The "Grow" Command (II Peter 3:14-18)
Topic: II Peter Passage: 2 Peter 3:14–3:18
I. The Way Things Grow
Do you know what I did yesterday?
It was such a nice day that I went out and worked in the yard. And I decided that right now was the time to plant some packets of seed that had been laying around collecting dust. So I went out and found the right spot, dug a hole, threw in the seeds, covered them up, and...do you know what I did next? I sat there and, in the firmest, most persuasive voice I could muster up, I ordered those seeds to grow! I said, “Grow! Grow!”
Do you know what I did next? I went in the house and grabbed my checkbook and paid a couple bills. Pretty exciting Saturday, right? But after looking at my checking account balance, do you what I decided to do next? I sat there and, in the firmest, most persuasive voice I could muster up, I ordered that account balance to grow! I said, “Grow! Grow!”
And do you know what I did after that? Well, I eventually helped put the kids to bed, and once I was sure that every child was asleep, I snuck into their rooms, pulled up a kid-sized stool, and just watched them. But as I looked at them resting so peacefully, I decided I needed to do something else. So...do you know what I did? I sat there and, in the firmest, most persuasive voice I could muster up, I ordered those children to grow! I said, “Grow! Grow!”
Now, I know you know what's wrong with each of these scenes. You cannot simply order or command things to grow. It doesn't work that way does it? No matter how authoritative or persuasive or convincing I am, my words will not cause a plant to sprout, or money to accumulate in my account; my words cannot add inches to my children's stature.
That's simply not the way things grow.
But if that's correct, then why in the world would the Apostle Peter try to do the very same thing? Look with me this morning at II Peter 3:14-18. Just two weeks ago we explored the first thirteen verses of this chapter. This morning, we're going to finish things up by talking about verses 14-18.
II. The Passage: “But Grow...” (3:14-18)
Keep this idea of growth in mind as I read verses 14-18. Listen to Peter's words:
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,  as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. >>>
There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Okay, did you see how Peter is attempting to do the same thing I was supposedly doing yesterday? Verse 18... “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The word “grow” here is an imperative verb in Greek. That means it's a command. Peter is commanding his readers to grow! You can't do that, right? Or can you?
All of us know that Peter, simply speaking these words, is not going to cause instant spiritual growth in his listeners. But...unlike plants, or money, or a child's height, THIS COMMAND CAN BE OBEYED!
Before we talk about what it means to obey this command, I want you to consider five things the context here teaches us about the growth mentioned in verse 18.
First of all, if you look back at verse 14, we discover there that We Grow Today in Light of Our Hope for God’s Tomorrow.
As we talked about a couple weeks ago, if we belong to Jesus by grace through faith, then our future home will be the “new heavens” and the “new earth” described in verse 13. But notice what else verse 13 tells us about this new world. It's a world “in which righteousness dwells”.
Listen, if we are anticipating that kind of world, a world free of sin's corruption, a world in which God is always honored, then right now is our chance to begin walking in the reality of that world. If we want to live in that kind of world someday, then we should live that kind of life today. We don't wait for that future righteousness in order to be righteous. No, that future promise of righteousness directs our hearts to righteousness now.
It should be our desire that those around would be able to catch a glimpse of our future home in the way we speak and act; in our attitudes; and that through our waiting, our prayer is that they would desire that future home as well.
But second, the first half of verse 15 reminds us that We Grow Because God Has Given Us Time to Grow.
Verses 8 and 9 of chapter 3 confirm that any delay in the return of Christ is evidence, not of God's slowness or that His promises have somehow failed, but that God is patient and merciful. We are to (v. 15) “count the patience of our Lord as salvation”.
Peter is telling them, “If God has given you more time, than use that time.” Do you think about that way? Every minute, every hour, that Jesus Christ does not return to our world, is another minute or hour in which God is calling you to grow. If were left in a large house and given the job of cleaning that house, and if the owner told he would be back in a little while, what would you do? Would you clean for an hour and then sit and wait because you expected him back any minute?
But if the house was not clean, how could you just sit and wait. Every minute he was absent was a minute you could be working to finish the task of transforming that house.
God has given us time. And if we have time, as long as we have time before Jesus' returns, that time is time to be transformed; time to grow.
The third we see here is that We Grow If We Truly Understand God’s Word (v. 15b-16).
The last half of verse 15, together with verse 16, reveals that very point. Look at the fascinating facts that we find confirmed in these verses: Peter counts the Apostle Paul as his beloved brother in Christ, Peter and Paul were passing along the same solid teaching, in Paul's letters there are some things that are “hard to understand”, and finally, Peter believed that Paul's writings were Scripture (since he goes on to refer to the “other” Scriptures at the end of verse 16).
But we can't miss the main point in those verses. Peter is telling his readers that a right understanding of God's word will drive us toward growth. It's God word that teaches us about the “new heavens and the new earth”. It's God's word that teaches us about God's patience. It's God's word that commands us to “grow” in verse 18. Peter is merely the mouthpiece. The command to “grow” is ultimately God's command. We should desire to grow because God’s word reveals God’s goodness and the goodness of His commands!
Like the false teachers mentioned in verse 16, our lack of growth, our lack of obedience to the “grow” command, that lack indicates that Scripture is being twisted in our hearts and minds. We convince ourselves we know enough, that we're basically okay. And we do that by grabbing a verse here and another verse there, and telling ourselves everything's fine.
But Scripture doesn't teach us to sit and relax. It teaches us to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14).
Along with this, we see a fourth idea presented in verse 17. We learn there that We Grow Because We Reject The Error of the Unstable.
Peter writes, You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
In order to obey this “grow” command, we must first reject the error of those who reject God. If you believe that your seedling should look more like a weed, and not like an aspen, than you will do nothing to help it grow. You will be perfectly content to leave it looking like a twig, even turning brown and withering.
If we accept the definition of this world in terms of the “good life”, then our motivation to grow is sabotaged. But when we know in advance the dangers of being “carried away” by the raging rapids of sin, when we undertand the consequences of living a “me-centered life in a God-centered universe”, we then find ourselves ready to grow; to be “transformed” and not “conformed” as Paul writes about in Romans 12:2.
But look again at our main verse, verse 18. We find a fifth point there. We learn that when we grow, We Grow in the ‘Soil’ of the Gospel.
Notice the exact wording of this “'grow' command”: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter is not just describing growth in knowledge, but grace and knowledge. And he isn't simply talking about “grace and knowledge” in a general sense, but the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He couldn't be more specific.
But there are a couple ways to understand these words. We could say that Peter wants them to grow into greater degrees of grace and knowledge. But listen to several verses from the first chapter of this letter. Peter writes:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
(II Peter 1:2)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence... (II Peter 1:3)
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. (II Peter 1:8)
In light of how Peter talks about this “knowledge”, I don't think he is commanding them to grow in greater degrees of grace and knowledge. I think he is calling to grow in the nurturing soil of the grace and knowledge they've already received.
You see, real spiritual growth cannot take place when we do not know, or our focus is distracted from, Jesus Christ and the grace He gives us because of His death and resurrection. This is the soil of the gospel. And when you attempt to grow outside of this soil, you will always veer into legalism or license. That is, your so-called spiritual life will either be about pride and performance, or about freedom and feelings (to do what you think is best).
But the gospel firmly roots us in grace and knowledge. Real growth is nourished by the fact we are unconditionally accepted by God through Christ. Real growth is nourished by the fact that He died for us in order that we might now live for Him.
But notice that last phrase in verse 18. This is our sixth and final idea: We Grow Because He is Worthy.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
We obey this “grow” command because we recognize that Jesus Christ is worthy of every ounce of obedience that might be in us. The world's priorities are not worthy. The 'rat race' is not worthy. Our dream job, or dream house, or dream spouse is not worthy. The almighty dollar is not worthy. Feeling good, or feeling fulfilled, or feeling safe...these are not worthy.
Even the great causes of this world are not worthy of our undivided love and complete devotion. Only Jesus Christ is worthy. We grow because we want more and more of ourselves to consistently declare this very statement: To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
III. How Will You Obey?
So in light of these things, we have to come back to the question we posed earlier: “How...how do we obey the command to “grow” in verse 18?” How are you obeying this command? If Jesus appeared to you right now, looked you right in the eye, and said, “Grow! Grow!”...what would you do? What's the first thing that comes to mind?
But we could ask, “What about Peter?” What does Peter have in mind when he talks about growing? Well, I think in ending his letter in this way, Peter is simply coming back around to how he began this letter. Look back at verses 3-8 of chapter 1. Listen to how Peter calls them to grow:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  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.
Wow! Notice how Peter is encouraging them to grow here. Not only does he remind them that God’s power and promises have given them everything they need to grow, but he also describes the different ways in which they should grow. This is growth in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Are you growing in those areas?
But Peter is not the only one to describe this kind of growth. As Peter mentioned in 3:15, Paul wrote about the same kinds of things. Listen to how Paul describes the “grow” command in Ephesians 4:15 and 16:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Paul tells us several important things here about how we obey this command. He tells that 1) our growth is growth into Christ, or we could say, growth into becoming more like Jesus; 2) This growth happens through relationships with other Christians, and 3) the growth happens as we speak God’s truth to one another in love.
So we could say that the command to “grow” is a personal charge, but it’s largely worked out in a community context. You can and should strive to grow through personal study, personal disciplines, and personal priorities. But none of us can grow apart from the body of Christ. We grow when “each part is working properly”!
Do you know what all of this is? It’s simply the flip side of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 (text on screen). It’s not simply submitting to Jesus’ call to go and make disciples.
It’s submitting to God’s desire to be made disciples. It means not only engaging in this work, but also allowing this work to take place in you. Is the Great Commission being fulfilled in your life? Have you been baptized as a personal response of faith? Are you being taught to obey all that Jesus has commanded? Are you becoming more like Jesus?
But how does this happen? Well, as we just talked about, it’s a personal charge worked out in a community context. Yes, it does mean doing what you’re doing right now: coming on Sundays to worship and hear God’s word. But it has to be more than that.
At Way of Grace, we have a resource pamphlet entitled “His Vision for You”. In this pamphlet you can read more about how we as a church want to help you obey God’s command to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. And as you read through this pamphlet, you will discover that the centerpiece of our disciple-making work is what we call “A Path of Discipleship” (graphic).
This path is simply a series of studies designed to help you grow; that will bring you into a connection with God’s word and brothers or sisters in Christ. If you want to obey God’s command to “grow” because you recognize the goodness of that command, and the One who gives it, and how much you need it…if you want to obey that command, then this is a path of growth, growth in “the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
How do you get onto this path? Well, it’s very simple. You begin by checking out this DVD. Grab copies of the three related pamphlets, sign out a copy of the DVD from our book cart, and take it home and watch it. It’s that easy. After you do that, we’d love to give you more information about moving forward down this path.
Listen, this is not simply another program. This is discipleship. This is the heart and soul of our work as a church. This is the centerpiece of how we make disciples. Everything else revolves around this. And we will keep talking about this.
My prayer is that this will become, more and more, a part of our DNA as a church; that you will not only be involved, but that you will encourage others to do the same; AND that you will help us carry out this work in their lives. The work of making disciples is not just the job of a privileged few. It belongs to all of us. God wants all of us to be involved. …When each part is working properly…the body grow[s] so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:16)
Simply hearing this “grow” command will not cause us to grow. We will grow when we step out in faith and go deeper in study, and in fellowship, and in ministry. Do you believe that?
My prayer for you is Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:10, that you would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. My prayer is Peter’s pray in I Peter 2:2, that like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.
And we should pray this prayer for one another, remembering that neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (I Corinthians 3:6, 7) God’s Spirit gives us to power to grow and the assurance of God’s promise that He will complete the work He’s begun in our lives. I pray He has begun that work in you. Let’s ask to help us obey this “grow” command, wherever we are on this journey. Let’s pray.