2 Peter 1:3-8 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every day we make hundreds of choices. We choose to get up in the morning, or not. We choose to begin our day in a variety of ways. We choose to eat breakfast, or not. We choose to read the Bible and pray, or not. Within each one of these choices there are many other choices we might make. Many of our choices have spiritual consequences for good or for evil. How are you making out with your choices?
Peter tells us that we have a responsibility to make right choices. We are to make every effort to add goodness to our faith. We have the responsibility of adding knowledge to our goodness. And as we grow in knowledge we learn how to practice self-control and stability in our day-to-day life. Stability, or steadfastness, is a choice to be made on a daily basis. As we become more and more stable in our day-to-day life we will grow in godliness. Remember, godliness is “God likeness”. And the more we become like God in our day-to-day living the more we will be able to love one another and accept love from others. As we do these things, making right choices, we will become more and more effective and fruitful in our service to the Lord. We need to remind ourselves that…
Rebellion against God is a choice. Rebellion was a choice made by our first parents, Adam and Eve! The Bible records it in Genesis 3:1-7. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
When Satan comes into our lives to tempt us he doesn’t get directly to the point. He didn’t say to Eve, “I want you to eat the fruit that God told you that you should not eat.” Instead, he asked a question. He then allowed Eve to explain the situation. Then he told the lie he has been repeating ever since. Simply put, he said that God had lied to Adam and Eve. Eve’s first wrong choice was to listen to Satan. Her second wrong choice was to enter into discussion with the devil. Her third wrong choice (there probably were more) was to examine the fruit. Then, her greatest wrong choice was to eat the fruit. Then, the man, Adam, (who had been there all the time) accepted the fruit from her and he ate.
Their choice, made that day in the Garden of Eden, brought sin into the world and consequently death through sin. The result of that choice was that death spread to all men because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The first immediate consequence of Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion was that they felt shame. They had never felt shame before! And immediately they began to make a covering for their bodies out of fig leaves. Of course, man’s effort to “fix” the sin problem will never work. God demonstrated that fact for them very clearly that day.
Adam and Eve had spent an untold amount of time in fellowship with all the other living creatures on earth. They had no fear of any of the animals in fact they felt respect and perhaps even love for the animals around them. Because of their sin some of those animals had to die. The Bible says that God made garments of skins. Now, God did not cause those skins to appear as if by magic. Instead, he had to take the life of innocent animals. This was a visual demonstration of the cost of sin. From that point forward when a person became aware of their sin they would take an animal lay their hands on his head symbolizing the transfer of their guilt to the animal and then take its life and burn it up on an altar.
That substitutionary sacrifice symbolizes Christ’s death on the cross! He paid a debt he did not owe because mankind owed a debt we could not pay. The debt owed was their life just as it is ours. Because, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. Praise God he sent his son to bear our guilt on the cross. Just as rebellion is a choice…
Repentance is a choice. Listen while I read Colossians 3:5-10. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Repentance begins with a confession of our great need and a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The Bible also says that if we will confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead we will be saved. Our need for repentance doesn’t end with salvation. As much as some people would like it to be true, we do not stop sinning when we are saved. I suppose it is possible to go for a period of time without committing a known sin but it is not likely that it will be very long before we do, say, or think something that is wrong. Jesus was very clear on that subject. He said that to be angry with someone is to be subject to judgment. Within the context that Jesus said this anger equals murder. In the same manner, lust equals adultery.
James warns us that a person who doesn’t control their tongue deceives themselves and their religion is worthless.
One of the temptations we face is to believe that since we have thought something that is wrong we may as well ahead and do it. Nothing could be further from the truth! To have an evil thought against another, or to imagine sexual sin involves our relationship with God. To actually commit the wrongdoing involves other people and adds to our guilt. Please, stop the wrongdoing while it is still in your mind and your life will be easier.
These examples show us that after salvation we often have to repent. I remember a pastor who told about his four-year-old son and his “blankey”. They had tried every way they could imagine to get him to give up his blanket. They had even made it smaller and smaller but he hung on to it. Finally the pastor’s wife said to her husband, “I want you to take care of it.” So, he took his son aside and decided to reason with him. Well, you know that didn’t work! Finally he said, “When will you give up this blanket?” It was a short time before the boy’s birthday and he replied to his father, “I think I will when I’m five.” The pastor said he thought nothing else about it until the morning of his son’s fifth birthday. He said that while he and his wife were still in bed they heard the door to his son’s bedroom open and the pitter patter of tiny feet going down the hall. They heard the back door open and the clatter of the garbage can lid. His son had “repented” of his “blankey”.
On a day-to-day basis, we need to take the same attitude about the things in our lives that we need to repent of.
Rebellion is a choice and repentance is a choice leading to…
Spiritual growth as a choice. Let’s listen to what Peter wrote for us in 2 Peter 3:18a. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And in 1 Peter 2:1-3. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Anytime the Bible instructs us to do something or think something we can be confident that God will enable us to do it. There has never been a choice that a Christian needs to make that God doesn’t enable that choice! Not only are we to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we also are able to put away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
We are required by God to grow up into salvation. That doesn’t mean that we can be gradually saved it means that having been saved we are born anew. And since we are born spiritual infants we need to mature. Having been born of the flesh we begin the process of “growing up” physically. In the same manner having been born spiritually we are to “grow up” spiritually.
Rebellion is a choice; repentance is a choice; spiritual growth is a choice and…
Obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice. I have often heard people talk about salvation as being “easy”. And also the same people might talk about living the Christian life as being “easy” because we are enabled by God to do anything he calls us to do. Let me read an example from Daniel 3:16-18. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The King had been tricked into creating an idol that he required everyone to worship. The penalty for not worshiping his idol was not just death but included being thrown into a burning furnace. This was done because his advisers hated the Jews who were in his service and knew that they would not worship his gods. By challenging their faith the enemies of the Jews would either cause them to lose their life or their faith. Well, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, could not have been clearer in their choice! They knew that God was able to deliver them, if he so chose. If God did not choose to deliver them they wanted it to be very clear that they would not bow down to the golden image! You probably already know the story. These three men were thrown into the furnace that was so hot that it killed the men who threw them in. Afterward, the King came to the opening of the furnace and saw inside it four men — not three and, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire without even the smell of smoke on them.
Today, all across the world Christians are finding that it is hard to live the Christian life. Particularly in the Muslim countries a conversion to Christianity is usually a death sentence. It was said during the first centuries of the church that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. That being true, we should expect there to be real spiritual growth in the countries where there is oppression.
The church in China is a good example of what might happen in the next generation. After the Communists took over the country the pressure on the Christian church increased from the 1940s into the 1960s. Then the Cultural Revolution came and Christians were killed all across the country. It is reported that there were about 5 million Christians when the Communists took over. It is also reported that when the bamboo curtain came down and we could see what Chinese society was like there were at least 50 million Christians! One of the greatest concerns today is for leadership in the hundreds of thousands of churches that are springing up across China. Pray for them please!
Rebellion is a choice; repentance is a choice; spiritual growth is a choice and obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice. Having obeyed God we discover that…
Godly living is a choice. Everything God calls on us to do God enables us to do. Listen while read Romans 6:1-4. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
It seems that a lot of Christians think that since they have security in Christ Jesus they can live any way they want to. There is no doubt that we are saved by grace through faith. There is no doubt that our salvation is not dependent on our works. We are not saved by doing good and we’re not saved by being good. We are saved by God’s choice of grace. In writing this letter to the Romans Paul rejected an idea that seemed to be becoming popular in the Christian church at that time. Since grace is granted by God for salvation and that it covers all our sin then we might increase grace by increasing sin! Paul was amazed by this idea. There appears to have been people who were teaching that grace would increase as sin increased. Paul wanted them to understand that since we had become Christians we had died to sin and sin had died to us. It is very foolish to continue in sin in the hopes that grace might increase. Baptism itself is the picture of our death to the old way of living, being buried with Christ and rising up to walk a new kind of life.
If anyone is in Christ Jesus they have become a new creature. The old has passed away the new has come! We have an obligation to live with a new attitude and outlook on life. We are no longer to be conformed to this world instead we are to be transformed by the renewal of our mind. It is sad to see today how the church is conformed to the world rather than transformed. What the world needs now is a clear picture of what a Christian is like. The song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” I would agree with that if it means God’s kind of love. And that is “tough love”. Indeed, the love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. We need to communicate God’s love to everyone in our world by godly living.
Rebellion is a choice; repentance is a choice; spiritual growth is a choice and obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice; godly living is a choice and…
Loving others is a choice. Remember, if God calls on us to do something he always enables us to do it. Let’s look at John 13:34-35. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
We tend to think that love is just a feeling that comes upon us without any control on our part. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, love is not a feeling it is a willful act. Jesus has gathered his disciples for a long teaching session. John records this more completely than the other Gospels. Here, he tells his disciples, and us, that Christian believers are to love one another. That certainly does not begin as a feeling. It is something that must be lived out in our day-to-day experience.
It would seem to be pretty easy to love all the good people in the church. The truth is not all of us are always “good”! Christians make mistakes, say things without thought and otherwise are not always good citizens. Throughout Paul’s letters especially we see examples of his instructing the people to love each other by the way they act.
Christian love is more than being nice. Jesus says that we are to love one another in the same way that he loved us. He loved us by coming to earth, living among us, taking our sins into his own body, then dying on the cross. Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for another. That is the kind of love we are called upon to life out!
Then Jesus said that all men would know that we are his disciples because we have that kind of love for each other. There is little wonder that the world increasingly doubts the sincerity of Christianity. If the only evidence that they have is that we love each other is not very convincing. We may not agree with each other on things like baptism and the translation of the Bible we use but we can treat each other with respect. We can do things that show the world that we are not in competition with each other. Please remember, when God commands us to do something he always enables us to do it. The choices we make every day clearly show others what’s important in our lives. It’s nice when we get recognition from others but the person we most want to see our love is God himself! Don’t let other people determine how you will live your life or, how you will feel.
I hope that in the past you have recognized the need to surrender your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is the most important choice you will ever make! The fact that God knows what choice we will make does not take away from us the responsibility to make a choice. In fact, not making a choice is a choice and one we are personally responsible for. To not choose Christ, to not repent, to not grow spiritually, to not obey God, to not live in a godly manner, to not deal with our anger issues or to not love others all are choices that are made every day to our harm. My prayer for you is that you will make good choices and grow up in the Lord. Do you need to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you need to obey him in baptism? Do you need to share a testimony of God’s goodness in your life? Now is the time. Today is the day. Do it!
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.