by Josiah Audette
I should like to draw your attention this morning to 2 Peter 1:5-8
“Therefore give even all diligence thereunto: join moreover virtue with your faith: and with virtue, knowledge: And with knowledge, temperance: and with temperance, patience: and with patience, godliness: and with godliness, brotherly kindness: and with brotherly kindness, love. For if these things be among you, and abound, they will make you that ye neither shall be idle, nor unfruitful in the acknowledging of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It was May 20, 1912 just a month after the historic Titanic’s sinking. The place was none other than the culture seat of the world, Berlin, at the home of Arthur Abell. The occasion was a private press matinee for the European debut of a new, unfamiliar violinist. The piece was Fritz Kreisler’s Schon Rosmarin. The august audience consisted of many leading violinists and musical figures of the time, including the incomparable Kreisler himself. It was a regal event to be sure. The music however for the performance was found to be missing so Kreisler stepped forward to replace the piano accompanist and perform with the new violinist his own piece of music from memory. With the distinguished Kreisler seated at the piano the time arrived for the violinist to take centre stage. The audience listened in anticipation to the soft footsteps trudging up the stage when a small boy of eleven appeared holding under a small hand his dear instrument. The bow itself was over half his height. With the violin tucked under his tiny chin the supple fingers began to effortlessly work the instrument into producing mellifluous, dulcet tones. The piece was finished and the result was pandemonium. Kreisler reported, “you should have seen the amazement on their faces.” Indeed Kreisler himself was surprised at this young virtuoso’s performance of his own piece of music as he confessed to the audience afterwards, “We might as well take our fiddles and smash them across our knees.” The eleven year old boy was Jascha Heifetz, regarded now as one of the greatest artists of all time. Although he was a virtuoso, Jascha was a musician of strict discipline. Much later in life he confessed to his students, “If I don’t practice one day, I can tell. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics can tell. If I don’t practice for three days, the public can tell.” This coming from a prodigy. Herein lies the reality of the Christian’s need for daily discipline and diligence. There is an element of Christian activity and we have to get a hold of this principle. The question is what can you tell of your current condition as a Christian? What can your critics and opposition in the world tell? What can your brothers and sisters in the Lord tell?
We can note that the Apostle Peter is indeed writing to Christians, but more particularly, Christians of a certain condition. A condition which is indicated in verse 8 as idle and unfruitful. This is a pitiful state in the Christian layman of spiritual lethargy which inevitably produces spiritual depression. This was an audience of miserable Christians. Though they were Christians (And they certainly were or else Peter wouldn’t be writing to them) they didn’t count for much. They lead ineffective lives without activity, accomplishment, or affect. They were tired. Marasmic. Indolent. Unaffected by their own sickness. In the words of Lloyde Jones, “The sort of person you have to grant that they are a Christian and yet there is so little in their life to show for it.” Such a marasmic malady is sadly not foreign to our time. This is not a 1st century problem and our interest in it is not merely theoretical. We too can correspond to Peter’s audience. We too know very little of the fullness of a Christian life. We too are unfamiliar with the meaning of Paul’s exhortation to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Yet what is the cause of such a condition? What can you even tell is your condition?
Lloyde Jones observes, “The whole cause of trouble is the sheer absence of discipline and order in their lives.” There is a general type of indolence and fatigue which effects us all in matters of spiritual activity and is produced by none other than the Devil. With regards to the question of Christian life we do not experience the same vigour and vitality as we do with our other pleasures, business, or interests. If such a state of religious exhaustion continues the Apostle warns we will have “forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” Meaning, the life and energy which is to distinguish our current state from our past is so severely diminished that we find ourselves in a point of unemployed ambition, meaningless reality, and fatigued faith. We have forgotten why we are Christians and what it means to be such in the first place. This actuality is not evidence that we are not Christians, but rather that we are among the miserable Christians which Peter is writing to. Is your faith fatigued? What can you tell?
Magical & Mystical Faith
Another cause of this marasmic malady is a wrong view of faith in the first instance. As noted by Lloyde Jones there are primarily two errors persisting in modern day with regards to the subject of faith. The first is a magical view of faith and the second is a mystical one. Some Christians regard their faith as being quite magical. The notion that it happens all by itself. God makes it appear in our lives and from thereon is automatically works in our life. You needn’t do anything to it because it will function and develop of its own accord. They regard it as though it were some vestigial internal organ of the soul and not a muscle to be exercised. The second notion, which is quite related, is a mystical one. It is a conception of faith that considers it as a whole and measures it in terms of a personal relationship to Christ. Negatively speaking they do not recognize it in component elements as Peter does. Faith to them is merely to be continually waiting and looking upon the Lord. The only activity required on our part is passivity. Their mantra is to abide in the Lord as the only thing to do. Naturally such rational, no matter how oft repeated or reevaluated, can only produce spiritual lethargy. So these together, an erroneous view of faith and a spiritual indolence, are the most productive cause of spiritual depression. Lloyd Jones admonished, “The modern heresy in protestantism and perhaps dare I say, evangelicalism, is that in our fear of justification by works we have been tempted to say works don’t matter. Antinomianism in other words. Faith alone counts, and because I’m a man of faith it doesn’t matter very much what I do. My life can be thoroughly lacking in discipline… The opposite to trusting in your works is not to do nothing it is to do everything but not to trust them. It is not the works that are wrong it is the trust in your works, that your works are meritorious.” This abuse of justification by faith, this abuse of the perseverance of the saints, this kind of new, reformed antinomianism affects our interest in the Gospel as consisting in purely intellectual terms. Where faith in the whole is an intellectual assent by which one grasps the Gospel’s dogma and doctrine, one understands it, revels in it, expounds with it, but stops at that as though nothing more is necessary to it. Faith involves the whole personality. Not exclusively the mind through intellectual propositions, but inclusively also the heart, the will, and the personal behaviour. There is nothing contradictory or incongruous here to us as custodians of faith. What can you tell of your understanding of faith?
“Give even all diligence.” This is not an admonishment to passivity. Just to surrender it all to God, that we have nothing to do with regards to our faith. This is utterly unscriptural. “The treatment prescribed by the Apostle for his condition is to make every effort, exercise discipline, management, and order.”Lloyd Jones. Herein is the element of our activity. We are concerned with being as active as possible, but only as active as we are empowered by the Lord. “To be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Indeed it is His might but is is also in us. Just as Jascha found his capacity for music within so likewise we have latent, and inherent faith to be practiced in us. Likewise Peter exhorts us to “Giving all diligence, add to your faith.” Faith was put into us at rebirth, but it is for us to develop it, supplement it, furnish it out, and actually add to it. It is not going to be added for you. It is our activity. Again, your faith is not automatic or magical. Again, you must add to it, it is not a mystical all-encompassing, full, complete entity. There is more to it and there is more you have to do with it. Herein lies so much of the confusion about spiritual development and power. Peter reaffirms this principle later, “Give rather diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Granted you cannot elect yourself, but you can diligently give affirmation to it. “For if you do these things, ye shall never fall.” You have got to be doing them. There is no doctrine of passivity with regards to faith. So be diligent. Negatively, do not dismiss the need of personal diligence. Understand that such passivity runs the risk of spiritual depression and religious lethargy. Acknowledge that no progress or development will ever be realized in your faith apart from attending to it with all diligence. An undisciplined army is a defeated army. Spiritual discipline combats spiritual depression mightily. Which can you tell is your spiritual state?
Furnish Your Faith
We all have experienced that discipline without direction is drudgery. So how are we then to direct our discipline? By adding to your faith. “The first thing is the sheer necessity of discipline, and order, and arrangement. The second is that we have to supplement our faith.” Lloyd Jones. The best depiction of the term “Add” is “Furnish.” In other terms we are to furnish out our faith. Supplement our faith. We are to think of it as supplying our faith. Don’t be satisfied with leaving it as it is, go ahead and furnish it out. Is it complete, cultivated, fuller, and developed? What can you tell?
Firstly, we are to furnish out our faith with virtue. By virtue we mean not the common connotation of goodness, but rather virtue as strength, acting power, or something efficacious. Lloyde Jones describes it as “Moral Energy.” We understand something of this from Mark 5:30 where Christ was touched by the woman with an issue of blood and “Immediately Jesus did know in himself the virtue that went out of him.” Similarly, we are to add to our faith the selfsame virtue that was in Christ. Indeed such a virtue is quite unfamiliar to ourselves. Christ sensed it flowing from him whereas we can hardly sense it flowing in us. Considering again that Peter is writing to Christians experiencing a condition that is languid, undisciplined, and slack thusly his exhortation to moral energy is first and foremost. You have been regenerated with faith and in addition you must cease to be languid. Positively stated you must supplement your faith with moral energy, grit, power, might, and strength. Arouse and awake yourself. If you were to go about treating anything in life as lethargically as you do your faith hardly anything good would come of it. Far to many latitudinarian Christians suffer from the mumps and measles of the soul. Without this virtue, this vigour, added to your faith the depression and lethargy will go by unaffected. What can you tell?
Second we are to furnish out our faith with knowledge. Now that we have the energy to act we must know what to act upon and how to do so. This knowledge is not merely doctrinal or scholarly conclusions, but more particularly, Christian insight, understanding, and enlightenment. You have to know the Christian life. You have to know the wiles and temptations about you. You have to know the efficacy of discipline and diligence. You have to know your religion, its ordinances, and your duties in it. Such insight is only attained by diligent attendance to the Scriptures. What can you tell by your observances of Scripture?
Temperance simply means self-control and self-control simply means control of yourself. More specifically of your appetites, lusts, passions, and desires. Webster defines it as “Moderation; particularly, habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions; restrained or moderate indulgence; as temperance in eating and drinking; temperance in the indulgence of joy or mirth. Temperance in eating and drinking is opposed to gluttony and drunkenness, and in other indulgences, to excess.” Indeed what is a greater producer of spiritual and physical lethargy than inordinate indulgence? You can experience no furbishment of your faith or diligence of discipline apart from controlling every aspect of your life. We experience so little of virtue because we expend so much of it by our appetites. Self control is one of the most evident marks of being Spirit controlled. So what can you tell?
Patient endurance is also to be furnished to our faith. As with all disciplines they are not merely to be started but to be continued. It is a daily, moment by moment continuing under pain or distress without sinking or yielding to the pressure of the religious lethargy which besets us. Peter assures us that if we patiently endure “Ye shall never fall.”Indeed when we have fallen has it not been due to an implicit failure in this regard? Do you know this? Can you tell?
Can They Tell?
The later three furbishments are towards others. Namely, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Interestingly this is something too which we are to add to our faith. We can add godliness. Lloyde Jones plainly comments godliness as, “Maintain your attitude towards God.” Consciously walk in the sight of God. This is piety. Do your diligence as though it is done in the sight of God Himself. Exercise your discipline in view of His viewing you. Webster defines, “A careful observance of the laws of God and performance of religious duties, proceeding from love and reverence for the divine character and commands of Christian obedience.” And of brotherly kindness Webster writes, “Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants, or alleviating their distresses.” There are many Christians who deprive themselves of strength and might as they deprive themselves of the brethren. Loving the brethren is rather a proof of life as the Apostle John states. Some of our lives look the complete opposite of Peter’s exhortation. Our attitude towards this would read thusly, “Do the least you can, and see that your faith carries with it inability. Your inability must be accompanied by ignorance, your ignorance by indulgence, your indulgence by inaction. Your inaction too must always be accompanied by inconstancy to God; that in turn must have the quality of incivility, and your incivility must lead to indifference.” What can they tell?
Commanded to Character
It is interesting to observe that always in Scripture we are exhorted towards character, not specially towards particular deeds or disciplines. You can have some character without discipline. It will be weak and frail. You will be counted among Peter’s idle and barren Christians, but Christian nonetheless. However there is a discipline without Christian character. Such is the disciplines of the pharisees and sadducees. Peter does not list us to add prayer, meditation, memorization, silence, solitude, fasting, and reading to our faith. We are to furnish our faith not with disciplines but with character. We add character only by discipline. Though we, like Jascha Heirfetz, have latent and inherent vigour in our respective capacities it still behooves us to furnish it out through diligent discipline. We need discipline ourselves as regenerated believers as much as Jascha needed to practice as a prodigy. Lloyd Jones comments,“The most essential thing in the development of any power, faculty, any force that is latent within us is the more exercise the more developed they become.” So if I don’t discipline myself one day, I can tell. If I don’t discipline myself for two days, my oppressors can tell. If I don’t diligently discipline myself for three days, my brethren can tell. What can they tell? What are they and God concerned primarily with? My disciplines? No. Rather what my disciplines produce, namely, character. We mustn’t confuse diligent discipline as either the beginning of faith or the end of it. The triune God begins faith in us and Christian character is the end of it. Diligent discipline only affirms the former and supplies the latter. This progression of faith’s beginning in the sovereignty of God and end in the full character of Christ does not happen by itself, it does not happen to it, we are to do it and discipline is required. If you are currently in a mesmeric malady, experiencing spiritual lethargy and depression, arrest yourself. Arouse and shake off your languidness. Arise and incite within you a moral vigour, a spiritual energy. Saturate your mind with Scriptural insight. Restrain yourself from those inordinate appetites which so easily beset and fatigue you. Patiently endure the character building process of such diligent discipline. Do so in the sight of God for the sake of the brethren in love. “For if these things be among you, and abound, they will make you that ye neither shall be idle, nor unfruitful in the acknowledging of our Lord Jesus Christ.” May zeal for the Lord consume you.
Let us therefore be up and doing.