Useful or Useless?

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Last week we reviewed a godly math problem. Peter gave us a list of qualities that we should be diligently adding to our faith to reflect the glory and excellence of God. These were not suggested qualities, but qualities that should be working in our lives culminating with the quality of love. This morning we’ll see the contrast between those that have these qualities and those that do not.

2 Pet. 1:8-9 says, 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. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

The big if. You know how I love conditional clauses and Peter lets one fly. He has already made the assumption that his readers have a faith that is like his. Earlier in this letter, he identified himself as a slave and apostle for Christ. In John 21 he was given the responsibility by Jesus to care for and love the sheep and he is doing just that. This first phrase sets up an important contrast. “If these qualities are yours and are increasing.”  Remember what he said in 2 Pet. 1:5-7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in 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.” It’s not good enough just to have these qualities. They must be increasing. We’re to apply all diligence . Careful and persistent effort. We’re to work hard.

The Greek word also conveys the idea of speed. We’re to work quickly at it. We’re to be zealous about our efforts. We put our all in to other areas of life; why not maximize our efforts to live a godly life? We never miss a day of work, but find we’re too tired to make it to Sunday School. We love reading what people are doing on Facebook, but the Bible just doesn’t hold our interest. We love chatting and texting with our friends and family, but we lack the desire to chat with God. We volunteer our time with our kid’s schools, sports teams, and extra-curricular activities, but we don’t have any time to volunteer for Christ. It’s hard for us to find common ground with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we have no problem talking about college football with total strangers. We have no problem financially supporting scouts, or youth sports, or the fastest internet and best satellite package, but we cannot afford to financially support the work of the ministry. The godly qualities in Peter’s list need to be present and they must be growing. Make every effort to grow in godliness and be quick about it.

“If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”You’re not a cotton headed ninny muggins. Buddy the elf thought he was useless because he couldn’t do the things the other elves could do. Too many people think they have nothing to offer to God, to their families, friends, to the church, to the community. Too many are convinced by others, convinced by Satan that they cannot serve, they’re not worthy, not qualified, not experienced. Peter says you’re not useless! You have been granted by God’s grace what you need to live a life of usefulness, of fruitfulness, but you need to make and effort. You cannot sit passively by waiting for the big opportunity. This is not a works theology. The foundational factor in your usefulness to God is faith – that’s the start. I hope you can read the great passage in Gal. 5:16-21. Your true knowledge of Jesus Christ leads to ethical behavior. Later in this letter, we’ll see why Peter sets things up this way.

Peter uses the word, “useless” in this verse. This is the same word used by Matthew to describe idle workers that hung out in the marketplace instead of working. It’s the same word used by James to describe a, “faith without works is useless.” (Ja. 2:20) Peter is saying if these qualities are yours, and he concluded they must be because, God has granted everything you need for a life of godliness. The uselessness and unfruitfulness of some professing believers are directly related to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we really understood who Jesus is, what He represents, what His goals are, what His business is, then our lives would not contradict our profession of faith.

Here’s Peter’s explanation. He uses if in v. 8 to make a statement, now he offers a conclusion in v. 9. It’s a contrast between the haves and the have nots as it refers to the virtues of vs. 5-7. If you lack those qualities, you’re blind or short-sighted. Blind means you can’t see a thing, short sighted means near sighted. Peter is not talking about actually being blind in the physical sense, he’s talking about being blind in the spiritual sense. If you lack the qualities he mentions, you’re not seeing what you should see. You fail to see what is important, what has meaning, what has significance and the focus is shifted from those essential elements of the faith to something else. We’re distracted from what really matters and focus on what doesn’t matter. We’ve, “forgotten his purification from his former sins.” You’ve been purified, cleansed; you’ve been made clean from your sin. Your faith in Jesus Christ has washed your sins away. Some people forget that glorious truth and become blind to what really matters. We’re really seeing this in the church today. We’ve become blind to true conversion in favor of simple confession. We’re focused on providing food for the stomach instead of providing the Bread of Life. We’re looking for programs instead of focusing on purpose. When we forget the incredible gift Jesus gave to us by shedding His blood, our lives don’t reflect His glory. Professing believers that don’t have these qualities growing in their lives have forgotten their sins have been purified by Christ. Remember from Peter’s opening statement that he is writing to people, “Who have received a faith the same kind.” as his. Forgiveness came first by grace through faith. The virtues of vs. 5-7 must be present and increasing. A godly life is evidence of that faith.

If the people of the church live immoral lives absent from the virtues of moral excellence, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, then one must conclude there is no faith. If we live like unconverted people, chances are we really are unconverted.

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