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12. TRANSFORMATION: What Does it Mean to be a mature Christian Disciple? -- 2 Peter 1:1-11

What Does it Mean to be a mature Christian Disciple? 12. TRANSFORMATION 2 Peter 1:1-11

By Ted Schroder,
October 8, 2017

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you -- your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. (2 Peter 1:3-8, The Message)

Who wouldn't want to be a person described in those terms: a person of faith, good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness and generous love? What would the world be like if we were all like that? What would the church be like if we were all like that? Peter is claiming that God has given Christians all that they need to become spiritually mature. But Christians must actively pursue spiritual maturity if they expect to be welcomed into God's eternal kingdom. These two statements appear to be mutually incompatible. On the one hand we say that all Christian character is from God -- a free gift of God's grace in Jesus by his Spirit. On the other hand we say that it depends on our effort, that we have to do something ourselves if we are become Christlike. How do we hold these two truths together in our understanding and in our behavior?

A mature Christian disciple will become like Jesus through participating in his life of the Spirit. This life of his Spirit has been given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God -- Jesus. His divine power has given us everything we need to become people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, hope, humility and prayer. He has given us his very great and precious promises of enabling us to share in God's own nature, so that we may reflect the family likeness more and more.

This requires us turning our back on the corruption of the world. The ancient world was haunted by the conception of corruption -- decay.

Change and decay in all around I see:
O Lord who changest not, abide with me.

(Henry F. Lyte)

The transitoriness of life, the pointlessness of it all, oppressed many of the best thinkers in antiquity (as it does today). Tragedies such as the massacre in Las Vegas remind us of the evil that can possess a man's soul and inflict untold horror. Death can pursue us suddenly and without warning. Peter tells them that there is a way of escape -- through Jesus Christ. Live for eternity not for the passing world. Reject all that is contrary to Christ. We are not to go along with the immoral and extravagant behavior that is so much part of our culture, our media, and our recreational life.

Because of this call from Jesus to follow him and share in his life of the Spirit we are to make every effort, to add to our faith the goodness of Christ -- the character of Christ, his excellence as a human being as seen in his life and ministry. Spiritual growth is not a matter that the Christian can treat lightly. It is not an option for the believer. It is a goal to which we need to give ourselves body and soul, every day of our lives. Christianity is not just an intellectual belief but Christlikeness.

What is the right biblical balance between what God does in us by his Spirit and what we must do by our own effort? Both are necessary. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:12-13).

Douglas Moo, in his commentary on these verses describes the problem. Some Christian teachers put great stress on what God is doing in us. They say that what we should do is only receive passively what God is doing. Our job is to "let go and let God." But there is another side to the picture. We have a part to play in becoming like Jesus. There are other Christian teachers who tend to present the Christian life as kind of military boot camp. Our job is to go out and discipline ourselves, work hard, take orders and live up to Jesus' expectations. That can be a guilt trip. The balance is to be found in both the divine and the human side. God makes us like Jesus and also we ourselves have the responsibility to become like Jesus every day.

We cannot live as God wants us to without the power of the Holy Spirit. We cultivate the power of the Spirit through reading the Scriptures which are inspired by the Holy Spirit. We draw on the power of the Spirit through prayer in the Spirit, and allowing the Spirit to pray in us and for us -- the Spirit intercedes for us. We immerse ourselves in the power and presence of the Spirit in worship and in fellowship with others. These are the means of grace God has provided for us to enable us to grow in grace. Just as an athlete or a musician has to practice in order to perform well, we have to give priority to building into our lives our relationship with God.

There are many things we can do to mature in our Christian character. The chief thing to do is to remain connected to Christ. If we want to bear the fruit of the Spirit we have to be connected to the True Vine.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing... This how my Father shows who he is -- when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. (John 15:5-8, The Message)

Are you connected to the true vine? Does the Holy Spirit witness to you that you are God's child? The fruit of the Spirit -- the virtues Peter and Paul list --are the only satisfactory evidence of being a true Christian disciple. Where there is no fruit to be seen there is no vital spiritual life. The secret of bearing the fruit of the Spirit is close communion with Christ. It is to pour out your hearts to Christ as to your chief companion and best friend, to keep his words continually before you, and to make them the guide of your actions and the rule of your daily conduct and behavior. Then the fruit will supply the best evidence to your own hearts that you are real, mature disciples of Christ.

"For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."


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