2 Pet. 3:17-18
I don’t have any more virtues or disciplines to discuss. I’m sure I missed one or two, but for the next couple of days I want to present two addendums to the study we’ve had over the last three weeks.
I guess I’m kind of a freak, but I’m fascinated with the last words of biblical authors. As Samuel Johnson noted, “The gallows doth wonderfully concentrate the mind.” When you know that you only have a short time left, you tend to focus on what’s most important. That’s why I’m particularly moved by such passages as the Lord’s discourse at the Last Supper, or Paul’s last recorded words to Timothy.
These are the last recorded words of Peter. He had lots of ups and downs in his life as an apostle. He made what we call the Great Confession, had worked miracles, and was usually the spokesman of the group of first disciples, both before and after the Cross. He had lots of failures as well, which we’ve rehearsed enough. After the events of the book of Acts, he himself wrote two epistles to add to Scripture.
And here are his last words to us. And I think that they’re a command which a lot of Christians are disobeying.
Grow. Don’t be stagnant. It’s a law of biology: You’re either growing or dying. You’re either improving overall or falling backwards.
Now to be sure, all of us have areas in which we need to improve. As James said, “We all stumble in many ways.” The question is not "Do I have room to improve?" The thing to ask myself is: Am I improving? Am I growing?
And notice that this is a universal command to all the Church. Whether you’re a new believer who got saved last week or a more mature believer who’s known the Lord for 50 years, he wants more for you. Are you satisfied with where you are in your walk with Christ? You shouldn’t be.
And it’s not just growth in any area that Peter wants. He mentions two specific arenas.
First is growth in the grace of our Lord Jesus. This isn’t talking about saving grace: You either are saved or you aren’t, so you can't grow in that. It’s talking about taking advantage of his empowering grace--the resources the Lord has provided, like the four disciplines we talked about. It’s talking about relying on the power of the Spirit to change us from the inside-out into the likeness of Christ. And of course it’s talking about asking for forgiveness when we fall flat on our face.
Second we need to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. This means both head-knowledge and relationship-knowledge. You should know more about him than you did a year ago. That means studying his word on a regular basis. And you should know him better as a person than you did a year ago. You should be spending more intimate times with him, listening to what he has to tell you. As you do this, you'll find the virtues we talked about cropping up (pun intended) more and more in your life. You’ll see the Fruit of the Spirit appearing more than it did a year ago. Please remember, these virtues are not ends in themselves for you to strive for. They're the Fruit of the Spirit. They’re visible indications of the status of your relationship with Christ.
And naturally Peter’s last recorded words are not a command but a doxology. Our salvation started with God, and it ends with him. All praise and honor and glory and thanksgiving go to him. Because when we look back on our life on however much progress we've made, we realize it’s all due to him.
Lord Jesus, I love my relationship with you. I love what I have with you. I love the closeness of our walk, the changes you’ve made in my life, and the ways you’ve let me serve you. But I’m not satisfied. I want more of you. This coming year, I want to act more like you. I want to talk more like you. I want to think more like you. Whatever it costs, I want it.