Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
The Same Kind of Faith
2 Peter 1:1-4
Turn to 2 Peter 1. On June 19th we started a summer series in 1 Peter. Well, 23 messages later we have just completed 1 Peter and will now begin in 2 Peter. As the theme of 1 Peter is facing persecution, the theme of 2 Peter is facing false teaching, such a timely topic for us today. And running through 2 Peter is the need for the certainty of truth as believers. For we live in a church culture that claims to believe the Bible, but the church lives at times as if it is uncertain about the Bible. So, Peter will give strong assurance to convince us of our true faith, and in this way, 2 Peter is very similar to the book of Jude. For we live in a time of deception, as the teaching of the church, and the teaching of Christian parents is going to be challenged in a greater way than ever before. I think of someone such as Daniel or Joseph. Two young guys who found themselves away from home at an early age and yet were strangely able to hold to their commitment to God. The assumption would be that most who would be placed in similar situations, Joseph down in Egypt, and Daniel in Babylon, under various philosophies of the world, would quickly fall from their faith. I mean this can be true of college and universities students, who must face sometimes such a stark cultural change when they go from being at home with Mom and Dad, or being secure in a church family, and sent to a secular university where the thinking and teaching attacks the Word of God at every level.
Years ago, we had a young guy in our youth group, who went on after high school to a secular university. And it was not so much the false teaching, though that would have been apparent, but it was the sinful culture, which caused him to call me a few weeks after saying, “Mark, I am just so sick of everything that is going on around me.” As he spoke about open sexual things, drunkenness, and on and on. One thing I notice is that an obvious opposition to God’s Word is not always as dangerous as subtle opposition. This can be a danger in Christian colleges that do not hold to solid Christian beliefs. The obvious lies of the culture, our kids are often able to defend against, whereas it is sometimes the subtle differences that they might experience. Hearing a more liberal Christian view at school or at a church they may attend while away, that they can become prey to liberal theology and thinking. There are truths that if someone taught you here this morning, that if they were obviously opposed to God’s Word, likely would not be a danger. But if they “in subtle ways” questioned parts of the Scriptures, over time, the church would find itself teaching a very different message.
We see this all the time in churches today. The United Church did not abandon its commitment to the Bible in one Sunday. No, it was over the years, to where it got to a point where it no longer taught the true gospel, the inerrancy of the Bible, salvation through Christ alone. For example, in their new doctrinal statement, the United Church of Canada says, “there are passages in the Bible that may be read to condemn homosexuality. We do not accept those interpretations.” In regard to Christ as the only way of salvation it says, “we believe the Spirit of God is at work in many different faith communities. For Christians, Jesus is the way we know God.” And over this ongoing, continual process that always goes in a liberal direction, rarely the other way around, has become the foundational thinking of society, something that we are exposed to more and more. And we do not have go away to university anymore to have lies placed in front of us, things like the internet have accomplished that without going anywhere.
A second area I would contribute to the breakdown is a lack of discernment. Churches are not as interested in teaching deep biblical truth anymore. So, when the foundation is weak, the building falls down much easier. We can listen to a number of people who really do not hold to anything in the Bible, who basically today promote themselves or their own thinking, but they seem to come with so many good character qualities that make discernment much harder. Hard to disagree with someone who does not believe in hell, who does not see Christ as the only way, yet promotes love and kindness and generousity and compassion. And on top of that, they may also have a great website and wear all the latest fashions. Or the highly gifted athlete who agrees with abortion, who agrees with homosexual marriage, yet visits the sick kid’s hospital and gives millions of dollars away to charities each year. We can even be sucked into the deception, thinking, yeah, he certainly is a nice guy. Yet what is being done here, whether the entertainer, or the athlete, or the politician, or the university professor, or the good-looking preacher, is a slow shifting before the masses of people in the world from truth to lies.
There are other lies. One is the church’s unwillingness to stand up for truth. Secondly, the church’s wrong understanding of love. I would be the first to say that it is not the church’s agenda to change the culture. That would be heresy in the sense that the culture cannot change outside of the working of the Holy Spirit. It is the church’s responsibility to expose the truth, which means exposing error. As our job is not to conform the sinner, our job is to transform the sinner by preaching, teaching, and living the gospel. And the wrong understanding of love, which feels that it needs to embrace people’s sinful views to get to the sinner, whereas we are to expose people’s sinful views to save the sinner. For to see someone running towards a cliff, and applauding their passion, does them no good in saving them. What they need is someone to warn them, because someone truly loves them, of the danger of running in the direction they are running. So, the lies that are scattered throughout our entire culture this morning are either being, at worst, embraced by so-called Christians and Christian churches, or being tolerated within churches and within Christian households.
Well, and here is the good news, Peter will have nothing to do with that. The message of 2 Peter is sort of like Joshua’s charge to Israel, choose you this day whom you will serve. And Peter’s complete defense against lies will be the truth of the Word of God. Let’s pray. Lord, as we begin in Peter’s second letter, might we take the serious warnings of false teaching to heart. Help me to think through these passages properly, so that we as a church are guarded against lies and certain of the truth. And we ask these things in the name of Christ, amen.
“Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received the same kind of faith as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
- Pet 1:1-4 (LSB)
You and I are sinners. We have been redeemed to eternal life. Why? Because of the work of Christ. Who? For all who believe. This is God’s most precious gift to mankind. This is why the writer of Hebrews said, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Answer: we cannot. You either believe in Christ, receive Him, serve Him as your Lord, or you pay the penalty for your sins, eternal hell. So, the question we are going to look at this morning is, “How can we be certain of such a great salvation?” As Peter will give to us four great truths, as Christ calls us to this same kind of faith.
- The Person of the Faith (vs 1)
Verse 1, “Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Simon Peter refers to himself again here as a slave. Some of your Bibles will say servant here, but the literal translation is a slave. He realizes his position toward Christ was one of submission, duty, and obedience. This is true of everyone who names the name of Christ, that Christ is Lord. This is not necessarily the attractive call that is sometimes given to people in the world, as he may hear many calls. Come this way for financial success. Or come this way, fulfill your desires for lust or things or attractions. This way for friendships, popularity, status. And the so-called “Christian world” might pull back and call him. This way to prosperity, health, improved relationships, dreams fulfilled. Yet the true Christian call is come follow Me, follow Christ, I am your Master, give Me your obedience, and count the cost before you come.
See, we belong to Christ. We were slaves to sin and we have been purchased by Christ. And a Master has full rights to do with His slave as He desires. If Christ says I want you to go here, we must go. If the Master says I want you to do this, we must obey. Because coming to Christ means that all my rights, all my will, which the world believes is free, yet is bound to sin and self, is now surrendered to Christ. And we can tend in our Christian culture to place such a significance on the house we live in or the car we drive, but really our actions are to be dictated by the Master. So, being a slave of Christ does not only mean that I live here or work at this place or go to this church, it means I obey the commands which the Master has given me. Commands in how to live: love, purity, humbleness, joyfulness, generousity, compassion, truthfulness, honesty, hard-working. Lord, what would You have me to do? Listen to the words of James:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows to do the right thing and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
James 4:13-17 (LSB)
What is James speaking of here? He is speaking of someone who does not control his life. A slave is not given time off, a slave does not have any holidays, no time to himself, no me-time. No, all the time of a slave belongs to the Master. This is what it means to surrender your heart and life to Jesus Christ. Anyone want to sign up? Anyone want to say no to self and say yes to Christ? Anyone want to leave their so-called freedom and become a slave? Our culture is unaware of this call. Though believing themselves to be free, they are slaves to sin. Hard to explain that to the guy that has lots of money and seems to do what he wishes. Hard to explain that to the athletic star who receives accolades week after week before thousands. Hard to explain that to the politician who desires to lead, has the ability to lead, and has been elected by the people to lead. For in his mind he is exactly where he wants to be, and is doing exactly what he wants to do.
In my day as a young Dad, the culture knew a little more about Christ and the gospel. The hesitation of the unbeliever was not that he did not know the gospel. The hesitation was, “I don’t want to serve Christ, I don’t want to commit to Christ.” So, that is the question the unbeliever is going to have to answer. Do I want to serve Jesus Christ? That’s the question we really need to ask ourselves each day. Do I really want to serve Christ?
Now, notice Peter also refers to himself as an apostle. An apostle was a disciple who was specifically called by Christ. And was also one who had witnessed Christ firsthand. There are no apostles today. But it does also show to us the balance here in Peter’s position, that yes, he was a slave of Christ. But also, he had the dignity of being an apostle of Christ. I want to suggest here that we too are slaves of Christ, but (as taught in other passages) we have the dignity of being children of God. And if I could help us understand the balance here, I would say that we are to serve Christ as a slave, yet we are treated by God as His sons and daughters. As we serve a Master who is completely just and fair and loving and kind, and who welcomes us as His children, and places a great significance upon us.
Notice Peter also states that he is writing to those who have (vs 1) the “same kind of faith as ours.” This statement highlights a little of what we are going to get into Sunday evenings, that, yes, we come to Christ individually, yet we join a corporate body. And the inference here by Peter in this passage is that there may be many kinds of faith, but the importance is that we are certain that we are part of the “same kind of faith” as taught biblically in the Bible. Not many faith groups, not many ways to salvation, but One. And this is not only about God saving you, it is about God saving a body, in which you are one. You are not only joining with God, you are joining a body that is united with God. In other words, this is the group we need to be part of, the redeemed. To say that I am a Christian and do not align with a group of believers is completely contrary to the Bible. We, as a body of believers, hold to the same kind of faith, we hold to the same precious Saviour, and we hold to the same promises. This reference to the “same kind of faith,” also reminds us that we all receive the same gift. We were all sinners, therefore, we all needed redemption, and we all have been given the same eternal life.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
2 Peter 1:2 (LSB)
- The Basis of the Faith (vs 2)
The faith that has been given to us is by grace alone, in other words, it is given to us freely, and it is a gift. Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, [and this faith] is the gift of God; not of works, so that no one may boast.” And, it includes peace, for at one time we were enemies of God, but through Christ, we have now been reconciled to God, we have made peace with God. And where was this grace and peace found? In (vs 2) the “full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” It came to us because we have a knowledge of Christ, for without Christ, there is no grace and there is no peace. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Salvation requires a knowledge of Christ and the work of Christ. If someone does not hear the message of salvation, a person cannot be saved. Thirdly:
- The Power of the Faith
“seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.”
2 Peter 1:3-4a (LSB)
Peter will go on in next week’s passage to highlight the progressive faith of the believer, but he sets it up here. And verse 3 is such an explosive verse. Beginning of verse 3, God’s “divine power.” God Himself, His providence, His personal involvement being activated, exploding. I always enjoy watching some of the missile launchings from Nassau. It is said to be able to launch a rocket so that it reaches far enough to begin orbiting the earth. It takes the same force to move an object that weighs 7.2 million pounds. Now if you were sitting in that rocket when it was launched when the countdown gets to 1 (10, 9, 8 …) and the count gets to blast-off, where are you going? Up! Now if you remove yourself from that power, if you choose to be somewhere else, if something else interests you more. Spiritually, if you chose to visit friends today and keep away from God’s people, or if you continue to dabble with sin, If your choices keep you distant from God or if some other interest keeps you available for service, you will resist the power that is available in your life. Yet, if you are willing, if you have the courage to be ready, willing, and available to position yourself in that cockpit, where are you going? Up!
Look at the verse, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” Do you ever (and I am speaking to myself here), do you ever think, I have become a Christian, and yet I seem to possess so little power or that something is missing in my life? Yet Peter speaks about having “everything” pertaining to life and godliness. This leaves us with no excuses, thinking that my shortcomings or failures are somehow due to something that God has held back from us. God has held nothing back from me. The problem is me. It certainly is not God. His divine [God-size] power [explosive] has granted [has given] to us everything [nothing lacking] pertaining to [a decent day, an okay Christian walk, a satisfactory Christian life?]. No! His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Think this through. We do not need to even ask God for more grace, more power. We have already been promised this. It is us. It is us who can be unwilling to allow God to blast us up spiritually, so to speak. Us, you and me. So, let’s ask the question again. Do you ever think, I have become a Christian, and yet I seem to possess so little power or that something is missing in my life? It is not God. It is not a lack of power. It is my own unwillingness.
End of verse 3, “through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” God has called us. Not a general call that everyone is responsible (and will be judged if we do not heed that call). But a direct call from God to be His. For if you know Christ as Saviour and Lord this morning, it is because there was a day when the Lord called you. And this call gave you an understanding of who God is, as He was revealed in His Son Jesus Christ. And this is necessary to live the kind of faith that Peter has been describing. Notice the responsibility here. We have been called by His own glory, therefore my life will bring glory to God. We have been called by His own excellence, my life will strive towards a moral excellence. Notice our ability to live the kind of faith here involves a divine power that is within. But it also involves a real truth, that Christ came, lived, died, and rose again to grant us this kind of faith. Verse 4, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.” Promises of how the Lord has equipped us, so that:
- The Purpose of the Faith
So that I can go to heaven. So that I can be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. So that I will have the best marriage, the best kids ever, the best job, and the nicest house. No! So that (end of vs 4), “you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Who is the “you”? So that “you” believers. So that you “sons of God.” They are the ones who have received the same kind of faith. They are the brothers in Christ (vs 10). Peter says that you are partakers. These are the ones who participate in the same faith. These are the ones involved in serving Christ.
In sports, when we think of those who participate, we think of those who are out on the field actively engaged in the game and complete focus on everything that is going on. And this does not mean that everyone is the quarterback, not everyone is the star receiver or running back. In fact, there are a number of guys on the field who may not get nearly as noticed, but they sweat just as much and they hit even more. George Meisinger wrote:
“A ‘partaker’ is one who shares or participates in something. He is not a couch potato or mental flatliner, but gets into the Word and reaps the benefits of study, memorization, reflection, and obedience. He experiences the benefits of the divine nature–a nature God gives to all believers because of their birth into the family of God.”
George Meisinger, The Sufficiency of Scripture for a Life and Godliness 10
A partaker or I will find part of me unable to escape (end of vs 4) “the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Listen, see if my focus is not on godly things. If my attention throughout the week is not daily upon the Lord. If my striving is not a willingness for God to move me by His divine power. Then, I become one of the “have-nots” or am likely just a mere spectator of Christianity.
Many years ago we knew a family who lived near Chatham and went to Emmanuel. And Ralph (the Dad) later in life felt the call of God to pastor a church up north. When they first were called there as a pastor, it was a place called Sprague. And we looked the map and both said, “why would anyone want to move way up there?” A few years later when I felt to call to get involved in full-time ministry, we were called by a church in Blind River, where we served for 3-1/2 years. We looked at the map and it was twenty minutes from Sprague. Yet often when you asked Ralph how he was doing, his response would be, “it’s a great day to be saved!”
Do you ever watch a football team come running out onto the field before the game. Their hooting and hollering and snorting, grunting and they are just about as pumped up as they could be. If I was the coach I might be tempted to say, hey, save some of that energy for the game. Church family, may we be partakers. Might we have that same “spiritual” grunting of the faith. That we would take advantage of every ounce of the divine power that has been given to us. Father, we thank You for all that we have as those who You have called. Might we be people called for Your glory and excellence. And all God’s people of the same faith said, amen.