February 15, 2004 2 Peter 1:2-11
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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. Through these 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. 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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, 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 if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Every time we take our children to the doctor, their height and weight is taken in order to determine where they are on the growth chart. The growth chart has been developed as a comparison chart so you know where your child compares to the rest of the children in America. After your children are measured, you are then told whether your child is in the 50th percentile, etc. For some reason most parents take pride in big kids and are eager to tell others if their kids are “off the charts” in percentile. I guess we associate bigness with healthiness. It is also a sign for the doctors to know something might be wrong when the child is behind on the growth chart - that he or she might not be being fed properly.
It would be nice if God would provide us with a growth chart for Christians. If on my every member visits I could have you stand on a spiritual scale and then prescribe certain spiritual exercises, life would be easy. Unfortunately, spirituality is a tough thing to measure. But there are some signs of it - some gauges to determine where we are in our growth factor. When I look at my kids, I can determine their spirituality by the way they get along together and the way they respond to me as their parent. I can have some sort of a measurement on their growth by how excited they are to go to church or how many Bible passages they know. It’s not an exact science, but there are signs of growth or a lack thereof.
The same goes with you, as adults. When, as your pastor, I see more members coming to Bible class and worship, or members coming more regularly - this is a good sign to me of growth. When you answer more questions in Bible class correctly, this is a good sign. But what gets discouraging is when I see members who have been going to church for years still resorting to slander, still being hot-tempered, or still believing things that are obviously against what they were taught. It is discouraging to me to see my people often living life in a pessimistic depression and despair. I expect to see growth, and yet all too often I see Christians who are content to stay right where they are instead of actively seeking how they can grow in their Christianity.
Peter had one main goal for Christians - that they would participate in the divine nature. In other words, Christianity and faith to him wasn’t just a word or a confession. It wasn’t just like a hat you put on for one hour a week and then took off for the rest of the week. It wasn’t just like a shirt that covers your skin and jazzes up your appearance on the outside. Faith was meant to permeate the very nature of who you are - so that God becomes a part of your heart, your soul, your mind, your tongue, your fingers, and your inner being. That’s what he wanted for his fellow Christians - that they would actively participate in the divine nature - that God would really permeate their every being. In reality, that’s what Christianity is - it’s an intrusive religion. God is not just a word - or a concept of a being somewhere out there. Christianity involves a God who directs the past and future of the world and permeates every living being whether they like it or not. God doesn’t just ask for your finger or your mouth - He demands your every being. That’s too intrusive for many. They’d rather make God into an after supper delicatessen instead of the main dish of their lives. That’s not God’s design for us - and it never was. Peter’s encouragement to us today is to
Participate in the Divine
I. Through the precious promises of God
Telling us to “participate in the divine” is not an easy thing. It’s like telling a dog to be a cat, a man to be a woman, or a wolf to be a sheep. It isn’t something that can be accomplished through a command. Adam and Eve, in their state of perfection, weren’t even able to do such a thing. When Satan convinced them otherwise, they fell flat on their faces, just as Satan himself did. Now more than ever, as fallen humans, we are born so far away from the divine that it is an impossible bridge to cross, no matter what Star Trek or the Mormons or modern day humanists may tell you. God’s Word is clear. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. (Eph 2:1-2)
In order for us to “participate in the divine,” the opposite has to happen, and has happened. God had to come down to us. That’s what He did. Jesus Christ became one of us. He lived in our world and actually died our death. He put our reputation and sins on His shoulders and literally took on our identity on the cross. Jesus became the world on the cross, and died for the world. If this weren’t enough, God then chose to give us faith and raise us from the dead through our baptism. He put His Spirit in us and made a home in us. (Acts 2:38) As Paul told the Ephesians, in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:22) Not only did God enter our world, He has gone so far as to enter our souls through faith. When you believe and are baptized, you already are participating in the divine without doing anything. Because God is both good and glorious, He decided to do all this for you free of charge.
So what does Peter mean then, when he tells us as Christians to “participate in the divine?” He specifically says, 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. What Peter is saying is that he wants us to go back to the well so to speak, and constantly remind yourself of what you actually have as a Christian. You have great and precious promises. Look at what God promises you as a baptized Christian -
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Ps 103:12)
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Ro 6:6-7)
he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Ps 91:11-12)
we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Ro 8:28).
These are promises to you from God Almighty. He has descended from the heavens, spoken through men, and given you these specific promises. When you hear them, God says that it helps you to participate in the divine nature - to be more like God.
What does that mean? Well, think about what God is like. God is holy. He doesn’t sin. He doesn’t worry about being punished. He isn’t afraid of Satan’s threats. He never lets the evil of this world affect Him or make Him pessimistic about the future. He knows that in the end, He is in control of all things. Participating in the divine nature, means that you remember what God promises you. When you take the Lord’s Supper you remember - Jesus died for ME. By continually going back to this well of God’s grace, it enables you to say to yourself, “I am not going to hell. I am not afraid of God’s wrath, because in God’s sight I am holy through the blood of Christ. I have been washed clean of my sin. God will never forsake me. I have everything I need in Christ. Everything in this world serves my good. All that I have is God’s, and so I will use all I have to the glory of God. God promises me that He is with me always, working all things out for my good, so I won’t worry about what happens to me, whether good or seemingly bad.” Peter promises us that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Participating in the divine means that we will listen to this, believe this and live like it. That’s what faith is all about.
II. By possessing more qualities
But that’s not where it ends. Peter adds a second part as to why God gives us His divine promises. 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. Peter reminds us that we are living in a corrupted world. It’s as if we’ve been given a new engine in our cars, yet our cars are driving on salty roads with bad drivers all around. Just because our engines are running fine, it doesn’t mean that our cars can’t break down. The bodies can rust, wheels can pop, a thousand other things can go wrong - besides with the engine. Think about the latest disaster with the space shuttle. One small panel fell off of it during take off. Even though everything was functioning perfectly, when that one heat panel had a malfunction, it caused a weakness in the exterior that made the whole ship blow apart. So Peter reminds us that we are living in a corrupted world - and we are not out of this world yet. Even though we’re holy through faith and our engines are running fine, and even if there is plenty of gas in the tank, things can still go wrong.
So what did Peter recommend for us to do? Don’t be content with just having a spiced up engine. Start working on the outside of your spiritual car. Because what the devil does is he attacks from the outside in - he looks for that one weak panel in your life - that he can work through to destroy your fine running engine. So what Peter does is give a sort of a spiritual checklist, if you will, some Christian goals for you to shoot for in your living - to keep the devil from getting through to your faith. He says, 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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. With faith as the basis, Peter mentions seven things that we can shoot for as Christians. This list is by no means exhaustive, and they don’t necessarily follow one after the other - but they are all things we can shoot for as Christians.
1) goodness - it’s also translated as excellence - usually in the moral sense. What Peter is saying is to have a moral sense about you - don’t be wishy washy about what is evil and what is good. Have some standards to live by in this world - some basic goodness about you.
2) knowledge - specifically in God’s Word. Right and wrong is NOT based on what I feel or what the world thinks or what is popular - it has to be based on a knowledge of God’s Word. So get into it and know it - be able to determine right from wrong with a solid foundation in the Bible.
3) self-control - when I was growing up we had a dog named Tippy. Every time the neighbor female dog would come by, he would wag his tail and wine and moan and pant - just begging to go out and at least get a good scent of the female dog. That’s not the way we have to be as Christians - like the rest of the world which lives to please it’s body. With the Holy Spirit living in you, you don’t need to give into it’s cravings for sex and relaxation and material happiness. You don’t need to fly off the handle if someone insults you or ignores you. Have some control - some power over the self!
4) perseverance - Pastor Mark Jeske described this as being able to deny yourself in the short term to benefit yourself in long term - to take a pounding from Satan now, knowing his fury will soon be spent. It’s the ability to MAKE A PROMISE TO GOD and KEEP IT.
5) godliness - what this means is to have an attitude of respect to God’s will and ways - not to make fun of a Bible passage or person who seems to be “antiquated and out of touch with the ‘real world’”.
6) brotherly kindness - Jesus once said, - All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35) If we can’t even love one another within our own congregation - if we can’t even forgive one another - then how easy it will be for the devil to tear us apart when he sends a genuine enemy around? Learn how to show genuine affection for each other as brothers.
7) finally, Peter says to love - that’s the word for unconditional love. You may not like some people in this congregation - you may not like your neighbor - you may not even like yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t love them - choose to be nice to them and care for them in spite of your feelings.
These are some goals that we can set for ourselves - to become more like Christ. You could put this checklist up on your refrigerator, and actively work at getting better at these things. When God takes possession of you, he doesn’t just intend for you to have the right confession. He wants to take possession of your body as well. This is what it means to be participants in the divine nature. Just as Jesus was human and divine - and His divinity completely permeated his human and made them inseparable, so He wants the same to you. He wants it to effect the way you talk and think and speak as well.
III. For a sure perseverance in the faith
What’s the ultimate purpose in this? First of all, Peter said, 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. That’s why God made you - to live an impressive life to the world. Jesus said to let your light SHINE before men so that they see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven! He doesn’t just want you to rev your engine, God wants to take your spiritual car for a spin - make it an impressive display to the world around you on what He can do with someone. Think about what this in turn does. When you see a new car come revving up next to you, the first thing you want to find out is what BRAND it is - who made it. Then maybe you can dream of owning a car like that as well. When people see you do these things, instead of giving glory to you, this will in turn give glory to the MAKER of the car - and make people come to Him for a make over as well.
But what was the ultimate purpose? Then, Peter said, it will keep you from becoming nearsighted and blind. When someone is near sighted or blind - they can’t see their future. All they can see is what is in front of them or feel around to the next obstacle. That’s not what God wants for us as Christians. He doesn’t want us constantly worried about when we get our next paycheck or who our next boyfriend will be. He didn’t die for us and redeem us to have us constantly fearing what is going to happen next in our lives. He doesn’t like to see us living with a continual guilt and anxiety about life.
By participating in the divine - by going back to the promises of God and applying the Word of God to our lives, a change happens to us. Peter said, Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we continually remind ourselves that we have a God who loved us so much to die for us, who raised from the dead, and promises life eternal through faith in Christ - it makes us SURE of our salvation. When we earnestly set Christian goals for ourselves to live in goodness, self-control, perseverance, and the like, we aren’t plagued with the guilt of living in an open and continual sin. We become happy with what God has made us, content with what He’s given us, and confident to face each day - no matter how many challenges it may bring. The devil, in turn, has no openings with which to tear us away from the faith. It gives us a greater confidence to live and die in this world - knowing that an eternal kingdom is prepared for us through the blood of Christ.
When computers first became popular back in the early 1990’s, it was interesting to see the transition that took place. Most of us welcomed the new technology, knowing that we could easily edit our sermons and bulletins on a computer screen instead of using white out and the like. Yet I had one classmate who held out - and continued to use a typewriter. He refused to give in to the modern technology. Life was much more difficult for him, but he managed.
There are many Christians who are like my classmate. Through faith in Christ, they have the same blood and righteousness and perfection of Christ that all Christians have. They too will go to heaven since they participate in the divine. But God has much more divinity for them. He wants to given them a permeating and continual confidence along with a better life as a result of listening to God’s Word and applying it. If you find yourself living in constant fear or disappointment or despair, think about what Peter is offering to you this morning. Participating in the divine means that you don’t have to ride in your old rusted out car. You don’t have to live in constant guilt and disappointment and anger. Through the promises of God you can tune up your engines. By setting Christian goals you can fix up your cars. You can look beyond the problems of today and tomorrow and soar through the heavens - fixing your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith - no matter what curves this world may have to offer. That’s what it means to participate in the divine. Amen.