David Jeremiah - Mental Focus
As you read through 2 Peter, you just can't miss Peter's emphasis on knowledge. Peter begins and ends his book by striking this note: "We're to add to our faith virtue, and to our virtue knowledge," and here is what's so interesting about 2 Peter. Knowledge is everywhere. For instance, in the first chapter in the 2nd verse, Peter writes: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God". Three chapters later, in one of the verses I remember memorizing as a child growing up and it's one of the famous verses of 2 Peter, it goes like this.
2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". He begins his little letter with knowledge, he ends his little letter with knowledge. And between those two verses, he says the word "knowledge" 14 times and there's only three chapters in this book. So, knowledge is really critical to Peter. He knows that it's important that we know what we know, because we're living in a time when a lot of people in our churches are saying: "No, the way you grow, and the way you really have these wonderful experiences is". I've actually heard 'em say it. "Turn your mind off. Let your emotions take over. Live in the moment. Let the Spirit control".
And so, people have just come up with this idea that there's a premium for being ignorant. Why would that ever happen? Why would God ever tell us not to know more about him? So Peter says, "I want you to understand something. You need to know what you know that you know. You need to know some stuff". When Jesus was asked, "What is the greatest commandment"? And Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul," and he said, "and all your mind". Have you ever thought about how you love God with your mind? How you use your mind to know more about him and to study and to grow in what you know?
So, the Lord tells you to diligently add knowledge to your virtue. And then, that involves three steps, three decisions you have to make. Here's the first decision you make with regard to the Lord Jesus. Decision number one: "I will follow you". In the time when Peter wrote this, a student was noted by the fact that he had a mentor. He didn't have a classroom, he just followed that mentor everywhere he went. If you were a teacher, even like Socrates or some of the people in the early days, they were teachers but they didn't have classrooms. Their classroom was wherever they went and their disciples just followed after them like a little troop. The students learned by the interaction that they had and that's the way Jesus taught his disciples.
Jesus didn't ever have a classroom where he brought his disciples together and said, "Okay, this is gonna be New Testament Theology 103". No, he just taught them every day in all that he did, and that's what Peter is saying. If you want to be a learner of Jesus, you have to follow him. You cannot become a follower of Jesus unless you get in line behind him, unless you make the decision to put your trust in him. And you say, as the old chorus goes, "I have decided to follow Jesus". That's what it is, it's a decision. You say, "How do I become a Christian"? Make the decision that you wanna become a Christian. Make the decision in your heart.
So, I'm gonna ask you today, "Will you decide today to follow Jesus Christ? Will you make it your point, your decision today, to say, 'From this moment on, I am gonna follow Jesus Christ. I'm gonna be a follower of Jesus Christ. I'm gonna invite him into my life and ask him to take control of my life and forgive my sin.'" That's what it means to be a Christian. What does it mean to be a Christian? It means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We sometimes now call ourselves in this culture, we're Christ-followers. That's what it means to begin your journey into the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, when this happens, when you decide to follow Christ, there's a couple of things you need to do. First of all, you've got to move from the shoreline to where the Savior is. Peter left the shoreline of Galilee to follow the Savior. Jesus walked along the beach. Here's what he said. "He saw two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; and they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men.' And immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus".
They followed him all right. They followed him through the streets of Capernaum as he healed the sick and preached the kingdom. They followed him up the hillsides as he taught the multitudes and fed the crowds. They followed him into the fishing boats, tossed into the storms, into the homes packed with sinners. They followed him into the synagogues that were crammed with the curious listeners. They watched him turn water into wine, open the eyes of the blind, battle with and cast out demons. They followed him into the hot hills of Judea, into the angry streets of Jerusalem. They saw him raise the dead. They heard him say, "I am the Resurrection and the life". They listened to his sermons and then they asked questions and grew in their knowledge of his teachings.
If you read the New Testament you see that pattern. Jesus would preach, then he'd have a discussion with the disciples so he could make sure they understood what he was teaching. And sometimes, he would be discouraged because they didn't get it. He told lots of stories to help them understand what he was saying. Jesus was the ultimate storyteller, did you know that? He never had a sermon didn't have a story in it. And if we follow him, just as his disciples could interact with Jesus, we interact with Jesus through this precious book and we hear his sermons and we read the discussion and we learn and we become disciples, better disciples. We become better learners.
How many of you know now a disciple means you're a learner and you're a Christian and you were a disciple long before anybody heard the word, "Christian". Everyone in this room is a disciple. Here's the question we have to ask ourselves: What kind of learner am I? Am I learning anything? You know, I started out as a pastor and the Bible speaks of those who do what I do. The correct term for what I do is pastor-teacher. And when you become a pastor-teacher, you realize you have a lot of responsibilities but your number one responsibility is to be a teacher. To be a pastor and to be a teacher.
My greatest joy as a person is to teach the Word of God whether it's through radio or television or books or public speaking. My job is to teach the Word of God, and to help people get excited about the Scripture and learn what it says. Just think for a moment what it would have been like for Peter if when the Lord said to him, "Follow me," Peter said, "Nah, I think I'll stay here and take care of my fishing business". Think of what Andrew would have lost if he'd remained with his boats. Think what James and John would have been like if they had not left their nets to follow Christ. We'd never have heard about them; we wouldn't even know who they are. Our Bibles would be missing the Gospel of John; 1, 2, and 3 John; and the book of Revelation, along with all of the Petrine letters that we're studying right now.
So, I wanna ask you, think of what you're gonna miss if you don't become his disciple and become his learner. When you follow Jesus, he jumps you out of your comfort zone so fast it hurts going on the way out. You never again sit back and think, "What a boring, dull life this is". Everything about my life is full of joy and excitement for one reason: I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. And I try to follow him and he takes me some places I don't necessarily always wanna go, but when I get there, I find out what he's up to, and he uses me in ways I could not imagine.
So, if you're gonna be a disciple, you gotta move from the shoreline. If you're gonna be a disciple, you move from the shoreline to the Savior, and then, you move from head knowledge to heart knowledge. When you hear these words about knowing the Lord Jesus, it's not just about you know about him. Just about everybody in our culture knows who Jesus is and they know about him. And we celebrate Christmas. Most people have some idea that that's related to Jesus, or Easter. But knowing about somebody and knowing somebody is different. I mean, I know about a lot of people that I don't know. But when you know Jesus, you know him in that personal way. Jesus said, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men".
So, the first question is this. If you're gonna be a disciple, if you're gonna be a learner, if knowledge is gonna be a part of what you're adding to your faith, you have to make this decision: I will follow you. And you begin following Jesus. Here's the second one: I will study you. Knowledge means yearning and saying, "I will follow you," but when Peter speaks of knowledge here, he's also talking about learning. After Peter and Andrew and the others left their fishing boats to follow Christ, he had a lot to teach them. I mean, they didn't know anything. They were humble, at one time even referred to as "unlearned men".
So they were starting from zero. They were starting from scratch. They listened to his sermons like the Sermon on the Mount, or the parables of the kingdom and the Olivet Discourse, or the signs of the times, the Upper Room Discourse. They listened to all these sermons and they began to accumulate knowledge about who Jesus was. He preached in the synagogues and the arguments that he would wage in the temple, these disciples heard it and they would process that information and little by little they would add knowledge to knowledge and begin to grow. Unfortunately, most of them never really did comprehend the message of the Resurrection because we realize that they didn't understand that until after it happened, even though Jesus had talked about it incessantly through all of the days of his ministry.
So, when you become a disciple, when you become a learner, when you add to your faith, virtue; and to your virtue, knowledge, God teaches you through his book. He does this through the Scripture which is the voice of Jesus. And as you read and study the Bible, the Bible should cause you to burn inside because of the precious truth that it is. So, let me suggest to you a couple of ways that you can do this study. Number one, study the Bible as a textbook. Don't stop there, but start there. Realize that God's Word, the Bible, is his great textbook of truth.
And today, more than ever before in history, we are blessed with resources to help us do that. We have apps and all kinds of things and, you know, you've gotta do some homework and find out what you're getting into, but many of the Bible study tools that are available to us on the Internet today, we couldn't have possibly dreamed of when I started preaching many years ago. And now, God has allowed this technology to come. It's just amazing to me how much there is out there to help us take in the Scripture and learn what it means. It's just amazing what happens when you study the Lord. When you study the Lord, that means you're studying the book. Where does Jesus appear? The living Word is found in the written Word.
Listen to this, do you know what your relationship with Jesus Christ is today? It's about the same as what your relationship is with the Word of God. If you neglect the Word of God and you never open it, you never study it, that means you're like those disciples who followed afar off, you know? If you wanna know what your relationship with Christ is, ask yourself, "What's my relationship with this book"? Because your relationship with the living Word will always be close to relationship to the written Word. If you wanna know who Christ is, you gotta get in this book.
What works for me is to have tools for study in all the places where I'm regularly scheduled to be. I set aside a quiet time to study in each of those locations. When I travel on an airplane, I take a lot of my library with me and I have this duffel bag that weighs a ton and I have people help me get it up on the plane and, "What in the world is in there"? Well, there's a computer in there and there's probably three or four commentaries and a copy of the Scripture and, usually, a Thesaurus or a dictionary. I carry that with me everywhere I go. When I get in that plane, I shut the whole world out and get my books out. Open the table in front of me and I work on studying the Word of God. At the very least, you can do that.
Set aside some time every day, just maybe ten minutes to start with. I promise you, if you get serious about this, it will end up not being how little time can you spend but, "I gotta quit this and get to work," because the Word of God grows on you. And especially when you're going through difficult times.
As many of you know, I had cancer 20 years ago and when I went through cancer, I thought I loved the Word of God and needed the Word of God but when I went through cancer, boy, did I need it. And that's when I began to journal. I have to honestly tell you ladies, I always thought journaling was for women. Then I read a book by Gordon McDonald and he said in this book that he journaled in his computer. And I thought, "That's pretty manly. I'll do it in my computer".
So, I started to journal and I kept a journal through that whole time I was sick. Every day, I'd spend some time writing in my journal, and it usually was like a letter to the Lord. "Dear Lord, today this is what's happening. I just had chemo and I'm feeling bad," or whatever, and I'd just talk to the Lord like he was there, only I did it in my journal. And then I would go through the Scripture and, as I would open the Bible, I had a plan and I would just ask the Lord, "Help me to find the key verses in this plan that you want me to", and I'd take those verses and type them into my journal.
I look back and I realize what a rich time it was for me to know that God was with me during those days and that his book was so contemporary and so personal, I can honestly say, I never read the Scripture for any period of time during those days that God didn't give me something to hang my soul on, and that's what got me through it. It was the Word of God. Sometimes, God allows things to come into your life like that and those things become little goads in your life to get you to do stuff that you may not have been doing.
I don't wanna tell you that I keep a journal every day now. I do periodically, but I wanna tell you if you get into the Word of God and ask God to make it real to you, you will find things in there you never dreamed and they will come at you in ways that you cannot imagine. So, first of all, study the Bible as a textbook, and then, secondly, study the Bible as a survival guide. That's what it is. It's a survival guide. It's a book that will help you get through what it is you're going through. The Bible teaches us what to do when we're in the midst of a storm. And somebody once told me you're either in a storm or coming out of a storm, or you're about to go into a storm.
So, get ready to do what you need to do about storms, and the Bible is one of the best tools to help you know what to do. The Bible is the book that's filled with God's promises never to leave us no matter what happens. "When you go through the waters, I will be there. When you go through the fire, I will be there". Read the Bible, and when you're in the midst of a storm, it will come to help you. God has given you this book, 66 installments, Genesis to Revelation. Every word written by those who were borne along by the Holy Spirit.
And in chapter 3 Peter continues exhorting his readers to pour themselves into the Bible. Listen to what he says in this book. He says, "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds with this reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior". In other words, he tells us we're to desire the Word of God.
You say, "Well, I'll just wait until I get in trouble, then I'll be a student of the Word of God". Let me tell you what I've learned. You will take out of your storm primarily what you took in. And the only difference will be, you will now understand how it all works. So, what I'm saying to you is the storm's coming. There's gonna be a time when you're gonna need to hear from God. Just get ready. Fill up your memory bank with God's Word. Find out where these passages are. Don't have to memorize 'em but at least know where they are. Know if they're in the Old Testament or the New Testament. They're in a lot of special places. The book in the Bible with the most promises is Isaiah. Who would have thought?
So, all I'm saying to you is, you all are smart people. Use your smart people stuff to find out what the Bible has to say and get acquainted with it. After you say, "I will follow you," and "I will study you," don't forget to say, "I will obey you". The Bible says it this way: "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we'll have fellowship one with another". Do you know how you learn the Bible? Here it is. When God tells you to do something, do it, and when you're in the process of doing it, he'll tell you something else. But if you don't walk into the light, you will never get any more truth. You don't just become a student of the Scripture, you become a disciple who studies the Word of God, learns the truth, and then obediently walks in the truth.
Do what God tells you to do. When you do what God tells you to do, he'll tell you something else. But God isn't gonna just load you up for information so you can see how smart you are. He wants you to grow in your relationship with him and the process of that is the process we know as obedience. We're not to be just hearers of the Word of God, but what's the rest of it? Doers. When you become a doer, you grow as a disciple. So, when that happens, here's what will happen in your life. First of all, your values will start to change. The more you know about God in his Word, the more your life will be changed. Our desires change to reflect eternal priorities. Our behavior habits change. You cannot be in this book seriously without it changing your values.
So when you study the Word of God and you get into the Scriptures and you begin to grow in Christ, all of a sudden that's what the Bible means when it says: "When you become a Christian, old things pass away; behold, all things become new". And people come to me and say, "I just can't believe I don't wanna do that anymore, Pastor. That was so much a part of my life, and I just don't wanna do it anymore 'cause I know it's not pleasing to the Lord". So, be prepared to change your values. And be prepared to change your vision. That's another thing. When you become a Christian, it changes how you look at everything.
Tony Evans, who's a friend of mine, wrote this. He said, "When you become a Christian and you begin to read the Bible, it shapes how you look at everything and how you view everything. It's the grid through which you evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am totally consumed with the truth of this book and its author". And when the Word of God gets into your brain, it gives you a vision to change the world. It shows you how, one step at a time, to add knowledge to your virtue, and this is the essence of discipleship. I will follow you, I will study you, and I will obey you.
God sent down his written Word, the Bible, and his living Word, Jesus Christ, to provide you with everything you need. And that's what he says in 2 Peter. He says: "Through the great and precious promises of God, you have everything you need for life and godliness". Men and women, don't be like so many today who run hither and yon, from place to place, trying to find an answer to why your Christian life isn't working the way you think it should. Because the Bible's already given you everything you need. Find what he's given you in the Bible and start practicing it.
I can honestly tell you this. If you will take the Word of God and make it your purpose to lavishly pour yourself into it and learn what it says, and even when you get discouraged don't give up, keep working at it, and make the Bible come alive in your life, you will have everything you need for life and godliness.