The most influential biblical command in my life so far

I quote it here in its context:

2 Peter 3:17-18
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 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. 

A simple command

I came across this verse in the summer of 08, when I was preparing 5 messages on the Christian journey, from conversion to glorification. In particular, I had two messages on Christian growth in holiness, or sanctification.  The first was on the means of growth, and here I talked about the place of the Word of God and of prayer. The second was on growing together as a church. In my search across the Bible for the countless times God calls us to be holy, to grow in godliness, to grow in love and faith, and the like, this verse caught my attention. 

It is a simple command. In fact, I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say that the all of the Christian life is captured in this one verse. And not just life on this earth, but life in eternity with God as well. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ both now and forevermore.

A profound command

It is a great indictment because we know very well that we do not grow, or seek to grow, as we ought to.

It is a simple yet effective measure of what we do. For example, some people consider Christianity a checklist religion: come to church on Sundays, give 10% of my income, attend a small group in the middle of the week, serve on the weekends, spend half an hour each day reading the Bible, pray this prayer, and so on and so forth. All these things are valid, but they ought to be valid only as a means of growth. If what we are doing does not help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, then we ought to abandon what we are doing. The same principle applies to things outside the sphere of direct church ministry, such as work, or family, or studies.

It sets the role of the mind and the heart in their proper places – we are to grow in both knowledge and grace. Either alone is insufficient. Both are to abound together.

It places Christ at the center of all things. We are not trying to become holier, or godly, or upright, or respectable as an end to itself. Rather, these come because we are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Grace and knowledge of Jesus inevitably produces right living.  But the main thing is that Jesus is at the center. This is why glory ought to be ascribe to Him forever, just as will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him who saved us and rules over us.

It is one of two alternatives. Notice the conjunction but. The other alternative is that we are carried away by error. We have two options, plain and simple. Be carried away by error, or grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.

How then shall we obey?

How then are we to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Yet again, the methods are simple. We grow in grace through prayer – the means by which we daily depend on the grace of God which comes in the name of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. We grow in knowledge through the Word of God – where God has graciously revealed Himself, most fully of course in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. And these two disciplines build upon the other. Grace will continue to flow to us through the Word of God, which is the bread of life and living water for the soul. And the knowledge of God will continue to be revealed to us in prayer. These two simple disciplines are not to be practiced in private only, but in the context of the church. We are to grow together. For to each Christian God has given a measure of His grace and knowledge. We are fools if we deny this. We are made wise if we will accept the fellowship of others and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as each instructs the other.

An exhortation

Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is a simple command. Yet it is the one that has most shaped my life today. And it is one I pray will shape the lives of the believers I know.

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