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Putting It All Together (2 Peter 1:3-8; Genesis 25:1-8)
Growing By Addition
Putting it All Together
2 Peter 1:3-8; Genesis 25:1-8
 
For the last several weeks, we've been looking at the list of characteristics that we are instructed to add to our faith that are designed to produce Christ-likeness.  To begin our study this morning, I want to reread the list and some of the verses surrounding it. 
 
2 Peter 1:1-11
 
Notice, in verse 1, Peter mentions that he is writing to those who have "obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."
 
That's Peter's rather lengthy wa of saying, "I'm writing to people like me who are saved through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross."  So we know what he's writing is intended for Christians. 
 
And notice the common denominator is "the faith".  This is the basis and foundation of our relationship with Christ.  Everybody has the same kind of faith.  It is "like" faith.  And we obtained it in the same way since it is the gift of God.
 
And notice, in verse 5, it is to this "faith" that these other characteristics are to be added.  By the way, we are to "give all diligence" to adding them with the end result being that when they are added and grow, verse 8, "we will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
In fact, if you want to know for sure that you are going to heaven, then as verses 10 and 11 tell us, then add these things to your life and you will never stumble and you will be guaranteed entrance into heaven. 
 
Now, without covering once again all of the characteristics and definitions we looked at, let me just say, it is hard to overvalue the significance of these additions.  And because of that, they tend to be a little overwhelming.  And it would be possible to look at this list and think it is unobtainable. 
 
After all, with every one of the things on the list, we used Jesus as an example.  And while He is the perfect example, there is a tendency to say, "Well of course He had those things in His life.  After all, He was God in the flesh.  He was perfect!"
 
And while it's true that He was the sinless Son of God, He also did what He as a 100% fully human man. 
 
So I thought it might be good today for us to see an example of a man who did them, not as God, but as a man like us who loved God and tried to serve him.  And to find that man, I looked in a lot of different places for the one I wanted to use and I actually wound up in a very unexpected place.
 
Where should we look to find a man who exhibits and displays who was Christ-like and displayed these eight characteristics listed here in 2 Peter? 
 
 I want to invite your attention to a man who is identified in James 2 as "a friend of God", and that man is Abraham.
Now Abraham is one of the very few men who has ever earned that title in the pages of the Bible. He is one of the great universal names of mankind. You can mention the name of Abraham almost any place in the world and they know who he is.
 
There are places where people have never heard of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, or Napoleon, but almost every nation and people have heard of Abraham. He is a man of great integrity of heart and purpose, a man of unusual honor and vision, and one of the most faithful men of all time.
 
Yet I want to be sure and point out that Abraham is a man like us.  And even though we honor his character and his moral greatness, nevertheless, Scripture very clearly shows that he is the same make-up as we. As someone has well said, "We are all made of the same mold, but some of us are moldier than others."
 
Abraham is poured into the same human mold as we are. He is capable of lying, deceiving, rebelling, blaming others, loving himself, giving in to weakness, and shutting his eyes to truth.  Obviously, here is a man no different from us.
 
And without the grace of God, he never would have been any different, just as without the grace of God we could not be any different than we were in Adam.
 
What Abraham became by the Spirit is beautifully summarized in the first few verses of Genesis 25.  Notice what we read in
 
verses 1-4
 
The very first thing we notice about Abraham is that his life was one of
 
1.  Abundant Fruitfulness
 
Now when we come to Genesis 25, we need to remember we are near the end of Abraham's life.  In fact, by the time we get to verse 7 of this chapter we will be reading about Abraham's death.
 
But I find remarkable what we read in these closing remarks about Abraham's life.  In fact, I would be willing to guess that most of us didn't even know Abraham had a second wife and all these other sons. 
 
We know about Sarah, and their son Isaac.  And some will remember Hagar and the son named Ishmael that Abraham fathered with her. 
 
And we may remember that at the very beginning of his life, God promised that he would become the father of many nations. And sure enough, through Isaac and Ishmael, the two sons with which we are most acquainted, several nations arose.
 
In fact, most of those nations are still fussing and fighting today about who is rightful heir to all that God promised their father. 
 
But here we discover that in the later years of his life, Abraham had another wife named Keturah, and together, they had six more sons.  And I would think it possible that each of them became the founder of other nations.  In fact, we are told about some of the descendents here in the text. 
 
So God' s promise was literally fulfilled that Abraham would be the father of many nations and through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
 
Now, keep in mind, we are told specifically in the Scriptures that when Isaac was born, Abraham had long since ceased to possess the ability to have children. The reproductive powers of both Sarah and him had ended and it was nothing other than a miracle of grace that Isaac was ever born. He was a child of promise and is called the child of faith.
 
And evidently, since this was long before the discoveries of modern medicine and little blue pills, when the ability that allowed Sarah and him to have Isaac were restored, they must have continued for the following years also.  And now, we have him and Keturah having six sons in the closing years of his life. 
 
So if I counted correctly. Abraham had a total of eight sons and these eight sons picture the fruitfulness of his life.
 
Now, very often, God let's Old Testament facts represent New Testament realities.  In fact, one of the most remarkable proofs of the inspiration of Scripture is the accuracy with which these Old Testament events happen to reveal New Testament Truths.  It just couldn't happen unless God's hand is involved. 
 
Let me show you what I mean.  This little detail of the eight children of Abraham is a beautiful picture to us of the fruitfulness of the life in the Spirit, a life lived by faith as Abraham lived his life. You and I too can have eight sons in this metaphorical sense.
We just read 2 Peter 3-8 and talked about the marks of Christ-likeness.  By the way, did you notice how many there are?  Including faith, there are eight. 
 
I think it is more than coincidence that these marks are equal to the number of Abraham's children. In fact, I think the entire passage could just as easily have been written about Abraham. His whole life is summarized here for us, beginning with the call of God out of Ur of the Chaldeans unto his own glory and excellence:
 
Let's read it again and listen to it as the epitaph of Abraham. 
 
2 Peter 1:2-8
 
Notice the passage begins with an acknowledgment of the Power of God and a reminder of the Promise of God.  The very first mention of Abraham in Scripture includes God's promise that is rooted in His Power. 
 
Genesis 12:1-3
 
So how did Abraham respond?
 
verse 4
 
He made a faith decision to trust God.  Where does Peter being in his discourse?  With faith.  We are those who share a precious faith and we are to diligently pursue Christ-likeness by adding to our faith.
 
 
Obviously, faith is the supreme ingredient of the spiritual life.  In fact, Scripture reminds us that without faith, we cannot please God.  And that was the great thing about Abraham; he had confidence in God despite the circumstances. That is a very simple, realistic definition of faith -- having confidence in God despite the circumstances -- while unbelief is believing the circumstances in spite of God.
 
Faith is not taking the circumstances into account when determining some action to be taken. Faith disregards the nature of the test, even though it may be quite disconcerting. Faith believes God despite those circumstances.
 
This is the basis of all contact with God. You and I cannot be Christians, we cannot live as Christians in any sense without faith, without believing that God knows what he is talking about.
 
We are then told to add to faith the quality of virtue.  And we defined virtue as a lifestyle of Biblical ethics made possible through energy provided by God Himself. 
 
Abraham's life is a beautiful example of that quality.  And before we go very far, we certainly need to insert that Abraham made lots of mistakes and bad decisions.  But in a backward way, I find that encouraging.  In spite of all the blunders, if he winds up being referred to as "a friend of God", then there's hope for you and me!
 
Immediately after that first step of obedience, we find Abraham gathering up his family and possessions and beginning the journey of a lifetime.  And when he made his way in to the land of Canaan, the Lord appeared to Him to announce that He was going to give that land to Abraham's descendants.  And in response, notice,
 
Genesis 12:8
 
Abraham built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord, and then continued his journey.  And the implication is that He is traveling with the Lord's blessing and guidance. 
 
Then Peter says to add knowledge to your virtue.  One example of that knowledge or wisdom comes in Abraham's encounter with Melchizedek, the King of Salem.  Without going into all the details, God allowed Abraham to win a major victory in a battle, and as a result, he plunders the camp of the ones he has defeated. 
 
And as all of that is happening, Abraham crosses paths with this unusual man named Melchizedek who is not only the King of Salem, but he is also identified as a priest of God Most High.  And he pronounces a blessing on Abraham, and Abraham is so moved, the Bible tells us he paid a tithe of the plunder of the camp to this man of God. 
 
Genesis 14:20b
 
Abraham is simply recognizing the source of his blessings and victories and what wisdom it shows that Abraham would return a tithe to the God Who has blessed him. 
 
 
Some of you need to learn that lesson as well.  Far too long we have listened to the human wisdom that says it doesn't make sense to tithe. You can't afford to tithe.  But there is a wisdom, a knowledge if you will, revealed in the Word of God that you won't find anywhere else.  And it will never make sense to the unbeliever.
 
But the Christian attitude toward knowledge is that all is from God and we are to learn and comprehend and apply His knowledge, heavenly wisdom to every area of our life.
 
Without the Bible, we cannot know God, nor can we know ourselves and without the Bible we cannot know the will of God nor the wisdom of God.  And Abraham, with this attitude of virtue evidences the knowledge and understanding of God in the tithe He gave to the priest of the God Most High.
 
 
Next, Peter mentions self-control.  A knowledge of the Word of God helps us understand there are some behaviors that are not God-honoring and they must be brought under control.  
 
We see that demonstrated in Abraham's life as he learns to control his temper. The entire 13th chapter contains the details regarding Abraham and his nephew Lot and the inheritance of the land of Canaan. 
 
The land becomes overcrowded with all the animals and peoples of these two men and one day the servants of Abraham and Lot got into a little uprising.
 
And Abraham suggests a solution to the problem.
 
Genesis 13:8-9
 
And if you know the story, you will remember Lot decided to take the choicest parcel of land.  Even though Abraham had seniority and could have made the first choice, he allows Lot that privilege and lives with the results.   He exhibits this amazing degree of self-control.  He doesn't pitch a fit; he doesn't respond in anger.  He just trusted God to take care of him. 
 
I remember reading an account of an incident in Hudson Taylor's life. He was speaking of his years in China and how on one occasion, since he could get no other transportation, he chartered a small boat to take him down the river to an appointment. While he was waiting at the wharf to board, a very richly dressed mandarin, a Chinese teacher, came down to the wharf with a couple of men following him.
 
Seeing this little boat there, he asked the driver, "Where are you going?" The man told him, and the mandarin said, "I want the boat." The Chinese owner tried to explain to him that the boat had already been chartered. The mandarin asked, "To whom did you charter it?" The man said, "To this foreigner," pointing to Hudson Taylor.
 
The mandarin looked at him arrogantly and with a wave of disdain swept him aside and said, "I'll take the boat!" Hudson Taylor said that he could feel the ire rise within him. The mandarin was standing between him and the river and all he would have to do was push and he would land in the river.
He had almost started to do it when he felt the restraint of the Spirit. Turning to the man, he said, "Look, I know that you regard me as nothing but a white foreign devil, but I have chartered this boat and it is mine by rights. The Jesus that is in me kept me from pushing you into the river just now. You richly deserve that, but the Lord kept me from it because he has not sent me here to push Chinese people into the river, but to win them for Christ. The boat is mine and I must take it; however, I invite you to come along with me and be my guest."
 
Rather confused and amazed, the mandarin accepted his invitation and went aboard, and they had a wonderful conversation all the way.
 
To self-control, we are to add perseverance, which is another way of saying patience.  By the way, have you ever noticed that God cannot give patience? He can only teach it. There is no use praying for patience. If you do, the Lord will send you tribulation, because according to Romans 5:3,  "tribulation produces patience".  So I wouldn't suggest you ask for patience.  
 
So was Abraham patient?  Did he persevere?  Right of the bat, we know he waited 25 years for a son! God had made the promise, but he waited for twenty-five long, weary years before that promise was fulfilled. You can see something of what the Spirit of God taught this man in the way of patience.
 
Most of us are like the little girl who banged her cup on her high chair and demanded milk. Her mother told her to be patient. She said, "I've got patience, but I don't have any milk."
 
Then to perseverance, Peter says, add godliness.  Again, just to refresh our memory, we defined godliness as devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to Him and points others toward Him.  Or we could just call it the visible presence of God in your daily life.
 
If you study the life of Abraham, you will discover He always built an altar everywhere he went. You see it in Genesis 12:7 when Abraham arrives at Shechem.  In the next verse, he stops on a mountain east of Bethel, and there he built an altar. 
 
In chapter 13, he returns to the place where he built the altar and there he called on the name of the Lord.  At the end of the chapter, he builds an altar in Hebron.   In chapter 22, Abraham takes Isaac to the land of Moriah and there he builds an altar.
 
No wonder he was called the friend of God.  In fact, he was an intimate friend of God. He knew God; this is what godliness is. In fact, in New Testament language, his life is described in 1 Corinthians 10:31 where the Bible says, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
 
Peter continues by telling that we are to add brotherly kindness, which is simply passing along the same love that God has shown us to those who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.   Some use the word hospitality to describe this brotherly love that people of faith share with each other. 
 
We see it in the way Abraham receives the Lord and the three men that accompany Him to tell Sarah and Abraham they will have a son.
 
Genesis 18:2-8
 
Brotherly kindness is the sharing of self and resources in hospitality.  It is receiving and sharing the blessings of God with those we love.  Abraham is simply taking the blessings of God and extending them to those who come in the name of the Lord.
 
And lastly, we are to add love, which is the most  unmistakable characteristic of Christ. It is "the unconditional care and concern that God expresses for His children that motivates and enables them to become messengers of the Gospel to a lost world."
 
As someone said, it is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.  Listen to Abraham, in
Genesis 18 as he prays for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. 
 
Genesis 18:22-32
 
Only love for humanity and a deep and profound understanding of the nature of sin would prompt a man to stand before God and intercede on behalf of those who are lost. 
 
And there stands Abraham before the Lord, the friend of God,  living out these characteristics of virtue, faith, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, Godliness, brotherly kindness and love.
 
The fruitfulness of his life is pictured in these eight sons, symbolic representations of the eight beautiful virtues that demonstrate Christ-likeness in the life of a Christian.
 
 
And notice what Peter says is the result of adding these characteristics.
 
2 Peter 1:8-11
 
We can safely say of Abraham, he is neither barren or unfruitful.  There was a time in his life when that could have been said, but not now at the end of his life.  He could look back over his life and testify to the power of God to produce fruit.
 
And now, true to His Word, God provides an entrance into His kingdom.   In fact, the life of Abraham was not only the picture of abundant fruitfulness, it is also a testimony to
 
2.  God's Amazing Faithfulness
 
Notice what we read in
 
Genesis 25:7-8
 
If you and I had been with Abraham at the moments of decision in his life, we might often have felt sorry for him.  When he left Ur, we might have said, "Abraham, you poor fool, do you mean you are going to wander out there in the desert and perhaps live in a tent the rest of your life, when you could have the enjoyment of the city and all of its blessings?  Why, you don't even know where you're going or where you'll wind up!  Only a fool would do something like that!"
 
But Abraham trusted that God would be faithful.
 
 
When he allowed Lot to choose the best of the land, perhaps some of us might have thought, "Abraham, don't throw away your rights like that! You are the oldest one. You have the right to choose. Why let Lot take that choice piece while you are left with this dry old pasture? You are throwing away your rights."
 
But Abraham let Lot choose, and God chose for him.
 
And do you remember when the king of Sodom offered all the riches of Sodom to Abraham, Abraham said, I'll not take even one of your shoelaces, I don't want any of it." Some of us would have been tempted to say, "Now wait, Abraham, you are carrying this a little too far. You could have deducted this from your income tax, and just think what you are missing, all the riches of Sodom you could have, think how you could use it in the Lord's work."
 
But Abraham chose God every time, and every time, God was faithful.  He lived 175 years and every one of them was packed full with excitement and adventure, challenge and interest, rich in faith and blessing. And ultimately, he died an old man, full of days and trusting God.
 
And I want you to notice a few though in
 
verse 8
 
He "was gathered to his people." So what does that mean?  Well, obviously, it's not referring to his body, because Abraham was not buried back in Ur with the rest of his family.
 
Nor does it refer to the fact that he was gathered into the realm of death where all the rest of his family had gone because a lot of his ancestors who were not godly men were there. In fact, we are led to believe that Abraham was an idolater in his early years, and his family worshiped idols. They were not, therefore, men of godliness, and Abraham was not gathered to them.
 
The account says that he "was gathered to his people." What does that mean? It means that he was gathered to those before him who had exercised faith in God. He was with those righteous ones who had gone before him, walking with God.
 
That would be men like Enoch and Noah.  Those are Abraham's people. Just as the people who are ours are not the fleshly people, but the ones to whom we are spiritually bound.
 
Isn't that what the Lord Jesus meant in Mark 3, when the word came in to him that his mother and his brethren were waiting outside and Jesus refused to go, saying to those with him, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."
 
So Abraham was gathered to his people. Now understand what this verse is telling us:  That means the life of Abraham didn't end 4,000 years ago.  IN fact, in Matthew 22, when the Sadducees, who by the way, did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, asked Jesus a question, he answered them: "Have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' He is not God of the dead, but of the living."
And among others things, what He says is Abrahma is still alive!  God is the God of the living, not of the dead!
 
On another occasion, he said, looking forward into the future, "I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 8:11 RSV).
 
Then we have that amazing story in Luke 16 in which our Lord tells of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus died and was carried to Abraham's bosom, the place of fellowship where Abraham was with God the Father. The rich man in Hades, seeing him there, begged him to send someone to relieve his torment and the anguish of his heart and soul. "But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them,'" (Luke 16:29 RSV). "'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead,'" (Luke 16:31 RSV).
 
What a picture Abraham's life is of a life like yours and mine! And above all, he is a testimony to the faithfulness of God.  There was nothing unusual about him; nevertheless, God made him an extraordinary person, whose life reaches far beyond the realms of earth, out into eternity. His life is one of blessing, fellowship, and fullness.
 
Abraham stands as a living testimony to anyone who takes the path of faith and walks this way. In so doing, we will find the same blessing. The author of Hebrews in the great "heroes of faith" chapter has this to say about Abraham and others before him:
 
Hebrews 11:13-16
Abraham's life is the life of every Christian, for all who walk in faith with Jesus Christ, called to be his, to be possessed of him, to live as pilgrims and strangers on earth. Thus, all the fruitfulness we desire, and the abundant life in the everlasting kingdom of the Father is all made possible through a faithful God who instructs us to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, Godliness, brotherly kindness and love.
 
Let's pray.
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