastness. Steadfastness here refers to patient endurance. He’s urging us here to grow in our resolve – to grow in our confidence that God’s promises are worth waiting for – to grow in our commitment to rely on the Lord in all circumstances.

And, number five, to this steadfastness, we’re told to add godliness. When we say someone is godly, normally we mean this person’s character is similar to God’s character. But here the word here means something more like devotion to God. So we’re urged here to have a growing commitment to and appreciation for God.

Sixth, to godliness, we should add brotherly affection. In other words, we should have a deep family-style affection for our brothers and sisters in Christ who have the same heavenly Father we do.

And even though all seven of these qualities are significant, Peter intentionally places love seventh and last in his list. This is because love is the crowning characteristic of the Christian life. Godliness is a loving devotion to God. Brotherly affection is a loving attitude toward other Christians. But we aren’t just called to like people who already like us. When we love as God has loved, it means we freely care for people and seek their well-being, even when they despise us. We’re called to the glorious, difficult lifestyle of loving people in different political parties, people who you think are ugly, arrogant, or awkward – even people who want to deny you the right to exist. “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The crowning quality of the Christian life is love.

Motivations for Good Conduct

But why is this good conduct important? Why go through the trouble if we’re saved by faith, apart from works?

There are many reasons, but Peter gives us three here – three motivations for good conduct.

First, Peter says we should pursue obedience to God because we now can. You’ll notice in verse 5, Peter says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith…” What reason is he talking about?

Well, Peter is pointing is back to verses 3 and 4. He’s saying God’s divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness. We’ve been brought from sin and death to a place where we can now walk with God and display his goodness and glory to the world. So if we recognize the badness of sin – if we see how God’s ways are better than anything else – why wouldn’t we want a good, godly life? Why wouldn’t we want our heart to look like God’s heart? Now that we know the value of true gold, why would we want to keep chasing after fool’s gold?

Imagine that there’s a man in a prison cell – he’s been there almost his whole life – and one day the warden of the prison comes and says, “Good news! You can go free! I have a letter here from the judge – everything’s taken care of!” And the prisoner says, “Great, it feels nice to know I’m free!” But the prisoner stays in his cell. And the warden says, “C’mon, let’s go – you can come out – you don’t have to live in the darkness here anymore.” But the prisoner says, “Oh, no, I couldn’t leave my prison cell. I kind of like the dark. And I don’t really want to change my lifestyle.” Well, I hope you’d agree with me – the prisoner’s missing the point! Though he has a paper in his hands that talks about freedom, he’s going to be a stranger to that freedom until he actually lives like a free man.

God, our judge, has granted us freedom – not just freedom from sin’s penalty, but freedom from its power over our life and actions. And if we now have freedom, it should just make sense for us to walk in it.

The second motivator for good conduct appears in verse 8. Peter tells us to pursue these seven qualities, “for if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, if we’re pursuing a life of virtue, knowledge, self-control, and all the rest – our lives will be fruitful and effective. God will use our lives to enrich and benefit others – our lives will have an impact – an eternal impact. Don’t you want a life that counts for something? If so, Peter says, aim higher than advanced degrees, social media reactions, and six-figure salaries. Aim for a godly life. Because God uses godly people to bear good fruit that will really last.

The third motivator Peter gives for why we should pursue good conduct is found in verses 9-11. In verse 9, Peter warns that people who don’t pursue a godly life are ultimately blind. In verse 10, then, he says, “Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall.” In other words, when living a godly life is part of our daily practice, it will prevent us from falling back into a lifestyle of unbelief, and it will confirm to our own consciences and to others that God has called and chosen us to have life in Christ.

Reminders about Good Conduct

Interestingly, this isn’t new information for these Christians. Peter is giving reminders about good conduct. In verse 12, he says, “I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.”

It can be really easy to hear someone preaching through a part of the Bible, and to think, “Yup, I’ve heard that before. Yup, I already knew that, too,” and to tune out what the Pastor is saying. But it turns out that reminders are really important. Verse 13 tells us that Peter wrote these reminders to the church in order to stir them up – to revitalize them. Those churches needed someone to kick them in the seat of the pants, and say, Hey, God has work for you to do. And our church needs this, too.

We see another reason why Peter reminds the church of these things in verse 15. He wants to make every effort so that after his departure, the church will be able to recall these truths. On a daily basis there are a million distractions. It’s easy to lose sight of God and his priorities for us. Yet God has spoken through Peter here to make sure we don’t forget.

God has done everything that’s needed to set us free from corruption and to bring us to his own glory and excellence. For this reason, it just makes sense that we would pursue spiritual growth and good conduct, which will keep us from having an ineffective life of unbelief. And as we embrace this truth, we should be eager to remind one another – to stir one another up to love and good deeds, and to make sure we don’t forget.

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