MATURE CHRISTIANS ARE LIKE RED DELICIOUS APPLES!
Based on 2 Peter 1:1-11
As we begin our study of Second Peter, consider the apple.
How did this red delicious apple come to be a red delicious apple?
Just as there can be no red delicious apple without the planting of an apple seed, there can be no fully grown Christian without the planting of the seed of Christian faith.
Christian life begins with a seed of faith. The instant we meet God’s requirements for salvation, the seed of Christian faith is planted within us - instantaneous spiritual rebirth – meaning that the seed of a new spirit has been planted in us. You might say that we have received a spiritual implant.
The spiritual implant I have received is equal to the implant you received. An identical spiritual seed is planted in all who believe.
2 Peter 1:1-2 . . .
The second epistle of Peter was addressed (2:1) to “those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours.” In Christ, believers are equal.
Peter wanted all Christians to realize that all people of faith stand as equals before God - no matter what their lineage or background might be. We all begin the Christian life in the same way: The seed of the Spirit is planted within us - even though we did not deserve it.
What did Peter say (1:1)) was the basis upon which we obtained the start of a new spiritual life? Was it due to any righteousness of our own? No. It was due to the righteousness of “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Notice that the apostle Peter refers to Jesus as God. It seems that, due to false teachers going around trying to sabotage the Christian faith, Peter thought it necessary that we be reminded of the deity of Christ. He says that our Lord’s DEITY is the reason why His followers should not subscribe to any doctrine other than scriptural truth.
The argument goes like this:
Jesus was DIVINE, so you would have to agree that, if He taught it - whether in His own words or through the words of His apostles - Christians ought to believe it. Christ taught it; that settles it; Christians believe it!
Then Peter makes the point (1:2) that, as you grow in your knowledge of God, a multiplication process takes effect - so that those of you who are SAVED will experience GRACE + PEACE beyond your expectations - “May grace and peace be multiplied in your life.”
I hope you have found it to be true in your Christian walk, that the more you study God’s Word and put it into practice, the more you realize that the GRACE of God is sufficient for every need AND the PEACE of God is yours to experience!
2 Peter 1:3-4 . . . Again, consider the apple:
The seed that produced this red delicious apple had to have a whole lot of help in order to grow from a seed to a tree to an apple. Whatever the seed of this apple needed for growth was provided – either by God or by man or by both working together. “We are laborers together with God.”
Peter tells us (1:3-4) that God provides what we need to help us grow as Christians. God has given us everything we need for developing a godly life. His instructions have been provided for us.
Where do we find the instructions for what we need to know in order to grow in the likeness of Christ? “Thy word, O Lord, is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
Once the seed of the Word is sown in our minds . . . takes root in our hearts - what must we do in order for the seed to sprout and grow into a full grown plant that bears fruit? We must cultivate it. This is what the psalmist may have had in mind when he said:
“Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God.”
As we cultivate the seed of the Word that has been planted within us, two necessary things happen – one positive and the other negative:
On the positive side, the Bible teaches us that the promises of God enable us to STAND FIRM in our Christian faith - so that we will not fall for just any teaching that comes along. Why? Because we are convinced that if we remain true to the Word, one day we shall partake of DIVINE nature – meaning that we shall mature in the likeness of Christ because our nature is being transformed by the Word of God.
You stay with the Word - and your nature will change for the better! You will indeed be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
On the negative side is the subtraction process which takes place as we cultivate the seed of the Word - so that we get rid of corruption; in other words, the subtraction of corruption, whereby the Holy Spirit empowers us to delete corruption by removing evil desires.
Thus, our greatest desire is to know Christ and to serve Him. Now, this is the process we call sanctification – “knowing Christ, growing in Christ, glowing for Christ.”
There can be no sanctification until we go through the process of elimination - removing from our minds any desire that is not pleasing to God. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Peter says if you want to escape the corruption that is in this world, you must subtract evil desires from your mind. If you think good thoughts, you will do good deeds!
2 Peter 1:5-7 . . . Once again, consider the apple:
The seed that was planted in the soil not only produced a beautiful and tasty piece of fruit, it reproduced itself into many more seeds that in due time will bear more fruit.
This red delicious apple really has character! It is not only shiny; it is colorful; it is edible; it is luscious; it is tasty; it is juicy; it is evidence that a growth process has taken place over a period of time.
Likewise, in the Christian life, it is so important that, over a period of time, we grow and develop into a mature example of the believer in word and in deed. “The proof of the apple is in the eating.”
Through a process of addition, Christians become mature. Peter teaches us (1:5-7) that a huge part of Christian growth is the building of Christian character.
Notice that the seed of FAITH is only the beginning of Christian growth. The seed planted within us must take root; it must constantly be cultivated – so that we ripen. The ripening process consists of seven stages of Christian growth - seven essentials that must be added to our faith:
First, add GOODNESS. In our relationships with others, goodness becomes evident. True believers are good people - people of virtue.
Add KNOWLEDGE. Our lives are shaped by the knowledge we glean from our study of God’s Word. True believers practice what they learn.
Add SELF-CONTROL. The practice of our faith matures us to the point where we are able to exercise self-control (temperance) as we face the challenges of life.
Add ENDURANCE. After exercising self-control over a period of time, our maturity level should reach the plateau of endurance (patience) – so that we are able to maintain a constant level of maturity.
Add GODLINESS. Once we reach our “cruising altitude” (airplane terminology), we find ourselves just naturally and automatically living a life pleasing to God; and when that happens, you will have achieved the highest level of Christian maturity – the red delicious level of genuine godliness!
The next to last building block is KINDNESS. The proof of godliness will be seen in how we relate to people - people of all races, creeds, religions and nationalities. If we have achieved a level of genuine godliness, kindness (brotherly affection) will be evident by the way we treat others.
Once we have advanced to this highest level in the Christian life, our top priority will be LOVE. We will be known for our AGAPE!
2 Peter 1:8-11 . . . Consider the apple one final time:
The purpose of apple seeds is to produce apples. The original seed that was planted in the earth submitted itself to a process of division.
Oftentimes when I served as a church growth consultant, I would say to church leaders, “The fastest way for you to grow is to divide. I challenge you to practice the principle of multiplication by division!”
Begin with what you have; as soon as growth occurs, divide into two groups; challenge each of the two groups to grow and then to divide into two more groups; and so on until you have reached your potential.
Peter makes the point (1:8-11) that the confirmation of your salvation is spiritual growth. You begin with the seed of faith; you cultivate it; you grow as much as you can; then you divide your time and your talents so as to share yourself with others; pretty soon your efforts will be multiplied by the Spirit of God!
Peter did not say that you are saved by efforts; what he said was that genuine faith is confirmed by your works – whether great or small.
“Why do you call me Lord and do not the things I have taught you?”
Peter says if these qualities heretofore mentioned are at work in your life, you will bear fruit for God. If not, you are either blind or shortsighted.
Then, Peter makes the suggestion that you give serious consideration to where you are in your spiritual growth; and regardless of where you are – at the beginning, in the middle, or going down the home stretch – it’s time for you to get busy and confirm your salvation by your Christian growth.
His promise is that, if we do cultivate our Christian growth, we will not fall like a rotten apple.
God will shake the tree when He’s ready for you to be harvested and presented to Him as a gift from His Son.