Right here at the front of the church building people have made promises that have changed their lives. The last wedding we had was back in October where Rosie and Balint made life changing promises to each other.
During the vows Balint was asked if he would have Rosie as his wife. He said yes! He'd done everything necessary to have his fiancée as his wife. She could have still said no – thankfully she didn't! And it's like that in relation to God. In giving his Son to die for us, God has said his 'I will' to us. He's said, 'I will give you an abundance of grace and peace, no matter what you've done.' But it's not automatic. Because the question still has to be asked and responded to, 'Will you have Jesus, God's Son, as your Lord and saviour?' When we put our faith in his promises we receive grace and peace through Christ.
Just as marriage turned Rosie and Balint's lives upside down, so does putting your faith in Christ. Just as the groom makes life-changing promises to his bride, so God makes life changing promises to us. Verse 4 says:
"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."
Let's just remind ourselves of those promises. Firstly, we 'may participate in the divine nature.' That is the Spirit makes us more like Christ in character, a work that will be completed in heaven. Secondly God gives the gift of eternal life. And thirdly, through union with Christ, we become adopted children of God. Jonathan Edwards puts it like this:
"There was, as it were, an eternal society or family in the Godhead, in the Trinity of persons. It seems to be God's design to admit the church into the divine family as his son's wife."
As Calvin says, there is nothing more outstanding can be thought of!
The flip side of being brought into relationship with God is we escape corruption. That is we are freed from being slaves to sin and the judgment that comes with it. Now if participating in marriage changes men and women's lives, how much more should participating in the divine nature change our lives?
So Peter says to his readers Make every effort to live in the light of God's promises (5-9). What will that look like? Come with me to verses 5-7:
"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."
Peter says because of God's gospel promises we're to add to our faith. Faith is foundational. We come to come God through faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour. Yet faith is also functional. If Jesus really is our Lord and Saviour then it will transform how we live. That's what he's saying here: live out your faith in God's promises.
The word "add" was used in ancient times as something a generous giver would do. Peter is calling us to co-operate with God, giving our lives generously to our Lord. It's worth pausing there and reflecting on that. Following Jesus will be costly. It will require effort. Verse 3 tells us that we follow Jesus in his power, yet it still requires effort. So what will it look like then to become more like our Lord and Saviour? Peter gives us a character sketch of what it looks like to be more like the Lord. Remember, believers are partakers in the divine: God's plan is to make us like his son! His power is at work.
Firstly, we are to add to faith goodness. Where do we find an example of goodness – Christ is the perfect example. Peter is saying that we ultimately become more like the judge, or more like the judged. In 2:13 Peter says the false teachers do harm, believers are to follow Jesus in doing good.
Secondly, we are to add knowledge. Believers know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, so we are find out what pleases him and act on it. The false teachers were offering to have new knowledge (2:3) about God, but Peter is reminding them they have what they need in scripture. There's where we find what pleases the Lord.
Thirdly, we are to add self-control. Remember the false teachers had become "slaves to depravity." Instead of self-control they were happy to be mastered by their desires: greed, adultery, boasting. Those who put their faith in Christ have escaped the corruption of the world: freed from slavery to sin and saved from coming judgment. So it would be madness to go back to being slaves to sin. So, for example, the believer tempted to use porn must remind themselves to go back to old habits is to be ruled by sin which enslaves us. Instead we are to be self-controlled, enjoying the freedom from sin Christ give us.
Fourthly, we add perseverance. Believers persevere knowing one day Jesus will return. The false teachers were scoffing at that idea. Peter says we're to live today in light of tomorrow when we'll be welcomed into heaven. That means we can do hard things like give up Sunday mornings to do Sunday School cos it's worth it. It means we can put up with being smirked at in the office for being a Christian cos it's worth it.
Fifthly, we add godliness, which is living with a practical awareness of God. The false teachers practically denied any awareness of God with their lives. You see if we live in the light of God's promises it will transform the way we live practically. If we understand that we are partakers in the divine, made God's children, then that will impact how we treat each other. That's Peter sixth characteristic: we are to add brotherly kindness. That is believers are to treat each other as family. That means loving each other. We will, this side of heaven, get on each other's' wires. So will you be quick to forgive? Instead of secretly complaining about a brother or sister, how about praying for them?
The last quality Peter tells us to add is love, love not just of the believer but of the non-believer too. Remember love here isn't just a feeling but an action. Jesus actively loved people. So Jesus' followers are to actively love others too.
Peter says if we make every effort to live in the light of these promises, that is make Christ Lord, then it will keep us from an ineffective knowledge of Christ. Let's look at verse 8:
"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."
Knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour should change us. Knowing Jesus as Lord and saviour should change the way we relate to our community. The word "unproductive" could be read unfruitful. It's a picture Jesus uses isn't it? The tree that does not bear fruit will be cut down. Whatever faith the false teachers claimed it was not functional; they were refusing to let Jesus be Lord. Fruitfulness is a sign of the Spirit at work. It's a sign of partaking in the divine.
Peter tells us why there was a failure to be fruitful for some in verse 9:
"But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins."
Peter says believers who do not grow in these qualities are spiritually sick. Their problem, Peter says, is that they are so shortsighted they cannot see and they are forgetful. I take it that the false teachers have forgotten Jesus will return and are focused on their present desires. Not only can they not see what is coming, but they have forgotten what Christ has done: cleansed them from sin.
There's a Jackie Chan film called, 'Who Am I?' It's not very good so don't worry if you haven't seen it! The gist is Jackie Chan is a secret agent who is on a mission to save the world, yet when jumping out of a plane he bangs his head and forget his mission. He can only complete his mission if he can answer the question, 'Who Am I?' The false teachers had completely abandoned their task of making Jesus Lord. Why? They'd forgotten who they were. They were living as if there was no judgment, and they lived forgetting the great kindness God had shown them.
That is instructive for us. If we are to co-operate with God in making Jesus our Lord, we firstly need to remember Jesus is coming back. It's hard following Jesus but it's worth it! Christ's return brings that reality into sharp focus. Secondly, we need to remember what Jesus has done. When a believer asks 'Who am I?' Peter answers by saying Christ has cleansed you from your sin once and for all. You have escaped the corrupting slavery of sin. You're a partaker in the divine! Your mission is to live in the light of those promises.
This verse also reminds us that obedience flows out of grace. That's always the way in the Bible. God first showed grace to the Israelites by making them his people, then called them to live out their identity. So with believers today God makes us his people through Christ, then calls us to live out our identity. If obedience seems hard at the moment don't be a Jackie Chan. Spend some time reflecting on what Christ has done for you, and your new identity in him. Let his grace move you and his promises thrill you. If you're not yet a believer, do you see that it is God's undeserved kindness that moves his people to obey? And more than that, God is willing to cleanse you to if you'd come to Christ.
If you've been cleansed by Christ it should change your attitude towards sin. So we come to Peter's second instruction, and my second point: Make every effort to confirm your calling (10-11). Let's look at verses 10-11:
"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."
Peter says believers are called and elected. That is God chooses to save believers in his sovereign grace. He doesn't choose folks because they're smarter or better, but simply out of his undeserved kindness. Peter pictures God's responsibility, yet his also pictures our responsibility too. We contribute nothing to our cleansing, yet the acid test of our faith is whether we seek to make Jesus Lord, or whether we treat sin as no big deal. Remember, the false teachers were claiming some form of faith, yet at the same time living as if sin was no problem, and God would not one day judge it.
Peter says making Jesus Lord confirms God's grace in our lives. God's grace calls for the response of obedience. If we do obey then Peter shows us two great blessings. Firstly, "you will never fall." That doesn't mean that we won't sin. No, we'll continue to battle sin this side of heaven. It means God will never send you away. Christ has cleansed you of your sin. God won't change his means of getting you to heaven. The believer who keeps his eye on what Jesus will do, and has done, will not make the same mistake as the false teachers who have fallen away.
The second blessing that comes with seeking to make Jesus Lord is that we'll be welcomed into heaven. Back in verse 5 Peter says we are to give our lives generously to God. Here Peter reminds us who is the greatest giver: the Lord Jesus. Believers receive a rich welcome into heaven as a gift. Who pays for it? Jesus has paid for it at the cross. He's not paying us back, no it's all undeserved kindness.
It's a picture of a host who lavishly welcomes a faithful friend into his home. Think of travelling a long journey in the dark. When you reach the destination, you are given a warm welcome by your host. You are ushered into the dining room to find a feast waiting for you. It's not something you earned, it's a generous gift from your host. That is how Peter pictures the believers' entry to heaven.
Peter calls us to live today in the light of tomorrow. If you're trusting in Jesus, you've been made a partaker in the divine! He promises to bring you home to heaven. So Peter says make every effort to live in the light of God's promises. Make every effort to confirm your calling.