Sunday, January 14, 2018

2 Peter Study Series Lesson 1 Part 2

Lesson 1, Part 2
Last week, we ended with the amazing promise that believers have been all things pertaining to life and Godliness through the Divine Power of Jesus to live the Christian life through the knowledge of God and his calling on our lives. And, Christians are now partakers of God's divine nature through his unbreakable promises. We are children of God, born of His spirit, being conformed to the image of Jesus, being set apart and made holy for His purposes, and one day being able to see him as he is.
This week, we begin our discussion where we left off: we now are asked to practically apply these truths in transformative ways. Peter here assumes that, as Christians, you have faith. It's not something that is conjured up. Faith is the foundation of our promises. According to the writer to the Hebrews, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who [diligently] seek him.” It positions us for hope in a present preservation and perseverence and a future glory. So, we are to make every effort, or give diligence to add to our faith, or as the ESV reads, "supplement our faith..." There is a certain part of our growth that will come naturally. However, this "natural growth" can only come from those who are planted by living  water and nourished by good soil. Psalm 119:4 says "Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.” Many translations of Hebrews 11:6 add the word “diligently” in its varying forms to show the intensity with which we are to “work out our salvation.” As Christians, we have Christ's divine power to live the Christian life. That means, we have been given, in the words of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, "great power and great responsibility." Believers, possessors of faith, those who have been appointed to eternal life by our gracious God have been both given this immense privilege and a weighty job.
  • [2Pe 1:5] For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
    • Because Christ divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, because God has called us to his own glory and excellence, because we have been given his promises in order to become partakers of the divine nature, make every effort (or be diligent) to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.”
    • We are commanded to make every effort to add to our faith. Why? Why are we to supplement, or add to, our faith the qualities listed?
      • To the uninformed reformer, this would seem to run counter to the reformation. Isn’t it all of grace? Doesn’t “Salvation belong to our God?” Absolutely! However, remember that Peter is talking to believers. Believers have been adopted as children of God.
      • First, we are commanded of God to obey him in the New Testament.
        • Three times in this book alone we are given specific orders:
          • 2 Peter 1:10 - confirm our calling and election with diligence
          • 3:14 - be diligent to be found without spot or blemish
          • 3:18 - grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
        • Other passages, clearly written to Gentile Christians like us, which I believe is an important point to be discussed sometime, corroborate those commands:
          • Phil. 2:12-13 - work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
            • As Christians, the fear and trembling spoken of here do not regard a fear that makes us worry we will lose our salvation, but a filial fear that does not want to “grieve the Holy Spirit” that has been granted to us as a guarantee of our faith. The Greek Lexicon describes this term “trembling” as a term used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty.
              • What came to mind for me was working my dream job - radio! It was short-lived, but it’s fun to say “I used to work in radio.” I was young and dumb, having had, maybe, a year’s previous experience to say I was qualified to sit behind the mic and operate the board. And, while only in retrospect to I see I was totally unprepared for what I had been assigned, as is often the case for the Christian, I wanted to do as much as I could in that office.
              • We have been granted a much greater privilege, to represent the Lord of Glory! Should be considered our dream vocation. And, as such, while we might pander like Moses and claim we have no ability to serve the King, we are called to fulfill our duty and let God deal with the end results
          • Ephesians 4:1. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
          • Galatians 5:15. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
      • …which leads me to the second point - believers have been empowered by the Holy Spirit.
        • John 6:63. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
        • Eph. 1:13-14. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
        • Eze. 36:26. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
      • And, if anyone still takes umbrage with this, I would encourage you to watch the DVDs, Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism.
      • Thirdly, referring to this chapter, because of Jesus. He has forgiven us of our sin. We have, in the words of Peter, escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (not specifically ungodly sexual desire, but all sinful desires). It should be the Christian’s natural response to this good news!
      • Fourth, because we are still sinners in sinful flesh. Though we are positionally forgiven, we will not be perfected until we enter eternal life. In Romans, Paul compares (some would say contrasts) spiritual training with physical training. 
        • 1 Timothy 4:6-11. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things.
          • Godliness, as opposed to bodily training, maintains this living hope we have for what Christ will do through us now and what we are preparing for in the life to come. In fact, paul says we “toil”  and “strive” (reminds me a bit of Ecclesiastes a bit…doesn’t it?), because our hope is not wishful thinking: it is real! It is going to happen!
          • Tim Challies posted an article from The Guardian regarding the Queen of England’s Christmas addresses, which have recently (as recently as 2010) began to sound very Christian. Let’s face it - she ain’t no spring chicken! Death is nearer to her than it may be to us (God willing!). And, with the decline of Christian morality around her, her messages have begun to become more and more evangelical-sounding. God be praised for her courage and love for the King of Kings.
          • Does this mean we’re always doom and gloom? By no means! However, it does mean that we are honest about our frailty and the spontaneity of death. We do not know when we’ll leave this life. We - and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ - should be training for heaven like a 2nd string quarterback trains to take the starter spots. Our training should leave us without spot or blemish.
          • And, again - this is not done outside of the Spirit. It is our very reliance on the Spirit that propels our growth.
          • When we work through the power of Christ’s spirit, it is really Him that is working through us. (Phil. 2:12-13). Peter says later in the next chapter that should we who have escape the world’s pollutions through the knowledge of God and Jesus be drawn back into those lusts through our own desires, through their allurements, our latter end becomes worse than the first.
            • 1 John 2:15-16. If we still love the world, then the love of the Father is not in us.
      • So, with all this as a backdrop, we can now begin to discuss the order this list occurs. If we have been given faith and all of the above by God, we are to add virtue.
        • Virtue is described as moral and ethical excellence.
          • Phil. 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
            • We are to focus our thoughts, words, and deeds on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent.
        • Faith is the foundation, virtue is the structure. If we have faith, if verses 3 and 4 are  true of us, then it will push us to strengthen our resolve to repent towards God (repentance is a turning and a continual turning). Imagine a care that is going the complete opposite direction of its intended destination. The initial repentance would be turning the car around and driving in the right direction. The continual repentance would be those little mid-course corrections we do as drivers to keep the car in the correct lane and following the traffic rules. It’s not about perfection, but direction, to put it cheekily.
      • V. 2 - through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Like I mentioned last week, it’s one thing to believe in god; it’s another thing to believe in the God of the Bible. I am not to practice my moral and ethical excellence through the lease of humanism, Bhuddism, Hinduism, Islam, atheism, Mormonism or even of the Roman church. Why? All of those are systems of works-based righteousness. Jesus grants to us all things, including freedom from works-based righteousness.
        • Ephesians 1:18. that you may know - know what?! - what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
        • Phil. 1:19 - we are also to know His will.
        • This knowledge helps us to experience that maturation in Christ, becoming men and women of God. The only thing we are to be children/innocent towards is sin. God never says to be na├»ve in regards to sin. In fact, the Proverbs condemn those who are so naive. Why? That naivety results in falling or diving into a sinful lifestyle. Of course, the converse is true as well - to much knowledge of sin could also cause believers to fall into sin. I am reminded of Jimmy Swaggart. Up unto his fall, members of my extended family followed him closely. One thing they noticed prior to his fall, as well as in retrospect, is that he had an unnatural knowledge of certain kinds of sin, especially that of a sexual nature. This is also dangerous. It takes being grounded in God’s word to find that proper balance.
        • We are to add knowledge to our virtue. If I, as an American, follow the US’s traffic laws in Europe, I will likely cause an accident, be fined, go to jail, or be deported from that country. I must have the right knowledge of the right constitution in order to exercise correct moral excellence.
  • [2Pe 1:6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
    • We are to add to self-control to our knowledge.
      • Why? Because knowledge puffs up. Knowledge without self-control breeds conceit (sounds like a proverb…or, wait…was I being conceited there?).
      • Another way to say add self-control to knowledge is to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Self-control, called temperance in the King James, is the final fruit listed in Galatians 5.
      • As listed in Titus 1 and 2, leaders are to be sober-minded, self-controlled. We are representatives of the King! Does God run his emotions capriciously and carelessly? When speaking of Michael the Archangel, Jude states that when "contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
      • This particular element is important, as it relates to how we interact with others. I think of the many evangelists gently, yet consistently sharing the gospel with the Lost. I think of the command to fathers to not drive their sons to exasperation. We are representatives of the King.
We will continue the rest of this verse and the next section in next week's lesson.

2 Peter Study Series Lesson 1 Part 1

The next several entries (with possible exceptions) is from a Sunday School class I am teaching on 2nd Peter.