Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Result of Growing

by Wayne Jackson

The inspired apostle declares: “For if these things be in you and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8). He speaks of the “Christian graces” cataloged in the previous passages. Peter further announces that if such traits are incorporated into one’s life, he will not stumble; moreover, he will be granted an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom (1:10-11). The following observations will thus focus upon four results of Christian growth.

First, the Christian life can never be one of idleness. From Eden onward productivity has been an identifying mark of those who please God. Adam, even prior to his sin, was to keep the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15). The Old Testament is filled with warnings against idleness. The book of Proverbs chastises the sluggard (6:6) and him who is of “slack hand” (10:4). Idleness is not natural; it is learned (1 Tim. 5:13), and in the early church such inactivity was to be disciplined (2 Thess. 3:6ff). Christianity is a vocation of sweet labor. The Lord admonishes: “Go work today in the vineyard” (Matt. 21:28). We were created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God prepared aforetime that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). James admonishes that faith, divorced from works, is profitless, dead, demonic, barren, and imperfect (James 2:14ff). The child of God can truly be happy only when he is vigorously employed in faithful service to his King.

Second, fruitfulness is an effect of Christian growth. There is a two-fold thrust to this aspect of maturity. As one commences to pursue the upward way, he is, of course, walking in the light of the Spirit’s instruction as such is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. “Walk by the Spirit…” was Paul’s admonition in Galatians 5:14. He then subsequently observed that “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control…” (5:22-23), and that against such there is no law. The growing child of God will surely develop these marvelous traits as he is transformed by the power of Christ.

Moreover, as one is refreshed by the joys of salvation, he becomes keenly aware of the fact that he is under a divine debt to see that others know of the gospel (Rom. 1:14). It is not surprising, therefore, that fruitfulness is biblically connected with winning souls. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; And he that is wise winneth souls” (Prov. 11:30). The principle is clear: a good tree will bring forth good fruit (Matt. 7:17). In the narrative of the vine and the branches, the Lord affirmed that those in union with Him would bear “much fruit,” and he further warned that barren branches would be severed and destroyed (John 15:1-6). Indeed, one of the crucial reasons we are joined to the Lord is that we might bring forth fruit unto God (Rom. 7:4).

Third, spiritual growth will prevent stumbling (2 Pet. 1:10). Calvinism asserts that since the Bible teaches that God is able to keep His child from stumbling (Jude 24), if that child were to fall, it would reflect upon the Almighty’s ability. That notion reflects a woeful misunderstanding of Jude 24 and related passages. Certainly the Lord is able to prevent our stumbling by means of the strength inherent within His powerful word! But it is only when we, by individual initiative and the application of God’s truth, add the divine graces of 2 Peter 1:5ff that we are assured of not stumbling. When one fails to develop these qualities he is “blind” (2 Pet. 1:9) and is bound to stumble. But walking within the light of the Holy Scriptures will surely prevent such stumbling. Notice how Jude stresses individual responsibility in this connection. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (20-21).

Finally, the faithful servant of the Lord will be granted an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of Christ. The term “kingdom” is used in several senses in the Bible. For instance, the reign of God among the Hebrews was called a “kingdom” (Matt. 21:43), which would be taken from them and given to a more productive nation (i.e., the church—1 Pet. 2:9). Then again, the Lord’s church, as to its governmental form, is a kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19; Luke 22:29; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:5, 9). In addition, the final state of the faithful is biblically termed a kingdom. Near the end of his final epistle Paul declares: “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom…” (2 Tim. 4:18). And, of course, in the passage at hand (2 Pet. 1:11) saints are promised an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom.
It is interesting here that the term abundant” [plousios] is related to the word “riches” [ploutos] in the Greek New Testament. The loyal saint will be afforded a rich entrance into the final phase of God’s kingdom [i.e., heaven itself]. We are cautioned, though, that this glorious kingdom will be entered only through “many tribulations” (Acts 14:22).

Yes, there are tremendous rewards in store for those who continue to mature and remain steadfast in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us each resolve to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the Master’s work (cf., 1 Cor. 15:58). Such labor will not be in vain!

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