As we continue in our series through the Books of the Bible we come to the second Epistle of Peter. In the notes, you may have noticed that the passage we’ll be focusing on is 2 Peter 1:3-10. You may also notice that I tend to cover longer sections of Scripture and try to explain what the Apostle is telling us. There is a reason for that. Too often we like to use Scripture to find particular verses and then read those verses as if there is nothing else in that book surrounding those passages. We may even have memorized a short portion of Scripture but really have no idea what people were talking about when they wrote it.
Have you ever been in a conversation where you feel like somebody took a small part of what you said and then twisted it? I’m sure you were quite upset that people put words in your mouth by only choosing a small portion of what you said and then twisted its meaning. In the end, you don’t even recognize your own message in the way someone quoted you. Scripture is no different.
As we read this passage, one of the things that I’m certain that most people’s eyes will immediately focus upon are verses 5-7. I’m certain of it because there we find stuff that we’re told to do. After all, isn’t the Word supposed to be practical? Isn’t it supposed to give me a list of things that I need to do throughout the week?
I remember talking to a Pastor a few years ago because he was preaching on a particular passage and it seemed like no matter what passage he would cover, he had to come up with how that particular behavior was an example to all of us on how we should behave. It didn’t even matter if it was Paul journeying around in a particular country, he was going to find some example like: “…this means we should all be on a personal journey.” I remember thinking: Are you kidding me?
Before I joined the Church, I went over to his house to eat and we got along well so I asked him about it carefully. I remarked: “Well, soon we’ll be getting into Romans and the first 11 Chapters don’t really say anything about what we are supposed to do but it talks about what God has done in Christ Jesus.” He responded that he planned on giving a personal application to every portion as he went through it. I asked why and he said that he was taught in Seminary that you have to give an application, something for a person to “take home”, in every sermon. That really saddened me because he might have learned that from a professor but he didn’t learn that from the Scriptures.
I want you to notice something about verse 5. It begins like this: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence….” Now, we’re going to get back to this part again but did you catch the beginning? It said: “For this very reason….” What reason, Peter? Well many of us would just ignore that part because we’re being told to do something now but Peter says “…for this very reason…” and so it only makes sense that if we’re supposed to do something for a reason then we ought to know what that reason is. Right?
Here’s the reason he gives earlier: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
Wow! What a reason. What a motivation! Let me unpack that a little bit. Notice something first about this motivation: what are we doing in those verses? Absolutely nothing. God is doing everything. We are recipients. Do you know what that’s called? It’s called the Gospel. The Good News is not that we’re getting things done for God but that, first of all, God has done wonderful things for us.
His divine power, the power that created heaven and earth, the power that said “Let there be light” and by the power of His Word it was so. That same divine power has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. He has given us knowledge of Himself and called us by His glory and excellence. You and I were corpses rotting in the grave and God called us from death to life and made us alive so that we could hear Him. He made us alive so that we could see the beauty of the Cross.
Finally, He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. God has promised us. Now people break their promises all the time but not God. He has promised us to become partakers in the divine nature in Christ Jesus and that we are sure to escape death because we have placed our trust in Him. Do you know what? Your salvation was certain, the fact that you would reign in heaven as God’s adopted child was absolutely sure the moment God decided to save you. This is often spoken of as an inheritance in Scripture.
Do you remember what I told the children about an inheritance last week? An inheritance is not something you earn from your parents but it’s something that you simply receive. You didn’t choose your parents, you didn’t earn the money they made all their lives or the house they bought. They did all the work. They put all the toil into it so they could pass something on. We contribute nothing to the inheritance we receive from our ancestors and so it is with God.
Some of you may remember when I spoke about the Prodigal Son. He had spit on his father by claiming his inheritance early. Generations of work had gone into securing a large property that was passed from father to son over many, many centuries. The son demands his portion from his father wishing him dead and then goes out and spends it on a big party. Centuries of ancestral blessing are spent in a few weeks and the boy is destitute.
He’s working with pigs and then he comes to his senses. He’ll go back to his father and ask for forgiveness. His only desire now is to be a slave in His father’s house. He knows he doesn’t deserve anything more. This is exactly what the Pharisees expected too. Forgiveness could not be granted but the boy had to earn his way back. He would be expected to wait in the town as the people in the town came to heap shame upon the boy.
But then the oddest thing happened. The father saw the boy from far off and he ran to him. He ran to him before that boy could get to the town and receive the shame of the townspeople. He ran to him and fell on his neck weeping and kissing this scoundrel. The boy was coming to the Father expecting to earn his way back into the father’s favor but the father who had long loved the boy had overtaken him before his plan could be completed. He said “Father forgive me…” and before he could say “make me your slave”, the father squeezed the breath out of him. You see, beloved, God doesn’t permit slaves into His kingdom, He only permits sons. He only permits in those whom He adopts out of sheer grace. They deserve nothing from His Hand but He gives them a rich inheritance. He gives them a rich inheritance more lavish than the inheritance they squandered while they were living their own life. The only thing the son can do is receive that blessing.
Are your eyes wide open now? Do you understand now what that “reason” is that Peter was talking about in verse 5 when he says: “For this very reason….” Why would the son that was just lavished with love by His father and given an inheritance desire to serve Him? Because he loves Him! He’s grateful for what God has done. There is no more condemnation. He knows he can’t earn what was just given so now He obeys the Father out of the sheer joy for how incredibly blessed he is.
So Peter goes on and tells us: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
Do you see how you have a completely different way of looking at these verses now? You were probably ready to start working at these so you could work for God and receive a blessing you were missing out on. In fact, the most popular “Christian” books out there are constantly telling you that the reason you’re missing out on God’s blessing is because you’re not living up to your purpose. But Peter doesn’t motivate us by giving us a purpose. No! He motivates us by the promise of God and what He has done and so we respond by adding to the faith that we have in Him these virtues. Why? Because what child who loves their Father dearly, doesn’t want to delight in the things that He delights in?
And so as Christians, in the household of God, we take on character traits that reflect our Father and His Son who redeemed us: moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Now it’s not as if we have to be perfect in one before we start maturing In the other. Rather, it’s that we’re maturing in all of these traits at the same time and should be striving for them. It’s also not that we’re striving by ourselves but it is the plan of God that He will ensure that He completes in you the work that He began in you. There is a sense, though, in how one character trait is necessary for another.
Our moral excellence is the sense in which we love and do the things that God loves. We do so because we don’t want to insult the One we love. My constant prayer is that I will love the things that God loves and to learn to hate my sin more every day. Why? Because the reason I sin is that I love my sin more than I love God and it’s the same reason you do too. So, as we mature, we become more excellent in our thoughts and behaviors.
Of course, we cannot know what God desires or who He is unless we gain knowledge of Him. How do we learn about God? By reading His Scriptures; by devouring it; by hanging by His every Word. Beloved, it is not spiritual or Godly to be ignorant of God’s Word. We have to know something about the people we love or they begin to wonder if we really love them. Imagine if I never spent any time getting to know my wife then she would begin to wonder if I really love her. Ask any woman whether they appreciate if you know her birthday or your anniversary and you’ll begin to realize how critical knowledge is to your relationships and growth.
Now I need to pick on the men here for a minute. It never ceases to amaze me how many men tell me how hard it is to understand the Bible with all the facts and stuff inside of it. It’s just too hard and they don’t have the time. They have a simple faith, they tell me. But then start talking to that same man about Sports. Watch out! I used to be embarrassed that I didn’t know all the endless statistics and details about baseball, football, or basketball from player’s names to who is winning to who is being drafted. These same men who say it’s too hard to study the Bible somehow find time to study and become knowledgeable about Sports. Do you know why? They LOVE Sports. Interesting isn’t it that we KNOW lots of stuff about the things we love. Men! It’s time to add knowledge to your moral excellence. This Saturday, 8 am, see you there!
As we progress in the knowledge of the Lord and mature in what He delights in we begin to gain self-control. That is, that we are more able to withstand the onslaught of sin and temptation as Christ matures us and as we get to know more and more about how big He is and how small we are. We never have victory over sin but we do learn to gain more control over it.
Self-control is a process of discipline and those who discipline themselves in anything gain perseverance – they gain endurance. Again, this is not something we do on our own but it is of the Spirit who supplies it richly to us. It is just a matter of fact that discipline has a quality all its own in terms of giving us the ability to stand firm when things are rough and, as we discussed last week, we need perseverance for the sufferings of this world.
As we persevere in our faith, fixed upon the Cross of Christ, we become more Godly – that is, more God focused. We begin to focus more on His glory than our own. We’re willing to take the shame of the Cross because we realize we have no reason for pride.
You may recall that I talked about, two weeks ago, how men who lose the knowledge of God in their minds end up losing what makes men and women around them meaningful: that is, the image of God. As we become more Godly, we start to be more reverent and loving of our brothers and sisters around us who are created in the image of God and we have brotherly kindness for those in the Church. How can you not love a man or a woman whom Christ loved and gave Himself for? What kind of love do you have for what your Savior did for you if that love does not flow out of you towards those He loves?
And so, it is so natural, isn’t it, that love itself is expressed. For Paul says in Romans 13 that love is the end of the Law, that is that it is the goal of the Law. When we mature in love we begin to grow beyond all the “thou shall not’s” in the Law and grow into the mature character that loves God with all our heart, soul, and mind and loves our neighbor as itself.
But just remember this. If you start with trying to love God on your own strength before you’ve believed the Gospel, before you’ve fallen at the foot of the Cross, and before you’ve heard the news of your acceptance by God and His rich blessing then you won’t be able to do any of it. You’ll be trying to show love and brotherly kindness as a way to fix up your life. You’ll be trying to get those merit badges so you can show God how serious you are that He’ll have to take notice of you and bless you. But there is no blessing if we approach these things as if they’re something that slaves do. We can only express them as children of God. We have to be born again.
We have to have believed the Gospel that men couldn’t possibly earn anything from God’s hand because we had only earned wrath for our sin and so God sent His Son to do it for us. He endured the shame and rejection that we deserved, to give us the inheritance that He earned for us. So we come anew every day, as Peter tells us that he reminds us over and over: these are the wondrous things that God has done in the Gospel and so rejoice Christian. Be at peace. Receive the salvation promised by your Father and in your joy and love that answers back the love He has for you, be matured daily to become more excellent, more enraptured by His Word, more controlled of the sin that is being put to death in you, more enduring and able to withstand the onslaught of sin in the world, more Godly in your focus, more loving to those that bear His image, and more loving of the One who has loved you with an Everlasting love.
The Gospel is simply this: God has done what we couldn’t do. Amazing Grace! We receive simply with empty hands offering nothing in return and then the love we have for our Redeemer comes bubbling out of the spring He is filling up within us and the character of a transformed life shines forth to the world!