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2 Peter 1:5-12; 3:17-18
The Sunday school children say, “teacher, we’ve heard that Bible story 100’s of times before, do we have to hear it again? We know it inside and out, what could we learn from it that we don’t already know?”
The adults say, “why do we still follow the church year in worship. We know all about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We have been hearing it all our lives. Can’t we study something else from the Bible?”
The Apostle Peter, speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, answers: I intend always to keep reminding you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you now have.
The saying goes, “repetition is the mother of learning.” If something is important, like hearing your spouse, or your parent, or your child say, “I love you,” we don’t mind hearing it a million times a day. That’s the way it should be with God’s word. In his word, especially the words that tell us about Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us, God is saying, “I love you.” And there is a very important reason we can never hear that enough- The reason is that we sin every day. Every day our conscience reminds us that God should not love us, that we don’t deserve his love. Every day we feel the burden of guilt. Every day we get the sinking feeling that we deserve to have God send us to Hell for all eternity. So, every day we need to hear, over and over and over again, how God showed his love for us in Jesus. We need to hear every day, over and over again, that our guilt has been removed and our sins have been forgiven because of Jesus. In Jesus, God loves us no matter what. There is nothing that can separate us from his love for us in Jesus.
The hymn says, “I love to tell the story for those who know it best are hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” If you think it’s old and boring it might be that you don’t truly understand how sinful you still are and how much you need Jesus.
Our need to be reminded of God’s love for us is the most important reason that we need to hear the facts about who Jesus is and what he has done over and over again. But there are other important reasons that Peter mentions. He uses three words to describe what that reason is. They are: add, increase and grow.
For over 65 years I have heard about the angels and the shepherds on Christmas Eve. It was only this year that I noticed something I had not thought about before. The angel never told the shepherds they should go to Bethlehem. He didn’t have to. When he told them that the Messiah, their Savior, had been born they wanted to go. I’m sure you can think of some examples of portions of Scripture you have heard and read maybe hundreds of times, but each time you hear or read it your heart rejoices and maybe you notice something encouraging or comforting about the verse that you had not noticed before. There is always more to learn. There is always room for growth.
With the exception of babies and middle schoolers, growth doesn’t just happen – and even then, their physical growth wouldn’t happen without proper nutrition. If you want to grow, if you want to add to your knowledge about Jesus and increase your faith, Peter says, it doesn’t just happen. It takes every effort.
I heard a good example this week. You know how we say that we are going to try to do something – maybe it’s lose weight, manage God’s money better, read through the Bible this year- whatever it might be. But what you say you are going to try to do you rarely end up doing because you aren’t really committed. It’s more of a wish than a commitment. But if you set a specific goal, then you can plan what you have to do each day, each week, each month, to meet that goal. You aren’t just trying, you are in training. So, if it’s weight, just saying I want to try to lose some weight is only a wish. Saying I’m going to lose 10 pounds by June is a goal. Now you can make every effort to reach your goal and you can track your progress, or lack of progress. If it’s reading the Bible in 365 days, you can figure out how many chapters you will have to read to accomplish your goal and you can track your progress. You aren’t just trying, wishing, you are in a training program.
Peter lists some things that are good things to add to your faith. There is moral excellence. If you want to add moral excellence to your faith, it’s going to take some effort. You will have to set a goal of studying Scripture to learn what God says is moral and immoral. As you do you will learn that what God says is quite different than what most people around you say. You will have to examine your own thoughts and actions and confess the things that are getting in the way of adding moral excellence to your faith. You will need to be reminded of how Jesus lived a perfectly moral life in your place and then paid for your immoral thoughts and actions by his death on the cross. You will need to spend time in prayer asking for God’s help, and maybe you will need to find a fellow Christian who will hold you accountable.
If you think you have accomplished adding moral excellence to your faith, you aren’t finished. Peter’s list is fairly long and not exhaustive. It will continue to take every effort to add knowledge, and self-control, and patient endurance, and godliness, and brotherly affection and love. And Peter says, once you have added these qualities to your faith there still is work to do. We are not to look at these virtues as something we check off and say “done.” They are things that need to be increasing. In fact, Peter implies that if we aren’t continuing to make every effort to be in the word so that we are adding to, and increasing our faith, we will become ineffective, unfruitful, short sighted, and blind. As Jesus says, we become salt that has lost its savor.
Peter concludes his letter with “therefore.” Therefore, since you already know these things, be on your guard so that you do not fall from your own firm position. You need to be a perpetual learner. You need to hear the important truths of the gospel over and over again, as long as you live. You need the reminder that you still have a sinful nature, that there are still many false prophets out there, and if you think you already know it all— Paul said it well. If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall. Be on your guard at all times.
What helps you do that? Continuing to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To do so takes effort, more than just saying “I’m going to try to get to church more often. Or I’m going to try to read my Bible more often.” It means setting a goal and making a plan to reach that goal. The Holy Spirit is still the one who creates the growth, increases faith, and adds Christian virtues, but he himself says that he works through the word and sacrament. If we don’t make the effort to stay in contact with the word and sacrament how will the Spirit do his work?
Now, what does this have to do with missions or outreach? If we are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Savior, we are going to be excited and filled with a kind of peace the world would love to have but doesn’t have. People will ask us about our excitement and our peace, and because we are growing in grace and knowledge, we will be ready to give them an answer that points them to Jesus.
If people see that we have added to our faith moral excellence, knowledge, and self-control, and that we seem to practice patient endurance, and godliness, and brotherly affection and love in our dealings with others, like a moth to light, they won’t be able to keep from being drawn to us. They will ask us how we can be so loving, so patient, and so self-controlled in this messed up world. Then we will have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus and to invite them to hear the old, old story with us so that they too can be established in faith and join us in making every effort to add to and grow in faith all to the glory of God.