Second Peter 1:4

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises,so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

This verse teaches us that when we are in a relationship with God through the saving blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have a special kinship with Him and a new responsibility to act on what we know to be the truth.

In this message I want to discuss the following:

1. Believers have received his promises through redemption and HAVE the help we need to grow in His grace.  v. 4a

2. Because of this redemption given freely to us we can “participate in the divine nature”. v. 4b

3. Believers are able and responsible to escape the “corruption of the world”  v. 4c

Interesting words to examine are:

“great” – meaning “sublime, important, extra-ordinary” or in the words of the NAS translation “magnificent.”

“precious” - meaning “of great value or worth”.

Another way to say this is: “God has granted us the very great things he has promised.”

How does this apply to me personally as his child?:

  1. When troubled times come in my life I can look to my savior and expect Him to help me through those times.
  2. My God will always supply my need – even though I may not see how that need is being met at any particular moment.
  3. When I get confused in my life – God will remain steady and carry me through the forest to the clearing.
  4. When I meditate on Christ and his “glory and goodness” I will find my life to be more stable.
  5. I can always count on my Savior to see me through to the end.

How do believers “participate in the divine nature”?

This word Participation is the greek word koinonia which means “partner, sharer, companion”. In other words we become partners with God in the process of our own growth. This is a tremendous responsibility God has given us. We are called by God to take on this responsibility – this partnership.  I think of Phil. 2:13-14 - “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  The “fear and trembling” part is the responsibility you take when God freely gives you salvation through the blood of His only Son. It is an awesome responsibility. Yet we are not left on our own! We see God working in us; we have a partnership with God! God is moving and working in ways beyond our comprehension.  It is those times when we think we have no other resources to draw upon that our God fulfills his promise to provide strength for moment; courage in crisis and hope for the future! What a mighty God we serve!

How can I become a BETTER participant with God in my own growth and development?

  1. Listen to His voice as I come to Him in prayer. (not an audible voice, but the inner workings of the Spirit, as He challenges me to live a life worthy of my calling.
  2. By humbling myself before the Lord and stop trying to “perform” and rest in the fact that it is only by His power that I am able to overcome the trials and temptations before me.
  3. By not being a “hearer” only but a “doer” of God’s Word.
  4. By taking positive, concrete steps to stave off spiritual lethargy.
  5. By allowing God to use other believers in my life to point me in the right direction.
  6. By not making excuses for myself when I fail, but to move forward in humility, knowing that our forgiving Heavenly Father welcomes repentance and is waiting for us prodigals with open arms.
  7. By letting God develop my character by breaking me and molding me into his shape.
  8. By taking active steps to learn how to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to righteousness. This means putting feet to my prayers and standing firmly in His strength when it appears that I have none of my own.

In my next study I will work on the last part of this verse: “escaping the corruption of this world.”

Second Peter 1:3

Second Peter 1:3 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

In this verse we find hope for ourselves in knowing experientially the love of Christ, given to us freely, and received in our hearts through God’s abundant grace. (see post on verses 1-2).  Here we are told that we have been given “everything we need for life and godliness”! This is an amazing thought, that the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is not dependant on the amount of faith we can muster, but upon Christ’s Sovereign Grace in our lives.

Again, we find an amazing amount of theology in this passage of Scripture (one verse!) We see Christ’s “Divine power…” -showing us the source of our hope: a Savior who loves us not because of how good we are, but because of his great love that we cannot fathom. How is it that Christ would love me even though I am a sinner and in denial of my own depravity? Part of his gift of salvation is the revelation that I am spiritually bankrupt and in need of a Savior… and that is revealed to me (to us) as he moves in our hearts. This is what we call Justification – a precious doctrine to those who take the Bible seriously. And a direct result of this is our GROWTH in Christ. That is what follows verses 1 and 2 of this magnificent book. Our grown in the knowledge of God’s love, and what he did for us by taking our place on the cross.  We are now brought into the light and it suddenly becomes clear that we have opened a door to a vast proving grounds – not to prove our salvation – but to prove that God is truly at work in my life. In other words: our Sanctification, or growth in Christ.

Both Justification and Sanctification go hand in hand, they cannot be separated. Now in verse 3 Peter tells us ‘now that you have been redeemed, I want you to know that as you grow in your knowledge and experience with the Lord I will give you “everything you need for life and godliness.”

Let me explain what this practically means: It is possible to say NO to sin. It is possible to say NO to sinful habits. It is possible to say NO to exposing myself to the sinful, lustful influences all around me. It means it is possible to turn my back on evil desires that well up within my flesh and I can say NO to those things which I know will enslave me.

Think of this: Christ moves in your life, and you receive the “precious faith” offered to you by God’s Holy Spirit moving in your life, and now you are offered more power than you have ever thought possible. This power of Christ working in your life is not the ability or right to get whatever you wish, but it is the power to resist the evil one. Remember James 4:7 “resist the Devil and he will flee from you”? Where does that power come from? It can only come from the Lord himself who has “GIVEN” you everything you need for life and godliness.

This is truly good news indeed.

Second Peter 1:1-2

Number 1 in a series of reflections on the book of Second Peter

Second Peter 1:1-2

1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

New International Version (NIV)

“A Faith As Precious As Ours”

These two verses introduce us to Peter – the servant and apostle of Jesus Christ who wants his generation of believers, and believers of all time to recognize the preciousness of our faith. Theological ideas abound in just a very short paragraph: the righteousness of Christ – the sinless Savior; the Godhead of Jesus who is truly God and our only Savior; Abundant Grace – given freely without strings; the means of receiving this “grace and peace” is “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” This means that there is a growing understanding in the hearts of God’s children that we call Sanctification. This growth in the knowledge of the Lord is made possible by God’s Justification of the sinner. There is so much to unpack in these two verses that it makes my mind reel – yet we can take heart and rejoice that God has given us a “more sure Word” (2 Peter 1:19 KJV).

One Commentator, Edwin Blum in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says that the “precious” faith Peter is describing provides every Christian “equal access to God (Rom. 5:2); every Christian has the same heavenly Father and the same prospect of Glory.” What this practically means is that when we consider our faith, and the results of believing the truth, we are better prepared to face the unknowns of our daily walk. We can face whatever is before us, good and bad, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ has pledged himself to us and we can look beyond the current stresses and strains of our daily life, and look with great anticipation to our eternal future.

In verse two we see that God’s grace and his matchless peace are not only given to his children as an outworking of faith, but given in abundance! The means by which this mercy and peace come to us is “through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus our Lord.” This is the theme of this epistle – that our knowledge is more than an acceptance of the facts of the story of Redemption, but more than that, it is a “full knowledge” (following the Greek form of the word – epiginosko). It is a rich, rare, personal knowledge of who it is that saved me from myself and my sin. It is the knowledge that comes from laying my arguments down of why I am so good, and deserve God’s love. It is precisely the fact that I am born in sin and my propensity is to turn away from Him, that His great love and mercy come to me and God does something even greater from our perspective: He lets us know Him… through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This makes our faith personally precious and of inestimable value. This is the “good news” that God himself reveals his love through His Son and opens our blind eyes to see the abundant grace and peace of God flowing over our daily lives.

Let me make a side note here and talk about what I want to accomplish in my writing about Second Peter. A number of years ago I spend a good amount of time in preparing expository sermons from this amazing letter to every believing Christian. I have used a number of commentaries and am particularly grateful for the Logos Bible Software company that allows students of the Word to quickly and easily open up dozens of books and Bible helps all at the same time to point the student to the true message of God sent from the Holy Spirit as he moved in the minds and hearts of the writers of the Bible. I remember opening up every Bible study book I had at the time, before Logos Bible software, and covering my rather large desk, at the time, and then ran out of space and had to lay out open books all over my study. Times have changed. But the Word of God never changes! It is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

I am not trying to write a commentary on this book (Second Peter). Let’s make that clear. I glean from many sources that treat the text seriously, and I want to reflect my exegetical work and the exegetical work of others (and give credit when credit is due.) However my focus is not the detailed work of the biblical scholar, but a view from the Pastor’s study. The questions that I have about the text are not so much of structure and comparative interpretations, but on what the text means to the average Christian who struggles with the everyday hassles and irritations that fly around us at the beginning of the 21st century.

To start with, in the first two verses, we have a cannon shot! It’s a passage as full of theological truth as we will ever see in the New Testament. I truly believe Peter’s intention in writing this book was to give his readers the tools to deal with the same types of problems and fears that we have this very day…

Chapter one deals with our personal relationship to Christ, and the outworking of our faith, as well as pointing us to the “eternal kingdom.” (1:11)

Chapter two gives a strong warning against false teachers, and how believers of all time can navigate through the conflicting teachings they(and we) hear every day, each claiming to be the truth. I firmly believe Peter wanted his readers to have bold confidence that they would be able to tell the difference between the truth and falsehood.

Chapter three tells us something about the “eternal kingdom” and the “day of the Lord.” What I believe Peter is doing in this chapter is getting us prepared for our new jobs in the eternal Kingdom. In light of the fact that  their world was corrupt and our current world is getting more corrupt every day, Peter ends the epistle with another cannon shot! He says “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” He is not talking about disembodied spirits sitting on clouds with nothing to do. I can’t wait to delve into that when the time comes. I believe you will have a clearer perspective of our eternal home when we are done with this series. At least that is my prayer.

“All the nations will be blessed through you.”

 

“Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:6–9, NIV84)

This is one of my favorite passages in Galatians. It gives us our historical connection to Abraham and the people of God in Scripture. Paul clearly identifies believing Christians as “children of Abraham” and that “All nations will be blessed through you.”  

What is truly remarkable is that Paul is teaching us that part of the purpose of true believers in Jesus is that the entire world is “blessed” by having Christians around as part of society.  To be sure the greatest blessing of Abraham is that The Christ, Jesus our Savior came into this this world through the blood line of Abraham. But now he tells us that our mission on this earth is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To bring God’s kindness and mercy to a lost an hurting world. 

Sometimes Christians can get “down on themselves” and complain about the fact that we are small groups and not very influential in our communities. However, I beg to differ. Christians are “salt and light” in our flavorless and dark world. That is bringing God’s favor (blessing) upon the earth. Christians are a “savor of life”… a fragrance in a world that is sometimes not so fragrant. Can Christians make a difference in our world. I say not only “yes we can” but take it further… it is our calling, our destiny. It is what the apostle Paul envisioned in his mind as the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart as he wrote these words.  

This does not diminish the role of the nation of Israel in the Bible. It enhances the concept that God’s favor is to be shared. It is a holy mandate that Christians are to strive to be that connection to the Holy One of Israel. 

My heart skips a beat every time I read this passage. Thinking that God had us in mind in the grand process of God’s love being given freely upon the earth. Right where you are, right now, you are an instrument of the Holy One to bring His favor to our hurting world (our neighbors and friends.)

 

Isaiah and the Holy Spirit…

I was awed this week as I studied for my sermon on Isaiah  63:10-14

I was reading along and then the teaching on the Holy Spirit came bounding into the picture.  (Isaiah 63:7-19). The Holy Spirit is mentioned three times in a short few verses! This is truly amazing, as you can run your search engine and find only a few scattered references to the Holy Spirit in the OT. But here in Chapter 63, we see THREE verses that carry the teaching of the Word concerning the Third Person of the Trinity.

Isaiah 63:

9 In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
10 Yet they rebelled
and
grieved his Holy Spirit.

 

11…Where is he who set
his Holy Spirit among them,

12 who sent his glorious arm of power
to be at Moses’ right hand,
who divided the waters before them,
to gain for himself everlasting renown,

13  …Like a horse in open country,
they did not stumble;
14 like cattle that go down to the plain,
they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD.
This is how you guided your people
to make for yourself a glorious name.

 

Powerful stuff!

Out of these verses come a very neat sermon outline…. and food for the soul concerning the operation of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His precious possession. YOU are HIS precious possession, child of God in Christ!

We find here that the Holy Spirit is truly a person, and He is bent on comforting us and helping us… and being ‘among us’ in times of stress and turmoil. In v. 14 we are told “they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord.”

REST… First of all, rest for our souls, in bringing us to salvation in Christ Jesus. Secondly, rest for our spirits as we are confronted with the daily challenges that come our way. REST… for the weary, 21st Century “road-warrior” rushing around in insane traffic to be where they need to be. REST… for the child of God who has been bombarded with bad news… poor health, others bad decisions, financial need… the stuff of life.

I was enthused to present this message, it gave me a sense of hope that God is there… and He is not silent. (To borrow a Francis Schaeffer phrase.)

Yes, the Holy Spirit in Isaiah !

 

“…whithersoever…”

Proverbs 21:1:  “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”

I love that word …”whithersoever…”  – roughly translated into modern English as “wherever” or “which ever way God wants to” or “in whatever direction He wishes”.  Isn’t that a cool KJV word?

A little side note: I left the KJV in the dust back in the ’70′s, but have recently found that there are some irreplaceable words that are lost to most of us who read modern English. I used to bristle at those kinds of KJV ‘isms’, thinking that they were of no use to the modern world. Not to mention, the time involved in trying to explain them to people who just want to learn the Bible.

BUT… I have since come to appreciate some of those ‘tortured English’ words and phrases. Just take a look at some of the modern translations of the Bible. What do they do with some of those words and phrases… they ‘jazz them up’ so you will take notice!  Well… I have come full circle and found that using some of those really wild KJV ism’s is just the thing to pique someone’s attention… and smile in the process.  (Not sure about that smile… maybe it is a reminder of reading Shakespeare in class in High School… and all the fun you had…. don’t know.)

Be that as it may, in our Adult Bible Class, Proverbs 21:1 comes up as the focus of a discussion on the Sovereignty of God in our lives.  In the process of making decisions and trying to ‘look your best’ at a job interview, we must ultimately come to the point of trusting the God of Glory to turn the heart of the person in authority to be doing what He intends to be done in your life.  That’s where the “whithersoever” comes in: that no matter what the decision, it is God who is superintending and balancing for your good, the final outcome of the matter.

Admittedly, that is scary (at least for most of us who are realists). However, this verse reminds us of the incredible and amazing power of God to move in other people’s lives to make decisions that affect us… for God’s glory and honor. And the “withersoever” is not that God is not sure where this thing should go, but that the person making the decision has no idea why he is making that decision on your behalf!  Ain’t that cool!

How about a personal example.

I was looking to get some further and specific training in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I asked the owner of a nursing facility I was working in as a Chaplain to lay out a significant amount of money to make this happen, and fulfill other requirements. In my way of thinking there was no possible way that the owner of the facility was going to decide ‘in my favor’ … or so I surmised. One day, I was playing my trumpet music for a luncheon for the facility, and the owner was so impressed with my dedication to the people there, that he said to the Administrator at the time “give him whatever he wants.” And I was on my way to another avenue of ministry and service as a Chaplain (Now working as a Hospice Chaplain). That was 7 years ago. I can imagine the owner saying something like “why did I do that?”  Well, we know that the Lord turns the heart of the owner “whithersoever” He wishes!

“God Moments

I’ve been thinking about God’s incredible mercy and love in bringing me into a relationship with Him that will never end! It’s sort of like those “God Moments” every true believer has every now and then  (some more often than others). When we are on the road and we are missed in a ‘near crash’… and we escape with no more than an elevated heart rate! Those moments come when one of your adult children thanks you for what you taught them about faith when they were younger! It’s moments that cause us to reflect on the immense character of God and we stand in awe of Him!

I’d be lying if I told you that I have these “God Moments” every day, multiple times a day!  Some days are filled with routine, and with incredible split-second timing to be where I need to be for ‘whatever.’  Sure, when we finally stop the “Wild Mouse” ride and look around (dizzily), we force ourselves to look for God in our circumstances.  Yes, we are thankful, yes we are aware of the magnificent God who is tending to our souls even when we are not!

(Aside… I have always felt ‘ill-at-ease’ in confessing things like this. I have always felt like I am holding up, for the world to see, how ‘un-spiritual’ I really am. I have always feared that others will judge me for my lack of deep spirituality when I reveal thought like the above…. I suppose it’s time to get over that.)

I like “God Moments”.

I crave those moments when it is clear that God is getting my focus… and I truly worship.  Sometimes I am moved to tears when I am over-whelmed by His love, in spite of myself. I want to package the moment and put it into a 3 point sermon that will show everybody the path to the “God Moment.”  But it doesn’t work like that.

I have always taught that we need to “create and environment” where true spirituality and flourish.  I need to systematically eliminate things in my life that hinders the pathway to those incredible brushes with Heaven.  Or take those things that are hindrances and ‘turn them around’ to be tools to help us in our journey.    – I can’t tell you how you can do that… it is entirely personal and private – between you and God.

One last thought here.  I can’t program “God Moments” into my schedule…. how absurd! The pathway seems to be in daily taking time to stop and look and listen.    -

“God Moments” happen.