2 Peter 3
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Father, We want to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not just today, but every single day, we want to grow more and more in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ so that when You come, we will all be prepared. Your Church will be a spotless Bride. No wrinkles. No blemishes. Ready to marry You for eternity. Father, teach us today from your word, that we would be a people ready for the King. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
The one point for today is this – if you and I make every effort to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, then wonderful things will happen. First, you’ll be free. Second, you will never fall. If you and I grow continually more and more in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, two wonderful thing happen. First, you’ll be free and you will stay free. And second, God promises, you will never fall.
Why do I say to make every effort? Because that might sound already weird to you. I thought God’s grace is just something you receive. It’s just a free gift. It sounds like works. It sounds like performance. Why make every effort because initial salvation begins with grace. No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done, there is grace for you at the foot of the cross. But that is just the beginning.
From that point forward, for the rest of our lives, we are, with God’s help, we are making every effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that phrase, to make every effort, or to be diligent, is found throughout 2 Peter 1.
2 Pet 1
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.
It says, make every effort. Meaning, there are things that God does – v3 – His divine power has granted to us all things. Yes, God does His part – His power is at work in you. And then, we do our part. We make every effort to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ
2 Pet 1
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
It says, therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent at the same word make every effort be diligent to confirm your calling and election. If you practice these qualities, you will never fall.
2 Pet 3
12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…
To hasten is to to be diligent. We can’t actually hasten in a sense of telling Jesus to come at this particular time. Nobody knows the time or the hour. But in our preparation to meet Him, we can hasten, or be diligent. It’s the same word. We are hastening His return, meaning, when He comes, we’re prepared.
And then in 2 Pet 1:18 – grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. To do something speedily, hastily, is to do it without being careless. It’s doing something with diligence. It’s because you’re so excited. You’re trying your best. You’re making every effort. You’re doing something with zeal. You’re desiring something earnestly, with enthusiasm. That’s the word when it says, to make every effort, to be diligent, to hasten the Lord’s coming.
Maybe it sounds foreign to say, we need to be diligent or we need to hasten or we need to make every effort. It sounds like works. Again, salvation is purely by grace through faith. But from that point forward, God does His part – His divine power is at work, His power is available to us. And we do our part and that means to make every effort, to be diligent, to hasten.
It’s like you can be in the gym. And somebody spends an hour and they’re barely breaking a sweat. Somebody spends the same hour and they are sweating. That happened to me a bunch of times when I ran into Joel at 24 Hour Fitness. We were there the same amount of time. I bump into him. He is dripping in sweat. For me, it’s like I just came, but I’m ready to leave. There’s not a drop of sweat on me. Because for me, I just do a little weight. I go home. For him, he is running hard on the treadmill or something. He’s sweating.
The same amount of time. And for the Christian, we might think, to be a Christian, isn’t it just bathing in the sauna of God’s grace? That is not the whole picture. Because if you remember what Christ did on the cross, we are looking back. Yes, we are bathing in His grace. But that is just half of the gospel. And that’s something the Lord showed me last night. It’s just half of the gospel to look back at what Jesus did 2000 years ago, which is bathing in the sauna of His grace.
What if you’re the same person today as you were on the day you first met Christ. Same person 10 years later, 20 years later. It’s the same struggles, same addictions. Nothing changes. Don’t worry – I just look back at the cross. I’ll bathe in His grace. That is just half the gospel.
The other half is in 1 Corinthians 11:26 – whenever we take the Lord’s Supper, we’re doing this in remembrance of Him until He comes. In full view of His return. That is the full gospel. If you look back, yes, there is grace. But as you look forward, there is an element of – I got to get ready. I got to make every effort. I got to be diligent when He finds me. Will there be a spot or blemish or will I be clean?
Because God does His part – the divine power is available to you. But whatever is in our power, we need to make every effort. You make every effort in school. You make every effort in your career. But in spiritual life, are you making every effort? It’s the great omission of the gospel, that we just preach the past. We preach Jesus as just a little baby, who becomes a man, who dies like a Lamb. That is just half of the picture. The full gospel is Jesus as the lion of Judah and when He returns, there will be righteousness on earth because He will recreate everything. Because this earth and the heavens, everything will be burned up, baptized by fire and be made new. That is the full gospel.
And if you have Jesus, if you have His return in view, and if you’re living with His return in mind, then there will be an element of working hard, of being diligent, of making every effort. If you only look to the cross, you will be bathing in His grace, thinking that Christian life is just sitting in the sauna, not doing anything. And then when He returns, you look nothing like Him. You’re so unprepared for your wedding day.
When I tell the boys to study hard, or when I give them a task and I want them to be excellent in doing this task. I’m not doing this because I want them to go to Harvard. I’m doing it because I want their diligence in school or their diligence in doing a task to translate one day when the Lord takes hold of their hearts. I want that diligence to translate into spiritual life. Because if you are a lazy person and you’re just always looking for shortcuts and you always want the easy way, you never want to stay in something that’s difficult and demanding, you don’t persevere in life, chances are that spiritually you will be the same kind of person. You will always take the easy way out. You will always look back at the cross only and think it’s just a sauna. I’m just sitting there not doing anything. Just bathing in His grace. That is just half of the picture.
So we should be diligent in all that we do. And hopefully, that diligence in everything we do translates the way it did for Paul. He was zealous before he met Christ. He was zealous to persecute Christians, but when he was converted, that zeal, that diligence, that hard-working character was rechanneled to the Lord. And look at how much he did for the kingdom.
If you and I make every effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the first wonderful by product is freedom.
2 Peter 1
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d] 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.
So salvation is freedom from corruption. You were once in the world. You’re once of the world. All the desires that are ruling people in the world were ruling you because sin was your master. But when you met Jesus, you were set free. Chains were broken. And given that this is true, this links back to v5 – for this very reason, because you are free, now grow in your freedom. You are free in Christ. Now grow in your freedom.
That’s why it says, make every effort. You have faith, now grow in your faith. You’re free. So now you’re free to grow in your faith. You have virtue. You’re free now, grow in virtue. You have knowledge. You’re free now, grow in your knowledge. And the list goes on and on with self-control and steadfastness and godliness and brotherly affection and love. Because you are free, because you’ve been brought out of the corruption in this world, because now you’re a partaker of the divine nature, because now God’s divine power is at work in you, now grow in the freedom that you have in Christ.
But you see v5 is connected to vv3 and 4. It says, make every effort. See, that’s on you and me. We need to do our part and make every effort. This is not works. This is just Christian growth and maturity. We need to make every effort. Not only if you are growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only are you free , but you will stay free from now till eternity.
Also, the second wonderful byproduct is you will never fall. You will never fall – that’s straight out of God’s word.
2 Pet 1
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
It is a lie that all of us will go through some backsliding in your Christian journey. No, we backslide because we don’t practice what is true of us in Christ. We’re free. We’re not practicing our freedom. God’s divine power is available to us, but we’re not practicing godliness, self-control, brotherly affection, love, faith, virtue, knowledge. We’re not practicing these things. That is why we fall. We’re not being diligent. That is why we fall. We are not making every effort. That is why we fall.
What if you and I are not growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?
2 Pet 1
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. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
So there is a direct outcome if you do not make every effort, if you are not diligent, if you do not practice these qualities. It says, you will be ineffective. You’ll be unfruitful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t stop there. It says, you’ll be nearsighted. It’s like you’ll become blind again. You can’t see. And you will forget that you were set free from your former sins.
And Balaam is mentioned in 2 Peter and it is a tragic tale of a man of God, a true prophet of God who became a false prophet. And how does a true prophet of God become a false prophet? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter explains, it’s because Balaam did not practice what he preached. He didn’t grow in the grace and the knowledge of spiritual things. Therefore, he became nearsighted. He didn’t take care of his vulnerabilities. And at an opportune time, Satan came in. And Balaam fell. And he didn’t just fall, he fell away.
It’s a tragic tale of somebody who was once free, but then he became entangled again to sin and the last state of Balaam was worse than the first. Balaam is mentioned in 2 Peter. He’s mentioned in Jude 1.
11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.
Why did Balaam fall? Simply put, because he was greedy. He was tempted with money and he wanted it. And he fell.
14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
The opening for Balaam was his greed for money. And then he ends up being a stumbling block and causing all of Israel to stumble. The nation stumbled into prostitution with Moabite prostitutes and idolatry, Baal worship, because they were eating food sacrificed to Baal. You can read about it in Numbers 22. As I read it, I felt like it brought out what we’re learning in 2 Peter.
12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
So Balaam is not an Israelite, but God has called him to be a prophet of God from a foreign land, from another ethnicity. And he doesn’t know who the Israelites are. He’s just a prophet of God and he hears from God. God speaks to him because Balak, the king of Moab, sees the Israelites increasing in number and they’re just wiping out people and so he feels threatened. And what does he do? He calls the one true prophet that he knows. He goes to Balaam and he asks Balaam to curse the Israelites and God tells him, whatever you do, do not curse the Israelites.
And you would think, shouldn’t this be the end of the story? I told him do not do this. But what does Balak do. Does he give up? Does Satan give up after we resist him one time? When Satan tempts you, the first time you resist does he leave you alone? Or will he come back at you with even more force? Balak, too, comes back with more force, more princes, more promises of silver and gold.
But Balaam answers, even if you give me a house full of silver and gold, I cannot curse Israel. Balaam, initially, is staying true to what he heard from the Lord. He is not going to curse. Thank the Lord. But then sadly, v19.
19 So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
Didn’t God already speak? Didn’t God already speak to Balaam? Didn’t Balaam already receive an answer from the Lord? So why is he asking again? He already received an answer and even told the servants of Balak, I cannot go even if you promised me a house full of silver and gold. I cannot go, but wait here one night, let me check with the Lord again. What is being revealed? Balaam loves money. He fought it off initially. And if Balak stopped, maybe Balaam would be preserved. But Balak doesn’t stop. He comes back with more enticing money.
And Balaam says the right thing. I cannot go. Unless God allows me to go. It doesn’t matter how tempting the treasures in front of me are, I cannot go with you. I cannot curse Israel. But let me check one more time. You’re seeing Balaam’s heart of greed. And that’s why it says in v20.
20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went…
You might say, this is not fair. God’s told Balaam to go, He permitted Balaam to go. So why is God getting angry? Sometimes, God gives you what you want because He says, No, the first time. But you just want it. You just keep on praying, just keep on praying and God may actually say, it’s okay to go. That doesn’t mean He’s always pleased. He knows where this is leading. And so God blesses or permits Balaam to go with the princes of Moab, but he is angry.
And he sends an angel to stop Balaam while he’s on his donkey. The mirror miraculous voice of a speaking donkey warns Balaam. And then his eyes were opened and there’s an angel ready to slay Balaam. And you would think that if you are a prophet of God, you would take the hint. Maybe I’m making a grave mistake. Maybe I should turn around. The angel warns him – make sure you only speak that word that I tell you.
See, a prophet of God is trained. You can only speak what the Lord’s permits you to speak. These are words directly from God. And Balaam thought, because God is allowing me to go, He must be blessing this journey. No, God is allowing the sin of greed to be exposed. And hopes that Balaam would repent and turn back. He even sends an angel to remind Balaam – do not say anything unless I speak to you. Only speak what the Lord tells you.
And then in Num 23 – Balak takes Balaam to three places and hopes that Balaam will curse Israel. Balaam goes to all three places. Thankfully, he only blesses Israel. And then Num 24, the fourth blessing of Israel comes out of Balaam’s mouth. Thank the Lord. He blesses Israel and then he curses the enemies of God.
Then we read in Num 25 that the Israelites began whoring with the daughters of Moab. They engage in prostitution. Sexually, they were falling morally. Spiritually, they were falling because they were eating food sacrificed to Baal, which means they are worshiping Baal. And that’s why in Revelation 2, Balaam is attributed to the fall of Israel because he is the one who gave counsel to Balak. Although it does not say it explicitly in Num 25, we know from Revelation that Balaam is the one that counseled Balak with this type of terrible stumbling of God’s people.
Because Balaam reasoned, I want that money. I’m not going to be sent home empty-handed. I want that money. I am not allowed to speak curses upon the people of God. God has not allowed me. So how did he get around the Lord’s words? He must have thought, if I can’t curse them directly, but if I encourage them to sin in this way and they are stumbled, they will bring a curse upon themselves.
You see how wicked Balaam became. This prophet of God, who only spoke what God told him to say, because he did not deal with his greed, because he was not growing in the grace of God, because he was not making every effort to grow spiritually, he just took the spiritual gift and he was just running with it. He was just sitting in the sauna of this gift. He was not growing. And the vulnerability of his greed was a wide open door for Satan to come in. Satan attacked once and he fought it off. Satan came a second time and by that time, Balaam was starting to fall.
This is a tragic tale and this is the warning of 2 Peter, that you and I, if we are not growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, meaning, if you are not making every effort, if you’re not being diligent, if you think five minutes in the morning and prayer before meals is enough while you spend hours at school, while you spend hours doing your hobbies, while you spent hours at your job, and you think five minutes is enough because it’s just grace, isn’t it? All grace. We’re just sitting in the sauna.
The warning of Balaam is that a true prophet can become a false prophet. If you do not deal with your vulnerabilities, if you do not repent, then the latter state is worse than if you had never met the Lord. Think Balaam – he’s mentioned in Scripture multiple times for all the wrong reasons. He’s a stumbling block for an entire nation. And God’s curse did fall upon Israel, not because Balaam cursed them, but because they sinned based on Balaam’s counsel, trickery and deception.
And Balak got his way. He saw the numerous Israelite nation who were so powerful. He saw them fall into sin and God Himself cursed them and a plague fell and 24,000 died. Balak got what he wanted. Israel was cursed and they shrunk in number.
It is a warning for all of us – if we are not diligent, if we don’t make every effort, Yes, there’s God’s power is available, but we must do our part. If we’re not growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and you’re not putting some effort in it and some diligence in it and some structure and just a chunk of time where you’re alone with the Lord because you think, God does everything. Every time I make mistake, it doesn’t matter. He’ll forgive me. He does everything. No, we have to do our part.
If you do not do your part, you may end up tragically like Balaam. Somebody who heard the voice of God, someone who had such a reputation that a pagan king would call you to do his bidding. That type of an exalted, non-Israelite, a true prophet of God. God exalted him. He could have been such a blessing. He could have enjoyed eternity.
Why did he fall? It’s because he did not make every effort. It doesn’t say it, but if you read between the lines, it’s all there. Balaam is a prime example of somebody who does not grow. Somebody who’s not diligent, somebody who does not make every effort to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord. And what happens? If you’re not growing, the things that you used to be freed from start creeping back and you become entangled. You trip and fall because you’re entangled by sin again. And if you don’t repent, you will fall.
Conversely, if you grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, if you practice godliness and steadfastness and faith and virtue and self-control and knowledge, and all those qualities listed out in 2 Peter 1, if you’re growing in them in increasing measure, you will never fall. And you’ll be free. Not just because the Bible says you’re free. You will actually be free. No addictions. No skeletons in the closet.
And there’s only one way to be free. How were you set free initially? It happened the first time you met Jesus. To remain free, you have to keep meeting Him. Every chain. How do you break chains? There’s only one way. It’s through Jesus. You have to struggle and strive, to make every effort to know Him.
And I can’t tell you how to do that. You need to learn for yourself how to be shepherded by Him, how to cast your burdens to Him how to meet Him, how to encounter Him. You have to learn for yourself. I can’t tell you. I’m just saying, make every effort. Do whatever you need to do to know Jesus. He has set you free and He will keep you free. He will not only keep you free. He will make sure that you will never fall because He Himself will keep you and He will protect you.
He will guide you. He will warn you.
Everything comes down to knowing Jesus. You have to figure out, how do I know Jesus? How can I know Him more? That is the only answer.
Remember Christ death. His body was broken for us and His blood was shed. And we look back to the cross and we receive His grace. We remember the point in which we were set free from sin and we were born again, but that is just half of the picture. We also proclaim Him until He comes back. We’re getting ourselves ready for His return. We’re putting on our wedding dress. We’re dealing with every spot and blemish and wrinkle because we want to be found by Him spotless and at peace.
God does His part, we do ours. I want to encourage you – the effort with which you put into other activities that you deem important, channel that same intensity and zeal and enthusiasm to know Jesus. Because He promises, if you know Him in increasing measure, you’ll be free and you will stay free. And you will never fall. Ever. And you will be victorious and you’ll be welcomed into eternity.
May Balaam be a warning. May none of us fall into the trap of Balaam, who just sat on his spiritual gift, on his assignment, upon his calling. And he stopped growing in His knowledge about spiritual things. We know how to direct our efforts – it is the person of Jesus. We need to know Him.
Father, thank you that You sent Your Son. Thank you, Jesus, for being obedient to your Father in heaven. Thank you for being obedient to death on a cross. And it is our hearts desire, we want to know You. It is not easy to know Somebody we cannot see. We need to train ourselves to hear somebody that we can’t hear audibly many times. We need to know how to be shepherded by Somebody who does not speak in an audible, clear way, but we must know Him.
We must know Jesus. We must know him and the guarantee is, if you know Him in increasing measure, you’ll be free and you will not fall.
Father, may none of us fall. We want to be saved, not just today, not just tomorrow. We want to be saved for eternity.
May we not fall into Balaam’s error. He did not deal with his greed. Whatever vulnerability we have, Lord, we know it, but we must deal with it. Whatever addiction we have, we know it. We must deal with it. Satan knows our weaknesses. He’s coming to attack.
And the only way to be set free is to repent and to put our faith in Jesus, to know Jesus. Please, we want to know You more. Set us free. Keep us from falling. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen