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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Service, 2013-07-28

Text: 2 Peter 1:5; 3:18

This is the fourth message in our series of sermons on Growing in Christ-Likeness from 2 Peter 1:5-7. This passage provides a list of eight characteristics: Faith, Virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (or love). One way to remember this is to use an acronym like, “Five Voices Keen To Praise God By Choruses.” As we have already studied faith and virtue, we now proceed to the next characteristic, which is called knowledge. Everyone knows what knowledge is and how valuable it is. A vast amount of knowledge is available today. There are over 7,000 universities in the world where knowledge can be acquired, and over 129 million books have been published. That’s a lot of knowledge!

But how much of it is really useful or needful? A story is told that an engine of a huge ship broke down, and its owners were losing lots of money because the ship could not sail and it remained in the harbour for days. They tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure out how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a young. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, from top to bottom. Two of the ship’s owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed!

A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for $10,000. “What?!” the owners exclaimed. “He hardly did anything!” So they wrote him a note saying, “Please send us an itemized bill.” The man sent them a bill that read: Tapping with a hammer – $2; Knowing specifically where to tap – $9,998.

The kind of knowledge that we need to cultivate is just like that: It works because it is specific! The term forknowledge in v.5 of our text is actually a very specific kind of knowledge. There are three other verses in this epistle that tell us what kind of knowledge it is:

2 Peter 1:8 – “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here we see that we should be fruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

2 Peter 2:20 – “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,….” This shows that the the way to escape from the pollution of the world is through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

These verses show us that the kind of knowledge we need in order to grow in Christ-likeness is the knowledge of Christ Himself. In fact, it is most important to learn that this is the only kind of knowledge that is really worth pursuing. Solomon, the wisest king in his time, spent much time acquiring knowledge and making an assessment of its value. He said, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18) and in Ecclesiastes 12:12 he said “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

I am sure that those of us who have spent long hours ploughing through stacks of lecture notes to prepare for exams can identify with that statement – there is no end to the pursuit of knowledge, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. And what happens after we have passed those exams, graduated and secured a good career? How much of all that knowledge do we really use? A lot of things that I have learnt years ago has gone back to the books even though I may have scored ‘A’s in the exams.

But there is one kind of knowledge that is really worth pursuing as it never loses its usefulness – the knowledge of Jesus Christ! As Paul said in Colossians 2:3, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ. And then in Philippians 3:8, Paul testified that he “counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.” In John 17:3, Jesus Himself said, “And this is life eternal, that they mightknow Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Dearly beloved, if you want to have knowledge that is really useful both for your present life and for eternal life, please make sure that you know the Lord Jesus Christ fully and deeply. This morning we will learn three things about this knowledge – Why we need it, how we can obtain it, and What we should do with it. Firstly let us consider…

I. Why We Need this Knowledge

In v.5 of our text, we notice that this knowledge needs to be added to virtue. You may remember from the sermon preached last week that the word ‘virtue’ here refers to moral excellence. But how do we know exactly what moral excellence is, unless it is clearly defined? What is it then that defines moral excellence for us? Is it merely the Ten Commandments alone, or the Moral Law? It is actually more than that. If we were to trace moral excellence all the way back to its source, we would find that it originates in the character of God. God’s character defines moral excellence for us. If something is right to God, then that makes it right. If something is wrong to God, then that makes it wrong. But how can we ever know God’s character completely and accurately?

The answer is found in Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate way by which we can know God fully. Every other way of knowing God falls short of giving us a complete understanding of God’s character. We may learn some things about God’s character by observing all the works He has done in creation and in history. We may learn more about His character through the laws that He gave to Moses, and the visions and messages He gave to the prophets. But what all these provide us is at best only a shadow, and we cannot know God’s character fully through them.

It is through Jesus Christ that we have now received the fullest revelation of God. God did not lose any of His divine attributes when He was made flesh. He entered into a new dimension of existence through the gateway of human birth, but He fully retained His divine nature, while taking on an additional human nature.By being fully God and fully man Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation of Himself to us. This is so much clearer and sharper than any other mode of revelation.

If we liken revelation to viewing a picture, then all those earlier modes of divine revelation would be like looking at an old black and white photograph, which does not show much detail. That was the only thing we could have back in the early days of photography. The ultimate revelation of God when He was made flesh in Jesus Christ would then be like watching a high-definition moving image on a 60-inch screen where even the tiniest details can be seen most clearly. This is definitely much better than the all earlier low-resolution photographs we used to look at. And we thank God that this is the kind of revelation of Him that we now have in Christ – a high-definition revelation.

By knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, we have all the knowledge we need to live a life of moral excellence, a life that fulfills the purpose we were made for. And one important feature of this knowledge is that it never changes. The knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is permanently fixed. It never becomes outdated, unlike much of the knowledge that is relied on today. Those science books on your bookself that you bought more than ten years ago are no longer useful, because new research has brought considerable changes in science. Do you know that many laws and ethical standards have also changed considerably? This is because we live in a postmodern world where relativism reigns, and absolutes are no longer desirable. Things that were once considered unaccepable are now considered to be acceptable.

For instance, before 1967 homosexual activity was a crime called sodomy and it was punishable by law. The Irish poet Oscar Wilde spent two years in prison for this. But within the last 13 years, homosexual marriage has been legalized in 14 countries. Britain will soon be joining the list as the British parliament passed a bill only a few weeks ago to legalise gay marriages.

One reason why laws and ethical standards change is that they are influenced by the prevailing sentiments of society and public opinion, which keep on changing. When we rely on such changing standards to guide us, we will certainly lose our way. But when we rely on the unchanging knowledge of Christ to guide us, we will always have clear directions to keep going on the right path of life.

This is like using a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver to help us reach our desired destination. It works by taking readings from 3-4 satellites orbiting above the earth. Using that data, the GPS can determine the exact position and give the driver turn-by-turn instructions to reach his destination. Such accurate guidance is possible only because the GPS receiver maintains continuous contact with the outside reference points. The knowledge of Christ functions in a similar way. It is like your personal satellite for navigating your way through life and you must maintain contact with it. And this satellite is fully reliable because it always remains the same. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Therefore let us make sure that we know Him well. Be sure that you keep knowing the Lord Jesus fully and deeply so that your life will be continually led and guided by Him. Now that we have seen why we need this knowledge, the next thing we want to learn is:

II. How We Can Obtain this Knowledge

How can we obtain the knowledge of Jesus Christ? At the time that Peter wrote this epistle, there were many false teachers who claimed to have obtained the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They were the gnostics. Some gnostics believed that Jesus could not possibly have been God, because in their system of philosophy God can never take on a material body. Others said that Jesus is God or one of the emanations of God, but He did not really take on a physical body. He merely appeared to have one, but it was only an illusion. One Gnostic teacher named Cerinthus was strongly opposed by the apostle John. He taught that God came and took over the body of a man named Jesus at his baptism and then left his body just before he was crucified.

In our present time, there are still many strange teachings about Jesus Christ circulating the globe. If you were to do a Google search on the words “Jesus Christ” you will find about 65 million web sites. There is so much information that is so easily accessible. Some of them claim that Jesus was only one of the many great teachers sent by God to teach us how to live together in peace and harmony. Some claim that in the time between the age of 12 and 30 Jesus went to India and Persia and learned everything that He later taught in Israel. Others relate how they met Jesus Christ personally in a vision, and learned many things from Him that are not found in the Bible.

Now, for us, there is only one authentic source of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And that authentic source is the Bible. All that we need to know about Jesus is found right here in this book, and this is what we should read and study well in order that we may have the right knowledge of Jesus Christ. Peter who wrote this epistle, emphasised the same thing in verses 16-19 – “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables,when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”

Here Peter says that the written Word of God that we have right now is more sure, more reliable than any voice speaking from heaven or any new vision that someone may claim to receive. We must therefore ‘take heed,’ and that means to pay careful attention to the written Word. Since the knowledge of Christ is so important to our life, we ought to study the Scriptures well!

And the intensity of effort required for such study is defined in v.5 as ‘giving all diligence’. This simply means doing our level best. We all know how important it is to do our best when we study for examinations, and especially when an important one is coming, like PSLE, O level or A level exams or final year exams in Univerity.

There was a child who wandered into his grandmother’s room one day, and he found her reading her Bible intently. So he asked her, “Grandma, what are you doing?” She answered, “Well honey, I am preparing for my final exam.” Sometimes it is only when we realize how near we are to entering eternity that we start to prepare for it. Actually our entire lifetime here is meant to for us to prepare for eternity. But how much time do we really spend reading and studying the Word of God? Does it make sense to spend thousands of hours to acquire knowledge that will be useful for your 30-40 years of working life, but spend only a few hours to acquire knowledge that will remain useful for eternity?

The question you need to ask is: Where are your priorities? How should you regard your Bible? Someone has put it this way, using the word ‘BIBLE’ as an acronym. It is the “Believer’s Instructions Before LeavingEarth.” Think of your Bible as a personal road safety manual which contains valuable information on how to reach heaven safely. Make sure you know it well. Think of the Bible as a personal love letter from God, then you will read it well!

We live in an age where everyone can easily own a personal copy of the Bible or download it free of charge into one’s mobile phone. But before the invention of printing many did not have a Bible. Besides that, we also have easy access to plenty of resource materials for Bible study, like guidebooks, timelines, maps and commentaries. But many who have already gone home to be with the Lord never had the luxury of using such resources for Bible study, and they would have given anything to have even one of them. Since we have these resources, shouldn’t we give all diligence to use them well to add the knowledge of Christ to our lives? Please don’t say, “I’ll read the Bible whenever I have the time.” You must make time for it! Don’t be satisfied with a superficial knowledge of it, but dig deep into it to find every precious gem inside it!

As you dig deeper and deeper into the Bible, you will be surprised at how much knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ you will gain from it. And this is true not only of the New Testament, but even of the Old Testament. Many Old Testament passages are designed to point to the coming of Christ.

For example, in Leviticus 1:3 the burnt offering had to be a “male without blemish; the offerer shall offer it of his own voluntary will.” In its present-day application, Christ is the sacrifice without blemish, and every Christian, in an act of consecration must identify himself with Christ to offer his body as a living sacrifice of his own free will.

Even historical events recorded in the Old Testament can teach us wonderful truths about Jesus Christ. One example is the Exodus of Israelites out of Egypt. Their deliverance from slavery in Egypt is a picture of our deliverance from the slavery of sin. The blood of the Passover lamb which saved their firstborn from dying in the tenth plague points us to the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who saves us from eternal death. Now that we have learnt how we can obtain the knowledge of Christ, we go on to the third thing about it…

III. What We Ought to Do with this Knowledge

The knowledge of Christ is not only meant to enrich our minds. Some people are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) Why? It is because instead of committing themselves to believe and practice what they learn, they take pride in their wealth of knowledge. Paul says that ‘knowledge puffeth up’ (1 Corinthians 8:1). The worst thing we can do with knowledge is to show off how much of it we have – to gain some glory for ourselves.

Actually, having a true knowledge of Christ ought to make us humble. The more we know Him, the more we realise how great He really is and how little we actually know. Even Paul the apostle never dared to assume that he had a full complete knowledge of Christ. That’s why he said, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Philippians 3:10) He kept on pursuing the knowledge of Jesus Christ with all his might. And he tells us to do the same: We must keep on pursuing the knowledge of Christ, not just to feed our minds, but to transform our lives.

Knowledge is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. You may have noticed that in the list of virtues given in our text, knowledge is not the last one. There are another 6 virtues that come after it, and the last one is charity or love. Love is the climax of all the essential virtues. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13:2 – “though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

In order to put the knowledge you gain from reading God’s Word to good use, you must take time to meditate on it. Ponder over it regularly until it becomes a natural part of your thinking process. Do you know that the way that you live your life depends a lot on what you think about? That is why the Scriptures put a lot of emphasis on our thought life. E.g. Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Many people want to be successful. But do you know what is the secret to success? It is to meditate regularly on God’s Word! Joshua 1:8 tells us, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

Here we are told that meditating on God’s Word day and night will lead to doing according to all that is written in it. As you keep meditating on the truths of Scripture, the Holy Spirit will show you where and how to apply them in your daily life. Your attitudes and actions will then begin to follow your thoughts. And if you persist in these attitudes and actions, they will form themselves into new habits. This is how you can develop healthy Christian habits like praying, giving thanks, confessing your sins daily, showing love to others, and forgiving those who offend you.

The Bible isn’t just a book of facts or historical data. It is filled with things for you to do. Its truths are practical and applicable to everything that you do in life. This is what you should expect to see each time you open your Bible to read it. If you expect much from it, then you will see much. But if you merely dabble in its pages for some mediocre lessons, then you will find nothing more than that. And if you don’t expect to learn any practical truths from the Bible, then it will make no difference at all in your life.

So please make it a point to have great expectations from God’s Word. Expect it to teach you the examples to follow and the errors to avoid. Expect to find many exceeding great and precious promises of God to put your trust in. Expect God’s Word to confront you about those sins in your life which you need to confess. Expect it to instruct you of the duties God wants you to perform, and expect it to equip you well to perform them.

And above all, you must expect God’s Word to transform your life into the image of Jesus Christ. Let this be the ultimate goal of our Bible study from now onward. And may it always be our joy to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11