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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Fruitful in Faith
Text:2 Peter 1:5-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-02-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 101:1,2                                                                              

Ps 1:1,2,3

Reading – John 15:1-8; 2 Peter 1

Ps 92:1,3,6,7

Sermon – 2 Peter 1:5-11

Hy 28:1,5,6

Hy 76:2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved, a lot of us keep our eyes on the trees. As we look out the front window or drive along the street, we notice what the trees are doing. When spring comes, we look for those buds on every branch. Then as summer arrives, we expect lush and green foliage. These things tell us that a tree is alive. And there’s another way to know a tree is healthy: its fruit. In certain parts of the country, you’ll see signs for all the fruit that’s on sale. Because the trees in all those orchards are very much alive.

Well, if we notice trees, then we can appreciate what we sang in Psalm 1. There it says that the righteous person “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in season, whose leaf also shall not wither” (v 3). The righteous ones are like trees. And what’s the thing that shows we’re “living trees?” What’s the proof that we’re alive as Christians? It’s fruit! You see in us the evidence of life in Christ.

The “fruits” are the good things coming from us. It’s the behaviours and words and attitudes that our hearts produce—even things that other people can notice and enjoy. More importantly, it’s what God delights in. In us his people, God expects a living and a beautiful response to the gospel of salvation.

So what will He find on our branches? That’s the question: Would you describe your faith right now as being fruitful with good works? Blossoming with virtue? Or are there spots of “barrenness?” Do you see a lot of empty branches? Bearing fruit is essential for every believer. For in our text, the Spirit urges us not to be “unfruitful” in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Instead, we’re exhorted,

Give all diligence to become more fruitful in faith:

  1. faith’s need for fruit
  2. the many varieties of fruit
  3. God’s blessing of our fruit

 

1. faith’s need for fruit: The children have learned in school that if a tree will grow and be healthy, it needs a source of life. The trees get it from the nutrients that are in the soil, from the rain that falls, and from the sun that shines. So where is our life from? Who or what makes us into productive Christians? There’s a hint in the very first words of our text, “But also for this very reason…” (v 5).

When we read words like that, we know that we have back up, and read what comes before. There, in verse 3, Peter speaks about how the Lord’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Our productive power comes from God the Holy Spirit. He grants the ongoing gifts of life and godliness. As the Psalmist says: We’re like trees, “planted by rivers of water.” And those streams flow directly from God. “For this very reason”—because we’re being renewed by God through his powerful Spirit—we should be alive with good works.

If that’s the source, then there’s also a motive for our productivity, a reason for it. And having a motive makes us very different from trees. Maybe you have a fruit tree in your back yard: well, have you ever gone up to it, and politely requested that it bear fruit? Your neighbours would think you’re pretty strange. No, trees bear fruit without anyone asking them to—they do it automatically, because they’re trees. But people need a reason. “Tell me why I should do this,” someone might say, “Hasn’t God saved us without any contribution from our side? What’s so essential about being productive?”

Peter says that our motive is this: “[God has] given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (v 4). The Lord God has extended to us his covenant mercy, a mercy expressed in his “Big Book of Promises,” the holy Word. God has united us by faith to his Son, so that we partake in him. All his righteousness is ours. All his holiness is ours. His perfect satisfaction is ours, so that we sinners need not fear death or condemnation.

A bit later, Peter will continue the thought that fruitfulness results from being “cleansed from [our] old sins” (1:9). The thing is, we used to be covered in filth, stained with evil. And what do you do with something that’s too filthy to wash? You put it in the garbage. It’s useless. But we’ve been “cleansed” from our sins. We’ve been washed and sanctified in Jesus’ blood, and again made useful.

That’s why fruitfulness should be our life’s goal. Because we know ourselves to be forgiven of all our past sins. We’ve tasted the flowing streams of God’s mercy. Apart from God’s mercy in his Son, we’re fit to be cast off like dead branches. But we have received God’s life-giving grace! What more of a motive is needed?

Perhaps all this seems straightforward. After years of the Catechism, and learning about the third part of it, “Our Thankfulness,” we know that it’s the expectation: God wants gratitude. But it’s not obvious as you’d think. There were false teachers around in Peter’s time who were saying that you could lead an immoral life, just so long as you believed in Jesus. Faith is the important thing, after all. Faith hits the “reset” button on our life, no matter what you’ve done in the past—and no matter even how you’re living today! These teachers put up a high wall between our faith and our behaviour.

And that’s still appealing. Not that we want to be done with church: we’re comfortable here. We’re glad that we’ve been baptized, and it’s nice to be part of a fellowship. But does our faith penetrate and permeate all things? Does your belief in Christ really connect to the rest of your life? Do you let your faith shape what you do on the weekends, and shape how you speak? Today we’re busy with prayer, with worship, with the Word—how does that link up with the next six days? Is it consistent? Put it this way: Would someone recognize you as a Christian, half-way through this coming week? Or does your life have a lot of “religious foliage”—fine-looking leaves on Sunday, impressive flowers—but no fruit, no fruit for God to delight in and others to enjoy?

Separating our faith from the rest of our life appeals to us, because it means we can have the best of both worlds: still “secure” in being a Christian, while free to do most of the things we want. Verse 8 and 9 speaks of this. After describing the varieties of the fruits of faith, Peter writes, “If these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v 8).

For that’s a possibility: that someone is barren, that someone who calls himself a Christian is actually missing his fruit. You look carefully, and there’s really nothing that marks him as having a living faith. If there’s little that a person can point to and say: “That giving that I do, that way of serving, that patient loving, is my faith in action. I do those things because I’m a Christian—if a person can’t say that, then there’s a serious problem. 

And no fruit isn’t just the sign of being an unhealthy or a lazy Christian. It means you’re not a Christian! A fruitless person has not known the power and grace of God. He’s not connected to Christ, to the life-giving vine—not connected to the one who said, “If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered” (John 15:6). That’s an uncomfortable thing to consider, but we need to.

Because Peter himself gives a sharp warning against barrenness, “He who lacks these things [these fruits] is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (v 9). If there’s all foliage, and no fruit, Peter says, you’ve forgotten what God sent his Son for. You’re shortsighted, even blind to the reality that God can save you from sin in order to live for his honour. He saves you, to bear a rich harvest.

For when we see that our sins and shame have been washed away, we ought to become zealous for the Lord. It’s then that we’ll seek to “add to our faith” (v 5) all these good works. No, we don’t say that this or that good activity will save us, or even make us more likeable to God. For we’re saved by faith alone. Faith is the conviction that all God says is true, so we commit ourselves to his promises. It’s the unquestioning certainty that the Lord is our God. This is the kind of faith God wants, because it honours him as God.

But if you believe in Christ, if yours is a real faith in the Father, then we’ll see more than just faith. We’ll see its natural outworking—its unstoppable expression—in fruit. Whole bushels of fruit! You can’t tell that peach tree to stop producing, because it won’t. And you can’t tell a Christian to stop producing, because if we truly confess the Saviour, then we’ll give him our wholehearted service. The Spirit says: Don’t forget how sweet it is to be cleansed from our sins. Don’t forget how glorious it is to know Christ. And then bear fruit for the God who loves you!

 

2. the many varieties of fruit: Right near the entrance of most grocery stores is an entire section that is devoted to vegetables and fruit. It’s an impressive array: more kinds of produce than most of us ever get around to trying. And it’s that kind of variety of fruit that the Spirit calls us to bear. Instead of having an unproductive faith, a life that’s barren of good works, we’re called to “add to our faith” several fruits.

The word Peter uses for “adding” means being lavishly stocked, abundantly supplied. Picture going into the supermarket and coming out with your shopping cart almost overflowing with plastic bags full of fruit. Our text means there’s to be a continual progress in this. The Christian life can’t be an initial burst of activity—maybe when we first professed our faith—an initial crop, followed by years of lying fallow. Nor, Peter says, are there to be just one or two good qualities. But there’s to be a growing amount of many fruits: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Let’s look at each of these.

“Virtue” is a broad term. In the Greek, it’s a word that describes moral purity or excellence. Because in every area of our life, we have a choice, whether we will demonstrate holiness, whether there will be uprightness. How do you behave in that business meeting? How do you speak to someone outside church, after worship? How do you drive down the city streets? Is there a Christian way to do all these things? A little reflection should tell you “yes.” The strength of a person’s faith is seen in how wide his virtue extends. It starts going to places of our life that we never even thought of.

Add to your faith “knowledge,” too. What do we have to know more about? In a couple verses, Peter will talk about knowledge again, how we know Jesus Christ (1:8). And then in verses 19-21, he speaks about the knowledge of Scripture, that “prophetic word” which was spoken by the Holy Spirit. A faith connected to Christ and the Word is a strong faith. Now, you already know something about the Scriptures. But the mind is weak, and we forget. Last Sunday’s sermons are already long gone. Meanwhile, there’s so much depth to the Word of God. So will you add knowledge to your faith? Will you deliberately grow in the Scriptures?

Add virtue, add knowledge, add “self-control.” You know that in certain situations, it’s easy to lose control. It’s easy to say the wrong things, because we’re angry, or because we have a critical streak, or we’re feeling irritable. And it’s also easy to let our desires dominate us—we give in, we agree to “have another”—because sin always promises a lot. So in all those moments of testing, how do we react? Do we do what’s easiest? God calls us to bear the fruit of self-control. Instead of giving in, get your life under the Spirit’s control.

We’re getting a sense of the challenge that faithful Christian living can be. It’s hard to be spiritually ready-to-act, all the time. You know that soccer players go on in shifts, so they’re not on the field, all the time. They have a chance to catch their breath. But Christians have to be “on,” all the time. Be alert to the devil’s temptations, and ready to fend him off. Be alert to opportunities for service. Ready to love others, and in communion with God. So anyone becomes weary of the effort that the Christian life can take. There are trials too, that empty us, and we say to God, “I don’t have anything left to give.” We know then, that it takes another fruit, “perseverance.” This is continuing gladly in the life of faith, always, and in every way. And we can, for God promises to give new strength. Remember what Peter said, “God’s divine power has given us all things [for] life and godliness.” Beloved, you and I have access to his divine power, mighty power in the Holy Spirit! So persevere, and carry on in service of God, wherever it is that He’s put you.

What about another fruit, “godliness?” Would someone describe you as a godly person? We know that what others think of us isn’t the main thing. Still, godliness is distinctly something that can be seen by others. Godliness is when your reverence for Almighty God sets the tone for all your conduct and character. You don’t just know about God, but you try to be like God: merciful, faithful, generous, truthful.

It comes out in another fruit, “brotherly kindness.” Note that word “brotherly” (or sisterly). We’re speaking about the love among fellow believers in the Lord. It’s an unselfish love—it’s not about what you stand to gain, or about how others make you feel. For to be honest, some people in the church annoy us. There are some kids at school you want to avoid. Some people have even treated us badly. But love endures. God says, “Bear this fruit! Make it obvious. Love your brother, love your sister.” So how can you do it? What does love look like? It’s got many forms, but here’s just a few. Love is showing hospitality to the families in this church you don’t know very well. Love is speaking a word of encouragement to the brother who’s made a good change in his life, or visiting the sister who’s lonely. Love is helping someone in a struggle.

And finally, add to your faith “love.” It’s on purpose that Peter ends with love, because this is the greatest of all fruits. This kind of love is doing good to all people, including your unbelieving neighbours and atheist co-workers. It’s treating them with kindness. It’s showing compassion when they suffer. It’s sharing the gospel with them because you want them to live.

“Virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love:” these fruits are basic to a life that is renewed. But it’s a tall order. So we’re not surprised how Peter says twice that we must be “diligent” (verse 5 and 10) at becoming more fruitful. It’s something that we need to learn and improve upon. Meanwhile, we can feel like lousy trees. We all fail, even in the "little" things, the daily things, that God gives us to do—we fail in the work of parenting, the work of being a spouse, the work of being a brother or sister, or the work of being a good neighbour. We look at ourselves and we see a whole crop of shortcomings.

So we even start to say to ourselves, “This is who I am, and I won’t change. Some of those fruits won’t ever grow on me. You can’t expect apricots from an orange tree, right?” And it’s true, one person might never lose her self-control, but always struggle with showing love. Another might have great knowledge of Scripture, but be lacking in godliness. Is that OK? Well, is that what our text says: “Add one or two of these to your faith, and you’re done?” No, a person who’s connected to the Spirit must be diligent to bear each one of these.

And it’s possible. It’s possible for you to become more productive as Christians, because our God is a patient farmer. He won’t quickly give up on his trees. It’s like those orchard owners who care for their trees. They prune the branches, they sprinkle on fertilizer, and keep the irrigation going. Likewise, God seeks to help us. He prunes us with his discipline. He gives those who can help us, like fellow believers and elders.

He also tells us to pray. Because apart from him we can do nothing. Ask for the Holy Spirit to work within you. Think of what Jesus says, “Will not your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” He will give him! So pray for the Spirit. Pray for the ability to bear more fruit.

What else helps our productivity? Know the Word of God! It’s for good reason the Scriptures are compared to seed that is scattered on a field. The things you read in the Word, the things you hear in church, the things you study in the Bible, are the seeds that can spring to life and bear much fruit. So welcome God’s seed, and receive his fertilizer. Do you want to bear much fruit for God? Will you be diligent? Then God will give his blessing

 

3. God’s blessing of our fruit: When it’s harvest time, a farmer’s mood depends in large part on how the harvest is going. A poor yield means frustration and anxiety. But a good harvest means joy and thanksgiving. So it is for God. He delights in the fruitfulness of his people. Our love and perseverance and godliness are to his praise, because He’s the one who’s given us this new life.

But in fruitfulness there’s also a rich blessing for us. Being fruitful gives us confidence, and it strengthens our sense of purpose. Peter speaks of that in verse 10, “Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things [i.e., if you bear much fruit] you will never stumble…” It’s possible that we misunderstand that. What does Peter mean, that we can make our election sure? From God’s point of view, his choice is set—it’s fixed in his perfect counsel. There’s no changing election, there’s no adding or subtracting from that number of his chosen ones. But by bearing fruit, we grow in our confidence of being one of God’s elect. For the only way that we can do these things is if God is with us. It’s his divine power, giving us all things for life and godliness!

To stay with the image of fruit, think of those stickers on the apples or bananas that you bought last week. They tell you where they came from, the country where they were grown. So also when we look at our fruits of faith, we should see where they came from. Their source is God! They’re grown in the Spirit! It’s his mark on us. So as we grow in faith, we make our salvation more certain—certain in our minds, or certain in the minds of others.

After all, you’d never see these holy things in someone apart from God. You wouldn’t see this faith, this hope, this love, this joy. It can only come from one place: from the Lord, our Saviour. Christ said the same thing: “He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). “My faith is real,” we can say, “True faith works—and mine is working! I know that I belong to Christ, because I can what He’s doing in me.”

When we bear fruit, we even become sure of where we’re headed once this life is over. Peter promises, “[If you are productive…] an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v 11). One glorious day, you know that you’ll be gathered into God’s storehouse! The fruit in your life means God has started something in you. And we know that God won’t ever give up. He’ll bring to completion the good work He started!

So now it’s time to continue, beloved, to progress and increase. Don’t let your fruit stay small, but grow and increase it. Produce something more! Think of how the handful of seeds in one piece of fruit can be the start of a much greater harvest—how a single apple is the beginning of an entire orchard. So for the Christian: a little fruit today can to lead to even more fruit: forty and sixty and a hundred times what was sown.

And like that farmer in summer time, the Lord God rejoices in the good harvest of his people. He celebrates it. He gathers it to himself, and He protects it. So give all diligence to become more fruitful in the faith, to the glory and praise of God our Saviour!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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