Growing in Faith: 2 Peter 1:1-8

Good morning Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here and it’s a pleasure and privilege to be able to talk with you this morning.  We started Journey more than 10 years ago now.  The beginning of Journey Church occurred just a couple of hundred yards from here when Jim Warren and I met at the Beanery – just around the corner.  And we talked about we both felt – separately, that God was calling us to start a church especially for people who are newer to the faith thing, or restarting their faith walk, and for people who are a little skeptical about God or the church.

We both had a similar idea and realized we’d work pretty well together and so off we went on this adventure.  And one of the conversations we had there at the beanery was, what are we going to name this church?  And to be honest – the conversation lasted about two minutes.  In two minutes we decided on the name Journey Church.  Jim suggested Hall and Oats church.

Why?  Because we both felt that our spiritual lives are in fact a journey.  The Christianity is a daily walk with Jesus.  Faith is in fact a journey.  And the exciting reality is that every one of us in this room has a next step to take in our journey with Jesus.

We never get to the point where we can say, “I’ve arrived!”  There’s always more places to go and to grow.  How invigorating!  You ever drive some place the same way so many times it becomes tedious?  So you find a new way to go just because you want to see something different?  Yes!

Well, Faith in Jesus assures us that there will always be a next step in our spiritual adventure with God.  There is always a place that is further in and further up in our walk with God.

This morning we are starting a six-week series on growing in our faith.  And our goal is to help you identify a next step you can take in your faith, and encourage you to take it.

This morning I want to read a wonderful passage of scripture written by one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, a man named Peter.  It’s the second letter that Peter wrote to the church – that’s why it’s entitled 2 Peter – and we’ll begin in the beginning from the beginning of the first chapter.  And we’ll work our way through the first 8 verses.

2 Peter, 1

This letter is from Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.

Okay – if we are going to read about how to grow in our faith – we be hard pressed to find a better teacher than Peter.  Because if you were to read Peters story in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, you are going to read about a guy who is really up and down in his faith.  Sometimes he shines – like the time Jesus tells Peter – that he is a rock and upon this rock I shall build my church!  That’s good – but in the very next paragraph Peter is rebuking Jesus and Jesus tells Peter to get thee behind me, Satan!

Listen, that’s a bad day at the office if you are a disciple.  How was your day honey?  Jesus called me Satan.

We are reading about how to grow in our faith by the same person who denied Jesus three times within earshot of Jesus on the night he was betrayed.  Okay – so he himself has experienced a tremendous growth curve.  As he writes this letter he is one of the top leaders in the early church.

I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have.

So Peter announces that he is speaking here to people who have already made a decision to become a follower of Jesus.  Around here we call that “crossing the line of faith.”

For Peter that day occurred the day Jesus called to him as Peter was fishing – come, follow me – it was that direct – but Peter had seen something in Jesus that made him think – this guy is worth leaving everything behind in order to follow.

That call is the same call that has been spoken to you and me today.  It is Jesus calling us to come and follow him.  Leave our old way of thinking about reality behind.  Leave our old way of fending for ourselves behind.  Come follow Me is the call of Jesus to you and me today.

We call it crossing the line of faith, but if you opened up a theology book – there is a different word for the moment we believe that Jesus is who he said he was…  and that word is Justification.

It is the act of removing the barriers that kept us from being able to walk unimpeded with God.  Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins, and when we believe it is, as someone once said – just as if I’d never sinned.

Baptism – by the way – is a celebration of the our justification.  It is an announcement to the world that we are following Jesus Christ.  That He is the new sheriff in our town.

Our next baptism here at Journey is scheduled to be September 15th, by the way. And sometimes people say – well, do I have to be baptized in order to be right with God?  Does baptism save me?  Of course not.  Jesus saves you.  Baptism is a celebration of what Jesus has done for you.

Well then, I don’t feel like I need to be baptized – I don’t think it will do anything for me and I’m kind of shy – and I’d simply remind you that baptism isn’t about you and it’s not for you.  It’s for your friends and family and church – it’s a declaration that I’m willing to obey my Lord and Savior – and one of the first things He asks us to do is to be baptized.

It’s difficult to reconcile an attitude that says – I am a follower of Jesus I’ll do anything he asks.  Jesus says – get baptized.  And we say – ehh.  I’ll pass.  Nothing that Jesus asks us will be much easier than being dunked in a tub of water.  It’s too easy Jesus – send me something hard to obey!

So if you are interested – or convicted – let us know and we’ll be in touch with you about being baptized on September 15th.

Let’s move on…

This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

Our faith – is a free gift from God through the work of Jesus our God and savior.  We don’t earn justification.  We don’t deserve to have been given faith in Jesus.  It’s a gift we simply receive – and then – upon receiving this gift – we nurture it.

2 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

Now – here’s another theological word for you.  Justification is that moment when we say – yes Jesus, I’ll follow you.  It’s a moment – a decision – or at least it’s a realization that you have become a follower of Jesus.  You’ve fallen for him.  He has you.  And you are glad you have him.

But what happens after we cross the line of faith?  We grow.  We grow in our faith and God begins the work of transforming us from the inside out – into different kinds of human beings.

Now the theological word for crossing the line of faith is justification.  The theological word for growth is – sanctification.  It is the process of God changing us from the inside out.

And justification can feel sudden – the day comes you decide to believe in Him.  It is often punctiliar.  But sanctification – is slow going.  It’s slow.  Growth is slow.

Growth occurs slowly.  Every year I’m surprised by how the corn gets so tall without me noticing it.  Corns coming up.  And then – hey that corn is 7 feet tall.  I didn’t notice.

One time I heard this farmer tell me – if you are real quiet there are some nights you can hear the corn grow- which is like the most farmer thing to say to someone ever.  I’m calling baloney on it.  But even if you can hear it grow – the farmer knows growth is not guaranteed.  Corn requires water, sunlight, attention must be paid to the health of the corn – watching for weeds, bugs – in order to grow as it should – healthy and strong.

Growing in faith is a lot like growing a plant.  You might not be able to hear or notice the growth overnight – but if you tend to your faith – it will grow and one day you will be able to look back and see – wow – I’m not the same I’ve grown.

And here’s why I can say that with such confidence…

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.  

So what do we learn about Spiritual Growth from Peter?  1.  It’s within our reach.  It’s available to us all.  Growth is within reach.  You lack nothing to grow.  It’s all available.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to become a monk to grow in your faith.  You can do it.  It’s not beyond your reach.  You already have everything you need in order to live a godly life.

Why?  Because the Holy Spirit lives within you.  The third person of the trinity – God himself – lives within the souls – partnering with us to transform us into different kinds of people.

We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

What is the image that Peter is painting for us?  What are the results of growing in our faith?  Two things.  And every time the writers of the Bible talk about spiritual growth – we find these two components.

There’s always a taking off of our old selfish evil ways, and a putting on of godliness.  Out with the old – in with the new.

Peter puts it this way.  Escape the corruption of our evil human desires.

Peter tells us that as we grow –  we will see a lessening of the chokehold that our selfish human desires once held on us.  We will find the evil things that once captivated us – will become less and less appealing.  Now remember – it takes time and determination – and that can be frustrating.

Sometimes people place their faith in Jesus and they expect to be miraculously healed and delivered from temptation and sin.   we want to find ourselves no longer being tempted by pornography or alcohol, or anger or bitterness or materialism and selfishness.

And the truth is that sometimes people are miraculously healed from these things, but far and away the larger majority of people need to go through the process – and the process can be brutally difficult – but don’t give up!

You have what you need to overcome these things.  They might always be a temptation, but with God’s help they need not be a struggle.

These verses also teach us though the not only will the darkness begin to fade, but on a positive side – we will begin to see ourselves begin to share in Jesus’ nature.  What does that mean?  It means, that we will begin to live like he lived.  Naturally and easily, we will love others.  We will become more compassionate and caring.

This is the promise of spiritual growth.  What else do we learn about spiritual growth from Peter?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.

Spiritual growth is participatory.  It requires                                          .

Now I’m going to use a word here that I know is not a real word.  It’s not in the dictionary.  And I’m going to put it up there and someone is going to be bothered – and they might think, “Merriam Webster would not approve.”  And all I can say is that Merriam must have never gone camping.  Because anyone who has ever been camping knows that camping requires efforting.

I mean – the amount of effort that one puts in before the camping trip is significant.  But then you get there and you have to set up the tent.  Find firewood – start a fire.  Set up the cooking stuff.  The chairs.  The bug repellants.  The lanterns.  You gotta move the picnic tables – cooking stations, cleaning areas.  Clotheslines.  And every day you spend most of the day either getting ready to cook something, or cleaning up something you cooked.

And it’s worth it.  All that efforting is worth it.  Camping requires efforting.  Camping and spiritual growth both require efforting.

You cannot grow in your faith without effort.  God is never opposed to effort.  Now he is opposed to earning.  You don’t earn your salvation it’s a free gift.  Justification – is never earned.  But sanctification – becoming more like Jesus?  2.  It requires effort. Spiritual growth will not happen without your intelligent and intentional participation.

Take a moment to do a little honest self-assessment.  How much are you efforting to grow in your spiritual life?  What can you point to in your life that you would say is an effort to nourish your faith in Jesus?

In the bulletin today we put a little sheet and I’ll put them up here on the screen as well – and I’ll walk through them – and perhaps the Holy Spirit will make one or two of these pop for you.  Where you say – I can do that!  That would be good for me!

And these are just suggestions – there are many other spiritual exercises that have been cherished throughout church history – but here are a few we thought might be helpful to you if you are ready to take a step in your journey towards growth.

I will not read all of them now, but let me highlight a couple.

Read through the book of Luke before the month is over.  Luke is a good one – watch for all the times Luke includes stories of poor people and women.  Two groups of people often overlooked in Jesus day.  But you can do that.

Here’s a family growth plan if you don’t pray out loud and are nervous about it?  At our home we sit at an actual table to eat meals together as much as possible.  Our lives are crazy like yours and sometimes it doesn’t happen – but as often as possible turn off the tv sit together – we hold hands and pray a short prayer of thanks.

Research an answer to a nagging doubt.  Gotquestions.org is a wonderful resource for questions about the faith or the bible.  And I’ve found it to be reliable.

Challenge yourself to memorize a larger portion of scripture.  Scripture memory is a powerful transformational tool.  And the larger the passage the greater the challenge the more time your soul meditates and thinks about what it’s memorizing.

Check out videos at theBibleproject.org.  If you go there today and go to the videos on the NT and watch what they’ve put together about the book of Luke?  And then you read Luke?  You will understand far more about what you are reading, I promise.

Spiritual growth is participatory.  It requires some efforting on our part.  Now – don’t try all of these at once – you will probably end up discouraged.  But spiritual growth is participatory – it requires efforting – and ultimately, it’s worth it.

Notice where it leads…

Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

These kinds of lists show up from time to time in the bible – and it’s kind of like a road map – And so it would be as if I said, we went from Gretna to York, and from York to Kearney, and from Kearney to Ogallala, and from Ogallala to Denver.  The point is that we went from Gretna to Denver.

And the point of Spiritual Growth?  Where does it lead?  Peter wants us to know it’s worth the effort because of where it leads.   3.  It’s worth it because it leads us to love!  It leads to becoming the kind of people who naturally and easily love others.  It leads to a life where loves just flows.

As we grow – you will be transformed into a more loving person.  And you might think – one person who is loving – that person can’t change the world.  But one person who is transformed by love into a loving person – can change your world.

Have you ever felt hate like we feel it in our world today?  Has social media made us more loving?  Has time?  These things seem to – if not foster, they at least create a conduit where rage, anger, hate get plenty of attention.

In the name of love – for the sake of our broken world – let’s become different kinds of human beings together.  Let’s embrace spiritual growth.

What are you going to do?  What challenge are you going to take on?  Don’t do nothing.  Don’t do nothing.

Feed and nourish your faith.  All of us have a next step in our journey and we have what it takes to take it.  It will require effort, and it’s totally worth it.