The Effective Life
2 Peter 1:2-9
April 23, 2017
This is the second of Peter's letters. This is his last. He is at this point an older man living in Rome. But he also knows that his time is coming to an end. This is it for him. The emperor Nero is in the seat of the emperor and he is despicable. He knows that this is about it. He's writing this last letter. It really could be considered his last words. There's a sense of urgency to it in. When people have their last words, it really does have a sense of weight, of bearing.
In the older days when someone had their last words, they actually would bring in a secretary and write it down because it had this significance of the words that you say at the end.
Some throughout history have been very interesting. For example, in the Civil War, there was a general John Sedgwick, who was in a battle in the Civil War. His last words were, "They couldn't kill an elephant from this distance." Okay, that was the thing.
A priest came to the bedside of a famous playwright named Wilson Mizner and said, "I'm sure you want to talk with me." Mizner responded to the priest, "Why should I want to talk with you? I was just speaking to your boss." I like that one myself. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, famous pastor and writer, his last words, very interesting, he said, "Don't pray for healing. Don't hold me back from the glory." What a perspective. Dio Moody, very famous, of course, pastor with great revival. His last words were absolutely fascinating. His last words were, "Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet. God is calling me. I must go." Now, isn't that amazing? Just really strength of weight to last words.
Peter's last words were written to stir up these believers, to strong their faith. They're going to need stronger faith because he knows that their faith is under attack. The Roman emperor, Nero, has decided to bring an emperor empire-wide prosecution. The church is also under spiritual attack from the inside as false teachers are coming loaded with distorted and destructive heresies trying to put religious cover over their worldly and fleshly sensuality. Peter's writing a letter here. It is straightforward, straight-up, powerfully stirring up us also to living the effective Christian life, the victorious Christian life. Because our faith is really under attack also in the days that we are living from the inside and from the out.
When there's prosecution, there's difficult times, it often purifies the Church. Let me give you an example of that or illustration of that. I read an interesting article this week written by Lee Strobel who was the author of a really great book called The Case for Christ. Actually, it was just out in the theaters, it might still be out as a movie. Is it still out? When it comes out on DVD, I want us as a church to see it. We're going to have a movie night and just see it. It's really a tremendous movie.
His story is fascinating. He was a staunch atheist. His wife got invited to something and she became a believer in Jesus Christ. It shocked him. He was really quite disturbed that his wife would become a Christian. His first thought was to divorce her. He is a journalist at this point for the Chicago Tribune. Instead of divorcing her, he decided to attack Christianity and debunk it so that he can get his wife back. He went about as an investigative journalist that he was. Instead of debunking Christianity he actually encountered persuasive evidence that he couldn't refute. He concluded that maintaining his atheism took more faith than becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. He became a believer. Then eventually he became a very effective pastor and writer.
He writes this article; all that was a background. But the article was really important because he's addressing Christianity today. He says it this way, "When people say that God isn't relevant in the 21st century, I beg to differ. When the analysts predicted decline of the Evangelical Church, I rolled my eyes. I've seen the surveys where people profess no religious affiliation. But from my perspective that only means that people are now willing to be more honest. There used to be social pressure for people to claim they're religious. Now it's socially acceptable to be an atheist or a skeptic. That's good. Because it's better that people be honest. Now when people receive Christ, they can do it for the right reasons," I love that right there, "Because they believe and they have taken hold of the God's promises with an honest heart."
He continues to say, "There are vibrant ministries helping the hurting, feeding the hungry, rescuing addicts, putting broken families back together again. In the Church, there is racial reconciliation. There's a growing movement of vibrant Biblically-faithful Churches that are thriving and even burgeoning. There are many young people today fed up with the materialistic celebrity-saturated empty culture of our day and are authentically pursuing faith."
I love the article. The point that I think we need to grasp for ourselves is this. In other words, yes, it is possible to live the victorious Christian life even in a troubled and broken down world, in fact, it even strengthens faith.
Let's read Second Peter chapter one beginning in verse two, "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, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature."
Now, I want to really look at that. It's a fascinating statement. "Having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. For this very reason applying all diligence in your faith supply moral excellence; and in your moral excellence supply 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. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, there's that growing in the strength of faith. If they are increasing, they render you neither useless nor untruthful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind.
Now that is a powerful statement. He who lacks these qualities is quite blind and is short-sighted having forgotten his purification from his former sins."
I. God Grants Us What We Need
All right, these are some really strong words, straightforward, really stirring words for us to grasp. One of the things we need to see, he's trying to show us here, is that God grants us everything we need. God grants us what we need for life. He grants us what we need for godliness. The heart of God is seeing in. God sent His son to seek and to save that which was lost and He delights to take people with messed up lives and to transform them so that they have life; and life to the full. He grants to us everything that we need to have that life; and life to the full.
You know that Nike saying, I'm sure you've heard the slogan, "Just do it." We're in Nike territory here, right? The Nike slogan's famous, Just do it. With all due respect to Nike, that is not God's slogan. God does not say to you, "Just do it." What God says to you is, "I want to change you from the inside so that you can do it. I will strengthen you, I will empower you in order that you might do what I'm asking you to do." He doesn't just say, "Do this. Do that." I'll strengthen you.
A. God’s divine power is on the move
He then tells us, notice this, verse three that God's divine power is on the move. He said seeing that his divine power has granted to us. Everything pertaining to life and godliness. See, no man has the power to save himself and no man has the power to change himself. God's divine power has granted to us everything we need. Don't just do it. I will strengthen you. I will send my divine power in. I'll do it in you.
I remember at a pastors conference, Pastor Chuck Smith, of course, founder of the Calvary Chapel, was talking about a trip that he had. He'd been invited by someone in the Far East to come and to speak. While he was there he got an opportunity to meet with some of the Chinese leaders. He is, of course, a very famous influential man of faith. They asked him, "How is Christianity different than other religions?"
One of the things that Chuck Smith told them was this, "God gives His Holy Spirit so that His people are changed by His power and not their own power. That's one of the significant differences.
I love Philippians chapter four where Paul writes essentially the same thing. In Philippians chapter four verses 12-13, we can almost call this Paul's spiritual secret. Really, really keywords here. Paul writes it this way, "I know how to get along with humble means, and I know how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled and of going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. Here is the key." Here is Paul's spiritual secret, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
He is understanding this key point. God strengthens me from the inside therefore I can do all things it is called me to do. Question is of course how? How to put this in the practical everyday living and that's the question.
B. Partake of God’s divine nature
He tells us in verse four the answer to that. "By these, He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature." That is a fascinating statement. To partake of the divine nature. What does that mean? But first of all, what it does not mean. It doesn't mean that you will become gods and have our own little planets out there in the universe somewhere. It does not mean that. It does mean that this is the key to the transformed life. We can partake of the divine nature.
There is no spiritual transformation, unless, and until you partake of God's divine nature. It's the very presence of God within the soul that transforms the messed up life. We love the fact the that God loves sinners. We love the fact that God pursues sinners. We love the fact that He transforms up, but how? He takes the messed up life and gives them the opportunity to partake of His own divine nature. He changes that person from the inside out.
That's the difference between religion and relationship. Religion is just the appearance of change with no actual change. You're just putting a religious robe over the same messed up heart. If there is not true authentic heart change, you're just putting religion over mess. I used an illustration on Wednesday, I want us to remember because it is really a helpful perspective.
Remember in the resurrection story, that when Jesus was on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus asked Pontius Pilate for permission to take the body and prepare it for burial. He granted this permission. So they came in to take the body down from the cross and they prepare it for burial according to the Jewish custom. And it tells us in that account that they brought spices, a hundred pound weight. This is very common to Jewish thing to prepare the body, cleanse it et cetera, and then to wrap it in linen cloth with a hundred pounds weigh of spice inside.
Now, why would they wrap dead bodies with spices? Why would they put spices on dead bodies? Answer is because they stinketh. Therefore, we're going to put these spices on this death. In other words, the best that man can do is to cover over death with spices. See, this is what I love about the story, the best that we can do is cover death with spices, but God transforms death into life. What a difference that is. He takes death and transforms it by the resurrection power and brings it into life.
This is important for us to understand because it does apply to us. If you don't partake, in other words, you see, if God's divine nature, then your only option is to cover death with spices, that's what people are doing. They're trying to cover their death by making it smell sweet. But it's still their religious robe of the same messed up part. If you want a real change, real transformation, God can do better. It's His divine nature in the soul that transforms so that His life, and His nature, and His Spirit dwells within, but you must partake.
How generous of God to love us so much that He wouldn't only just save, but He would allow us, born messed up, to be ignited in our soul, and to partake this divine nature having escaped the corruption that's in the world. Corruption is like decay, it stinketh, it's death. It's what the world is made of. Instead of just covering corruption, we can have newness of life.
C. Take hold of God’s magnificent promises
How do you partake? An interesting perspective. He tells us in verse four, "By these--" that's to say His divine power, "And through the knowledge of Him," He spoke to that, verse three, "By these, He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them, you might partake of the divine nature, taking hold of God's magnificent promises is the key He's telling us here. Taking hold of God's precious and magnificent promises." God reveals His nature but He also reveals His promises through His Word.
So when you're learning God's Word, when you're studying God's Word, when you're at home and you're doing your devotions, and you're going chapter by chapter, hope that you all are, and you're receiving of God's Word, you're doing more than just studying a document. You are discovering promises. When you discover promises and you take hold of those promises, it is life changing because God empowers His Word. He sends it forth in power to transform it sharper than a two-edged sword, able to judge the very thoughts and the intentions of the heart.
Isaiah 55 "His Word does not return void without accomplishing the purpose for which He send it." Throughout His word, He shows you the promises. When you take hold of the promises, it ignites your soul. An illustration might be this, imagine a father who promises his son that he's going to take him fishing. Father promising his son, "I'm going to take you fishing on Saturday or something." The son-- Hey, that's not just an interesting document. That's not just an interesting statement, that's a promise. Now, the son, he takes hold of that promise. He's all excited like, "Saturday, Dad and I will go on fishing." It changes life, he's excited because there's a truth and he is taking the whole love for himself.
Promises are to be taken whole of. Now, we should also understand when we make promises, we're people, we're human, we sometimes let people down. Our promises are not exactly the sure thing that God's promises are. Let's make sure that in the analogy, we don't say of the wrong thing. Because in fact, in Hebrews Chapter 10:23, it tells us, "Let us hold fast the confession of hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." I love that true. I love 2 Timothy 2:13, "If we are faithless, He nevertheless remain faithful."
There is a theme through the Scriptures, even if we are faithless, you can count on this, God. He promises that He is faithful and it is a true thing for us to grasp because God's promises to us are precious and magnificent. They are granted to us by His Son, and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 8:6, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. And He guarantees that by the resurrection of Christ."
II. Live by God’s Divine Nature
Now, what He shows us next is this, if you partake of the divine nature, He is telling us then what it looks like to live by that divine nature. That's what we are called to. Partake of the divine nature, and then you'll be transformed so that you can live by God's divine nature.
Starting in verse five, He describes what that actually looked like in the practical everyday life. He tells us, "With all diligence now, to your faith, or in your faith, supply moral excellence, virtue. And in your moral excellence, knowledge; gaining the relationship to the knowledge of God in your life; and through your knowledge, self control, it is the result of God. We have greater control of self because God is empowering your soul."
He's describing on and on he describes the nature of God and what it looks like when it's lived out. Because we need a different nature. Can it be that a nature can change? This is important to recognize. The nature of something. The nature of something are the qualities that make it what it is. The qualities that--
Things have different natures. For example, a dog has a different nature than a cat, for example. There is a different nature in the qualities of a thing, makes it, defines what it is. For example, a dog, loves to climb upon the bed with you, because the dog's nature is such that the dog likes being with you. No, don't bring it up yet. I'll get to that one. So the dog gets up on the bed with you, because he likes being on the bed with you. A cat gets on the bed because he likes to bed. A dog looks at you as a friend, a cat looks at you like a servant. Here is a picture of a dog having a bath, yes there we go. Here is a picture of a cat having a bath very different you see.
The nature of the thing is revealed in here. Here's my point. We have a nature, we were born, you can take that down. We were born into the nature of Adam. That tells us that the nature of Adam in us causes us to be sinful, self-pleasing and self-focused. That is the nature in which we were born.
That nature can be changed, it can be transformed because of God's nature in us. If God's nature in us we can live by God's nature rather than the nature that we were born with. There is a transformation and it is very possible but it is the empowering of God that does it. I love Psalm 127:1-2. This verse is right here, you might want to highlight this page because this is a really powerful set of verses that we should never forget. Tells us, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain to build it." Showing us the connection between God's empowering and man's effort. He goes on to say that, "Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It's vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors for it is He who gives to His beloved, even while he is sleeping."
A. These qualities make you useful and fruitful
Now that's such a helpful verse, because it shows us the empowering of God. The effective life is the empowering of God that life, and the transformation that comes because we don't have to live according to the nature we were born in. I can't say how many people who said to me, "Oh, that's just who I am."
Maybe that's what who you are, but that's not who you must be. God can transform the soul. That's the empowering of God's Holy Spirit when you partake of the Divine Spirit. In fact, he goes on to say, notice in verse 8, he's telling us that these are the qualities that make us useful and fruitful. Notice, "If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful. Let's put in the negative we can put it in the positive they render you useful and fruitful in the true knowledge of Jesus Christ.
It's the surp in the tree that brings the tree its life. Without that it's dead and it bears no fruit. It's the Holy Spirit in the man, it's the infilling, it's the indwelling, it's the opening of your heart receiving of the very life of God within you that therefore transforms so that what comes out of you is no longer the nature of Adam but is now the nature of God coming out of you. That is the key to how God wants us to live the effective life, its what comes out of you. What did Jesus say? "It's not what goes in the mouth that defiles, it's what comes out of his mouth [laughs] defiles."
"These are the qualities that result in the partaking of God's nature," he says, "in your faith supply moral excellence; in your moral excellence, knowledge and self-control; you cannot supply these things through self-effort; no more than a tree can make itself bear its own fruit. It's only by abiding, it's only by partaking that these qualities are yours." The reason that transformation is not happening in some people is because you are not the partaking.
The only way the food strengthens is if you eat it. It's like if you say to somebody, "Hey I'm going to the gym." And they say to you,"Oh you're going to the gym. Well I hope you have a great workout". Then you say, "Actually, I'm not going there to work out."
"Well, why are going to the gym for?"
"I feel good when I'm there. Makes me feel good."
"Well, you're supposed to work out."
"I just like to feel good."
No you're not going to be transformed unless you partake of a thing. You have to understand that the result comes from partaking. Food changes you when you eat it. My point is, it's pretty difficult to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit without being infilled by the Holy Spirit.
Galatians Chapter 5 tells us what that looks like. He says, "The fruit of the Spirit that is the result of the Spirit in our lives is love, God's kind of love, Joy, "My joy I give to you." Jesus said. Peace, "My peace I give to you." He instills. These are the character of God the fruit of the Spirit; kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If we live by the Spirit, "Hey, let's walk by the Spirit," He's telling us. Really important key for us to grasp.
B. Never forget what God has done
I love verse nine because it just drives an arrow right through our hearts. He tells us, "He who lacks these qualities is blind and shortsighted. Having forgotten his former purification or his purification from his former sins." The point is, never forget what God has done. It's that perspective that is one of the great keys to spiritual life, never forgetting. Always having your perspective, always remembering what God has done, all the Grace of God. How much has God forgiven? It puts it in perspective.
You always must be thankful. The theme that runs to the entire Bible is to be thankful. God wants us to have the perspective of never ever forgetting the amazing grace that God has put on our lives. If you would remember how much God has done for you and have the perspective of always being thankful, then these are the qualities-- That perspective of thankful that bring out these qualities in your life. Colossians three, "Let the peace of Christ rule." That's a great word, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, be thankful. Whatever you do--" Should say, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Always being thankful. It's that perspective that takes the character of God