Summary: The fourth reason of spiritual growth is that we will finish well.
Usually March is the month of graduations. It reminds me of what someone wrote, “It is important to start right, but it is imperative to end well.” Sadly, many people start well but end poorly. However, I don’t want my life to end that way. I believe most if not all of us would like to finish well. I attended a seminar where the speaker asked us, “How sure are you that you are still in the faith 10 years from now?” Now, I think he was not questioning whether our salvation is secure or not. What he was challenging us to do is to persevere in the faith in order to finish well. This morning, we will look at the fourth and final purpose why we should pursue our spiritual growth passionately. Let us pray…
Let us open our Bibles in 2 Peter 1:8-11. We already discussed three of the four purposes why we must grow spiritually. The first purpose why we should grow spiritually is that we will be fruitful and effective. Verse 8 tells us, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” According to verse 9, the second purpose is that we will be focused and not forgetful. “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Then according to verse 10, the third purpose is that we will have a firm footing. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” And now we will look at verse 11 to see the fourth purpose why we must grow spiritually: “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” When we pursue our spiritual growth passionately, we will FINISH well.
Now it is clear here that Peter was talking about a reward. When we grow spiritually, we “will be richly provided… an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The question now is, “What reward was he talking about?” There are some who would say that verse 11 was talking about salvation. They think that it means that when we grow in character, we would earn our way to heaven. But our passage is talking about spiritual growth, not about salvation.
As far as rewards are concerned, allow me to give an overview of what the Bible teaches. First, salvation is a gift. It is not a reward. Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Second, we are not saved by works. Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But we are rewarded according to our works. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Third, we don’t earn a gift. We earn a reward. A wage for example is a reward. Romans 4:4 make the distinction: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” The Good New Bible goes like this, “A person who works is paid wages, but they are not regarded as a gift; they are something that has been earned.” Lastly, we are secure in our salvation. But, according to 2 John 1:8, we must safeguard our rewards. “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” We cannot lose our salvation but we can lose our reward. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 warn us that “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” So, 2 Peter 1:11 is not talking about salvation as a reward. We don’t earn our way to heaven.
Let us look at how the Contemporary English Version translated this verse: “Then our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will give you a glorious welcome into his kingdom that will last forever.” It’s clear here that Peter was not just talking about entering the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter was talking about the glorious welcome that the Lord will give us. Circle the phrase “glorious welcome”. According to the Bible Exposition Commentary, “The Greeks used this phrase to describe the welcome given Olympic winners when they returned home. Every believer will arrive in heaven, but some will have a more glorious welcome than others.” The “glorious welcome” is like the victory parade that we give our athletes who gave us honor in an international sporting event. Peter was not just talking about our entrance into heaven. He was talking about making a grand entrance into heaven. He was not just talking about finishing. He was talking about finishing well. When we grow spiritually we will finish well. When we fail to grow spiritually, we won’t finish well. Of course, if we are believers, we will surely enter heaven. But the question is, “Will it be a glorious welcome?”