I’ve discovered something about myself. This may come as a revelation to you too. That is this: things that require more effort are harder for me to do.
I know, that’s a revelatory statement. You’re probably thinking, “I clicked on this link to read that. What a waste of my time.” Well, before you click away, give me a second.
At SixEight Church we’re in a series going through these verses of 2 Peter:
2 Peter 1:3-7
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
That’s a pretty powerful statement. God’s power has granted to us, given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Those things we need for life and godliness have been granted to us.
How have they been granted to us? Through the knowledge of the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. The calling placed on our lives is not one of mediocrity and averages. We are called to the same glory and excellence of the one who called us.
By this knowledge of holy one who has called us we have been granted/gifted with his precious and great promises. The knowledge we have of the holy God who called us is where we find the promises He has made to us.
And it is through these promises that we become partakers of the divine nature. It is through these promises and divine power that we escape the corruption that is in the world through sin.
But at this point, Peter creates a contrast. To now Peter has been talking about what has been granted/gifted/bestowed to us. And it’s all great stuff. But, he’s going to change course.
Make Every Effort.
Spoude. Pronounced spoo-day’. It means diligence. Earnestness in accomplishing, promoting or striving after anything.
You see, there’s the work that’s been granted and gifted to us. There’s the aspect of our faith that we have received freely. It’s awesome and amazing. But, the problem is, we stop there. We stop with the easy part. We’ve been given this great gift, but we don’t do our part.
What’s worse, is we often feel entitled to the outcome with out doing our spoude. We want God to just give us the fruit without making any effort to produce the fruit. And we get mad when God doesn’t make us the kind of people we think He should be making us into.
Even though we haven’t done anything to change.
Yes, there is the granted and given aspect of our faith. But, Yes, there is also the working, spoude, diligent, striving aspect of our faith. We have to “press on/strain toward the goal.”(Phil. 3) We have to “Do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2)
We don’t become “spiritual giants” by waiting for someone else to make us one. We don’t become more like Christ by waiting for God to do all the work for us. Will God do the work in us? Absolutely. It can only be done through Him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any responsibility to work at becoming like Christ.
The problem is, I’m lazy. I don’t like doing things that require effort on my part. Can’t I just pay someone to do that for me? Isn’t there an easier way.
Samuel Johnson said: “What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” Faith may not come naturally to you at first, but if you make every effort you can in it, it will come more naturally to you. Virtue/Moral excellence may not come naturally. But if you work at it, strain and strive after it, it will come more naturally to you. Knowledge will not just magically appear in your mind. You have to work to attain it.
Instead of blaming God for not granting us our prayers for Him to do something in us that we’re not willing to do in ourselves, we should ask: “Am I making every effort?” Maybe we’re not there yet. “Am I making any effort at all?”
You and I will never grow in our faith, in our relationship, in our walk with God if we don’t make an effort.
How can we make an effort? Spend time reading his word. Read 2 Peter. Read it slowly. Read it once a day. It’s not long. If that’s too much, just read these 5 verses once a day. Think about it. Let it sink in.
Spend time praying to God. Just communicate with God, have an honest conversation with Him about your struggles. Ask Him to help you conquer this or that.
Worship Him. Humble yourself and exalt Christ. Humble yourself and lift Him up. Make sure you are not elevating yourself above God. Don’t make God a fairy or a jeannie in a bottle who exists to grant your wishes. Make much of him and less of yourself.
Our frustrations with our faith are nearly always because we’re not making an effort. What would change if you started making an effort today?
Probably a lot.
It’s time for some Spoude.
I don’t know if I’ve always been this way.
It’s hard to remember not being this way. I think some of us with certain personality types are a little more prone to it. However, I think a lot of my habitual pessimism came to me during my time in college.
There’s this way of thinking in college, and it’s in a lot of churches…well, it’s pretty much everywhere.
I’m afraid we’re becoming more and more pessimistic as time goes on.
It can feed your brain and ego to be negative and pessimistic. There are studies showing the way your brain rewards you for being negative and for other negative behaviors like gossiping.
I think that’s party of why we do it. I think we also do it because it makes us feel smart to be able to put something or someone else down. Being negative and pessimistic is a way of lifting ourselves up over whatever it is we’re putting down.
I’ve been trying to be a more positive and optimistic person for a while. But, I haven’t made it public yet. So, I wanted to do that today.
Hi, I’m David. And I’m a recovering pessimist.
I refuse to define myself as a pessimist. I’ve been and am being set free from it. That’s not who I am, that’s who I was. It is a journey. It’s a challenge. It can be tough to change ways of thinking and talking and interacting that have been pressed deeply into your psyche.
But, that’s not who I am, that’s who I was.
However, my confession is not merely a way of me going public with my journey.
It’s also a plea.
Will you join me? Will you go with me on this journey? Will you make a choice to abandon your negative, pessimistic ways of thinking, talking, interacting and seeing the world through that lens?
Especially for those of you who are Christians, we have so much to be thankful for, joyful over and to celebrate! We have been set free from the corruption and brokenness of the world. And while the world around us remains broken, we cannot be instruments of redemption with a mindset of corruption and pessimism.
I’m not saying we won’t have to endure hardships. I’m not saying we have to hide our pain and our struggles. Some of us have gone through unimaginable pain and sorrow. There will be seasons and times of our lives where we walk through the shadows.
But, they are merely that – shadows. They are passing. They are temporary. They exist because there is light. And, as dark as the shadow may be, as dense as the forest around us is – if we just keep walking, we will eventually find ourselves in the light again.
Will you join me in this pursuit? Will you help me in this pursuit? Because I don’t think we need anymore negativity in our world.
Instead, I think we need more hope in our world. We may be the only source of hope for this world. You may be the only source of hope for the people in your life. We cannot provide hope to the world through pessimism and negativity.
Should we be dishonest? Should we put on a front? No.
But, we should practice. It’s one thing to be fake. It’s another thing to practice being someone you’re trying to become. Athletes practice. Musicians practice. Artists practice. People learning to drive have to practice.
We need to practice our positivity, hope and optimism. And maybe if I, if we, practice it enough, it will become who we are.
And maybe someday, people will call you that optimistic person that they love being around.
If you know me, you know that I love apocalyptic movies. I don’t know what this says about me, and I can’t afford a therapist to dig into the issue any deeper.
Anyway, one of my favorites is “World War Z.” It’s a zombie movie. And the zombies are actually quite terrifying as opposed to the zombies in other movies and shows like the walking dead. Sure, they’re gross, but a zombie that can barely walk is pretty easily defeated. On the flip side, a zombie that torpedoes themselves into your windshield repeatedly until they break through can cause a little more fear.
Regardless, Brad Pitt says in a scene of this movie (while speaking to a Doctor who is the only hope they have to defeat the virus that is causing the problem), “These guys are hammers…” (Speaking about the army guys they’re flying with) “And to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
It’s a great quote. There’s a lot of great spiritual material that correlates to real life in apocalyptic movies.
There are a lot of different ways to think about this line. But today, I want to use it to help encourage you in the way you see the world.
We have a tendency to form a point of view and then only see things through that point of view. We develop a way of thinking, and then we get stuck in that way of thinking.
At one time we were growing and learning and becoming all Christ has for us to become. But, we got comfortable. Or we were stretched too far. Or the next step was going to be too difficult. Whatever the reason, we stopped growing. From that point on, we only saw the world through what we had learned to that point.
Maybe you’ve continued to learn the facts of the bible without applying the truth to your life. I’m guilty of doing that. A lot.
Whatever your case (or mine), we stopped growing and now we only see nails. Everything is a nail.
Everything is a problem that has to be solved, and it can only be solved by my one solution. Whether it’s a screw or a clay pot, we’re bringing our hammer.
The world a big mess, and no matter where I turn all I see is the mess. More nails.
I can’t do anything right. Things never go my way. The world is against me and I’m a perpetual failure.
You get the point.
We have a tendency to get stuck in a rut of thinking about life and the world in the same pessimistic way. We allow ourselves to be influenced by social media and buy into the hype that everything’s wrong with the world.
After a while, all we see are nails.
“Hey, I thought you were going to encourage me?”
I am. Right now.
What I want to encourage you to is this: start looking for other things. Are there nails out there? Sure. But there are bolts, and screws, and bricks and mortar and millions of other things. There’s a lot for you to see if you’re willing to see it. Not everything has to be a nail. Not everything is bad. Not everything is falling apart.
Maybe the reason things around us seem so messed up is because that’s the only way we are able to see things. And until we start seeing the potential and possibility that lies around us, we just keep recreating a world of disorder and chaos.
A hammer is fine, as long as you’re pounding a nail. But not everything is a nail.
Look for things around you that aren’t nails…that aren’t problems…that aren’t falling apart…
Look for the good around you…look for the positive people…look for the hope…look for the love…
If we start looking for the good, we’ll see it. Do you know why? Because it’s there. We’ve just grown so accustomed to looking for the nails, looking for the bad, that we don’t see the good anymore.
Look for the good today. Drop the hammer and pick up a bubble wand. Blow some bubbles and see how far they fly.
If you’ve been around the church world, you’ve undoubtedly heard this verse. We refer to it as the great commission:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It’s one of my favorites.
Jesus has just won everything, literally. And just before he goes back up into heaven, these are his final words. This is the most epic moment in all of church history. This is that rally point that began it all. Like our favorite scenes from our favorite movies, this is the locker room speech that got the church going.
But, we’ve missed it.
We have gotten a lot of it right. But, I think we’ve missed one of the most important aspects of it.
Teach them to obey.
Obey. We don’t like that word do we? Obey. It sounds old school. Don’t tell me to obey anything. I’ll decide what I want to do.
We like the authority part. Jesus has the power!
We like the idea of making disciples, at least we think we do. Most of us aren’t quite sure what it means to be a disciple, let alone make one. But we think we do. And if we don’t, we pretend to.
Baptizing them. Got it.
Teach them. That’s easy. But is it?
It can be easy to give someone information. It’s not that hard to help someone memorize statistics, facts and trivia.
But the real question we need to ask ourselves: Are we teaching people to obey.
This is where I think we’ve lost it. We have gotten caught up in knowing about Jesus, knowing what he taught. We know the most minute details of the greek meaning of the word that Jesus only uses this one time. We know how many times Jesus says this or that. We know which parables are in all of the gospels and which parables are only in one, and we even know how the parables are told differently.
We have wasted countless hours and generations arguing over pointless details. Did Jesus pass the cup before or after the meal? Well it depends on which account you’re reading. Also, who cares.
My point is, we’ve built institutions around the idea of knowing more. How many institutions have we built around the idea of doing more? We expect our pastors to go to Bible College and seminary so they know the truth, but of what use is knowing every “jot and tittle” when it never affects the way you live your life?
I don’t recall anywhere in any gospel, epistle, or any other part of the bible where Jesus/God say “Here’s all the information you need to know intellectually, but feel free to go ahead and live your life however you please.” Maybe I missed that part.
I do remember the places where we are called to a transformed life, where we are called to deny ourselves and take up the cross each day. I do remember that we have to lay our lives down if we’re going to experience true life.
I also remember Jesus really hounding the Pharisees and teachers of the law for ignoring the more important parts of the law.
Why has our focus been only on teaching?
You probably already know the answer.
Teaching is easier. It’s easier to teach someone a fact than to walk with them in relationship that helps them change their behavior.
And we’re selfish too. We don’t want to change anything we don’t want to change. It’s my life, don’t you dare tell me how to live it. You can tell me what you “think” Jesus meant by falling to the ground and dying, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with you.
And even if we do agree, we’re selfish about our time, and we don’t want to take the time necessary help someone apply a truth to their life.
What’s the real issue?
I guess we have to ask ourselves, does the gospel really matter to us? Is it a priority for us? Or is it just something we do when we’re able to find the time?
Because if the gospel matters, then we must incorporate all aspects of it. We must incorporate the teaching and the obeying.
Let me be clear…
I don’t give the tiniest iota about what you know or what you think you know. And I know you feel the same way about me. You don’t care about what I know. You care about what I do. You care about how what I do affects you. If you go to our church, you care about how what I do affects our church. If you’re in my family, you care about how what I do affects our family. It’s one thing to know what it means to be a good neighbor, it’s another thing to be one. My neighbors will never know I’m a good neighbor if my “goodness” toward them only exists in my intellect.
Let me be more clear…
I’m really kind of sick of people who think knowing a lot about God and the Bible makes them spiritual and righteous. I have a feeling you are too. Aren’t you tired of people who know the truth, but don’t live it out?
What do we do about it?
1.) We must start obeying all the Jesus commanded.
It starts with me. I have to be obedient to the call on my life. That means I must know what Jesus has commanded. But, If my knowledge never leads me to action, my knowledge is useless. I must know and do what Jesus has commanded. I must adapt my life to the standards God has created for Christian living. And if I’m not willing to do so, I need to stop calling myself a Christian. Because what does it mean to be a Christian if I am not going to live like Christ?
2.) We must change our teaching to emphasize action over knowledge.
When it comes to discipling, I must change my emphasis from simply passing on interesting information to passing on practical advice for living out the information I am sharing. What are some practical ways I can be a good samaritan? What are some things I can do so that Justice can be done to widows and orphans I know of? What does it mean to be meek? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? How do I live my life in that way?
The choice is clear.
Either we start being and making disciples the way Christ commissioned us to do so. Or we adopt the Thomas Jefferson approach and just start changing the the things we don’t like.
What are you going to do?
We’ve always had compost piles in our family. We dump grass clippings and leaves in a pile. We throw food scraps in there. Corn Stalks and other dead plants from the garden. We never had the fancy tumblers like people use today. Just a pile. And the pile would always decompose. The pile would start out huge, but over time, it would shrink down as the things in it continued to die. They were dead already. They were dead when we put them in the pile. But, as they continued to die, the pile got smaller, slimyer and smellier.
The following spring, it would be used to help the next years plants grow as we would put it on the garden and mix it into the ground where we would soon be planting seeds for another crop.
Can you imagine taking advice from this heap of decomposing death? It sounds ridiculous. I know.
BUT WE DO IT ALL THE TIME!!!
This world we are in is broken. It’s cursed. It’s falling apart, piece by piece. It’s literally decomposing. It is death. And yet, for some unknown reason, we allow this world to have influence in our lives on a daily, hourly, even minute by minute basis.
We surround ourselves with input sources from this decomposing pile and then make decisions based on what we see happening in the pile. Then we are surprised (when really it should come as no surprise at all) when our own lives start falling apart, decomposing.
Not only should you check your input sources, but you should surround yourself with sources that give life instead those that take it.
I talk often about the importance of being rooted in biblical community. It’s very important. I know this as someone who has been without it for a while. I know what happens when we aren’t in community with other believers. I know it can be weird to go back to church after you’ve been gone for a while.
But, I also know the potential of what you can find there if you’ll plug yourself in.
Who cares what the world thinks? It’s death. Why do you care what the world thinks of you as a Christ follower? You’ll never blend in enough with them to win them over. It’s not possible. All they’ll see then is someone who compromises their morals. They’ll see another hypocrite who claims to believe one thing, but lives another.
It’s like the scene from “The Walking Dead” where Rick Grimes covers himself in the decomposed tissue of a zombie so he can walk among them without being detected. Then it starts raining, and the dead around them pick up the scent of life as the rotting flesh gets washed off of Rick. The same will happen to us, if we try to blend in with a dead and decomposing world, eventually we will be exposed for the life we actually are. And, the death around us will just try to consume us.
The lost around us don’t need us to try to be more like them. They need us to be more like Christ in their presence. You’ve been washed clean of death, why would you try to put it on again? You’ve been set free from the power of death, why would you submit yourself to death’s pull and lure?
John 12:24-25: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
We have passed from death into life. We have been buried with Christ through baptism, and raised to a new life in Christ. If we have been given new life, why would we continue to live in the death we have been resurrected from? Why would we allow that death to have any say so in our lives? Why would we try to be like it? It’s death. It’s decomposing. The only hope for it is that the seed of the gospel be planted in the midst of it so it can produce new life.
What if you’re the one that supposed to plant that seed? How can you plant the seed if you’re trying to blend in?
When the world tells you the bible is outdated, don’t listen to it – that’s just death talking.
When the world tells you that church is old fashioned, don’t listen to it – that’s just death talking.
When the world tells you that you should work hard and ignore your family, don’t listen to it – that’s just death talking.
Easter has just begun. We celebrated the beginning of Easter yesterday. But Easter is a long season. Seriously. According to the Church Calendar, Easter lasts until the season of Pentecost, which is approximately 50 days after Easter. So, from now through May 15, we are in the season of Easter.
So, don’t you go thinking that resurrection thing was just a one day deal. That’s not true. The resurrection changed everything. Yes, the fact that Jesus died on the cross was important, but if Jesus did not conquer the grave, we are crazy to spend our lives following him. In fact, our entire faith is futile. Without the resurrection, we don’t even have victory over our sins.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. ( 1 Cor. 15:14-19)
The resurrection changed everything. Easter is not just a day, it’s a season. Resurrection is not just a day, it’s whole new way of thinking. You are no longer dead in your sins, you are alive in Christ. Your savior is not rotting in a borrowed grave, He is alive. He appeared to hundreds of witnesses to prove the fact that he was alive again. And hundreds of witnesses saw him ascend into heaven. And Stephen saw the heavens open to see Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is alive.
Resurrection Sunday is the day we celebrate the event, but resurrected living is an entirely different thing. Once we have put our faith in and belief on Jesus, we are no longer dead, but alive again. We were the walking dead, but Jesus cured us from out death. So now, you are alive. Alive like you’ve never been before. Your life is being transformed. Your mind is being renewed. You are no longer operating under the old system, but are being redeemed and restored into a new world.
Because of the resurrection, you now have victory over sin, victory over death and confidence to approach the throne. The curtain was torn, and you can enter into the holiest place. Actually, you now become the holiest place because God resides in you. You are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in you.
All this is because of the resurrection. You have new life because of Jesus’ new life.
But, just as Easter isn’t over, neither is your responsibility as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Remember, Jesus appeared to hundreds of witnesses after he came back to life. And there were hundreds of witnesses who saw him ascend into heaven. Just before he ascended, he told his followers something:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus’ followers had witnessed Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension. And he told them, you will now be my witnesses – telling people the story of what they had seen – to Jerusalem (where they were), Judea (the bigger region), Samaria (to the people in surrounding areas, some who had previously been outcasts) and the ends of the earth (everywhere else.)
We are witnesses too. We may not have seen Jesus with our own eyes, (even though we have plenty of evidence for the story of Jesus) but we have witnessed other things. We have witnessed the resurrection power of Jesus in our own lives. We have witnessed the new life we have received because of Jesus. we have witnesses the resurrection power of Jesus in the transformed lives around us. We are witnesses who have a story to tell.
Just like Easter isn’t over, we aren’t done yet either. You might be thinking to yourself:
“I invested time and resources to invite someone to Easter, and they came. So, I did my job, I’m done now. Right?”
WRONG! You have only just begun. “But isn’t it the “church’s” job to make them disciples?” Yes, it is. But, who is the church? The church is not the pastor. The church is not organization. The church, actually ecclesia is the right word (ecclesia means: called out ones)…the church/ecclesia is the community of believers. You and I together are the church. We are the church. We are the body of Christ. Together we make up the body. We cannot be individually the body of Christ, we must be in community.
That means, that you have a role to play in making disciples. Yes, you did a fantastic job investing in someone and inviting them to church. And I applaud you for that. Seriously!! Great job! Bravo! But, don’t let up now.
Don’t miss the opportunity to solidify the commitment of the person you invested in. Don’t miss the opportunity to follow up and give your invitee the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t worry about having all the right answers. If you don’t know, just tell them you don’t know, but you’ll figure it out.
Right now, while they are interested and hopefully excited about Jesus is the best time to solidify them in that commitment. Don’t let that seed go to waste. Don’t let the worries of the world spring up around that seed of the gospel that was planted and choke it out. They need you around them, helping the seed to grow. They need the health of other believers and Christian community to encourage them in this new walk.
Don’t miss the chance that you invested so much time and energy in. They’re worth it. And Christ in them is worth it. Do whatever it takes! Keep going. Keep investing. Keep pursuing them. Keep inviting them to church. Keep up the good work.
You’ve only just begun.
You invested time and resources to invite someone to Easter, and they didn’t come. That’s all I can do right?
WRONG! You’ve only just begun.
“I spent time with them. I tried to meet their needs. I did what I could to invest in them. And I invited them to Easter, but they didn’t come. What else can I do?”
For some, it can take a long time of investing and investing and inviting and investing and investing and inviting before they’ll ever agree to come. And potentially even longer before they are willing to consider Christ. I believe this process of investing is going to be taking longer and longer the more our culture becomes hostile toward Christianity. It’s not like it used to be.
Don’t lose what you’ve invested to this point by avoiding this person or avoiding the issue. They didn’t come to Easter, that doesn’t mean we stop caring about them. It means we keep caring. Perhaps caring more than we did before. Maybe we need to try different things. I don’t know what to tell you because it’s different for every person we’re trying to reach just like it’s different for each of us doing the investing. All I know is that we must continue on.
You’ve only just begun. Don’t stop now. Don’t hesitate to invite again. Don’t lose what you’ve invested.
Jesus is still risen. The resurrection is still the most significant event of all time. God is still drawing people to himself. The gospel is still good news and the Spirit is still active.
Easter isn’t over. Neither are you.