Spiritual Growth and Rewards

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Assurance is a great blessing, as Peter tells us in verse 10 of today’s passage. However, it is not the only thing you will enjoy if you are pursuing godly virtues. Years ago a Jewish teenager named Marvin learned about the additional blessing of rewards from the lady who led him to Christ. Before he left home to join the Marines as a struggling, often persecuted believer, she told him: “You’re a true Christian, Marvin. . . . One day when your earthly life ends you will go to Heaven because of what the Messiah has done for you. But if, when you get to Heaven, there is a great big parade and if in the front of the parade there is a great big band—if you don’t change your way of living, you’ll be so far back in the line that you won’t even hear the music.” Marvin got the message and eventually became a dedicated Christian teacher and evangelist.


The pursuit of virtue results in assurance now and eternal reward later.


You and I also must be living our lives in light of eternity—laying up treasures in Heaven, pursuing the virtues symbolized by gold, silver, and precious stones, not giving attention to those lesser things represented by wood, hay, and straw (see 1 Cor. 3:10-15). Those of us who earnestly pursue the virtues of 2 Peter 1 will receive a superabundant reward. And that’s not a crass motive for good works, because all believers will one day place their crowns (rewards) before God’s throne as an act of homage (see 2 Tim. 4:7-8; Rev. 4:10).

Examine yourself to see if there’s any moral virtue in your life. If you see none, you can’t assume you’re saved. If you see some and it’s growing, though not perfectly, you can be “certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). And you can be confident His reward “will be abundantly supplied to you” (v. 11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the eternal rewards that await those believers who have been faithful.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 1:18; 2:7; and 1 Timothy 6:17. What do those verses say about God’s blessings and rewards?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Spiritual Amnesia

“For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9).

Physical nearsightedness and mental amnesia both are unwanted conditions. Nearsightedness (myopia) causes people’s eyes to focus the parallel rays of light in front of the retina. They can clearly see things right in front of them, but the farther out they look, the more out of focus objects become.

Amnesia, of course, is memory loss. Sometimes it’s selective, but usually it’s total—everything prior to a certain time or incident. It often causes people to forget their name, their family, and everything about their identity and background.

Those two impairments should be even less welcome on the spiritual level. Professed believers who are unfruitful become spiritually nearsighted. They focus on temporal fads and passing earthly fashions. By the time they try to look ahead to eternity, it is so out of focus for them that they can’t see it.

Those with spiritual amnesia, because they see no increase of spiritual virtue in their lives, forget they were supposed to be saved from their sinful lifestyles. They don’t remember the spiritual “purification” (catharsis) that should have occurred in their lives—a reference to a deep internal purging or cleansing.


If you don’t practice spiritual virtues now, you’ll forget their significance later.


If you are not diligently pursuing spiritual virtue and moral excellence, you will have a very fuzzy view of your true condition. You may connect an outward action or emotional experience with the time you professed Christ, but you will not have a sense of assurance. Commentator Richard Bauckham explained it this way: “The ‘knowledge of Jesus Christ’ [v. 8], received at conversion, came as illumination to those who were blind in their pagan ignorance (2 Cor. 4:4), but Christians who do not carry through the moral implications of this knowledge have effectively become blind to it again.”

Regarding 2 Peter 1:5-9, it all comes down to this: if you are seeing your life grow in moral virtue, you have proof of salvation and a reason for assurance. If you are not seeing your life grow in virtue, you have no proof of salvation and no reason for assurance. Be diligent to avoid spiritual myopia and amnesia in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would have clear spiritual vision at all times.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 6:1-12. How can this passage help you avoid spiritual amnesia?


From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Fruitfulness

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).

If you want to enjoy assurance of salvation in all its richness, you need to faithfully pursue all the virtues we have been studying this past week. The reason is simple—they produce fruit in the Christian life, and nothing is a better indicator of true salvation than that. It was the criterion Christ used to distinguish between the true and false believer (Matt. 7:15-20).


If you are a Christian, your life will produce spiritual fruit.


The reasonable question that ought to arise next is, what is fruit? The New Testament says it encompasses many righteous activities. Paul says winning souls to Christ is fruit (Rom. 1:13). The apostle calls the house of Stephanas “the first fruits of Achaia” (1 Cor. 16:15). In Philippians 4:17 Paul refers to money given in the support of ministry as fruit. The writer of Hebrews says praise is the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15). The act of praying is also a spiritual fruit.

Behind every one of those righteous actions is the right attitude, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). If you act without a godly attitude, it is only legalism, not genuine spiritual fruit.

All the Spirit-endowed virtues, actions, and attitudes we have discussed, if they are in your life, will assure you that you’ll be “neither useless nor unfruitful.” “Useless” is also used in James 2:20 in relation to dead faith. If you incorporate into your life the virtues of 2 Peter 1:5-7, your faith will not be dead or ineffective.

“Unfruitful” is also used in Matthew 13:22 of the person with a weedy heart and of false, apostate teachers in Jude 12. When you don’t live a virtuous life, you are the same as an apostate or a worldly hanger-on in the church.

“In the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to true believers, those who possess truth as opposed to error. Because you know Christ, you have the ability to live a virtuous life (see Eph. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3). When you do, God will give you true assurance.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would strengthen any of the virtues that are weak in your life.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 7:13-23.

  • What is the first essential for fruitfulness (vv. 13-14)?
  • What will happen to many who do good works (vv. 22-23)?


From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Agape Love

“. . . And in your brotherly kindness, Christian love” (2 Peter 1:7).

Classical Greek had three common terms for love. As we saw yesterday, phileo (philadelphia) is the love of give and take, best expressed in friendship. Eros is the love that takes—one loves another strictly for what he or she can get out of that person. It is typical of the world’s sexual and lustful desires, which are always bent toward self-gratification. Agape is the love that gives. It is completely unselfish, with no taking involved. This is the highest form of love, which all the other virtues in 2 Peter 1 ultimately lead to. It seeks another’s supreme good, no matter what the cost. Agape was exemplified perfectly by Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.


Sacrificial love proves genuine faith.


But what does this highest type of love look like? A brief survey of the one anothers in the New Testament gives an excellent picture. We are commanded to:

Edify one another (Rom. 14:19).  
“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).  
“Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).  
Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).  
Forgive one another (Col. 3:13).  
Instruct one another (Col. 3:16).  
“Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 4:18).  
Rebuke one another (Titus 1:13).  
Encourage one another to do good (Heb. 10:24-25).  
Confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).  
“Pray for one another” (James 5:16).  
“Be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:9-10).

The Lord Jesus Christ was involved with individuals. He was a true friend who caringly, lovingly, and sensitively interacted with feeble, needy, and unimportant people and made them eternally important.

Nevertheless we still find people spiritualizing love into a meaningless term. “I love so-and-so in the Lord” really means, “He irks me, but I guess I have to love him if he’s a believer.” Don’t let yourself say that. Instead, display genuine love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that Christ showed agape love toward you on the cross.

For Further Study

Memorize one of the verses in the list of one anothers, and apply it at every appropriate opportunity.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Brotherly Love

“And in your godliness, brotherly kindness . . .” (2 Peter 1:7).

A genuine love for God will invariably lead to a love for others. That’s what Jesus said of the two great commandments (Matt. 22:36-40) that summarize the Ten Commandments. The apostle John also related love for God and love for others: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).


Real Christian discipleship will include practical brotherly love.


The kind of love that’s called “brotherly kindness” in today’s verse is very practical. It’s a translation of the Greek philadelphia, which might best be rendered “friendship.” We are to be affectionate toward one another. But that does not always happen, especially for those attending big churches. There I fear many people sit on the periphery without developing any relationships. They come to the morning service and then go their way. But that’s not Christian discipleship; we’re to add friendships to our faith and be involved in others’ lives.

People in many different churches want to know more about discipleship, as if it were some complex program surrounded in mystery. But discipleship is simply friendship with a spiritual perspective. Disciples will talk about God, the Scripture, ministry opportunities, and prayer requests—not merely sports, the weather, gardening, or home remodeling. Each is concerned how the other handles the daily affairs and important matters of life. I would encourage you to build friendships and be a part of a Bible study and fellowship group—but make sure your small group does not become exclusive and keep out newcomers.

I once talked to a pastor who had attended one of the annual pastors’ conferences at my church. I asked him what impressed him most about the conference, and he said, “The love of the people for each other. I was drawn to tears when I sensed them worshiping God in the midst of genuine love.” He had seen an application of Jesus’ words, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). You can’t get more practical about Christian love than that!

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for other members of your small group. If you’re not in one, ask God to lead you to a group.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 4:7-19.

  • With whom does love originate?
  • What are the results of that love?


From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.