Tag Archives: faith

Supplement your Faith

 

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

The very title of this post should give even the most tenuous confessor of justification by faith alone reason to set up and take notice. Anytime we hear of anything coming alongside faith an internal red-flag goes up and all defenses say ignore what follows, lest it derail into notions of legalism. Immediately the Luther-like debate of Paul versus James comes to mind and we divorce ourselves from any responsibilities other than a one-time belief in Christ at the moment of our justification. That idea has become popular today, a sort of Lutheran revival of effortless Christian living. But that is not what James was saying and that is not what Peter is saying in the passage above. Let there be no mistake, justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but the Christian life is one of effort, not passivity.  Let us not be guilty of quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 and forgetful of verse 10 that follows, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Those twin truths need to be held together.

In 2 Peter, the Apostle begins his letter with the charge that believers (those who have obtained faith, vs. 1) ought to make their calling and election sure. The foundation for his exhortation comes in verses 3 and 4 when he states,

“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.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

In stating this, he ensures that his message to follow is grounded in the saving and justifying work of Christ who has granted divine power, via the Holy Spirit, and united believers with Himself such that they now are partakers of the divine nature and consequently have separated themselves from worldly corruption that comes by way of sinful desires. It is because of that he exhorts believers to supplement their faith with:

  • Virtue
  • Knowledge
  • Self-Control
  • Steadfastness
  • Godliness
  • Brotherly affection
  • Love

With this encouragement in mind, we should not shrink back from good works, but instead should push forward and desire high moral standards, a desire to grow in our knowledge of God, fight for self-control in battling the desires of the flesh, determined and resolute to stay the course of faithfulness, with a character defined by godliness in loving the things that God loves and hating the things that God hates, evidencing itself in love towards fellow believers and love toward others. If we make these our duty, not in the hopes to add to our salvation, but working from the basis of our salvation then Peter says, “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.” 2 Peter 1:8

Have you wondered why you may be unfruitful or ineffective in your Christian walk? Like a weightlifter with muscle atrophy it becomes all the more necessary to take the necessary supplements to ensure proper strength and growth. In doing so, we will find ourselves growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), fruitful and effective in all that He calls us to do.

Regeneration and the Necessity of Faith and Repentance

In the last post, we looked at several New Covenant promises as detailed in 2 Old Testament passages, Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31.  Summarizing some key aspects of the New Covenant promises we focused on the gift of a new heart, i.e. regeneration, and the gift of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Additionally, we observed that Ezekiel 36 was the likely background for Jesus’ statement to Nicodemas in John 3 that “you must be born again to see the kingdom of God.”  The conclusion was that regeneration is necessary to entering heaven.  Now with that in mind, we turn in this post to the necessary evidences of regeneration: faith and repentance.

In the Gospel of Mark, we find a fascinating account of Jesus unlike the other Gospels.  Much like the headlines of a newspaper, Mark is concerned with focusing on the details of our Lord’s ministry and rapidly advances his narrative with the phrase “immediately” (used at least 9 times in Chapter 1).  Whereas Matthew and Luke provide the genealogy of Christ along with details of His birth and childhood, Mark’s approach is to commence with the 3 year earthly ministry of Christ.  For this reason, we read Jesus inaugurating His ministry with the words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 So much could be said about this, but we’ll look briefly at the first two phrases before resting on the imperative statement of Jesus to “repent and believe in the gospel.”

“The time is fulfilled” – It’s not a mere coincidence that Jesus’ ministry begins just as John the Baptist’s is ending.  In fact, we learn that John the Baptist has just been imprisoned in the verse prior to this one.  John is the last of the Old Testament prophets.  He’s the one whom the prophets of old have foretold, “one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:3 quoting Isaiah 40:3) In the sense of fulfilled here, all that the Old Testament, both the Law and the Prophets, has foretold reaches its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.  Similarly, the time that God had planned to bring forth His son has come as well.  (See Galatians 4:4).  The time of waiting is over, the King has arrived.

“The kingdom of God is at hand” – Up to this point, John has functioned much like a herald for a king, “Hear ye, Hear ye, now comes the King!”  In Medieval times, a herald was one who preceded the king’s entrance to make the announcement of his arrival.  A working definition is “an official formerly charged with making royal proclamations and bearing messages of state between sovereigns.”  This is precisely the way in which John the Baptist performs his ministry, especially as seen in Mark 1:2, 3, 7.  Now that King Jesus is on the scene, He can officially state that the kingdom of God is at hand, or perhaps more literally in your midst.  Jesus’ use of kingdom of God here is significant in that it provides continuity with the Old Testament idea of kingdom.  William Lane points out that kingdom, “links his [Jesus’] proclamation to the self-revelation of God in the OT and stresses the continuity between the new and older revelation.”   It’s likely that Daniel 2:44 can be seen in the background here with the inauguration of Jesus’ kingdom, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever”

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” – We usually hear that the Gospel is “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” but here we see Jesus command belief in the gospel at least 3 years prior to His death, burial, and resurrection.  Is He demanding a future looking faith?  Is He calling people to believe that He will die on the cross?  Or is He properly defining the term Gospel for us?  It would seem to be more of the latter.  The Gospel here is an announcement, that the “good news” has arrived.  This gospel, or good news, is none other than Christ Himself.  Jesus is commanding repentance and belief in Him.  Repentance is more than simply turning from sin.  There must be a hatred of it, a rejection of past ways.  But repentance must be connected with faith, for to turn from sin without setting one’s gaze on Christ is pointless.  Repentance and faith can only be commanded in conjunction with the Gospel.  The Gospel must be announced, it must be preached (Romans 10:14).  Jesus is commanding repentance and belief in His Gospel, i.e. the very person that He is as the Son of God.

Some have tried to separate the necessity of faith from repentance resulting in easy believism.  Others have so over emphasized repentance that it would appear faith takes a backseat.  On some level, a logical order might seem to apply to these demands, i.e. faith first and then repentance.  But no such distinction is necessary because they are two sides of the same coin and to separate one from the other violates both.  Instead, a far more sane approach to understanding how repentance and faith are ordered is to view it as believing repentance and repentant faith.  Spurgeon comments:

“The repentance which is here commanded is the result of faith; it is born at the same time with faith—they are twins, and to say which is the elder-born passes my knowledge. It is a great mystery; faith is before repentance in some of its acts, and repentance before faith in another view of it; the fact being that they come into the soul together.”

As we’ve seen, a new heart is necessary, but so is repentance and faith in the gospel.  It follows then that the new heart given by God is the soil, the Gospel is the seed, and repentance and faith are the first fruits.

Humble Like a Child

Matthew 18:1-4
“1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

This past Lord’s Day, the pastor of our local congregation challenged us to take time and meditate on what it means to be a child of God, specifically the love of God toward His children as spoken of in 1 John 3:1a, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”  The other night, as I was checking in on my sleeping daughter before going to bed, I paused extra long (I most always pause, just to be thankful, admire, and wonder) and just thought about her sleeping so peacefully.  The mind of this near 3-year old was perfectly relaxed, and at rest.  No worries or stress about the next day.  No anxiety over physical ailments or future ones.  No fear of what tomorrow brings.  No worry over life, job, finances, food, clothing, shelter.  By all respects, not a single worry to distract the mind.  The word free comes to mind.  Free from burden.  As I watched her with tears welling in my eyes, it occurred to me that this is exactly how God wants His children to live, free; free from burden, free from worry, stress, anxiety about what will come tomorrow or what life may bring next.  Not living irresponsibly, mind you, but freely reliant upon our Heavenly Father, much like a child is reliant upon his/her own parents.  Isn’t this what it looks like to be a child of God?  Too often it seems instead of being a child of God, we’re more like a teenager of God.  Rebellious, self-centered, selfish.  We want control of our lives and want so much to break free from the control of our parents.  What do teenagers call this?  Freedom.  Free to make their own choices and do what they want.  But this isn’t freedom, it’s bondage, or better a false-freedom.  This inward focus and inward reliance upon self is the foundation for those things mentioned earlier such as worry, stress, anxiety, or even worse an eerie calm that self-strength and determination can carry you through any problem, i.e. over-confidence.  Each of these are ultimately sin and are in fact the opposite of faith.  To be a child is to be reliant; at its very essence, helpless.

Which brings me to the passage from Matthew cited above.  Note the question of the disciples, “Who is the greatest?”  Isn’t that just like the question of an over-confident teenager holding out hope that maybe they would be the greatest.  Or at the very least, desiring to know who #1 is so that they can work harder to beat them.  But notice how Jesus responds, by placing a little child in their midst and saying, “unless you turn and become like children,” and answers their question accordingly, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  It’s so simple to understand that we miss it everyday.  Why didn’t Jesus point toward one of the disciples?  Why not point out a “righteous” man whom they could model their lives after?  Why not say a teenager, or an adult, or a mom or dad?  Why a child?  In fact, Jesus could have even said unless you become like Me.  Certainly He was the perfect example of reliance upon the Father.  Yet He chose the simplest, most basic example that the disciples (and us) could understand, a child.  The humility of child speaks of their reliance upon their parent for everything: food, clothing, shelter, basically life.  My little girl does not sit around and worry where her next meal is going to come from.  She relies.  She doesn’t wonder how she will clothe herself or whether she will have a roof over her head.  She relies.  She doesn’t worry about health, her future, what obstacles may or may not come her way in a month, year, or 10 years.  She lives free from day to day.  What a beautiful picture of what it looks like to live as a child of God.  Reliant upon Him, not only for our material needs, but for all sustenance in life both now and in the life to come.  Practically, this is what faith in Christ looks like in the everyday.

We are to humble ourselves as little children.  Turn from our teenage, over-confident, self-reliant ways, and become like a child.  Reliant.  Free.   Such are the greatest in the kingdom.