David Jeremiah - The Blessing
God has given you everything you need so that he can bless you in every imaginable way. "For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble, for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".
Blessing number one, godly maturity. The first blessing is the surge of godly maturity that accompanies your developing these virtues. After Peter listed his eight great qualities for us to study and learn, he says this, "For if these things are yours and abound". Peter wanted the early Christians to do more than just have faith, he wanted them to devote themselves to growing deeper and wider and richer in their faith. And some of Peter's final recorded words were that if we will do this, "we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ", 2 Peter 3:18.
When we see that we're growing, it is such an encouraging thing to us and such an ensuring thing to us. And when the devil comes along and he wants to say, "Well", you can say, "Now, wait a minute. This is where I was last year, this is where I am now. I didn't get there by myself. Almighty God's at work in my life", amen?
Here's the second blessing. In 2 Peter 1:8, we read, "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive". Peter put that in the negative, I've restated it in the positive. In essence, he is saying, "If you possess these eight qualities and you are growing in them, you'll be increasingly effective and productive in whatever you do for Jesus Christ". That's what Peter promises. The New Living Translation of 2 Peter 1:8 puts this principle in plain and simple language. "The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be".
Once you start this pattern of asking God to help you grow in your knowledge of who he is through the Scripture and the principles we've been studying, once you determine that these things are going to be important in your life, once you start to grow, get ready because God is going to put you to work in ever more effective ways and more exciting places.
Here's blessing number three, greater clarity. The third blessing comes with the development of these virtues in verse 9. He says, "For he who lacks these things", so if you don't do these things, Peter says you will be shortsighted, even to blindness. Shortsighted people have trouble figuring out how to live. They don't know what to say, they don't know how to act, what values they should have, and what opinions they should express. I've fallen in love with the word "clarity". I love that word. It means seeing things as they are, not like you wish they were. It means seeing things by faith and understanding that God is working all things for his good.
And the Bible has a lot to say about that that you may not remember. The psalmist said, "Lord, open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from your law. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in your way". Again, "This was the Lord's doing, it is marvelous in our eyes". Here's what I think Peter means when he says that if we don't develop these qualities in our life, we end up being shortsighted. We lost interest in anything beyond what affects us in the here and now. As you grow in the grace of Jesus Christ, men and women, your vision becomes increasingly more clear. You see his blessings more quickly. You learn to focus your vision on the things you didn't see before, for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
So, blessing number three is greater clarity, being able to see things better when you're adding these things to your life. God gives you a greater perspective on how life works. Here's number four, a grateful memory. Once again, here is a positive principle from some negative terms. 2 Peter 1:9 says this, "He who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness".
Now, listen to this phrase, "And has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins". Peter makes this astounding statement that if we don't give ourselves to growth and development as Christians, we run the risk of coming to the place where we don't even remember that we have become Christians. Our salvation becomes almost not important to us anymore. Peter is warning us against a complacent, satisfied faith. Instead, he wants us to keep the joy and thrill of our salvation fresh in our memory.
When you are constantly seeking to grow in Christlike character, you will never lose the delight of what's happened to you as a Christian. Don't ever, ever forget what he's done for you. The more you meditate on God's blessing to make you a Christian, the more you will want to be the most effective Christian you can be.
Here's number five, genuine stability. "Therefore, brethren", 2 Peter 1:10, "be even more diligent to make your call and election sure". To make it certain, set your minds on endorsing by your conduct the fact that God has called and chosen you. Peter says this. When you are constantly growing, that gives you the confidence that you truly are a Christian. It underlines the assurance of your faith. Your daily growth, your regular growth, your discipline, your discipleship, it makes your call and your election sure.
Let's go to my favorite one of all, which is number six, guaranteed security. "For if you do these things, you will never stumble". Oh God, I don't want to stumble. I see people stumbling all over the place, it's pretty ugly, isn't it? You don't want to be a stumbler. That doesn't mean you won't ever not sin again, that's crazy. We all sin, but the stumble is to fall off everything that you believed in, do something that's totally in opposition to what you claim, and lose your influence for God and lose your testimony. Peter doesn't mean you'll never make a mistake or commit a sin, it means your progress in the faith will serve as reassurance of your salvation.
As you're moving forward and these things are being added to your life, you won't be going to the pastor every other week, saying, "How can I be sure that I'm saved"? Because the very essence of your growth in Christ will be the absolutely proof that you are a believer.
Over these last few years, I've been asking God to help me develop friendships with some younger guys who preach the gospel. And he has, he's given me some good friends. One guy quoted in a message, his name is Levi Lusko, and he's a pastor up in Montana, a great teacher, and has a story that I don't have time to go into, but I mentioned his name one Sunday in my church service, and I didn't know that he was watching the streaming of it. And I said, "You need to read this book". He'd written a book and I read it and it was a great book, and I got home that day and I got an email said, "Hey, Dr. J, thanks for mentioning me in your sermon". I thought, "How did he know that? This is not a live television program". But I forget we're on the Internet and we're all over the world, and you can get us live anywhere you are. We had this great conversation and determined that we're going to get together one of these days. I really admire him.
But another pastor by the name of J.D. Greear has quite a story about his life. He said one Saturday morning when he was four or five, he approached his parents about heaven and they explained the gospel to him, and he asked Jesus to come into his life. And his parents and his pastor felt it was a sincere decision, and they wrote the date in his Bible, and he said, "I lived in peace about that for about ten years". But in the ninth grade, he heard his Sunday school teacher say that many who think they're saved will awaken on the judgment day and they will hear Jesus say he never knew them, "And I was terrified", said J.D. Greear. "Would I be one of those that were turned away"?
He asked Jesus to come into his heart again, this time with the resolve to be much more intentional about his faith. He was baptized again, but again new doubts arose. He prayed the sinner's prayer again and again. He said, "I walked a lot of aisles during those days. I think I have been saved at least once in every denomination". He said in all, he was baptized four times. "Honestly, it got pretty embarrassing. I became a staple at our church's baptism service. I got my own locker in the baptismal changing area". But here's the point he makes. He says he began growing in Christ and in the traits of godliness. His doubts and his fears began to go away. They began to melt into faith and confidence. His growing maturity and stability led to growing confidence and security. And today, he'll be glad to tell you how he knows without a doubt that he's going to heaven.
Listen, if you truly repent of your sins and you trusted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your salvation, the Bible says you're saved. The very growth you experience in Christ will provide reassurance that you're born again. And as you grow in the eight qualities Peter describes, you won't stumble into doubting your salvation because you'll be drawing from the divine power and you'll be standing on his precious promises. His very personality will surge through you to create the qualities that will give you stability and security in your life.
There's not many places in the Bible where the word "never" is in a more important place than in this passage. If you do these things, you will never stumble. By the grace of God, we should all of us in this room today say to the Lord, "If that's what it takes, sign me up". So, here's the last one, glorious eternity. Here's what Peter says in verses 10 and 11. "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble, for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".
Peter isn't suggesting that we get into the Lord's kingdom by building character in our lives. We can't work our way to heaven on our own merit or by our own effort. Instead, Peter is saying that if we diligently add these spiritual qualities to our Christian lives, we'll be given a rich and abundant entrance into eternity.
One writer said, "Believers in Christ are secure whether they add Christian character or not. What is at stake here is not kingdom entrance, but abundant kingdom entrance. You can go to heaven and just go to heaven, or you can go to heaven victoriously because you've walked with God, you've built your life in character, you've been serious about your Christian faith, and you can walk in with your hands up high", amen?
Over 20 years ago, I was stricken with stage four lymphoma cancer. When I was first diagnosed, I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and there I underwent major surgery. I can tell you even today, these many years later, I still remember almost everything that happened during that time, and especially my initial moments when I returned to my home in San Diego. As soon as we arrived, I walked in, I had been cut open from stem to stern. And I wasn't all that feeling good, and so I found my way to my favorite recliner in our little living room. and within a few moments, Donna brought me a stack of letters and get well cards that had come while we were away. On top of the pile was a book that was given to me by the publisher.
Before I tell you about this book, I'm going to tell you what was going through my mind that day as I came home. I was asking God a lot of questions. I had gotten past the why question and I was concentrating on the what questions like, what am I supposed to learn from this frightening experience? Or what's going to happen in the future? Or what do you want me to do going forward? What does all of this mean? The book on the top of the pile of cards had this intriguing title, "The Life God Blesses". It was written by a man named Gordon MacDonald, a man I had met and greatly admired.
As I read that book, I couldn't help but think that the publisher didn't send me that book, God sent me that book. It was just the right message, and I was in just the right place to read it prayerfully and carefully. In the front of that book was a story I never have forgotten. The story involves an American yachtsman named Michael Plant, 41 years old, an experienced sailor with over 100.000 miles at sea. Plant started sailing when he was nine years old and he held the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation by an American.
On October 16, 1992, Michael Plant sailed out of New York Harbor bound for France. His 60-foot sailboat, the Coyote, was top of the line. Its design, its hull, its materials, its fabrication, its equipment, and its comfort were unparalleled. But something went terribly wrong. Within two weeks, Plant was missing and his radio frequencies were silent. Authorities began searching the vast north Atlantic. Airline pilots listened for emergency signals. Ships in the area kept a constant lookout. Plant's friends felt growing apprehension. Finally, the Coyote was spotted floating upside down 450 miles northwest of the Azores islands.
Plant's fellow sailors were mystified. You see, sailboats normally don't capsize because they're designed with a ballast beneath the waterline, a weight bolted to the bottom of the ship to keep it upright. They're built to take a pounding, and then like a child's punching balloon, they right themselves after every blow. The Coyote was designed with a ballast that weighed 8.400 pounds, but it was missing. What happened to it is a mystery to this day. Some sailors believe it was sheered off by debris in the sea or maybe even by a passing whale, but the boat's hull shows no signs of that kind of damage. Others think it was bolted on not strongly enough.
Most experts believe the ballast was damaged while Plant was preparing for his journey, when the boat became mired in mud and had to be dragged out. These experts think the ballast was weakened at that point, and then dislodged by the winds and storms and the currents. But whatever the reason, without the ballast to hold it steady through troubled waters, the boat capsized and Plant's body was never found.
The lesson is clear. The life of godliness is not built out in the open, it's nurtured trait by trait, gift by gift, just as Peter explains. There are storms ahead for all of us. If we ignore the quiet but essential traits outlined in these messages, we're headed for troubled waters without the ballast of God's gifts to stabilize us. The qualities you need to get through these storms and get to heaven triumphantly are available to you in abundance, and God has given you everything you need. The only question is, what are you doing with those precious qualities? How are you doing with adding these qualities to your life?
You see, as you add these qualities to your life, you're building the ballast underneath your life, the underwater part of who you are that nobody ever sees, but you know. And when the storm comes, if you've built that ballast to balance what's going on out here, you will get through the storm and you will stay upright. But if all you do is build what everybody sees and you don't work on the underlying stuff, you will get to the war and it will be over.
My wonderful friends, there needs to be more to you and me than meets the eye. Down below the waterline, deep in our hearts, we need to carry the ballast of God's power and his promise and his purposes. This is the gravity of his grace that keeps us steady in the storm. So, my prayer for all of us today is this, may God bless and keep us in his promises forever. "To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen", amen.