This is the Bible study that I shared with the church last Tuesday (so published here a few days late). The text underneath the video is the notes that I shared with the church and includes some suggestions for prayer at the bottom (mainly from a UK perspective).
How do we know that we are saved? This is one of the questions that can trouble true believers. It can affect some more than others depending on our temperament, but it is a vital question. If we are not saved but we think we are, then we need have our false hope removed so that we truly repent. If we are saved and we think we’re not, then we will live discouraged lives and need to find assurance.
Having laid the foundation of what the Lord has done for us and in us, Peter now turns his attention to our response. Our response to what God has done can determine the level of our assurance.
The scriptures tell us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). So, if we have called on the name of the Lord, we are saved. We can look back to that time when we called on Him, we can remind ourselves that we still believe on the Lord Jesus now.
We also have the witness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15-16). The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
But another vital aspect of our assurance is the evidence of change and growth in our lives. It is not the only means of assurance, but it is part of it and is something that we should seek after because, if we are sure that we are saved, we will be more fruitful and contented in the Lord.
1) The foundation of growth (v3-4)
We must not go to v5 without reminding ourselves of:
- His sufficiency and His divine power that He has given to us (v3).
- Our growth flows out of our knowledge of Him (v3).
- His precious promises, not only to save us but to change us (v4).
- Our new nature in Christ (v4).
- We don’t belong to the world anymore; we have escaped (v4).
These things remind us that the power for growth comes from Him. They also stir us up for our response – this work of God is so amazing, it demands a response. I am no longer a part of this world, and so I seek to live as someone who is cleansed from my former sins (v9).
We are not saved to stay the same. We have life. Life means growth.
2) The choice of growth (v5)
Make every effort (the word means to apply yourself, to be diligent). So we are not to be passive and to drift. However, this is not human performance; we are not saved by works.
We make every effort, and make godly choices, in response to what He has done, and in full confidence that He supplies all grace for us to grow. We do it but we look to Him in faith. And as we grow we will look back and see that it has been through His power that we have grown.
3) What growth looks like (v5-7)
This list starts with faith because faith in Christ leads to fruit. This is not faith plus works but faith that works. Faith keeps hold of Christ. Faith sees how awesome He is. Faith sees what He has done and responds with action. Faith is the means that clings to Jesus and through which He works in us.
The things listed in v5-7 are not steps, that we arrive at one and move onto the other. Rather they grow together. Briefly then:
- v5: virtue (NIV: goodness) – this is excellence or moral goodness. We are to reflect Christ who has saved us.
- Knowledge – of truth, of God. Through scripture. Faith fuels true knowledge and knowledge fuels faith. Knowledge of Christ empowers Christlikeness. So immerse ourselves in the word.
- v6: Self-control. Control of the will under the operation of the Holy Spirit. Defeating sin. Being free from bondage (2 Peter 2:19). Bringing who we are under God’s authority.
- Steadfastness – perseverance. Patient enduring under pressure.
- Godliness – Godward lives. Living in His presence.
- v7: Brotherly kindness – in the church.
- Love – to all.
4) The impact of growth (v8)
Fruitfulness. Do we want to be fruitful? Then let’s apply ourselves to these things. It is great to desire to have an impact for Christ, to be a soul winner, to be successful in different things, but our energy needs to be directed rightly – it is growth in the things of v5-7 that will enable us to be effective Christians.
5) The danger to growth – forgetfulness (v9)
If we forget what He has done, we will be more vulnerable to drift. We will end up looking like the world around us and living as if the things of this world are more important than the things of God. This brings discouragement and exposes us to the accusations of the enemy.
So we need to keep our spiritual eyesight sharp. We do that through the word of God and by meditating on what He has done. It stirs the fire in our souls and causes thankfulness to rise and so passion to glorify Him.
6) The blessings of growth (v10-11)
Assurance now. So, not forgetting (keeping our spiritual eyesight sharp) keeps us from the accusations of the enemy and stirs us to grow and so we see the evidence of the life of God in us. We see that are recipients of His divine power that has given us all that we need for life and godliness. We see signs that we have become partakers of the divine nature, that we are different from the world. And that encourages us.
From this there follows great anticipation of that which is to come (v11) because we are living in the good of it now. We are living for our Saviour now and so we long for the fullness of His presence then.
7) The importance of growth (v12-15)
It is so important that Peter is spending his final letter talking about it. His last words to them are not platitudes, but urgent calls to grow in faith and godliness. If it is important to the apostle Peter, it must be important to us.
8) The means of growth (v12-15)
We will look at this more next time, when we look at the word of God from verse 16, but we cannot ignore an idea that is repeated in these verses – remembering (v12: remind; v13: reminder; v15: recall).
He is calling them to remember the apostolic teaching. The antidote to forgetting and drifting through life is the word of God. It inflames us because we see what God has done for us in Christ, we see the cross and His great saving love. It exposes our behaviour. It inspires us with examples of godliness and encourages us to keep going with honesty about the battle. It shows us the resources we have and who God is.
So let’s be a people of the word of God.
It is important that we recognise that these are fruit and fruit takes time to grow. None of us, least of all me, has this sorted. We show signs of godliness and self-control and love, but often without consistency. We fall short, all of us. This is not a call to perfection, but a stirring up to press on and to desire that growth. If that desire for growth is there, you can take great encouragement from that and continue to press on.
It is only if there is no desire for growth and no evidence of change that you need to seek the Lord to save you. The desire for growth will be there if you are a Christian. It may decline during discouragement and pressure and if you are giving into a particular sin again and again, but it will be there even if it is a smouldering wick.
So let’s seek these things. Godliness is not boring, it is blessing.
And, in fact, other than growing in knowledge, this is about godly choices, not about adding more things to our busy schedule. So, can I encourage you to commit yourself to growth and to bringing Him glory? Let’s reflect who we are as we walk along the narrow way to that glorious entrance into His eternal kingdom.
Pointers for prayer
Give thanks that He wants us to be sure of our salvation. If you are doubting your salvation, bring your doubts to the Lord in prayer.
Pray for your own growth in grace. Pray that the glories of what He has done would be a means of motivating you.
Let’s also pray for each other. Pray that we would all grow in grace. Think of some of your brothers and sisters in Christ and pray for them by name.
Pray for the USA. Pray for peace amid the claims and counterclaims for the presidential election. Pray for a peace that would enable the gospel to go forth. America (and the UK) needs Jesus.
Give thanks for the positive news about a possible vaccine. Pray that it would be safe and would be widely administered. Pray for generosity in the West, that the vaccine would be distributed fairly around the world.
Pray for patience and peace for England as the lockdown continues. Pray that there would be compliance with the new rules and that cases would stop spreading. Pray for wisdom for the government.
Let’s ask the Lord to use the current lockdown to spread the Word of God via the internet. Pray that our own online messages would be seen by many people and would be a means of salvation.