Believe: Towards a Transformed Life
September 7, 2014
2 Peter 1
An elderly man went to the doctor complaining that his wife could barely hear. The doctor suggested a test to find out just how bad her hearing problem was. He said, “Stand far behind her and ask her a question, and then slowly move up to see how far away you are before she first responds.”
The man, was excited to finally be working towards a solution, he rushed home to find his wife preparing supper. The man stood 20 feet behind his wife and asked, “Honey, what’s for supper?”
There was no response. He tried again at 15 feet, and again, no response. So he moved to 10 feet away asking, “Honey, what’s for supper?” Still no response.
Finally, he was 5 feet away and he yelled, “Honey, what’s for supper?!”
She turned to him and replied, “For the fourth time it’s lasagna!”
So often we assume it’s the other person who has the problem. It’s the other person who needs to do the changing. We tend to point fingers at others. We think, Pastor Michael’s message is for someone else, he’s talking to those heathens on the other side of the church. Too often we miss the point, WE ALL need life change. We all need transformation! And that’s exactly the point. Jesus wants us to focus on changing ourselves, before we can go into the world and think we can change others.
Change, or transformation of our character, is what believing in Jesus is all about. There’s more to it, obviously. But there must be proof of the faith we have in Jesus. We can’t become a follower of Jesus, and have no life change at all. When a person comes to faith in Christ he or she is saying much more than “I want my sins forgiven.” To “believe” means to “trust.” It means you put your life into the life of Christ. And when you do, things change. You change.
The problem is not many people believe with this kind of belief. In the Christian world we see some evidence of lives changed, but too often we don’t see it. We hide the fact that we are followers of Jesus Christ. That’s what I liked about baptizing Troy today. He wanted to world to know he was a follower of Jesus Christ. Now, he needs to take the next step, with our help, to be in the world and make a difference for Christ. But it’s not just for those who are newer to faith, it’s the same for the old timers in the faith as well. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re called to make a difference for Jesus. We need to believe that life change is possible.
I was talking to someone the other day, and they told me their grandfather became a Christian and came home and took his cigarettes and threw them out, stopped drinking and that was all because of Jesus. Folks, real change, life change, life transformation is real and att attainable.
So as we begin this journey called “Believe” I want to challenge you to do something right out of the title. I want you to believe. I want you to believe in the source of true life, Jesus Christ. That’s where it all starts, but then I want you to believe, no matter what age you are, believe you can change. Believe you can be transformed.
As we start off I want to share a passage from 2 Peter 1 which gives us a link to what Believe is all about. It’s about Think, Act, Be . . . Like Jesus. Do you want to be different next year in some area of your life than you are right now? Let’s look at parts of 2 Peter 1 ~
You may remember Peter as the brash, quick to speak, hot tempered follower of Jesus. He’s the one who denied knowing Jesus when a little girl pointed him out by a charcoal fire. It wasn’t one of his better moments.
But now, along with Paul, he is one of the two pillars of the early church and he’s writing to some Christians who are on the receiving end of some false teaching. It would be bad enough if these false teachers were attacking his friends from the outside. But the reality is they are inside the church and causing problems by what they’re teaching. Peter believes bad teaching results in bad living, so he begins his writing by reminding them of how their lives can be transformed to be like Christ.
So he begins by saying:
1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter began by talking about a group of people called Gnostics. They were false teachers in the early church. Part of the bigger problem came in the fact that they were inside the church. So, Peter spoke about knowledge. The knowledge we have in Christ. You see Gnostics comes from the word, “Gnosis” which is where we get the word “knowledge.” This group claimed they had “a special secret and saving knowledge of God, of the cosmos, and of all matters spiritual.”1
Peter greets his friends and immediately tells them they have a faith of equal standing with “ours” — as that of the apostles. Peter wanted the believers to know they were all on equal standing. This was important because the false teachers were telling them they weren’t equal. You needed to have this special knowledge in order to be in this better group of gnostics. Peter says “NO WAY!” We are all equals.
That’s good to remember. Whoever it is you may look up to in the Christian faith has no special access to God that you don’t have. That’s important to know. My knowledge or any pastors knowledge does not gain them a better standing before Christ. In fact, it adds pressure, since as teachers we will be judged for what we teach. Please understand, God is an equal opportunity God. Peter makes that clear.
Peter wants God’s grace and peace to not just be added, but be multiplied to the people because of the knowledge they have of Jesus Christ. It’s a type of benediction right out of the gate.
Then he adds: 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Do you want life? The kind Jesus talked about? Do you want to be a godly person? Then Peter says that God’s power — the word is dunamis from which we get our word dynamite — has given us all things that we need to have that kind of life. That’ s great news!
Very simply, Peter tells us God’s divine dynamite power has given to us all things which pertain to living our lives in a God honoring manner. How does this happen? Again, Peter goes back to knowledge. It’s the knowledge we have of Him of God, who has called each one of us to His glory and excellence. This is not something God is trying to hide from us. But it’s something given to us through our knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is one great reason why Bible reading is so important.
But catch where Peter goes with this . . . In verse 4 he tells us we have been granted God’s precious, honored and esteemed exceedingly great promises. Don’t you like it when someone tells you what they have for you is “exceedingly great?” Well, that’s what Peter is telling us God has in store for us. Why do we receive them, so we can be partakers of the divine nature.
In other words, we never become part of God, but amazingly we share in God’s nature as we become more and more like Him. The “great promises” include the power of the Holy Spirit. They also include other promises such as forgiveness, Christ’s return, eternal life in heaven, God’s presence, and all the promises of Scripture that relate to the gift of new life. That’s awesome!
So how do we get this power? The “plug” or the connection point according to Peter is “through knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence.” The power comes from knowing Jesus. It’s not some special secret that only a few are given.
This “knowledge” is not just information. It’s a personal, intimate knowledge of Jesus. The more you know him the more power you will experience in your life to be a “partaker of his divine nature.” Knowledge of Christ is central to Peter’s letter. It’s mentioned 5 times in the 1st chapter.
So, we start with knowledge of Christ. But knowledge is only so good and will only take us so far in our faith journey. We know many people who have knowledge, but we don’t see it in their actions. We know that satan has more knowledge than do, but he has never applied it for anything which is good.
So, we start with knowledge, but we can’t get stuck there. We must move from knowledge or thinking to being. Now it takes some effort on our part. Peter goes on to write:
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
6 and knowledge with self - control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Here’s a list of what the “divine nature” would look like. It begins with faith and ends in love — agape love — the kind of love that desires and does what is best for the other, unconditionally.
If we look back to verse 5, Peter says something very important for us to remember. 5 SLIDEFor this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith. . .
in this verse there are 2 words to note. One is “effort.” “Make every effort.” God has given us all things that we need for our character transformation. But this does not mean we can be passive. God is opposed to earning, not effort. We have to make an effort at becoming a different person in Christ.
Just because we say yes to Jesus, we don’t automatically change and transform. It’s a lifetime of work. And it’s work. It’s learning and making mistakes and committing sin, and learning again about what God expects from us. It’s not always easy, and it takes effort on our part. This word also means to “give it everything we have.” It means not quitting, not taking it easy, but giving our best to God, because He gave us His best.
The other word is “supplement.” Peter is telling us faith is great, but faith alone is not going to get us there. We need to add to our faith. We need to nourish our faith. If we don’t nourish and feed our faith, then we are definitely going to struggle moving beyond a simple knowledge of Christ. So, knowledge is the beginning point, but then it doesn’t stop there . . . we add our supplement that knowledge with these virtues.
And to add to those virtues takes great effort. Peter is exhorting Christians not merely to confess faith in Christ but actually to live as he taught. He’s not telling us we need works to find salvation, instead he is telling us faith must take concrete form in life. Our faith must bear fruit and be alive. All the virtues listed are the result of faith, so faith is listed first, while love (the ultimate result of faith) is listed last.
So, the goal is to move from think to be. Jesus shows us that we can’t control what is happening outside of us, but we can control what is happening inside of us. It’s about who we are becoming. It starts by plugging into the power of knowing Christ and becoming more like Christ.
Then, we’ll end with this . . . Peter tells us the method to transformation of character: repetition, repetition, repetition.
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder,
14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.
15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (12-15)
Do you get the message Peter wanted the people to hear? He wants them to remember . . . he wants them to be reminded about what he is teaching them. In fact, you could say he is reminding them of what he wants them to remember and recall.
Peter said, he always intends to remind them of the qualities that they already know. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that which we already know, too, don’t we? Sometimes we read a book, and the author didn’t write anything new, but the book spoke to us and helped us.
To Peter, this is a great way, by reminder to stir the people up, which literally means to awaken or arouse someone. This isn’t the first time these people have heard about the knowledge of God and Christ and growing in character. But he wants them to hear it again. Repetition makes things stick.
Peter wants his teaching to stick because his time is about up. He knows he is facing death. And it was so important for him to share this message, again and again and again.
Since he won’t be around much longer he wants to repeat the core beliefs that will help their lives be right. He wants them to know their character can change. To know that what is on the inside can allow them to handle whatever is on the outside.
Repetition may seem dull. You may want to move onto something new that sounds more exciting. But we need to understand that we have not learned anything we’ve already been taught until it is coming out in our lives. Until it is second nature. Just as an athlete has to practice and practice and practice. A musician will practice over and over and over again. It’s not always fun. But that’s what makes us successful at whatever we do.
For these Christians and for us, this is what will help us to show the world who Jesus is. Peter has shown the Christ followers they need to move from knowledge to being like Jesus. And the same is true for us.
So . . . as we get ready to jump into week 1 of the Believe series next week in Sunday school and in worship, our goal will be moving from thinking to acting to becoming more like Jesus.