Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Believer’s Responsibility for Godly Living, Part 1

In this sermon, Pastor Babij teaches from 2 Peter 1:5 the Christian’s responsibility to live godly and to cultivate the means of grace provided by God. Pastor details three elements of necessary spiritual discipline:

1. Examining yourself
2. Crucifying the old self
3. Practicing the new ways

Pastor Babij concludes with an admonishment to Christians to “farm the land” with the tools given them by God.

Full Transcript:

Let’s turn to 2 Peter. If you are using a pew Bible, it’s on page 1215. 2 Peter chapter 1, I’m going to read from verse 1 through 7:

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received the faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they rented you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray. Lord, this morning I just asked You, as we again look at Your Word, Holy Spirit we pray that You would illuminate Your Word to us. Make it real to us. Make it practical to us. Make it apply to us, Lord, in a very specific way, so Lord we would do what it says. And we would be the kind of people that the Spirit of God is actually making into the image of Christ. So any obstacles, any things that are going to hinder us today, please remove. Very purpose of Your Word coming to our heart without any distractions and I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Just to remind you from last time in this text, this is what we must not forget. We must not forget that you are not lacking anything to grow in Christlikeness. You have everything you need for life and godliness. Verse number 3 – everything pertaining to life and godliness. The source of divine power is from Jesus, that this divine power is expressed in a godly life. And that you do not do it alone. Philippians tells us:

for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

You’re not alone. Also don’t forget that the Holy Spirit, the power of the Holy Spirit, helps us to replace sinful habits with godly habits. We must not forget that it is not just human effort, but grace motivated effort. It is not effort apart from the Holy Spirit. It is effort and cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We have the promise of being like Christ. Verse four:

For by these he has granted granted to us His precious and magnificent promises,

Now from last week, what that meant is that Christ’s attributes of divine majesty and moral goodness have been instrumental in giving believers not only what they need for a godly life, but that through these attributes of His own glory and goodness, Christ has provided for the fulfillment of the promises. The fulfillment of the promises include believers becoming sharers of the richest of all treasures on this earth, and that is the nature and the life of God. Also believers receive a remarkable privilege while we’re on this earth. That privilege is to actually enjoy intimacy with the God who created the universe through Christ Jesus.

So the two benefits of the promises come in verse four, where there’s a positive benefit. The positive benefit is actual participation in the divine nature, where it says:

For by these He has granted to us his precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature,

Remember, Scripture does not say you have the divine nature. It says you participate in the divine nature. To participate in the divine nature means that the Christian shares in God’s own character. That He is allowing certain attributes to be remade in us that reflect the attributes of God Himself. Not all of them, only the ones that are communicated through us as humans. See the apostle Peter also does not say that we possess the divine nature in its totality, and therefore we become sinless. We will never become sinless. We’re always dealing with sin. So participation in the divine nature is the reception of an ethical nature like God’s, which then leads to holiness and godliness. Christians are given an ethical desire to live for our Lord and to do so with a holy desire and a holy purity and a holy goodness.

Now at the same time, there’s a negative benefit. That does definitely show the tension that’s in the Christian life once a believer trust in Christ. There was a tension that comes in our lives because the tension is between the old nature and the new man – what God wants us to do and what we’re used to doing in the old person. So the negative benefit that is concurrent with the desire to participate in the divine nature is also the escape from corruption in the world caused by desire. And there is the tension of the Christian life. Verse four says:

having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

This is corruption in the world because of desire, because of sinful desire, because of the fall of man into sin.

Sin came between man and God and God’s own divine characteristics that were given to man at the beginning. We’re lost. Sin shattered the image of God created in us and stamped upon us. The part of man that had communion with God absolutely completely died at the fall. We bear that deadness when we’re born into the world, having no reference to God once we are born into the world. All we have reference to is our own sinful desires. From young to old, we have sinful desires to do what we want to do and not what God wants to do, not what God laid out for us to do. So since that time, man has been running from God. He is now governed by sinful desires and panders to those sinful desires of his lower nature. So sinful desire is at the root of all moral corruption in the world. Because of moral corruption in the world, it’s subject to decay. It’s dying. We are dying. The world is dying. Everything is dying because of sin, because of the curse of sin in the world.

So that means that the the escape here in verse four is the escape from corruption that remains in this old world. Christians, as they grow in holiness, see clearly more than ever before, that they need to separate themselves from the moral corruption that is so much a part of this fallen world and so much a part of our fallen nature. God restores us in salvation. He makes us spiritually alive. He creates us after the image of the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what He’s doing to us right now, for all those who are in Christ.

So then, a Christian’s participation in the divine nature gives believers this new ability to resist sin through union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, along with the Scriptures. That means that the desire is that the flesh that we now have, the flesh, this sinful old man, needs to be weakened. The desire to obey the Holy Spirit and to please Jesus Christ needs to be strengthened. Our desires that come from our heart needs to be strengthened so we want the pattern of our life to be godly, to be holy. It’s already been said that along with Christ’s righteousness that he gives us in salvation where He makes us right with God, that’s what He’s done. He also gives to the believer an ethical righteousness, a practical righteousness, a righteousness that actually we live on this earth. He gives that. We receive that at salvation. That means that the believer’s nature is being transformed so that he and she will manifest the character of God. That will take place in a real believer.

So this Lord’s day, the admonition is to use the awesome power available to you and I to grow in godliness. We saw in 2 Peter 1:3-4 what God has done. That is the things that have already been done for us by God. That’s taken place already. Today, and I’ll just start today. I probably won’t even get out of verse 5 today. Now in 2 Peter 1:5-9, the Scripture emphasizes and I want to drive this home to you the human side of salvation.

Now that does not suggest any form of work salvation. However, true faith must lead to works. The epistle of James tells us:

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

So faith always produces works, always. Works comes after one’s initial salvation to Christ, not before it. Works are the fruit of salvation. So this morning, we are going to look at at least two things, but we’re going to look at other Scriptures too. The believers have initially a two-fold responsibility. Before we even get into defining what that is in detail, this must come first. The first responsibility believers are to have is a diligent attitude toward your own spiritual growth. Now look at verse 5. It says this:

Now for this very reason also, apply all diligence, in your faith…

Let me just go back before the comma – apply all diligence. Now I want to look at that for a minute because we are not to sit back at this point and wait for God. God already demands an intense work ethic in His children. We cannot have, in other words, a lackadaisical attitude towards godliness, towards growth in Christ. If there is that kind of attitude, it is an infection that must be healed and ultimately removed. We cannot miss the importance of the phrase “all diligence”. It actually literally means to bring every effort to this new life you have in Christ, to exert yourself in this new life you have in Christ, and maybe in modern-day vernacular, we can say to do your very best at being a Christian.

Now some people may not think that we have that responsibility. Some may think that God does it all and we just kind of like go with the flow. No. That’s not what it’s saying in Scripture. It’s saying to us: Christians are to take the human side of salvation very seriously by putting strenuous effort into your spiritual development. That is the goal of all Christian. That’s the goal of all believers.

Now, let me just backup for a minute and start with the bare bones basics. What I mean by that is that there are three things that we must all be clear about. Here’s the first thing – we must be clear that we are actual Christians. Make sure that you are a Christian to begin with or we couldn’t even go any further in this passage. That you have the Holy Spirit in you that enables you to grow. Remember, no salvation means no Spirit, which means you are not plugged in to the source. If you want a passage of Scripture, I have one for you – Romans 8:9. It would be good for you to look at that. Look what it says there in Romans 8:9:

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

That means if you have no Spirit, then you cannot participate in the divine nature. You are still spiritually dead in your trespasses and sins. So you will not understand what I’m going to preach, let alone put it into practice. In other words, you need to be born again first. You have to start there.

A second thing getting back to the bare-bones basic is this – you must use the means of grace available to all Christians in order to cultivate the Spirit’s power in your life. Now, you heard it before but again basics – the study of God’s Word, the reading of God’s Word, the meditating on God’s Word, fellowship with believers, the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Table and with each other, prayer, service, using your gifts in spiritual worship. I have a Scripture for you on this one too – Acts 2:42:

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

These are non-negotiable for the Christians in order to grow in spiritual maturity. Without them, it cannot happen.

Then the third thing is this – you must be responsible to discipline yourself in godliness. Now I would like you all to turn to this passage of Scripture in 1 Timothy 4:7-8. Just to remind you what it is saying here in 2 Peter, that in verse five it says:

for this very reason also, applying all diligence,

I’m explaining with that means – all diligence. The apostle Paul was writing about godliness to a young pastor named Timothy, and he says in 1 Timothy 4:7-8:

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for life to come.

Now, if that doesn’t motivate you to hold in front of you godliness as a gold. Just like if you’re going to work out physically, you just don’t look at the weights and hope you develop muscle. No, you’ve got to actually exert yourself, right? You have to put yourself in the equation. In fact, the interesting thing about the Greek word Paul use for discipline in verse 8 – it is gymnazo. We get the words gymnasium, gymnastics. I don’t know of any sport that is more strenuous than gymnastics – walking the beam and flipping and the iron cross on the rings and all those kind of things. The passage is actually related to athletics. Athlete becomes better and more skilled only after hard practice.

I have enjoyed reading Muscle magazine since I was a teenager. Reading about weightlifting motivated me to get into the gym and try out the exercises. When starting off, I quickly realized that weightlifting was not for the faint of heart. A weightlifter must start off with light weights, but gradually over months and years add heavier and heavier weights in order to build muscle. I also discovered that regular training was vital in order to achieve even the slightest results. A weightlifter cannot decide this week – I think I’ll lift for 6 hours on Friday and then forget about it for the next six weeks. No, an athlete must practice regularly. Some workout everyday. Some work out 5 times a week. Some workout 3 times a week. They must train though. They must train to achieve results, to grow stronger and better along with this regular schedule. An athlete also must learn more and more about his sport nutrition and make sure that they’re living a healthy life. If you don’t do those things, you don’t get results.

In other words, all Christians have an automatic gym membership when you become a believer. You have a gym membership in which you get into the gym and train. It says discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Is that not the goal? Train to participate in the divine nature, applying all diligence, bring every effort, exert yourself for the purpose of godliness. That’s our responsibility. That’s what Peter is telling his readers.

Now maybe you’re here today thinking: you know what, I want this year to be the year that I really grow spiritually. I want to be what God wants me to be. In the past, I’ve been fired up to see real change in my life, but honestly nothing significant has taken place. Oh there’s some change, some growth, some blessing, but not the kind I earnestly would like to see. Now if you have from time to time been thinking something like this, well you are not alone. I believe all believers think this, because they realize how much they fall short of what God wants them to be. The danger, though, is that you will try to find some other spiritual experience to fill the gap than what God requires. Satan will provide you one. Or you’ll throw up your hands and say I give up. I can’t do this. Don’t go there. Don’t give up hope. Run back to the Scripture and get God’s mind on the matter.

Why do you think you have failed in your attempt to be godly? The major reason maybe some sin that you’re clinging to that has prevented you moving forward in Christlikeness. However, the problem may not be a big besetting sin. The problem may be that you have not understood what the Bible says about how to grow spiritually. Or the problem may be that you have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness and have failed again and again. Brethren, there are no instant gains without diligence and without discipline.

It is not wrong for believers to genuinely examine themselves to see whether they’re in the faith. It actually tells us that in Corinthians chapter 15 to make sure that you’re in the faith. Also, it’s appropriate for all believers from time to time to honestly examine whether they are living a life of faith. It’s good for believers to ask themselves – am I storing up in my mind the truths of God’s Word? Am I living by them? Have I actually developed an appetite for more solid in-depth food of God’s Word? Is my growth progressing or am I going backwards? Has my growth been arrested by some destructive weeds and thorns of anxiety and materialism or some sin that has lodged in my heart that is preventing me from moving forward? That’s a possibility because worry and greed are enemies of the Word. They betray a failure to trust in God and God’s fatherly care for us. Remember this, that’s spiritual security does not depend on a clear recollection of the moment of your conversion only. It has to do with the issue of fruit. See, by your fruits, by God’s love for you, by what God has already done for you and given to you and his grasp on you, and also discipline is the secret of godliness.

The term discipline has just about disappeared from Christian vocabulary and culture. Yet there’s no other way to obtain godliness. Discipline is the path to godliness. And God intends for all His children to be godly. It means each day, a godly person leads a life that reflects God. A godly person is growing in their desire to please God, in their being, in their thinking, in their speaking, in their doing, and even yes in their feelings, because all those lead into how I feel. Often times we feel wrong because we’ve been thinking wrong. We’ve been meditating on things that are opposite of what God wants you to meditate on, and therefore it bears that result of bad feelings, bad thoughts.

Now, look back at 2 Peter again, and I want you to notice in 2 Peter 2:14, Peter speaks about people whose heart are trained in greed. Speaking of the false teachers, look at what he says in 2 Peter 2:14:

having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;

That word trained right there, the word is gymnazo. It means that the heart has been exercised in greed and is one that is faithfully practicing greed so that greed becomes as natural as breathing. The false teachers have developed a habit capability. They do it without thinking. False teachers habitually behave greedily.

This means that if we are going to obtain a heart of godliness, we must exercise discipline. We need to get into the spiritual gym and start there and start training and keep training until we develop a habit capability for godliness. Once we habitually have sinned, now as Christians, we are to habitually live righteously. We get to the point where that becomes who we are, what we do, because the Word of God is transforming us and making us like Christ. It’s like what it says in Romans 8:3:

For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin the flesh, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

So God’s provided it for us. Now don’t misunderstand. There’s no such thing as instant godliness. We do live in a culture that wants things instantly and people want instant godliness too. They want someone to give them three ways, three steps to godliness. That’s what they want. And if I get that, then maybe I could do it. But God did not design our sanctification like that. The biblical way to godliness is not easy. It is not simple, but it is a solid way. Hopefully, the diagnosis in your life will not be what it says in Hebrews chapter 5. And what is that? That you never got past the rudiments or the basics of christianity 101, where it says this you’re still on the ABCs. It says:

you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God,

Also, the diagnosis wouldn’t be that you need to be bottle fed with milk. The only ones who use milk are babies and those who are ill. You need milk like a little baby because you cannot take in solid food yet to become stronger. Like it says in Hebrews:

you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Or that your decisions and behavior display spiritual ignorance, like little children who do not know the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:13:

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

So what’s the solution to the problem? Get into the spiritual gymnasium! Just like it says in Hebrews 5:14:

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

So again the term trained – you guessed it. It’s the word gymnazo. Gymnasium, right? It means to exercise vigorously. And so as one becomes accustomed to the Word of God by constant use, the mind then makes correct judgments and the desires of our heart are to live for godliness.

So the Bible also helps us to understand that discipline really has three elements to it. The first element of biblical discipline is that it starts with self-evaluation. It starts right there. You must become aware of your life patterns. You must evaluate them by the Word of God. You must determine whether your patterns of living are according to the old ways or toward godliness. The old sinful ways, as they are discovered, must be replaced by new patterns from God’s Word. The Holy Spirit doesn’t zap instant holiness into us apart from the Scriptures. In fact, the Holy Spirit ordinarily works through the Word of God. That’s how He works. For if we want to discipline ourselves towards godliness, the most essential factor is a regular study of God’s Word in order to make application of the principles to our own particular problems and behaviors that need to change. So it is by the willing, prayerful, persistent obedience to the requirement of Scripture that godly patterns are developed and come to be part of us. I like what Paul said in 2 Timothy. He says:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Scripture again tells us: listen, you and I need to be examining ourselves to see where we’re at.

Second element that goes with discipline is discipline includes crucifixion. See, the old sinful ways must not be fed. The old sinful ways must be put to death. Romans 8:13 says this:

for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Everyday, by the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit, we are crucifying the old sinful ways. First by saying no, I’m not going there. You say no to the old rebel inside of you. No, I’m not doing that anymore. This is what God wants me to do. I’m not going that way anymore. So you’re telling yourself everyday: nope, sorry. Temptation pops up. It becomes powerful to you. It starts getting your imagination going and you say to it: you know what, I’m not going there. I’m going to discipline myself in godliness and therefore I’m going to put the death that particular thought, that particular desire, and I am going to lay it aside until it dies and not feed it again. So it involves denying the self. Jesus commanded His disciples and He was telling all of them this:

If anyone wishes to comes after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Now, Jesus did not mean denying yourself something. Rather, Jesus insisted that Christians must deny the self within them. By the self, He meant the old desires, the old ways, the old practices, the old patterns that were acquired before conversion. The old life that was discipline towards ungodliness, not towards godliness. So the phrase take up the cross identifies the battle, the struggle, as a believer grows in christlikeness. The cross is the instrument of death. Taking up the cross does not mean carrying some heavy burden or enduring some trial or some obnoxious person. No, taking up the cross means going to the place of death. It means putting to death the old man and the old life patterns.

Scripture says we are to put off the old and put on the new. Christians, as they continue to do that, saying no to the self and yes to Christ every day, until one by one, all the old habitual ways are replaced by new ones. That’s what God’s going to do, but you have to discipline yourself. God’s giving you everything you need to do that, and you are to discipline yourself. So the holy spirit enables a believer to put off the old man and put on the new man.

And then there’s a third element of discipline and that element is practice. We practice following Jesus Christ in the new ways by the guidance of God’s Spirit and what He provides in the Word of God. Again, the Hebrews passage of Scripture says:

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Continual daily effort is really the elemental essential of the Christian discipline, until God-like behavioral changes is no longer something you have to do. It’s something you become. It’s something you are. That’s your being, who you become.

The second responsibility, which I’ll really pick up more next week, is found back in 2 Peter chapter 1:5. He says:

for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,

That word again, “supply”, a very strong word. It’s an imperative. It’s a command in Scripture. It is a command with a cumulative force for a believer to supplement their faith, to add to their face. Another way of thinking of this command is to bring alongside what God has already done for you, every ounce of determination you can mustard, and go forward to pursue the goal of godliness. So Christians are called to express in action the nature of God that has been created in us.

One of my favorite pastor preachers, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, has been with the Lord since 1980s and has left us a wealth of material. Here in our passage, he has given us a helpful image by using a farm as the model. And this is what he said. We are given the farm by God’s grace. We are given the implements and the tools and all that is necessary. We are given the steed. What we are called upon to do is to farm. It is no use telling a man to farm if he has not a farm. If he is without land, without seed without tools, nothing can be done. But all these are given unto us and therefore having received them, we are asked to farm the lot of land that God has given us. That means to be diligent, to apply to our faith diligence, discipline.

So what do we do? We must add to what God has given us. We must increase in it. We must proceed to grow in it. Diligence plus faith equals spiritual growth in godliness. That’s the math. Add to your faith eight Christian qualities and we’re going to look at that next week. And what are they? Moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. That’s what we are to add to the faith that God has given us, as we do that and put the effort in to do that. You can’t sit there in the pew and fold your arms and think it’s going to happen.

I tell people all the time: remember we are not sitting in the stands. We are in the game. We are in the game. Right? Don’t think that the Christian life is you sit there like this and it’s all going to come to you. No, God says that’s not the way it’s happening. All you’ve got to do is follow my Word and discipline yourself. You want to be strong physically, go to the gym and make yourself strong. You’re not going to do it by sitting behind a TV and using the clicker all day, have your chips and your soda or whatever’s there. Nothing’s going to happen there. You’re just going to get bigger in other places you don’t want to.

We need some really strong believers. Godly people know how to be godly, know how to be holy, and how to pursue it. And all you got to do is stick to the Word of God and it will happen, because God has given us everything to farm our little land. So let’s take what He’s giving us and use it and become strong. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Young people, this applies to you too, because the Bible says don’t let anyone look down on your youth. You can flee sin and pursue righteousness. And you become a very strong model to those who don’t know how to do that. So I pray that you just evaluate yourself, where you’re at today. How have you grown today? This is a new year. You can make decisions to do great things in your spiritual progress, and I pray that you would do that. And we would help each other do that.