Growing in Grace
December 17, 2023

Growing in Grace

Preacher:
Passage: 2 Peter 3:14-18

A Life Growing in Grace

Please turn with me to 2 Peter, Chapter 3. Peter, one of Jesus’s closest followers, wrote 2 Peter near the time of his death. And here at the end of his letter, he circles back to three main ideas he wants to make sure Christians like us remember – three key realities he wants us to keep in mind so we have a fruitful, growing life of faith. In verses 14-16, Peter reminds us to take God’s Promises seriously. In verses 16-18, he reminds to take Human Error seriously. And at the end of verse 18, he reminds us to take Jesus’s Glory seriously.

So follow along with me in 2 Peter 3, verses 14-18

[PRAY AND READ TEXT]

Take God’s Promises Seriously

Just before our passage opens, in verses 11-13, Peter has just reminded us about God’s promised judgment Day. On that day, the current creation where unrighteousness dwells, will pass away. And God will establish a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. Then, in verse 14, then, Peter says, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these” – since we’re waiting for God’s promise of a new creation – there are two things we should be doing if we’re taking God’s promises seriously.

First, Peter says, “since you are waiting for these things, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” Now, when Peter speaks against spots and blemishes here, he isn’t talking about our moles and birthmarks. He’s talking about the spots and blemishes of our hearts – about having clean character and conduct.

Back in Chapter 2, verse 13, Peter warns against the false teachers, saying that they’re “blots and blemishes.” These false teachers had lives that were morally filthy, stained with greed, sensuality, and rebellion against God. They belong to the present heavens and earth which are reserved for fire. But Peter urges the church, You belong to the Promised new world, where righteousness dwells. So as you look to Christ and rely on the purifying work of His Spirit, put away your blots and blemishes. Defy your sensual desires. Resist every urge to commit scandal against the High King who descended to earth for you, who suffered for you, who obeyed God’s law perfectly for you, died for you, and who continues to help and hold you.

God has promised a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. That’s the new home he’s calling you to. Won’t you take his promise seriously?

And here’s the second thing we should do if we’re taking God’s promises seriously: in verse 15, Peter tells us to “Count the patience of our Lord as salvation.” God is patiently waiting to bring His promised judgment because He’s first committed to delivering his promised salvation to lost sinners like us.

And this should give us confidence in our evangelism. This should give us confidence as we pray for our kids to have faith, and teach them how to follow Jesus. This should give us confidence as we carry out our jobs from week to week, as we pay our taxes, and as we do all the other mundane things that God uses to hold society together. For as long as God is patiently upholding the present heavens and earth, it means he’s still in the business of showing mercy and growing His people.

And as a quick side note, you’ll notice here that Peter says that his point is valid because another important messenger sent out by Jesus – the apostle Paul – is saying the same thing. In verses 15 and 16, we read that Paul has written about God’s promises, not out of his own wisdom, but “according to the wisdom given him.” – given to him by God. This is why Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture in verse 16 – because Paul’s writings are divine truth, given to us by God himself through Paul.

Take Human Error Seriously

But even though God’s promises – and his word – are trustworthy, Peter notes that there are other voices in the world that are deceptive. Peter tells us there are things in Paul’s letters that are hard to understand, and there are ignorant and unstable people out there who will twist the meaning of Scripture to their own destruction.

And so Peter gives two instructions to Christians, to make sure they’re taking the problem of Human Error seriously. Peter first says, “You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand” – knowing that there are people out there who will twist and misuse the Bible – “take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.” In other words, we need to be prepared that we’re not deceived by false teaching. People can use Bible verses incorrectly, out of context, to teach wrong ideas. And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Even the devil used Bible verses when he was tempting Jesus into sin back in Luke 4:10-11. So we need to be discerning.

Specifically, Peter warns about being carried away with the error of lawless people – people who are twisting the content of Paul’s letters and jumping to wrong conclusions. If you know anything about the writings of Paul, especially his letter to the Galatians, you’ll know that Paul emphasizes that we’re saved by grace. We’re justified – we’re declared to be righteous before God – NOT through our imperfect efforts to keep God’s law, but through faith in the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.

As Paul says, starting in Galatians 2:15, “We ourselves are Jews by birth, and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

So it would seem that some of the Galatians, and possibly people in other nearby regions, started to deny that God’s law had any value. They may have been claiming, since we’re saved by grace, through faith, that God doesn’t really care about our attitudes, our affections, or our actions – that growing in obedience to God isn’t part of the Christian life. But Peter here is writing this letter to churches in Galatia and surrounding regions to let them know – this isn’t what Paul is saying. God is saving us from a life of sin into a life of good works. He is saving us from our hearts of hostility against his moral law and is granting us new hearts that treasures the goodness of his commands.

We can’t obey our way into God’s favor – we can’t make ourselves righteous by keeping God’s law. We’re saved purely by God’s grace. But Peter wants us to see that God’s saving grace not only frees us from the consequences of our ungodliness – God’s grace also saves us from being enslaved to the corrupting power of that ungodliness. If we embrace our sin, we are not walking in God’s grace, but we’re instead rejecting it.

We shouldn’t be led into this error, Peter says – so what should we do? Peter gives us instruction number two in verse 18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The people who fall into error won’t be humbly relying on God’s grace or showing fruits of Christlikeness. But Peter is urging the Church here to keep growing in the faith – even when the apostles disappear, even when persecution comes, even when false teachers bring the church into disgrace – keep growing in your reliance on God’s grace and in your knowledge of what He has revealed. Growing in Christ will safeguard us from being carried away into error.

But how do we grow like this? It’s through the simple means God has provided to the community of His people – we grow through knowing His Word, through experiencing his grace displayed in the sacraments, and through seeking his face in prayer. And we do these things together. Together we grow up into Christlikeness, and this pursuit of growth and advancement and maturing in Christ is the best defense against surrendering ourselves to temptation and sin.

Take Jesus's Glory Seriously

But there’s one more thing Peter wants us to take seriously – Jesus’s glory. And this is foundational to a life that's growing in grace. In verse 18, Peter says, “To him” – to Jesus Christ – “be the glory.”

You and I – we don’t deserve glory. The purpose of our lives isn’t to try to convince people that we deserve their loyalty and approval. The purpose of our lives isn’t to satisfy ourselves with self-love or self-indulgence. The purpose of our lives is instead to set our hearts on the greatness of God. We should be eager to point people to His worth instead of our own.

We should want to avoid human error because we love God’s truth! We should want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus because we delight in who He is. And Peter says, “to him be the glory both NOW and to the day of eternity.” The realness of Jesus’s worthiness should prompt us to love Him now, to abandon our sinful desires NOW, to confess our wrongdoing NOW, to commit ourselves to obedience NOW. Because Jesus is worthy of our worship NOW.

And His worthiness will never fade. In the eternal ages to come, we will forever affirm the trustworthiness, goodness, and glory of Jesus Christ. So as we close in prayer, let’s pray that we would daily grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, who has Saved us to make us His own.

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