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Presents Bible Messages By Dr. Stuart E. Lease

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The Christian’s Growth in Grace

Our FATHER— Make us very keenly aware that this Book, which we are about to open this morning, is the Word of God and Thy Word to us; and do Thou by Thy Holy Spirit also open each of our hearts to receive the Truth that You have for us from Your precious Word. So, prepare us to receive from Thee all that Thou hast in this hour, we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Our meditation this morning will be in II Peter chapter 1, and the theme that we want to consider is “The Christian’s Growth in Grace.” Even our government is concerned about the growth of our children, not only physically but mentally and culturally. Consequently, they are introducing programs to upgrade the level of understanding of our young people and are spending literally millions of dollars to put this program into practice. Now, God has always had an enrichment program for His people, not just to improve us mentally or culturally but to improve us spiritually and morally. And, in II Peter, this being the final epistle that Peter writes, recognizing that his death is near at hand as he refers to it even in this first chapter, he’s very much concerned about the growth of those to whom he had ministered the Word of God. In fact, the theme of the book itself is found in his final exhortation in the book in chapter 3 and verse 18 where he says, “But grow [or literally, be growing] in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
Peter’s desire was that children of God not remain infants in the faith, but that they grow up in Christ. Now I realize that physical growth involves certain things that are essential, even as mental growth. I find that our children don’t find it so difficult to grow physically as they do mentally. I find that believers to apply themselves to the Word of God is sometimes a problem. We would like just to drift along and enjoy our Christian experience and the recesses of our experience rather than getting into the diligent study of the Word of God.
Now Peter in writing this first chapter I believe, lays The Foundation for Our Growth in Grace. In verse 1 we have what I like to call the Prerequisites for Growth, that is, that which is essential. First, of course, Peter identifies himself as the author. He refers to himself as Simon Peter, using both his pre-Christian and his post-Christian name. Simon, the rather vascilating character— Peter, the word for “rock.” I think sometimes we lose something when we read our Bible and we just read, Peter. I think that if we called him, “rock” [I sometimes even said to our class— “Rocky”— this would give us a little bit of a different perspective of this fellow, than sometimes we get. We sort of place a halo over these disciples, and we think that they were just sophisticated, glorified fellows. But, Peter was a “rock.” Jesus referred to him as such, and here he identifies himself, taking that name which the Lord Jesus has given him; and in these two names you have both humility and exaltation: humility, of his pre-Christian state; the exaltation, to which the Lord had given him, in naming him— “rock.”
There’s also this same combination in the next two phrases, “a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” A “servant” is literally a bond-slave. An “apostle” is one who is send forth. Peter was both of these. He delighted to be a “servant” of Jesus Christ. Now lest anyone be confused, we who are servants of Christ, do not serve Him in order that we might be saved. We serve Him, because we are saved. As the little poem states,
I would not work my soul to save,
That work my Lord has done.
But I would work like any slave,
For love to God’s dear Son.

And it is this which impelled Peter to identify himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. He is also an “apostle,” one sent forth to bear the message of the resurrected Saviour.
Now notice to whom this epistle is addressed, “....to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The first thing these people had, was a “precious faith” that they shared in common. One of the delightful things of Christian experience is to find that wherever you go, there are those who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I was a young man and had finished my studies at Bible school, the Lord led us to go to New England to study further; and having been in what we call “the Bible Belt,” I thought, “I’m leaving the land of spiritual plenty and going up there in that spiritually poverty-stricken New England, the graveyard of preachers, and all the rest of this.” But, you know friends, I found though, there were folks who had a “like-precious faith,” who knew and loved the same Lord Jesus Christ that I knew and loved. In fact, I found some of the finest Christians that I had ever met right there in cold New England. I also found in the warm southern part of the United States the same “like-precious faith”— this faith in Christ that we share in common, for that is what this word “like” means. We share in common a faith in Jesus Christ.
There’s also a perfect righteousness which was theirs. It is this “faith” which is ours in and “through the righteousness of God.” Now lest anyone be confused, this is not our righteousness. This is God’s righteousness which is imparted to us. In Romans chapter 3 verses 21 and 22 it says, “But now the righteousness of God without [or apart from] the law is manifested [or shown forth], being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe”— please notice that. You cannot grow unless and until you have been born, and you cannot grow spiritually unless and until you have been born again [that is, born spiritually into the family of God]. Then you can begin to grow. And, by the way, you get born into a large family! You know being born into the family of God, it is the mature members of this family that ought to challenge the immature to begin growing up.
I thank God for older brothers [in particular, who challenged my faith and caused me to follow after something of that which they had found in Christ]. Of course, it became mine own too; and my privilege then also to share with others what Christ has done for me. But, it is only through the righteousness of God, imparted to us, because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary that we can even begin to grow. So, don’t say, “Well, I going to take all the pius platitudes of the Bible and drop a scripture verse in here, and a scripture verse in there and apply some positive thinking; and consequently, I’ll grow spiritually. You will not. You won’t grow until you have been born; and thus I would say, especially to any visitors this morning that have come into our assembly— If you have never received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, the things that we have to say to you this morning will be unprofitable; because I Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” And, unless you have been spiritually born, you cannot understand spiritual Truth. I would urge and admonish you therefore, even right there in your pew, that you accept Jesus Christ.....receive Him, because of His finished work on the Cross for your sins and recognize that His righteousness then is yours.
Thirdly, these to whom Peter wrote had not only a precious faith, a perfect righteousness, but also a provident God— A God Who is faithful in supplying all their needs. Notice that it is through the righteousness of God and our Savior Who “According [to then to verse 3] as His divine power hath [provided] unto us all things that pertain [or are necessary to] life and godliness.” Thank God for the adequate provision that He Himself has made for, not only our salvation in Christ, but also for our growth and development in Him.
Now in verses 2-4, having seen the Prerequisites for Growth, we notice the Provision for Growth. First, the Procedure of this Provision in verse 2, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” The grace of God is that unmerited favor [and I like to add— extended with joy] so that we receive from God what we cannot provide for ourselves, namely the righteousness of God; and as a result of our sins having been taken care of, we then have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now God’s grace is also a Continuing Bestowment of God, whereby He enables us to grow. Grace comes to us not only when we initially believe, but it is a continual thing. In fact, Paul himself experienced something of this in his own “thorn in the flesh” which he refers to in II Corinthians chapter 12 when he besought the Lord that this might be removed from him. What did God say?— “I’ll remove it?” No. He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee!” And friends, God’s grace is always sufficient for every need! And as a result of this continuing ministry of His grace which is literally multiplied to us, we continually receive His peace. Peace comes as a result of the working of the grace of God; but it comes through also the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
There are two words that Peter uses for “knowledge” in the original. The one is “knowledge by acquaintance.” The other is “knowledge by experience” or “knowledge upon knowledge.” This is the word here for “knowledge upon knowledge” or “full knowledge.” This is the knowledge that Paul desired in Philippians 3:10 when he said, “That I may know Him, [in other words, in a deeper, more intimate fashion]. Now there are degrees by which you may “know” people. I know you folks, simply by having seen you. A few of you I know by acquaintance, having met you. Some of you I have known for a few years. Now I know our students better than you, because I’ve had an acquaintance with them and experience with them— sometimes good, sometimes otherwise. I also know our faculty a bit better than I do the students. But then I know my wife and children best of all, because I live with them, day after day.
Now the way that you can get to “know” Jesus Christ is not simply by a passing acquaintance, but by living with Him; and the procedure therefore of growth is a daily identification with Jesus Christ. [Now those of you men who married good wives that have transformed you into gloried images of perfection, to a certain extent you can thank God for the association you have had with such a person. I have a good wife. She’s somewhat of a perfectionist, but it has helped me a bit, and my living with her has done something for me, after these 16 years.] And I tell you—If you live with Jesus Christ, something of Him is going to rub off on you, and you’re going to become like Him.
One of the amazing things that always amazes me is to see older folks, as they’ve lived together, married couples, they get to look like each other. Isn’t that something? Did you ever notice that? I’ve said it in our relationship, for I have a very nice looking wife.....I’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose!.....and you know, the same is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ! We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose!......in getting to know Him intimately, day after day.
Now, the Power for this Growth, in verse 3, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, [again] through the knowledge of Him [here again, it is that knowledge by depth experience— a full knowledge of Him] that hath called us to glory and virtue.” We do not live the Christian life by our power. We live the Christian life by His power working in and through us. In Philippians 2:12 when we are admonished to “....work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [it is verse 13 that gives the key to this]. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do [or to will and to work] of His good pleasure.” It is His power that enables us to be what we ought to be.
It is also His Promises that enable us to be what He wants us to be. Verse 4, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.” [You say, “Where are these?” They’re here in this Book, the Bible. Here are the exceeding great and precious promises. Lay hold of them.....one promise after another. One of the most precious promises that I like is Romans 8:32, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” How marvelous it is to know that the God Who loved us so much that He gave His Son to die for us, in that act of demonstration of love and sacrifice, He has demonstrated and proved, that He will “freely give us all things.”
Someone has said, “True love always sacrifices.” There’s a little boy that said, “How does a mother cut a pie for a family of seven?” “Well,” the little boy said, “That’s easy. She cuts it into six pieces and doesn’t take any for herself.” See, that’s love! And God, Who loved us so much, that He gave His Son, will “freely give us all things.” His divine power has given to us all things, and these all things are found in the Word of God.
I was ministering at camp this week, and I saw some of the fellows got letters from their girlfriends. My, did they ever study those things. They read them, and reread them, and reread them! This Book is God’s love letter to us. We ought to be reading it, and rereading it, and finding there in these “exceeding great and precious promises” which are ours— so that, by these, you might be partakers of the divine nature— again becoming more and more like Him. You see, it’s as we see the Lord Jesus in the Word of God that we become more and more like Him. II Corinthians 3:18 emphasizes this, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass [or a mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” You see, as we look into the mirror of the Word of God, we see the glory of Christ, and then we’re changed to be more and more like Him. Thus, these “exceeding and great and precious promises,” as we see them and see Him there, we become like Him.
Now the Purpose of this Provision for Growth is in the latter part of verse 4, “....having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Becoming partakers of divine nature in order that we might escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. Now I find some people that are very much concerned about whether other people are saved or lost. In fact, I had some problems about this myself, and I’ve wondered whether somebody else is saved or not; but the Lord gave me a verse, and I’d like to share it with you. It’s found in II Timothy 2:19. [Verses 17 and 18 speaks of those who have departed from the faith.] Verse 19 says, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” Now, the United States has a seal.....I don’t know how many of you have a dollar bill in your wallet, but if you manage that much...you notice that on the green side of the dollar bill, there is the seal of the United States, one side and then the other side, converse and obverse sides. The seal of God has two sides. On the one side, it says concerning everybody out there, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” Now notice the side that faces you, and this is the other side, the seal of God— “Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ, [What? Do as he pleases? No—] depart from iniquity.” You see, the Purpose of these “exceeding great and precious promises” is that we might be delivered from “the corruption that is in the world through lust” that we might “depart from iniquity.” Thus, the Purpose of the Provision for Growth.
Now the Process of Growth, verses 5-7 of II Peter 1, “And beside this, giving all diligence [indicated that physical growth doesn’t require too much diligence, but mental growth does].” Now there are many things that you can say about Peter. You can say he was impetuous, that he spoke out of turn, that he wasn’t always tactful; but I doubt if any of you having read the New Testament record, can truthfully say that Peter ever was lazy. Can you? Peter was always doing something, even if he was doing the wrong thing. Even after the resurrection, when he said, “I go afishing,” he was doing something. Now it wasn’t necessarily the right thing. It’s no wonder therefore that Peter said, “Giving all diligence....” Then he recites these characteristics that ought to be characteristics of the mature person in the faith. He says,”..... add to your faith, virtue [The Revised Version translates this, “In your faith, supply virtue; and in your virtue, knowledge.”] I like to compare this a little bit to the growth of a flower, and these being as it were the petals of a flower. You would have really seven petals with the heart of the flower being love. Notice the first— faith (This is your belief in God and His Word.); Virtue is a word for manliness (not in the wrong sense of the term, but in the sense of the demonstration of those moral qualities that are the evidence of God’s highest form of creation). I’ve often said that my work at Lancaster would be very easy if we didn’t have to deal with people, but people are both the problem and the potential of the work of God.....and we ought to demonstrate in our lives a right kind of people relationship— in other words, virtue manliness in our man to man relationships.
Then “to virtue knowledge”— This is knowledge by acquaintance, not quite so strong as the other; but at least we need this too. We need the exposure to Truth. Then, “...temperance [or self-control] and patience...” Patience in the Greek is the ability to bear up under a burden, not as we come to think of it in America as the ability to wait a long time. [It’s like the wife who said, “I don’t know what he’s so concerned about. I told him a half hour ago that I’d be down in a minute.” This is not the “patience” that the Bible talks about. It’s talking about the ability to bear up when everything presses down; and maturity in Christ will demonstrate this characteristic. Then, “godliness.” Someone has said that if you add two letters, you’d get a little more meaning out of that— Godlikeness! Godlikeness. You know, God wants us to be like Him— to have those characteristics which are His— indeed His holiness to be ours. Then, “brotherly kindness.” I lived in Philadelphia for a little while. Down there we called it, “Brotherly shove,” instead of “Brotherly love.” But, sometimes that’s true in the family of God. There’s more “shove” than love, and this ought not to be in the mature Christians. And then in the very heart of this flower, as it develops, there is “love”....and this gives fragrance to all of our Christian experience. Check yourself with this list in the Process of Growth to see whether these things are yours!
Fourth, in the final section that we want to consider this morning,....for we’re dealing only with the first paragraph of this chapter which is verses 1-11. In verses 8-11 we have the Purpose for Growth. “For if these things be in you, and abound...” [In other words, not just having enough so that you miss the real thing.] You know, some Christians are like that. They have just enough Christianity to inoculate them against the real thing. But this verse says, “For if these things be in you, and abound [that is, overflowing— as Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. See?] This is what is expected of us. “....they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful...” Now the word “barren” there means “idle or lazy.” And, thus a diligent study of the Word of God and a growth in grace will make us to be diligent. Diligent, not lazy. And, “fruitful.” It will make us to be developing— not unproductive.
The fruit of a relationship of marriage and love is children; and I believe that a reason why many saints are not bringing children into the family of God is not just because they don’t love souls. They don’t have a right love for the Savior. “For if these things be in you, and abound,” they’ll keep you from being lazy and they’ll keep you from being unproductive, “....unfruitful in this knowledge”— here again, the full knowledge “....of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is our Relationship to our Savior.
Second, Our Relationship to our Short-comings. Verse 9, “But he that lacketh these things is blind [or has eye trouble] and cannot see afar off...” This second phrase there, “cannot see afar off” defines the type of eye difficulty that it is. It’s myopia. How many of you have “myopia?” I do. It’s nearsightedness. I can read my Bible without my glasses on, but all of you folks are a blur to me. Do you know that this is exactly the case with believers who are not growing in grace? They have eye trouble. Proverbs 14:14 says, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways....” You know, I’m perfectly in focus when I take off my glasses, because I’m near-sighted, but everybody else is blurred. That’s exactly the case with many believers who have backslidden. “O, I’m all right. It’s you folks that are wrong.”...They “....cannot see afar off....”— Everything else is out of focus....”and hath forgotten [They have a myopia problem. They have a memory problem too.] They have “forgotten that [they were] purged from [their] old sins.” Ah, how wonderful it was when we received Christ as Savior and realized that our sins were forgiven; but, how soon we forget....and we criticize others for their sins, but..... fail to remember that God forgave us of ours!
Well, finally verses 10 and 11: Our Relationship to Ourselves. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence [Put forth every effort.] to make your calling and election sure [and if you put forth every effort to serve the Lord and grow in grace, you will have your] election sure....” Every year at Lancaster School of the Bible, our students always want to discuss this matter of “election,” and we get into it....in very detail; but, I tell you one thing, you won’t have a problem with “election” if you’re growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It won’t be a problem. You’ll know that you’re one of the elect— when you’re growing in grace and in the knowledge of Him.
Also, and this is the final verse, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Not only will your “election” be assured and you will not stumble, but you will have “an entrance” that is abundant! There are many people that are laying up treasure here on earth, and not realizing that they can’t take it with them.
Last summer I was called in by Internal Revenue Service in regard to my income tax return, and they looked it over; and when they were finished, I said, “Now, really, why did you call me in?” “Well,” the lady said, “Mr. Lease, you know that there are people who earn five or ten times what you earn, but don’t give what you gave last year.” “Oh,” I said, “That’s interesting.” She said, “Yes, that’s true.” I said, “Well, my wife and I figure that we’re laying up treasure in heaven.” She said, “Now, that’s something.” I said, “Yes, we figure you can’t take it with you, but you can send it up ahead.” And that’s true friends....You can send it up ahead.....and not only your things, your money, but your time and your talents. Someone said, “You’re now weaving the garment you’re going to wear in eternity.” Maybe some of you will be a little.....short....” Well, how wonderful to know that there will be an abundant entrance for everyone who has grown in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. When you get “home,” what will you find? An abundant entrance?.....or will you just have to slip in by the side door?— because you really haven’t grown in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Shall we pray?

Our FATHER— We pray that if perchance there is someone here who has never received Christ as personal Savior, that that one shall have or shall even now recognize all that is available in Christ and believe in Him, realizing “....that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and raised again according to the scriptures.” And Lord, for us who are Thine, may we grow in grace. May we recognize the Provision that you have made for us. May we check ourselves in light of the Process of growth. May we recognize the Purpose.... so that we might not have eyesight hindered, or our memory fail, or that we shall fail to acknowledge our election by our living, or fail to have an abundant entrance. May it be true of us having grown in grace that we shall look forward to that, “Well done. Thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev. Stuart E. Lease
Richmond, VA

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