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Sunday, May 8, 2016 am

 

Going on to Perfection (4)
REACHING PERFECTION

 

In this series of lessons, we are examining our need to go on to perfection.  We have addressed why we need to go on to perfection, some spiritual indicators to help us determine where we are in relation to where we ought to be, and the mindset of a Christian (we have to make up our minds that we are going to mature).   In this lesson we want to notice some things that will help us reach perfection.

 I.                     Put away things that hinder

a.       We are in the race for our lives! 1 Cor. 9:24-27 reminds us of this!  It is not a sprint, but an endurance race.  We need to enter and stay on course. Let us strive to run it with efficiency.

b.       In Hebrews 12:1-2.  The writer speaks of running a race.  To run effectively we have to cast off anything that slows us down.  In the Olympics, extensive studies have been done with clothing to find what gets the best results in a competition.  Similarly, as we strive to reach perfection the first thing we have to do is get rid of whatever is in our way.

Typically, athletes as they prepare might use weights or resistance to build up stamina, but when it comes time for the race, they cast all that off to run unhindered. 

c.        Lay aside the “sin which so easily snares us” – take steps to remove sin from our lives.  Sin is a burden and will hinder our path to perfection.  IF Satan can trap you in sin he has you until you escape.  Do not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11)

d.       Lay aside the “weights” – that would be anything that slows us down.  Sin is not the only thing that can hinder us.  There may be things not wrong within themselves, but if we let them stand in our way of serving God they can become sinful, or at best impede our spiritual growth.  Examples of such “weights” might include worrying and doubts which affect our thought process, working extra hours or spend excessive time with recreation and family activities (we fill our lives so much that time for God is crowded out), or just letting the cares of this world distract us and choke out the word.

 II.                   Put on the new man

a.       You must replace that which you have put away with something.  Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus tells the parable of a wandering unclean spirit cast out.  He comes back and finds “the house” empty and clean.  He then brings even more wicked friends and they inhabit the host and the latter end is worse than the beginning.   WE can relate to this in life – whether it be kicking some bad habit or overcoming sin.  If we don’t replace the time and resources spent in that activity with something good, there is a likelihood of it returning and usually, “the latter end is worse than the beginning” (see 2 Peter 2:20-22).

b.       We are to not only to put to the death the old man, but also to put on the new man.  Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to put off, concerning our former conduct, the old man and his deceitful lusts, BUT we must also put on the new man created according to God!
Romans 6:3-6 relates this to our baptism.  The context (vs. 1-2) is interesting.

 III.                 2 Peter 1:5-11 –

a.       This passage is a great reminder of what is involved in reaching perfection. 
Vs. 3-4 speak of God, through His divine power, has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…”   In vs. 4, he speaks of our exceedingly great and precious promises though which we “may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”   

b.       “But also for this very reason” – based upon this, Peter gives us a pattern with which to reach toward perfection. 

c.        Giving all diligence – we have to work at it!   Diligence means to act with eagerness and fervent effort!  This is constantly emphasized in scripture.
2 Timothy 2:15, (KJV uses “study”, all other versions make reference to our diligence or doing our best), to present ourselves approved unto God.
Romans 12:11 calls for us to fervent in spirit serving the Lord, “not lagging in diligence.”
We have to have to put our hearts into this!  That is what the mindset of a Christian is all about!

d.       Add – a word that means to provide or furnish more to something that is already there. 
Beginning with faith, Peter describes a process with which we add qualities to it, resulting in the perfect man we are striving to be.   There have been many different illustrations of how these qualities interact with each other.  Some have described it as an orchestra, while others see it as an ever expanding circle.  Still others see it as a stair-step with faith being the bottom step and love the top step.  Each of them in a way helps us understand how they are related.   Currently, I am leaning toward the “stair-step” description.

e.       The qualities - 

                                                   i.      Faith – described in Hebrews 11:1 as the substance (assurance - NASU) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction – NASU) of things not seen.   Faith is a word that means we believe in and trust God.  It is NOT merely believing IN God! 
Faith is at the foundation of our “faith.” (cf. Romans 1:16-17)   We obeyed the gospel because we believed.  But genuine faith is much deeper than that.  It is a conviction in God that says no matter what, I will trust Him.  That is easy to say, but not so easy to do, especially when we face trying circumstances.  

                                                 ii.      Virtue -  a word defined as “excellence” or “moral excellence” (NASU).  BDAG describes the word as uncommon character worthy of praise. 
The word is only found 5 times in the NT.  3 times in this context (vs. 3 & 5) and in Philippians 4:8 where it is a quality of the times of things we are to meditate upon, and in 1 Peter 2:9 where it is descriptive of the praises of Him who call us out of darkness that we are to proclaim to others.
When I see this word, I think of INTEGRITY!  That which defines your character in such a way that you will NEVER compromise your convictions!   Some have described this as the person you are even when no one is watching. 
Notice that this comes right above faith and before all other qualities.  You need integrity, even as you LEARN what you ought to do and be.  It will help you HONESTLY interpret scripture.  

                                                iii.      Knowledge – simply stated is what we learn.  The actual Greek word means that which we learn or understand.    In this case, it is an understanding of the word of God!
Ephesians 4:12-13, we are built up in the body of Christ so that we can come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man &  to  the fullness of Christ.
Peter will conclude this letter by saying, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) 
With integrity we need to seek to learn more and more of His will for us.  This knowledge is crucial to our maturity! 

                                                iv.      Self-control – a quality that is desperately needed in our society.   It means that we rule our minds and our conduct, rather than letting them rule us.   We realize and exercise control of ourselves.  It consists of restraining ourselves from doing what we should not do (self-control) and doing what we need to do, even when difficult or unpleasant (self-discipline).  It is a fruit (or product) of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  
In my studies, I am convinced that EVERY sin we commit has to do with our self-control or lack thereof.  If we are to mature, we have to bring everything into subjection to Him – 1 Cor. 9:27 – Paul disciplined his body and brought it into subjection; 2 Corinthians 10:5 speaks of using our weapons to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.   That is self-control.
As we learn the truth, we must put it into practice.  That requires self-control!  As we mature, we seek to master this quality.

                                                  v.      Patience – or perseverance is next in our list.  It means that we have steadfast endurance, even in the face of difficulties and setbacks.   Romans 2:7 speaks of how eternal life awaits those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality.”
It is the continued pressing toward the goal rather than giving up (Philippians 3:12-14).
In our pursuit of perfection (maturity), we are going to encounter obstacles and difficulties, frustrations and setbacks.  We CAN’T give up!   Luke 21:16 Jesus taught, “By your patience possess your souls.”

                                                vi.      Godliness – or God-likeness is next in our list.   The idea is that we are implementing a lifestyle that is respectful to God and seeking to imitate Him.  It also involves being devoted to Him.  This includes our reverence toward Him, not merely in word, but also in deed.  Consider Hebrews 12:28 which speaks of our serving God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
Paul told Timothy, to reject old wives’ fables (striving about words, etc.) and to exercise himself toward godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
As we expand the previous qualities we are now becoming more like what we ought to be, because He is the influence in our lives.

                                              vii.      Brotherly kindness – or “brotherly love” is the quality of caring for others.  It is descriptive of a natural affection toward others.   In Romans 12:10 we are called to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love. 
Hebrews 13:1 calls for us to let brotherly love continue.  
We have emphasized our need to care about others.  I contend that if we are developing as we ought to spiritually, that concern for others will come naturally.  And it will dictate the way we conduct ourselves around others, particularly our brethren.  

                                             viii.      Love – our final quality in this list.  This is the Greek word, γάπη, (agapē) a word that I define as “caring enough to sacrifice for what is best.”  BDAG defines that word as the quality of warm regard for and interest in others.   Simply stated, we need to care!   And we care for everyone.  Matthew 22:37-39, we love God and our neighbor as yourself.  Both times the word for love is this “agape”.   It is the pinnacle of our growth.  It is best demonstrated by the love of God (John 3:16) and Jesus (John 15:13) as they loved us. 
We will not truly understand this love until we have matured with all the other qualities leading up to this love. 

f.        The result IF these things are yours (2 Peter 1:8-11)

                                                   i.      Notice the results of perfecting these qualities in our lives.

                                                 ii.      You will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, you will be productive and producing fruit (which is the goal of maturity).
This includes your understanding of His word.   The word of God is remarkable in that the more we learn and apply His word, the greater our understanding of it becomes!

                                                iii.      To lack these things is to be short-sighted even to blindness and to forget your former life – as we mature in the faith, our forgiveness is going to be even more precious to us.

                                                iv.      If you do these things, you will never stumble.   The KJV says you will never fall.  The actual word means to misstep and thus trip up.  And the idea is to make a mistake.  I am convinced that IF we perfect each of these qualities, we can reach a point where we will not sin at all.  But one might say, we all do continue to sin.  And that is TRUE!  But why?  Because we have NOT perfected each of these qualities.  There is always more work to do and thus we continue to struggle.  BUT, we must STRIVE for this perfection in our lives!

                                                  v.      For so an entrance will be supplied into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the ultimate reward of our faithfulness is our home in heaven.  And is than not what it is all about?  Romans 2:7 speaks of the eternal life that awaits those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality.  

 

And thus we can see some qualities that will help us reach perfection.   In this life, we will probably never reach that state, but we must continually be moving in that direction.  And if we find that we have stumbled, we need to repent, get up and keep pressing on toward the prize.   How are you doing with these qualities?