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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Godliness: a Fruit of the Spirit (2 Peter 1.2-8)

Sermon by:Robert Austell
August 26, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Intrada from Sonata No. 1" (Charles Ore)
Hymn of Praise: "Immortal, Invisible" (ST. DENIO)
Song of Praise: "Shine on Us" (Michael W. Smith) 
The Word in Music (men's ensemble): "Rise Up, O Saints of God" (Kenneth Jennings)
Offering of Music (men's ensemble): "Gracious Spirit Dwell with Me" (K. Lee Scott)
Song of Sending: "Hear the Call of the Kingdom" (Getty/Townend))
Postlude: "Finale from Sonata No. 1" (Charles Ore)

"Godliness: a fruit of the Spirit"
(Left-click to play; or right-click to save)
Text: 2 Peter 1:2-8

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

“So and so is a godly woman… he is a godly man.”  Have you heard someone use those words before?  Have you ever wondered what that means and how you get it?  Well the Bible actually promises that all Christians will grow in godliness.  Today we will look at what that means.

We are nearing the end of our summer series on the fruit of the Holy Spirit, those qualities God grows in all who trust and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  We began the summer looking at a list of these spiritual traits in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Then we moved to a similar list in 2 Peter 1.  In each case we took one of the traits listed and then found a place where Jesus or another New Testament writer expanded or illustrated the particular trait.

As I already mentioned, this week we are looking at GODLINESS, listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8.  “Godliness” is a form of worship.  We might use words like “religious” or “pious,” but those words have started to have a kind of negative overtone, so a more helpful definition would probably be something like “devotion to God.” It turns out that the one place this trait is expanded and elaborated is in the few verses right before the list, in 2 Peter 1:2-4.  So please turn with me to that passage and we’ll jump right in. 

A Gift from God (v. 3)

So look for the word “godliness” in 2 Peter 1.  The first place you’ll see it is in verse 3.  There Peter writes that with divine power, God has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”  The first thing we need to know about godliness is that it is a GIFT from God.  It’s not something you try real hard to generate out of your own power; it is granted by God’s power.  That’s a significant starting point, don’t you think?  That’s why “religious” or “pious” can be misleading; those sound so user-generated.  I suppose even “devotion” can sound like it originates with us; but really, what Peter is telling us is that God is the one who warms our heart to worship.  And it’s not just a “love at first sight” kind of response to God; rather, God actually provides the POWER to worship.

Certainly one way to understand that is exactly in the way that we have come to this topic.  It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, precisely the power of God at work in our lives, stirring up our hearts.  Peter’s description of godliness as a gift of God confirms what we’ve been hearing about the spiritual fruits; they come from God!

Peter says a bit more in verse 3.  That wasn’t the end of the sentence.  God’s power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness THROUGH the “true knowledge of Him.”  And I should note that “knowledge of God” is not book-knowledge, but relational knowledge.  God’s gift is that of relationship with Him.  That knowledge/relationship is mentioned two other times in this passage.  First, it is what multiplies grace and peace in verse 1.  If you know grace and peace experientially, those things are amplified or multiplied when you grow closer to God. 

And then knowledge is mentioned again at the end of this passage in verse 7.  It’s in that phrase I like so much: “…if these qualities [spiritual fruit] are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In other words, manifesting the spiritual fruit we’ve been talking about all summer are a sign of growing in knowledge of Jesus.  Again, not head-knowledge, but relational knowledge.

Let me try to say all that more simply.  Godliness is a gift from God that comes through knowing God and causes us to know God better.  That is not nearly as complicated as it sounds.  Think in terms of someone you love.  My relationship with Heather produces devotion to her, and when that devotion grows it strengthens my relationship with her.  It’s a self-sustaining circle.  The converse would also be true.  If we neglect someone we love – that would be the opposite of devotion, right? – it weakens or damages the relationship.  So also, if we neglect our devotion to God, it weakens our relationship which makes devotion or worship more difficult.  Fortunately, God is ever faithful; but it is easy to neglect God even though God is at work to stir up relationship and worship within us. 

Promised Participation (v. 4)

Continuing on… we left off with God granting or giving us what we need through knowledge of Him… and Peter goes on to expand on “Him.”  Him is God, who called us by His own glory and excellence.  And there’s more!  For by these [God’s glory and excellence] God has “granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.”  That’s the part I want you to see – that the same God who has gifted us with a relationship with Him has made promises.  What are those promises?  They are for PARTICIPATION – partaking in the divine nature.

Do you hear the repetition and underlining of God’s design for relationship with us?  God’s gift was relationship.  God’s promise is participation.  That’s what happens when someone is in relationship; there is sharing and partnership.  And that’s what Peter says God has promised us: to share in His divine nature.  This doesn’t mean that we become some kind of gods; rather it means that God’s design and promise is for us to share in what God is like and what God is doing.

And that leads us back to GODLINESS.  What better description of godliness could there be than sharing in what God is like and what God is doing at His loving invitation?  Again, that is devotion or worship.  And again, there is an analogy with marriage or any other close human relationship.  Devotion in marriage isn’t just fawning over one’s spouse; it is sharing in what the other loves and what the other is doing.  It is participation and sharing. 

And So… Fruit (vv. 5-7)

And that leads us to our listing of spiritual fruit, beginning in verse 5.  That verse begins, “Now for this very reason…”  What reason?  The reason is what we’ve just talked about.  God’s gift is relationship with Him and God’s promise is participation with Him.  That’s how the spiritual fruit can grow.  Applying diligence and faith (v. 5) aren’t enough by themselves; rather it is because of we participate in God’s power AT GOD’S INVITATION that the Holy Spirit partners with our human effort to grow moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  It is a partnership initiated and made possible by God through the Holy Spirit.

Listen, God is not an academic subject to study; God is not a glorified hobby or discipline; God is personal and real and has made us for relationship and worship.  And those two things, relationship and worship, are in focus here.  God’s gift of knowledge is the gift of relationship with Him.  God’s promise of participation is an INVITATION to love and honor and submit and serve, amazingly elevated from groveling by the invitation to share in what God is doing, as partners. 

Have you heard that invitation? Can you hear the significance of it?  God’s initiative and invitation, described here, is almost like a marriage proposal.  It is a declaration of love, “I love you and desire a relationship with you!”  And it is an invitation to a life together.  “Godliness” describes our ongoing “I do” and “I will” back to God through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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