2 Peter Part 4
3 Promise / Problems
As we saw last time, Peter is wanting his readers to get a full grasp of what it means that upon Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to His throne – He sent the Holy Spirit to take up residence in the soul of the Believer.
He mentions this in vss. 3 & 4.
2 Peter 1:3–4 “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.”
By His own glory and excellence – because of how wonderful He is and according to the power and authority He possesses, He has fulfilled precious and very great promises to us, which promises, make us partakers of the divine nature.
Believers gain the reality of God’s own Spirit indwelling us and empowering us to live life as He has designed it for us – in godliness. Even in the midst of this fallen, broken world, and the present corruption that surrounds and impacts us.
The indwelling Spirit of Christ is in fact the single great PROVISION He has given to the Believer – but we are so woefully unaware of His presence and the need to consciously depend upon Him in our prayers and daily life – that we can lead lives which barely demonstrate His presence within us at all.
James Moffat, the old Scottish theologian once quipped that a cynic’s view of the Christian’s experience is: ‘an initial spasm followed by chronic inertia.’
Sadly, I can identify with that at times in my own life, and have observed it so in the lives of many others.
This leads us to the 1st of the 3 PROMISE / PROBLEMS that occur in this text: 2 Peter 1:8 ‘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.’
The PROMISE here is, that IF the qualities he just mentioned – and which we hope to unpack in days to come – are fully ours, and are increasing – then we will avoid the dual PROBLEM of being either ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Note the 2 things that can happen here in a Christian life that does not progress – there can be a negative EXTERNAL result: Being INEFFECTIVE, or having no impact for the Kingdom upon others we are brought into contact with –
And there can be a negative INTERNAL result: Being UNFRUITFUL or failing to have any of the fruit in my own soul of knowing Christ.
I neither grow in His image myself, nor contribute to anyone else’s growth in Christ. We can become spiritually inert.
This state of affairs is accompanied by a brand of forgetfulness in the Believer that is spiritually paralyzing.
2 Peter 1:9 ‘For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.’
i.e. What I’ve been saved FROM and saved TO – has lost its impact on me.
My deliverance from the penalty of sin has become ho-hum. It no longer amazes me or fills me with gratitude or awe or wonder.
I’ve clean forgotten that my being born again was no less miraculous and took no less power on God’s part than it did to create the cosmos: 2 Corinthians 4:6 ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’
The same power it took to raise Jesus from the dead is what it takes to bring a dead soul back from its death in trespasses and sins to new life in Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 1:3 ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,’
When we lose our grip on these things so that they no longer move us, it is because we have fallen into a spiritual malaise and have stopped 2 Peter 1:5–7 ‘mak[ing] every effort to supplement our 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.’
We’re just coasting spiritually. And that is a recipe for disaster. It will make us wholly ineffective in impacting anyone else’s soul for the Gospel, and it will make us fruitless; famished, unsatisfied, emaciated and parched in our own souls.
Maybe that is you today. You’ve been a professing Christian for decades, but you find that in truth, you either contribute little or nothing to the spiritual growth and welfare of any other Believer – nor have you shared the Gospel with any non-Believer.
And in truth, your own soul has dried up so, that consistent Bible reading is a non-productive bore – or even a guilt inducing burden. You haven’t wept in prayer in months or years. Worship is a rote responsibility instead of a refreshing refuge. You’ve lost all interest in or put precious little time or effort into pursuing spiritual matters.
Peter warns us and says: 2 Peter 1:5 ‘For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith…’
Because you HAVE been miraculously born again; because you HAVE been cleansed of your sin and guilt; because you HAVE been given the gift of God’s own Spirit to indwell and empower you to live this amazing life of God here and now – MAKE EVERY EFFORT.
The word ‘supplement’ here is an interesting one. Michael Green notes that it is a metaphor drawn from the ancient ‘Athenian drama festivals.’
These festivals occurred because of rich patrons who would bear the enormous costs of paying the actors and musicians along with the poets and the state. And the word used by Peter here is drawn from the image of that patron and came to mean ‘generous and costly co-operation.’
To which Green adds: ‘The Christian must engage in this sort of co-operation with God in the production of a Christian life which is a credit to him.’
Satirist Tom Lehrer used to say ‘Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.’
Well, in his perverse way he said the truth of Peter’s point here – the Christian life that is not attended to and labored over, with be no good to anyone – including oneself.
The 2nd PROMISE / PROBLEM shows up in vs. 10: 2 Peter 1:10 ‘Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.’
All of us who have walked with Christ for more than 5 minutes have faced the reality that we are exceedingly prone to fall into sin – and especially back into the sinful patterns of thinking and acting that were so ingrained in us before our conversion.
Lying. Self-service and self-protection. Lust. Greed. Fear. Materialism. Anger. Need to control others. Laziness. Self-absorption. Drunkenness and addiction. Neglect of spiritual disciplines. Self-reliance demonstrated in prayerlessness. Selfishness. Pride & Arrogance, Contentiousness. Disrespect. Rivalries. Impurity. Unmindfulness of spiritual matters. You name it.
But our Savior has not cast us to the seas to fend for ourselves in these battles. He has made provision for us in His indwelling Spirit – AND – in the conscious effort to engage the Spirit so as to 2 Peter 1:5–7 ‘supplement our 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.’
And here is an extraordinary revelation: The key to keep from falling back into sin, is to be making every effort to supplement our faith with the qualities he mentions here – by the Spirit.
What is interesting is that Peter – though in a very different way, says the same thing Paul does in Galatians 5:16 ‘But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.’
The way to stop sinning in our problem areas, is not to concentrate on the sins themselves – but to do something else altogether – to walk in the Spirit. And Peter shows us here what exactly Paul meant in Gal. 5.
One walks in the Spirit when they give themselves over to looking to Him while pursuing virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love!
It is the old principle we’ve seen so many times before. If a light switch is off, it can’t be on.
If the Bible said: “Thou shalt not walk south” – then I need to NOT spend all of my time thinking about how NOT to walk south, I need to walk north! And by virtue of walking north, I CAN’T be walking south.
I cannot be sinning against a neighbor I am loving at the same time.
The two are mutually exclusive.
Put all of your costly effort into pursuing the things the Spirit has listed for us here, and in the process, you will NOT be engaging in your former sins – or as Peter says it here: 2 Peter 1:10 ‘Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.’
This is a far cry from our fallen, human intuition. But it IS God’s Word and must be true.
And it is to this PROMISE we must turn, if we are to deal with the PROBLEM of our sins.
Which then leads us to our 3rd PROMISE / PROBLEM.
2 Peter 1:11 ‘For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’
And Peter’s point here is both subtle and profound, building off of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching in an area that is all but ignored in our day.
Once again let me cite Michael Green as I think he says it quite well: ‘This passage agrees with several in the Gospels and Epistles in suggesting that while heaven is entirely a gift of grace, it admits of degrees of felicity, and that these are dependent upon how faithfully we have built a structure of character and service upon the foundation of Christ.’ Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 96.
The PROBLEM is, that many of us have adopted a form of Christianity that in effect says: ‘All I want is to avoid Hell and get to Heaven – I’m not interested in anything deeper than that.’
In other words, there is a complete lack of understanding that God has appointed rewards for our labor and striving, and that those rewards are to be valued by us as worth our effort to obtain, even if they are not enumerated for us or described in detail.
They are worth our effort, simply because He says they are.
This is faith!
We hear echoes of this in Hebrews 11:24–26 ‘By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.’
We see it taught explicitly in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 ‘According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.’
Jesus taught explicitly on the same theme: Matthew 6:1–6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
John warns us accordingly in 2 John 8 ‘Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.’
And the risen Jesus again in Revelation 3:11 ‘I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.’
‘Crown’ there being a reference to the victor’s crown awarded in the ancient games – having striven and won.
All of these in opening up: Matthew 6:19–21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The healthy Christian life wants a ‘richly provided’ entrance into the eternal kingdom, and not just some slipping in through the back door!
It is a desire to hear ‘Well done! Good and faithful servant.’
It betrays whether or not we in earnest love pursue those things that bring a smile to our Heavenly Father’s face, or whether or not we just don’t care, as long as we get there.
But the PROMISE here is – that if we give ourselves to the earnest and energetic pursuit of the qualities he has laid out before us – we WILL receive a lavish entrance into that glorious, eternal Kingdom one day.
This theme is so vitally important in considering the Christian life -that Peter tells us how he has given himself over to making sure we get it, and retain it: 2 Peter 1:12–15 ‘Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.’
Knowing that his own death is looming over him and will be soon – this, by the inspiration of Christ’s own Spirit, he is compelled to give his readers and us as of the most vital importance.
How much then ought we to give heed to it, to take it in, understand it and adopt it as essential to our own Christian lives.
Salvation is truly by grace and grace alone.
But we were not saved just to sit fat and happy in a bare pardon from sin. We were created for higher things than these. Things we are by God’s grace and through is Spirit to lay hold of and give our lives to.
We are left with two things at the end of this.
- If you ARE a Christian here today, how does your current state accord with what we’ve just discovered?
Are you INEFFECTIVE & UNFRUITFUL, or IMPACTING OTHERS FOR THE KINGDOM & GROWING IN GRACE?
Are you facing and overcoming sinful patterns in your life, or falling more than you are walking?
Are you striving for a richly provided entrance into His Kingdom? Or just content to hope you make it?
This may then be a wake-up call for you – a moment of grace whereby God calls you to repent and recover your first love.
- Maybe you have THOUGHT that you were a Christian, but truth be known, as you consider these things honestly this morning – you really know nothing of the kind of mindset that’s been unfolded here.
In truth, you still need to be born again.
You still need to run to Christ to be your sin-bearer, and to grant you the new birth He gives to all who come to Him for mercy in faith. And you can do that right where you are this very moment – in acknowledging your lost condition, and calling upon God in Jesus name to forgive you and make you a new creature by His power.