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March 30, 2008

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3; NIV).

“Everything you need for life.” Doesn’t that sound a bit ambitious, even pretentious?

What do you need for life? Wisdom for raising kids. Courage in the face of opposition. Peace under pressure. Faith in the face of tragedy. Comfort in bereavement. Love when you feel alone. Healing when you are wounded. Strength when you are overwhelmed. Where can you get everything you need for life?

I would never have chosen this title if it were not for Peter’s words: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (v3). Peter is making an extraordinary claim: In Jesus Christ you will find everything that you need for life!

Jesus is sufficient for ALL of life

This challenges the way people often think about Christianity. We often view our lives as a series of compartments: My work—that’s one area. My family—that’s another. My pleasure—that’s what I do just for me and for my own joy. There’s my faith—which is a very important part of my life. And then there are my hopes and dreams

Most folks in church would agree that Jesus Christ has everything we need for faith. He’s enough to fill that compartment, but some are not sure that he has everything we need for life! Peter presents us with completely different picture. You will find in Jesus Christ not just everything you need for faith, but everything that you will face in life!

Think about what that means for getting through life in middle school or high school–your first experience of discovering that the world is unfair. Peter says Jesus Christ is everything you need for dealing with this. Your first experience of rejection, of finding yourself outside the group, Christ is everything you need for that. You will experience struggles with your own moods. Jesus is everything you need.

God’s divine power has given you everything you need for life in middle school and high school through your knowledge of Jesus Christ. Everything you need for life in old age. Everything you need for married life. Everything you need for single life. Everything you need for your mid-life crisis. Where you discover that what you have done is less than you thought. You look at how long you have to go and it’s less than you thought too.

We are talking about life in all of its fullness here, and Peter is saying to us that Jesus Christ is sufficient, not only for faith, but for all of life. If you can see that He is sufficient, not just for a corner of your life, but for the whole of it, this will change how you follow Jesus Christ.

“Godliness” means God-centered living

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (v3).

Peter has a particular kind of life in mind. He talks about “life and godliness.” A godly life is more, rather than less. Godliness simply means a life that is centered on God. In Jesus Christ you will find everything you need for a life that flows out of a passion for God. The life he’s talking about is not an artificial one, where you try to conform to certain religious expectations and try to be a good person. No, it is a life animated and energized by the power of God for everything you need. And the freedom and the joy for the kind of life you will find in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.

By any standards this is one of the most amazing statements in the entire Bible. It headlines what God has to say to us through this letter and it takes us to the heart of authentic Christianity.

What is Christian Faith?

To whom is Peter speaking? He says right at the beginning that he is writing to “those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (v1). Peter is writing to those people who have “a faith as precious as ours.” This immediately raises the question: What kind of faith is that? Because it is only to those who have this kind of faith that the promise is given: You have everything you need for life.

Christian faith is faith in Jesus Christ

Notice three things that Peter affirms here:

  1. Jesus is God: “Our God … Jesus Christ” (v1). If someone says: “Jesus is never referred to as “God” in the Bible,” show them 2 Peter, or John’s gospel where Thomas falls before the risen Lord Jesus, and says “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
  2. Jesus is Savior: “Our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (v1). The world teaches you to have confidence in yourself. The Bible teaches you to have confidence in him. I know that I will mess up in many ways through my life, but I am quite sure that Jesus Christ will not mess up on his work, which is to save me and on the last day present me before the Father without fault and with great joy.
  3. Jesus is Lord: “The knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (v2). Christian faith is confidence in Jesus Christ. It is confidence in His ability to bring you through every circumstance of life. I know that I will face many trials and many temptations and many circumstances of life that are too great for me. But I know that they are not too great for him. He is Lord over the darkest temptations and the strongest devils.

He is Savior. He is Lord. He is God. He is with me and he is for me. Christian faith is confidence in Jesus Christ. That’s why we want him to be at the center of everything we do in worship. That’s why he’s at the center of the Bible.

Christian faith is apostolic

A faith as precious as ours (v1).

We often speak about personal faith. That’s good, because you have to believe for yourself; nobody else can believe for you. But Christian faith is more than personal; it is apostolic. To be a Christian means that you share the same faith as the apostles. We often ask people, “Do you have a personal faith?” It might be better to ask, “Do you have an apostolic faith? Do you share the faith of the Apostles? Do you believe what they believed?”

What matters is not that you have “a faith” (as if you had to make up your own), but that you hold to “the faith” (the apostolic faith), the faith that was “once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude v3). The apostolic faith is the only one worth having! For the promises of the gospel belong to the people who share the same faith as the Apostles.

Christian faith is God’s gift and His command

…to those… who have received a faith as precious as ours (2 Peter 1:1).

You received this faith. You did not generate it. The apostle Paul said the same thing in different words: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Faith is also a command that we obey: Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). That’s a command! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). That’s a command; God calls us to do this. Faith is God’s gift and his command.

Have you ever thought about how strange it is when a preacher says to an unbeliever: “Put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”? How can an unbeliever put his or her faith in Jesus? If you are an unbeliever, then by definition you do not believe. And if you do not believe, then you don’t have any faith to put in Jesus!

So how can anyone ever be saved? The disciples asked that question once, and Jesus said “With man it is impossible but … all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). God is able to create faith where it does not exist. He created the world out of nothing, and he is able to create a faith that you can go and exercise.

It is a strange tension that faith is both a gift and a command. When Augustine understood this he said to God, “Command what you will, only give what you command!”

It is important to understand something about Augustine: God was calling him to change, but he did not have the capacity to change. “Lord, you are absolutely free to issue any command you choose. But please understand this, Lord. I don’t have what it takes to do what you command. If you command me to have faith, that’s fine with me. But I don’t have faith, so you need to give it to me.”

If you are not yet a Christian, this is a great place to begin. You can come to God today as Augustine did. You can say: “You command me to have faith, and I don’t have it. So give me what I do not possess. Make me what I am not.” Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). That’s how you come to God: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling.

If you come to God like that today, it will change your life. You are admitting that you cannot save yourself. You are casting yourself on Him. You are agreeing with Jesus that your salvation is impossible apart from God. There’s a strange irony here: The first step of faith is to admit that you do not have it, and to ask God to give you what you do not have.

Christian faith comes through Jesus’ own glory and goodness

Our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (v3).

What would make an unbelieving person want to follow Jesus today? The first reason is his goodness—the sheer excellence of his life, the abundance of his grace and kindness. The second reason is his glory—the total impact of all that he is. That’s how Jesus draws people—he calls us through his own glory and goodness.

Think about how this relates to evangelism. If we want to see people follow Christ, we should make much of his glory and his goodness. Make him the focus of your Sunday school class, or small group. Keep him central when you share the gospel. Remember that the gospel is not about you and your faith. It is about Jesus and his glory.

Jesus said, “When I’m lifted up, I’ll draw people to myself” (John 12:32). Faith is formed as Christ is exalted. When you see his glory and goodness you will be compelled to follow him.

What Does God Promise to Those Who Have This Faith?

By his own glory and goodness… [Jesus Christ] has given us his very great and precious promises. (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Participation in the divine nature

He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature (v4).

What does that mean? How can you participate in the divine nature? Either you would somehow have to enter into God, which the Bible never suggests happens. Or God would somehow have to enter into you. The Bible clearly teaches that when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Spirit enters the life of that person.

When Peter says “you may participate in the divine nature” (v4), he is talking about our union with Christ. This is the same thing the Apostle Paul is speaking of when he says: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Our Lord puts it in a picture “I am the vine you are the branches. If a man remains in me he will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). These are all different ways of talking about a shared life.

Many of us think that we have all that God has to offer, but all we have is forgiveness for the past, heaven for the future, and a great void in between. I want you to grasp this: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (v3). The gospel is more than forgiveness and heaven. It is God’s power and presence in your life today.

A man by the name of Henry Scougal put it this way: The life of God in the soul of man. That’s the promise of the Gospel. That means new power, new desire, and new capacity.

When we are in heaven we will see Jesus in all of his glory. We will say “I knew he was great, but not this great! And to think the he was with us all the time on earth! Why didn’t we have more faith? Why didn’t we make more progress?”

Escape from corruption in the world

He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may… escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (v4).

What’s wrong with the world? Where does the corruption in the world come from? What would need to change if we are to have a world of freedom and justice and love and joy?

There are many answers to these questions. Some people will tell you that the corruption in the world comes from lack of education, lack of opportunity, or lack of resources. The Apostles would not agree with that.

Peter says the corruption in the world is caused by evil desires. That’s why you find corruption in people who have education, opportunity, and resources, as well as those who don’t. What evil desires are we talking about? Envy, greed, lust, pride, and laziness—to name just a few. These desires are in us, and they corrupt us.

Teenagers: Do you ever find yourself overcome by moods, and you say to yourself, “Where did that come from? Why was I like that?” Do you ever find yourself looking at another person—at what they have, and their success? It eats away at you and you say, “Why is my life not like that?” You don’t want to be like that, but you can’t seem to help it. There’s something going on inside you. It spoils you. It corrupts you, but you can’t get free from it.

Understand your position

What does Peter mean when he says we can “escape” the corruption in the world? I am a Christian but I have an ongoing battle with lust or greed or pride or envy. What do you mean escape? I struggle with evil desires all the time!

Some of you will have seen the film, The Fugitive.[1] A doctor is framed for the murder of his wife. He is sentenced to jail, but while they are moving him to a penitentiary there is an accident. The bus rolls off the road, and in the chaos that follows, the character, played by Harrison Ford, escapes. He becomes “the fugitive.”

He hits the road with a mission: to find the truth and to establish justice. He moves from place to place, constantly in danger of being apprehended. He finds himself in a great struggle. He is relentlessly pursued. It seems like the whole world is against him, but he is not in chains. He is free.

That’s your position as a Christian believer. Understand your position and it will make sense of your experience: I am the fugitive. I have been released from captivity to sin and darkness by the power of Jesus Christ. I’ve escaped.

But sin and temptation are pursuing me. Satan, who once held me captive, is always after me. He is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan wants to get you back in chains, but God is with you and He will protect you. Sin is your enemy, but it is no longer your master (Rom. 6:14).

You will be hounded by the world, the flesh, and the devil all your life. You are in for a life-long struggle, but you are not in chains. You are not a captive. You have escaped! You can move. You can act! And this freedom is God’s gift to you in the Gospel.

Hear God’s promise

I want to speak to Christians who feel defeated. I want you to hear this promise: By his power, and through Jesus Christ, God’s promise to you in the Gospel is that you should escape the corruption caused by evil desires. Sin shall no longer be your master.

You will not escape the battle with evil desires. But if you are in Christ, you have escaped their power over you. Stop telling yourself you are in chains when God has set you free.

I thank God for this promise. A gospel that offers forgiveness but not power isn’t big enough for life. Many people have heard a gospel that is about forgiveness for the past and heaven for the future, but it says nothing about God’s power to change your life now.

That’s why there are many who attend church and profess faith, but never grow. They remain stuck in the same failures, gripped by the same fears, trapped in the same despair.

Peter says “Let me tell you about a faith that is big enough for life. Let me tell you about God’s power that gives us everything we need for life and godliness. That power will come into your life through Jesus Christ who calls you by his own glory and goodness.”

And here is his promise: his Spirit will live in you, giving you new power, new desire, and new capacity, so that you will escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires! Sin shall no longer be your master!

 

[1] The Fugitive, directed by Andrew Davis. Hollywood, CA: Warner Home Video, 1993.

 

© Colin S. Smith

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By Colin S. Smith. © Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org



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