Monday, November 5, 2018

The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Peter. Day 18, Great And Precious Promises

W begin Peter's second letter today, and in it he talks about the great and precious promises God has made to us and about how God supplies us with power to live godly lives. He also warns us that if our lives exhibit none of this power, we need to examine ourselves to be certain we even belong to Christ.

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." (2 Peter 1:1-2) It is thought that Peter is addressing this second letter to the same group as the first letter. He doesn't address the churches by name again in the salutation, so it could be assumed this letter is a follow-up to the first. Either way, we can be certain he is writing to Christian Gentiles, for he says their faith is the same as "ours", meaning the Jewish Christians. In Christ all are equal no matter the religious or cultural background.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3) We have a source of power that is available to us every second of every day: the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul says, "The spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you." (Romans 8:11a) If we are in Christ then we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, so we can't say it's impossible to do the right things in a wicked world. This doesn't mean we will never make mistakes. But we ought to be doing a lot more right than we do wrong. We make hundreds of small decisions in a day and perhaps a big decision or two. Each of those is an opportunity to do the right thing with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

"Through those He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:4) The great and precious promises are given to us through His glory and goodness which Peter spoke of in verse 3. Christ has made promises to us that He hasn't made to the unbelieving world. The unbelieving world can't claim these promises or rely on them. The promises contained in the Scriptures only belong to the faithful ones, and because we have these promises we choose to live for the Lord instead of for worldly desires. We are in the world but not of the world. We are chosen and holy, sanctified and set apart. We should stand out from the crowd not only for the good things we do for the cause of Christ, but also for the bad things we don't do.

Because we are Christ's we should look like Him and do the things He would do. We should be developing honorable character traits as we grow in our relationship with Him. "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins." (2 Peter 1:5-9) In the gospel accounts we don't see Peter portrayed as a man with patience and self-control. The character traits he mentions here are things that have developed in him over time as his knowledge of the Lord has grown. He wasn't given these things instantaneously when he met with the risen Lord and was forgiven and restored. We know this because he says we have to make an effort to develop these things. Peter is encouraging us to lean on the strength of the Lord in order to make right choices. We can't lean on Him for strength if we aren't in close relationship with Him and if we aren't studying what He says in the holy Scriptures.

The last thing we want to become as Christians is ineffective. It's possible to be saved only by the skin of our teeth and to do little to grow the kingdom of our Lord. This is why Peter tells us if we don't exhibit any of these honorable characteristics we are nearsighted and blind. We are thinking only of ourselves and not of our Lord or of the lost world when we don't strive to do what Jesus would do. We have, in that sense, forgotten how much sin the Lord cleansed us of. If we would keep in mind everything He did for us, we would naturally desire to do things for Him.

Peter closes by telling us to examine ourselves and make sure we really are who we think we are. Did we truly accept Christ as our Lord or not? Do we really love Him or not? If our lives aren't bearing any fruit for His kingdom, it's time to take stock of the condition of our souls. "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:10-11)

Peter isn't saying we will never mess up. The type of stumbling he's talking about is a permanent type of falling, not the occasional mistake we make where we then get up, dust ourselves off, and continue following Christ. He's speaking of either a complete falling away from the faith or of deceiving ourselves into believing we are in the faith when in truth we never really have been. He urges us, "Be certain! If you have any doubts whether you really belong to Christ, you can make things right with Him now. You don't have to live fruitless lives. You don't have to walk through this world believing you are a Christian simply because your whole family is or because you grew up in the church or because you believe the gospel with your head and not also with your heart. Christ transforms hearts, so if your heart has not been transformed and if you are not exhibiting the fruits of one who belongs to Him, something is wrong that needs to be corrected. Submit yourselves to Him and let Him correct it."

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