“Very Great And Precious Promises”        2 Peter 1:1-4        May 13, 2012

 

SI:  Today beginning a 9 week study of the book of 2 Peter.

2 Peter is a short letter—you could read the whole thing in a few minutes—

   but it is deep and powerful.

I’ve preached through this letter twice before, once about 18 years ago when

   I was at my first church, and once here at Christ Covenant 8 years ago.

 

I love 2 Peter.  I love the whole letter but I especially love chapter one.

   I think it’s the best description of the Christian life in the whole Bible.

That’s really one of the Apostle Peter’s main concerns—

   to describe what the Christian life is and how you live it.

 

He was writing to Christians scattered over the Roman Empire.

   They were facing pressures and troubles that were making them very unsettled,

   things that were shaking their faith.

Peter basically says:  This is who you are.  This is what the Christian life is.

   Know it and grow in it.  Know it and build on it.

   The powerful and clear way he presses that home is amazing.

 

Before we jump into this I want to give credit where credit is due.

 

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century.

   He was the pastor at Westminster Chapel in London.

   I’ve gotten wonderful things from his sermons on 2 Peter.

And then Dr. John Piper, recently retired pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church

   in Minneapolis has some excellent sermons as well.  You can find them on line.

  

Both of these men have helped me understand and apply this letter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

INTRO:  Two blocks from my childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama

   is a ante-bellum mansion that was built in 1823. 

The name of the mansion is Locust Hill. 

   It’s named for the black locust trees that once grew on the property.

   It once stood alone on a hill with fields around it.

   But after the Civil War the property was sold and a neighborhood grew up.

When I was a boy, there was an elderly woman who lived in there all by herself. 

   Her name was Mary Wallace Kirk.

   She was the last descendant of the original owners and she herself never married.

   So when she died, that was the end of the line. 

 

She was a member of our church and my father was the executor of her estate.

   After he had disposed of all the furniture, I walked through the empty house

   with him.  Even though I was only about 12 years old, I was struck by the

   grandeur of it.  It was like I was walking being on the set of Gone With the Wind.

Most of the first floor rooms could be opened up into an enormous dance floor.

   It was easy to imagine Scarlett in her hoop skirts.

 

Anyway, after MWK died, it was bought by a dentist who had financial trouble

   and lost it a few years later.  After that it just sat—for years, slowly decaying.

A few years ago we were in Tuscumbia and out of curiosity I drove by Locust Hill.

   I expected to see further decay, but I was surprised to see work going on.

   We stopped and started looking around.  About that time a man drove up.

I introduced myself, told about my connection with the house.

 

He was a builder from Florence.  He also had known about the house all his life.

   He began to talk about the architecture and history.

He said—This town doesn’t realize what a treasure this is,

   and what a shame it would be to lose it.  He was sparing no expense restoring it.

   In fact, doing more than restoring it.  Making it better.  Added a modern kitchen.

He and his wife had plans for renting the house for weddings and parties

   and recapturing the grandeur of the old days. 

   And that’s exactly what they did.  The place is beautiful and busy today.

 

If you don’t know what you have—you are liable to let it go to waste.

   Even if you have some sense of how valuable something is,

   if don’t improve it, and at times restore it, then it’s liable to regress and decay.

Lots of things are like that, not just houses.

 

Marriage is like that.  Have to know what you have, you have to know how

   precious and valuable your marriage is.  And then you have to build on it.

   You have to intentionally grow in your love and sympathy for spouse.

   You have to work on building your life together—times of renewal.

Church is like that.  Have to know what have, add to it, build on it.

   Know what living together in a body of believers is, blessings of it.

   And then you have to put in the effort and the time to grow together.

   If you don’t, church becomes just one hour Sunday morning, decay.

 

This is exactly what the Apostle Peter says about the Christian life. 

   The essence of living the Christian life is that you have to know what you have.

   You have to understand what this life is as a Christian, the greatness of it.

   How amazing and supernatural and valuable it is.

And then you have to add to it and increase it and build on it so it doesn’t decay.

   So you don’t become ineffective and unproductive, as Peter says later.

 

As we study letter you will hear Peter saying this over and over in different ways.

Know what you have.  Remember how great it is to be a Christian.  Be reminded.

   “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them.”

   “I think it is right to refresh your memory.”

   “Dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you will not

   be carried away by error.”

 

And then Peter will just as often say:  Now, restore it, build on it, renew it,

   grow in it.  Take this wonderful thing you have and are and make it better.

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”

“Make every effort to add to your faith.”

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

   Know what you have, know what you know.

   Then build on what you know. 

 

2 Peter is a letter that brings you back over and over to the foundations—

   and then pushes you to grow, move ahead in the Christian life.

   That is the pattern the apostle lays out—know what you have, add to it.

 

With that in mind—come to opening verses of letter—

   Three magnificent assertions about the Christian life.

   Things you have to know, when know them, can’t just look at them, have to build.

This is the great and glorious mansion which is the Christian life—three points.

   I’ll give them to you as we go.

MP#1  The Christian faith is not merely a set of doctrines to be accepted,

   it is a power to be experienced. 

2 Peter is very doctrinal letter.  Peter gets into deep theology.

   He emphasizes a number of essential doctrines and makes clear that as a Christian

   you have to know and accept the great doctrines of the faith.

Peter covers the inspiration of the inspiration of Scripture,

   the Second Coming of Christ, and yes, even the doctrine of predestination.

 

But from the beginning Peter makes it clear that as important as correct doctrine is,

   believing certain things about Jesus does not save you, God’s power saves you.

Look at the way it puts it in verse 3:

   “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”

If there is no divine power in your life, no matter what you believe, not Christian.

 

Who has this divine power?  Is it only possession of super Christians?  Apostles?

“His divine power has given us everything we need.”

   Apostle Peter says that this power has been given to him and to those writing to.

Who is he writing this letter to?  Vs. 1

   “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ

   have received a faith as precious as ours.”

This divine power is given to every person who is has received the righteousness of

   God through Christ.  In other words, it’s the possession of every saved person.

 

Apostle Peter was one of the three closest disciples to Jesus.

   He was the leader of the Apostles, the first among equals.

   He saw and heard amazing things—teaching, miracles and resurrection of Christ. 

But Peter does not claim special power because of his experiences.

   It’s given to every believer.  If you have come to place in spiritual life where you

   are trusting Christ for your righteousness then you have divine power

   for moral and spiritual transformation.

 

You might be saying—I don’t sense this divine power. 

Well, how do you experience it?  How does it become active?

   That’s an important question—in one of the reasons Peter wrote this letter.

   He was concerned for Christians who have this power, but not experiencing it,

   not putting it to use in their lives.

Way you experience it is also found in vs. 3.

   vs. 3  through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

 

This is simply an expansion of what is already said in vs. 2

   “Grace and peace by yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.”

Divine power is experienced through the knowledge of God—

   specifically, through the knowledge of Him as the one who has called you.

When you come to a point in your Christian life in which you truly believe

   that the Lord has chosen you, called you away from sin and death,

   into life and sonship—then you will experience divine power.

 

John Piper has an excellent illustration of this—

   the power that comes from knowing you have been graciously called by God.

Imagine you are a prisoner of war in a concentration camp.

   You’ve lost hope, in your hopelessness you’ve done terrible things.

Then you learn that a prisoner exchange has been planned.

   See a guard coming down the row with a list in his hand, of prisoners destined

   for freedom.  He’s pointing at individual prisoners and calling them out to

   freedom and family.  You, you, you, you, YOU!  Come with me.

 

That’s not a bare piece of knowledge when he points to you and calls you.

   It is power!  The power of hope surges through you because you know you’ve

   been called.  So when Peter says that divine power for hope and godliness flows

   through the knowledge of our call to glory, we can feel what he means.

If you could see the glory and excellence of God.  If you could know that your

   Creator has approached you and said,  “You there, come; I’m going to show you

   my glory and give you an eternal life to enjoy it,” it would mean power! 

The power of hope and the power of godliness. 

 

Do you know that you have been called by God? 

   Is that knowledge so real to you that it gives you power?

When a Christian comes to the point of knowing, really knowing,

   that he or she has been called by God for great things—

   divine power surges through him—power to do amazing things.

Power to love unlovely people, power to give generously,

   power to resist temptations and besetting sins. 

 

Let me ask you a question:  What do you wish you had the power to do?

   What changes do you wish you could make in your life? 

According to Peter, you have that power if you are a Christian.

   His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

   As we study 2 Peter over this summer, will see how to tap into it.

Brings to second assertion that is closely related. 

MP#2  The Christian’s salvation is not merely an escape from hell, it is moral and spiritual transformation.

 

One of Peter’s greatest concerns in this letter—he hits it right off the bat—

   is moral and spiritual transformation of believers.

   Divine power is for what?  For life and godliness.

It seems that the occasion for Peter writing this letter was that there were false

   teachers who were troubling the church.

 

In chapter 2, he addresses these false teachers.

   I think you will be surprised at Peter’s tone.

It’s so different from chapter 1 which is gentle and pastoral.

   In chapter 2, Peter becomes very fierce, even violent in his speech.

 

What bothers Peters is not just their false doctrine but their corrupt lives.

   These were people who were immoral in a number of ways and they

   justified their immorality theologically.

This immorality was rubbing off on some members of the church.

   Professing Christians were justifying their immorality.

So Peter emphasizes that there is an inseparable connection between

   godliness and eternal life.  You can’t have one if you reject the other.

 

Not going to get into chapter 2 now, but want you to see that in the very opening

   verses of this letter, Peter begins to set the stage for dealing with this problem.

The Christian life is one of moral and spiritual transformation now.

   Divine power is given not just for eternal life but for godliness in this life.

Not just escape from hell and God’s judgment—but look at verse 4,

   so Christians can “escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.”

 

So if a person says, I’m called, I’m saved.

   And then, on the basis of that assertion completely ignores his need for

   spiritual and moral transformation, then he is fooling himself.

Several years ago I had a conversation with my neighbor I’ve never forgotten.

   His life was chaotic—drugs and burglary.  Would eventually go to prison for it.

   He was a happy-go-lucky fellow—very likable.  I liked him.

   But he seemed to have no concern at all for where his life was heading. 

He was telling me about his escapades.  He knew they were wrong.

   But he enjoyed them at the same time.  Liked talking about them.

I knew he had grown up in a Christian home, his parents are believers.

   I knew that he knew about Christ and the Gospel.

So I just asked him:  John, are you walking with the Lord?

   He said:  Don’t worry about me, I’m saved.  I said, What do you mean?

   When I was 14 I was at church camp and I came forward.  I’m saved.

 

John Piper says:  “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.”

To be more specific.  If you think you are a Christian and going to heaven, safe

   from hell but you are dishonest in your business,

   profane in your speech,

   cruel in your marriage,

   promiscuous sexually,

   indifferent to spiritual things, the letter of 2 Peter is going to rattle you.

 

The Apostle is going to assert over and over that true Christian salvation is not

   merely an escape from hell, it is a life of godliness.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Not sinlessness.  Christians sin. 

   We often struggle with and fall into the same temptations and sins over a lifetime.

Sometimes there are surprising new and sudden temptations that assault us and

   pull us down.  Our study of the life of Jacob that we just finished is an example.

Jacob overcame some sins and he struggled with others till the end of life.

   He struggled with passivity as a husband and father. 

   When faced with conflict, he chose to do nothing instead of being the leader

   God called him to be—over and over.  But remember he struggled against that.

He didn’t say:  I’m saved.  I’m not going to worry about that.

   As we saw last week, Genesis 35, late in life took baby steps in the right direction.

 

Real salvation gives you a hatred of your sin, a love for virtue,

   and then it empowers you to fight the good fight of faith.

If you are really fighting it, desiring godliness, wanting to escape its corruption,

   then 2 Peter is going to be tremendously encouraging to you.

Because it is going to show you the greatness of your calling and salvation—

   going to remind you of what you have, precious faith—

   then it is going to encourage you to build on what you have, move ahead.

 

That brings us to Peter’s third assertion.

 


MP#3  The Christian life is not passive, it requires an active claiming of the great and precious promises of God.

 

So how do you bring the divine power He has given you to bear on the moral

   and spiritual struggles that you are facing right now?

You’re struggling this morning.  You’re struggling against bitterness.

   Against discontentment, lust, fear, laziness, self-pity

 

You’re struggling to love someone in your life who is unlovable,

   struggling to balance your priorities for God’s glory,

   struggling to use talents and resources God has given to honor Christ,

   struggling to trust God with your finances, and be content with what you have.

You’re struggling to be a good dad or mom, good husband, wife.

   You’re struggling to become more peaceful, more hopeful, more patient.

 

So how do you bring the divine power He has given you through Christ to bear

   on these moral and spiritual struggles? 

Do you just let God do it?  Do you just let go and let God?

   Do you just pray that He will do it?  God has provided everything, right?

Is the key just to learn how to kick back and let God work?

   The key is in verse 4.

“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.”

 

Promises of God are the conduit through which you bring the power of God

   to bear on the moral and spiritual struggles you are facing.

You have to actively claim the great and precious promises of God.

   This makes more sense when you understand what Peter means by this phrase

   “escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

He’s saying that the battleground of the Christian life is in the realm of your desires.

 

All your moral and spiritual struggles essentially boil down to what you desire.

   What you think you must have to make yourself happy.

   What you have to have to make your life worth living.

The corruption of the world in conjunction with your evil desires tells you one thing

   It says:  This is what you have to do to be happy.

   These the things you must have.  These the ways you must act, things must do. 

Tell this lie and your life will be happier.

   Pursue this lust and you will be happier.

It’s usually not that clear.  It’s more instinctual.  But that’s the reasoning.

   Evil desires of sinful nature are so powerful that they will always win the day

   un less—unless—there is something greater and more wonderful—

   that promises greater and purer happiness.

And Peter says there is something greater—the promises of God.

 

When the promises of God are more vivid to you than the desires of sinful nature—

   then they will actually become conduits of divine power for

   moral and spiritual transformation.

   Promises have the power to transform, even outside the spiritual realm.

During WWI there was a famous incident called the Lost Battalion.

   An American Battalion was trapped in a ravine in the Ardennes Forest.

   The Germans had them surrounded and were picking them off.

This was in the days before radios, of course, so they had no way of communicating

   with the American command to tell of their situation.

   It looked like they would eventually be wiped out.  Ammo running out.

 

Three men volunteered to sneak through German lines, and go for help.

   They set out in the dark, and a short time later Americans heard shouts and shots. Gloom descended.  Talked about surrender. 

   Then a day or two later stunned when one of the men crept back into the ravine. 

   The other two had been killed but he had not.  He told them—help on the way.

And immediately, on the basis of that promise, their spirits revived, and even

   though they were still in the same circumstances, surrounded, outgunned.

   They fought until their rescue.  The power of the promise.  Help is one the way.

 

This is also true in the spiritual realm.

Let’s say there is a Christian man or woman who is tempted to self-pity.

   He looks at his life and says:  I don’t deserve this.  I deserve better.  Poor me.

   Maybe he didn’t get the breaks he hoped for, didn’t achieve standard of living.

   Maybe it’s health problems or relationship problems.

What a powerful temptation self-pity is.  What a strong evil desire.

   To feel sorry for yourself allow yourself to be pulled down into that black hole of

   negative emotions.

Sometimes your self-pity becomes an excuse for other sinful behaviors and habits. 

   You end up being ineffective and unproductive as a Christian.

 

If you are tempted to self-pity, recognize your proclivity to that sin—

   how do you bring the power of God to bear?  How do you get joy?

Through the great and precious promises of God. 

   You find promises in God’s Word that speak to the root of your self-pity.

   And then you preach them to yourself until they become conduits of power.

 

How about Romans 8:18

   “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be

   revealed in us?”

How about John 16:33

   “In the world you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer:  I have overcome the world.”

Acts 14:22

   “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

 

What great and precious promises.  Don’t be surprised, I promise you that you are

   going to have sufferings and tribulations in this life.  But I also promise glory,

   overcoming victory, and entrance into my eternal kingdom. 

When those promises become powerful than your evil desire, you will win.

The Bible is packed full of promises.

   You have to find them, arm yourself with promises that fit your particular

   struggle—and then live with them.  Wield them.  Sword of Spirit, Word of God.

I’ve seen people do that.

   I’ve seen people in this church do it and I’ve been amazed.

 

 


CONC:  Do you know what you have as a Christian?

Do you know that as a called child of God you have divine power for

   moral and spiritual transformation

   that flows into your life through the great and precious promises of God?

 

Do you know what you have and are you building on it?

   Are you adding to it?

Or is your magnificent heritage crumbling away like that old house once was?

 

If a crisis comes into your life—sudden assault by devil—

   violent temptation by your own sinful nature—

   will there be anything strong on which to stand or will you be cast down?

 

As we study 2 Peter together this summer—

   Pray that the Lord will show you afresh what you have as a Christian,

   and commit yourself anew to building on what you have.