Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Precious and very great promises

July 7th 2013, Passage: 2 Peter 1:1-4   
Preached at Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

The promises of God produces:
1.     Servants and Apostles
2.     Faith
3.     Righteousness of God
4.     Grace and peace
5.     All things or this life and for godliness
6.     Partakers of the divine nature
7.     Escape from corruption
Begin this series on 2Peter by making a promise to you:
I will do best to keep my words as close to God's words as I can.
I know that this letter is the Word of God for us today written to us through the Apostle of the Lord, Simon Peter. I pray that through the knowledge of 2 Peter in its depth and richness we will be morally and spiritually changed in this world as we receive life eternal. If we will make every effort (a common phrase in the book) to soak our minds and hearts with the glory and excellence of God in the understanding of holy Scriptures, we will grow thereby.  Are you ready? To follow through it sermon by sermon to the end?
Many people when talking keep on saying, I don't know where to begin, "where do I start?" … I don't want to ever catch that bug! Whenever we are preaching the Word of God, we must be careful to begin from the beginning of every book (as much as is possible). Let us begin from verse 1: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ”

Introductions first please!
From this opening phrase we see a number of things about this letter: Peter, there has been a controversy from earliest times whether Peter actually wrote this letter although there is a conclusive evidence that he did. Most likely Jude, the Lord's brother, may have done the actual writing, as amanuensis, since his book is much closer to 2 Peter in style, vocabulary, and content especially chapter 2 than is 1 Peter. Peter introduces himself in terms of his name and status:
He is Simeon Peter: Simeon was his Jewish name given by his parents and Peter, his Christian name given by His Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a stone, upon the Rock, which became a fountain of the truth, - the truth upon which is the foundation of the Church is (Matthew 16:18). The truth is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This is the pillar and buttress of the church. This is the eternal hope for the world. Without this everyone lies awaiting the wrath to come. But thankfully it is the truth, the reality and assurance for sinners that God has sent His Son to be the Saviour of sinners, to reconcile the world to Himself. He is the TRUTH.
In the second place, Simeon Peter’s status is that he is a servant or a slave or bond-servant of Christ. He is a man out to serve Christ at all costs, even at the cost of his own life, since Christ had Himself served sinners at the cost of His divine life for which none is worthy. He was a willing servant, spending and being spent for the course of the Kingdom of God. He is TOTALLY SOLD OUT FOR (SERVICE TO) CHRIST.
In the third place Peter is an apostle. An apostle carries authority: he represents and speaks for the living Christ. Since He appointed and designated him this title. No one becomes an apostle because he woke up one day and thought that the name/title is cool. An apostles is not a founder of a certain denomination. An apostles is not a tele-evangelist, an apostle is not an outstadning preacher with a great following. An apostle is not a pastor with a church with 5,000 members! 
Rather, an apostle was one who, is described as qualified in Acts 1:21:
·       A man
·       Accompanied Christ and his disciples all the time
·       Was there at beginning of the baptism of John to ascension
·       Was a witness of the resurrection of Christ
Notice that there were only two men who met this qualification – Joseph Barsabbas aka Justus and Matthias. When they cast lots the Lord chose Matthias. Apostles are personally chosen by the Lord who sends out. 'Apostle' means one sent out on behalf of another! Today's equivalent is 'ambassador'.
From this passage we cannot help to notice that Peter is not eager to flaunt this authority. "Apostle" comes second, not first. It is preceded and softened by "servant," or "slave." There was a vast difference in status between a lord's ambassador and his slave. Peter identifies himself as both, but puts "slave" first, and in this way shows that he does not want to use his honored position as apostle to lord it over the saints like the worldly people, since he had learned well his lessons from the Lord. See. Matthew 20:25-28 and 1Peter 5:3
 Peter also introduces himself in terms of his relationship with his readers in respect to their faith and righteousness that we share. It is worthy noting that the same humble emphasis is continued in the phrase of verse 1, “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”
Peter puts his readers on the same spiritual plane with himself. Isn’t it wonderful that you and me are of a faith of ‘equal standing’ with Peter? Peter who prayed Lord, increase our faith is of faith of ‘equal standing’ with me? Faith is the most important thing. We could pick up three things to emphasize the spiritual equality of all believers before God. 
Firstly, the phrase "a faith of equal standing" or "like precious faith." 
Secondly, the word "obtained": "to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing." Obtain is used here to mean not by effort but by lot (it is used elsewhere this way, see. Luke 1:9; John 19:24; Acts 1:17). In this sense, could you dare boast in faith? A faith that came to us by God's choice, not by our prior effort?
Finally, the quality of believers in faith is what gives our faith value and distinction is Christ's righteousness, not ours. It says we have faith "in (or by) the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ." This means that our faith came "by his righteousness" (as the means), or that our faith is "in his righteousness" (as the object). In both cases the effect is to stress that Christ's unswerving faithfulness to do right is what we depend on, not our own righteousness.
Therefore, we do not boast in our faith, for we "obtained" it as a gift, and its foundation is not our righteousness but Christ's who is our God and Savior. See Ephesians 2:8
In this verse we must learn humility of Christ from His apostle. Like Peter we must be willing to bend over backwards to showcase the glory and excellence of Christ in us. We must be willing and eager to serve others like Christ came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. We must be never forget that as long as we are Christians, we are all slaves.
You who is a Christian doctor must not despise the Christian who is your watchman, you who live in self-contained houses must never lack time to listen to the one who lives in Mukuru kwa Njenga – in fact you need to show your humility by visiting then so that you can pray for them with understanding. You guys are professionals must never lack time with the jobless and seek to encourage them. We all have "like precious faith," if indeed our faith is in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ and not in our own.
In verse 2 Peter greets his readers by combining both Jewish and Greek greetings which are both words of benediction: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Do you sometimes feel like greetings are mere formalities and a waste of time? God instructs His people to greet one another.  And so Peter does this here in God-breathed word. This is not just greetings it what Peter really wants to see happen to his readers after reading his letter. This letter ends on the same note (3:18): "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." He pictures grace and peace (in verse 2) as something that comes to us from God.
Grace and peace are not ours by nature or by right. And so Peter desires that they might come in great measure. It is also a prayer by the apostle that we all might abound in grace, meaning that God might "magnify, increase and expand" it to us and as a result, we might "grow" in it, so that we might know His great peace both in heart and in mind in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:7).
God's grace and peace are multiplied in or through the knowledge of God. The truth is eternal life, is knowing the true God and Jesus Christ who He has sent (John 17:3 and so Peter acknowledged that knowing God is the means by which God’s grace and peace become large and powerful in our lives. Many imagine that grace is just a mere deposit. No, grace is a power that leads to godliness and eternal life
Why do we insist that members of this church must study the Scripture? It is because knowledge is a means of grace where the store of God’s grace is found and appropriated by the Holy Spirit. This is why I recently did five weeks of encouraging you to listen, read, study, memorize, meditate and apply God’s Word in your life and you will soon be transformed into a Christian full of grace and truth, just like your Saviour came, full of grace and truth so that from Him we have received grace upon grace.
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”

May I unpack this verse for you:
God, graciously is extending and granting or giving ‘us ALL things’, by His divine power, so would you notice this:
First, the goal is that we obtain life and become godly people
Second, the source of this life and godliness is divine power;
Third, the means by which this power produces this life and godliness is through knowledge of God.
1. The Goal—Life and Godliness

Lets us consider the goal so that we may be fully motivated in pursuing the rest. The goal is two-fold: eternal life and godliness
This is moral and spiritual transformation now. It is also hope for life in the age to com for those who have been given. Clearly in this book, there is a close connection for Peter between godliness and eternal life. You can't have the one if you reject the other. Look at 2:19, 20. He says of the false teachers, "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first." In other words, if the way of godliness is rejected so is the hope of eternal life. So Peter forbids us to turn our faith into a fire insurance policy for escaping hell while our lives remain unchanged. The hope of life and the way of godliness stand or fall together.
Do you have both now and here? How can you have eternal life? There are those who dismiss eternal life as a pipe dream. They will soon be caught unprepared and will mourn for their souls but mourning will not be enough. Others will call for death but death will reject them and the result is that they will suffer the torments of hell forever. Hell is not something to play around with – hell is not a toy. If you are not sure that you have eternal life, doo not leave here today, until you plead for mercy from the Lord until all your sins are blotted out by the blood of Christ.
How can you be sure that you have eternal life? By a life of godliness. Since the two are inseparable, come on, prove your faith, your spiritual life by the godly life you have. John in his first letter, while giving us assurance of eternal life, gives us three marks of assurance of salvation: Faith, godliness and truth – do you have them? Make sure you do, before leaving here this evening.

2. The Source—Divine Power

But how is godliness and the hope of eternal life found? Where are they? It is clear that Peter is teaching that the two do not lie within our own power or ability to produce or wisdom to attain. It is for this reason that Peter says that His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  You must not think that the source of your salvation is your arm of flesh, or from your wisdom. The source of your godliness is not earthly – it comes from divine power.
But we must not juxtapose this truth with other Bible passages to say that we do not do anything because the two are  beautifully brought together in Paul’s imperative to "Work out your salvation . . . for God is at work in you" (Philippians 2:13).  What this means for us that you could never be godly or attain eternal life if you do not rely on divine power.
The implications here is that Christianity is not and will never be merely a set of doctrines to be accepted. It is a power to be experienced. The power of God has to flow into your life and make you godly.
 We all appreciate, I  hope, that he mark of sonship is divine power. And the mark of power is godliness; which means a love for the things of God and a walk in the ways of God.
But, who is "us" in this verse? These are, of course, beginning with the apostle, "those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours" (v.1).
Notice how we experience this divine power? It is "through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." The divine power is granted to us through the knowledge of God. This gives us a good definition of grace. God's grace is a free power that works in us for our good. And the way it becomes active in our day-to-day life is through our knowledge of God.
The beauty with this letter is that it is very practical and so I need to know from you, if you have indeed, by the Spirit of God applied this to yourself. God has called you by the gospel and has continued to lead you by His Spirit so that everyday you may life to its fullness so that you may be a partaker of His glory and excellence. When you see the glory and excellence of God most clearly and know he has set divine love on you, then is when you have power to live as you ought.
Imagine an orphan who is without a parent, with a relative, without a friend, so that he has to go to the streets to beg. He is without food, without clothing, without a home. And then someone comes over and offers to get him off the streets, give them all they wanted in life, in return for being with the benefactor? What do you think would happen to the boy as the great good news is brought to him? A surge of hope, a surge of life will overwhelmingly make this boy to powerfully want to show that he could after all do what he could not being aided by his benefactor. The Lord has far done more than this by His divine power.

3. The Means—Knowledge of God
“by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” The knowledge that leads to life and godliness is said to be the knowledge of God's precious and very great promises. And so we learn that the only knowledge of God that carries saving power is promising knowledge. The faith of a Christian is anchored upon the rock of God’s solid and trustworthy promises. The knowledge of the glory of God must be promising if it is to carry power.
In verse 4 the promises of God free us from corruption of the world through the innate sinful desires. In this way we become partakers of the divine nature. The godliness of verse 3 is the divine nature of verse 4. Let those who spread the error of deification. Athanasius had verse 4 has his favorite verse and preached that salvation is union with God (deification), sharing in the divine nature. While there is a bit of truth from that, this verse should be interpreted in light of John 1:12:
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God”
The point is, Christians are children of God and in that way partake of the divine nature now and here. When we shall be on the other side of eternity, we must remember that we shall be in glory with the Lord. What this means now is:
1) Christians have been freed from the power of sin that corrupts and destroys our life
2) Christians are united to God in his likeness in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:23).
Liberation from sin and likeness to God only comes to us graciously knowing and trusting his precious and very great promises.
1.     Search the Scriptures and obtain God’s precious and very great promises.
It is my prayer then through the study of these three verses to exhort to have a very central place in the study of God’s Word. Saturate yourself with the Word of God. So plan your time so that there is a regular intake of God’s word – at least once a day if not more. Discipline yourself so that you diligently study the depth and the breath, and the height of God’s Word so that from there you may know of His very precious and great promises. Search the scriptures and discover God’s promises for you and appropriate them into your life day and night until others see more of Christ than of your earthly parents. More of Christ than of you.
2.     Fight and kill sin, so that you may escape the corruption in the word and so obtain God’s promises
Corruption comes "by passion" or "lust" or "desire." This means that the battle against corruption is fought on the field of our desires or passions. Sin makes its attack by holding out promises to us for our happiness:
If I sleep more on Sunday morning I will have a better rest, forget about the Sunday school. If I use my time more in making money my family will live better. If I feast my eyes on pornography I will not engage in premarital sex. If I don't upset your relationship with my neighbor by sharing Christ, I will be happier. If I cheat on my wife once, I will never do it again. If I don’t cheat on my exams I will be fail and be a disgrace to the Lord! If I sleep during the evening service the pastor will understand. If don’t know all the church members God will understand because how can possibly know over hundred people? it is okay if I don't visit because I live far. The Lord will understand if I don't give in proportion to my income. The Lord knows my heart is to be married to a believer, but what will do now there is none interested in me? The Lord will understand? No, he won’t.
Listen, the Lord will not understand if you sin – the wages of sin is death, but the gift of the Lord is eternal life in Christ. The Lord has by His divine power granted you all things including very precious and great promises so that you may participate in His divine nature and so be liberated from all corruption that is in the world because of ungodliness. His power is overflowing in you now and it will produce life and godliness.

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