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Category Archives: Christian graces

…and to brotherly kindness, love – 2 Peter 1:7


This love is “agape love,” which might be called the highest love. It is also the capstone of all the virtues the Christian should pursue.

Michael Green shows its uniqueness: “In friendship (philia) the partners seek mutual solace; in sexual love (eros) mutual satisfaction. In both cases these feelings are aroused because of what the loved one is. With agape it is the reverse. God’s agape is evoked not by what we are, but by what he is. It has its origin in the agent, not in the object … This agape might be defined as a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good.

That is what God did for us (Jn. 3:16). That is what he wants us to do (1 Jn. 3:16). That is what he is prepared to achieve in us (Rom. 5:5). Thus the Spirit of the God who is love is freely given to us, in order to reproduce in us that same quality.”[1]

While “Phileo love” is directed toward fellow-believers, “Agape love” is universal in scope. It is a love which applies both to believers and to unbelievers:

“ And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also [do] for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

The meaning of love. — Storge: family love; the love of parents for children, children for parents, brothers and sisters for each other. Eros: sensual love. It means a love that is egocentric, “wanting to have,” seeking union with the object of its desire. The value that evokes it is found in the thing loved. Philia: friendship; love given to all kinds of human beings, shown in such terms as philadelphia, brotherly love. Agape: a spontaneous impulse of the heart to desire that which is good for the one loved, and it will be at my cost. There are no prerequisistes, no conditions, no requirements.

What these words mean to marriage. Storge: “my family is important to me. I want my family to be important to you. I recognize that your family is important to you. Your family will also be important to me.” Eros: “I am physically attracted to you.” Philia: “Í like you. I enjoy being with you, going places with you, experiencing things with you.” Agage: “I will be good to you. I will treat you with patience and kindness, with courtesy, consideration, and deep concern. That is an unconditional promise. I will always, under all circumstances, treat you that way.”

Agape is self-giving love, gift love, the love that goes on loving even when the other becomes unloveable. Agape love is not just something that happens to you; it is something you make happen.  Love is a personal act of commitment. Christ’s love (and hence the pattern for our love) is a gift love. Christ’s love for us is a sacrificial love. Christ’s love is unconditional. Christ’s love is an eternal love.

Agape is unconditional — That means: There are no conditions necessary. You don’t have to earn my love. You don’t have to deserve my love. You don’t have to measure up to any standard to get me to love you. You don’t have to work for my love. You don’t even have to appreciate my love.

Agape is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Agape is a commitment to act in the best interest of another without any conditions on his/her part, except his/her need. Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

Agape is the love that gives full recognition to all men as the common offspring of God. God created all men in his image. This means we must even love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45). This is the love God had for man which made the cross possible (John 3:16). Love is the logical and natural, the crown of the Christian graces, because it reflects the very nature of God who is “love” (1 John 4:8). Love is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14).

Married Love.  You have said to another, “I will,” and with those words you have declared your voluntary assent and turned a crucial point in their lives. You know full well all the doubts and suspicions with which a life-long partnership between two persons is faced. It is you as a married couple who must bear the whole responsibility for the success of your married life, with all the happiness it will bring. It is not your love which sustains the marriage, from now on the marriage sustains your love.

“I will give to you a love that is patient…a love that is kind, a love that endures. I will pledge to you a love that is not jealous or possessive, a love that is not proud or selfish, a love that is not rude or inconsiderate.

“My love for you will not insist in its own way, will not be irritable or resentful, will not keep account of wrongs or failures. I will rejoice when good prevails.

“Our love will know no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope. It will outlast everything. Our love will stand when all else has fallen. Our life together will have three great qualities: faith, hope and love. But the greatest is love.”  — Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Marriage was designed by God to provide companionship. “…not good to be alone” the key to a great marriage is delightful companionship. Long-term, delightful companionship is at its best in an intimate friendship!

How Love Acts (1 Cor. 13:4-7). (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {5} It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. {6} Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. {7} It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Agape love is not prompted by what the other person is or does, but by a love rooted in what God is. It is the love of God which flows through us.

 We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Paul speaks of this love as the greatest of the Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13). As we love others we manifest the perfections of God to men: “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

This 2 Peter passage makes several contributions to the Christian. First, it shows that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not incompatible. We need not choose one in place of the other. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are interdependent truths.

Man cannot contribute to his salvation. Though the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. All we must do is receive it by faith through baptism for remission for sins, and even this occurs by divine grace. But once we have come to faith in Christ, we are to diligently strive after godly character—for God has provided the means for “life and godliness.” We strive in our Christian walk because He has given us the means.

The sovereignty of God should never be an excuse for passivity or inactivity; rather, His sovereignty is the basis for disciplined living. The Christian life is not: “Let go, and let God;” it is “Trust God, and get going!”

Our text also contributes lessons on discipleship for the Christian. Salvation is the first step of discipleship. We must first believe in the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Having done so, we must then forsake our former manner of life and former manner of thinking and engage ourselves in the pursuit of holiness.

We are not merely saved to be rescued from the torment of hell and enter into the blessings of heaven. We have been saved to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have been saved to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and, by so doing, bring glory to Him.

We must be careful that our presentation of the gospel does not minimize what salvation is all about. Jesus never did (Matthew 5:1-16; Luke 9:57-62), and neither did Paul (Acts 14:22; 24:25; 2 Timothy 3:12). While men and women are saved so they may enter into God’s blessings, they are saved primarily to bring glory to God by manifesting His excellencies to men and to celestial powers (Ephesians 1:1-12; 3:10).

How interesting that Peter speaks of love as the end product of the Christian’s striving and not the source of it. Many wait to “feel” love and then act upon it. Peter tells the Christian he or she has already received faith, and they are to act on it so the outcome is love. For Peter, love is a result and not merely a cause. It seems to me we must say from the Scriptures as a whole that love is both a cause and an effect. Peter would have us strive to obtain love by obediently pursuing the characteristics of the divine nature.

Our text provides the means for Christian growth and also the means for how stumbling can be prevented. I wish the Christian community would wake up and see how we have exchanged Peter’s inspired list for another list, a list provided not under inspiration but from the warped thinking of unbelievers. According to a distressing number of believers, the key to understanding success in the Christian life, as well as failure, is “self-esteem.” Poor self-esteem is the source of failure; good self-esteem is the basis of success. Not according to Peter. Who, then, will you believe?

This leads to one of the most significant contributions of our text. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit” (verses 22-23), the qualities God produces through the work of the Holy Spirit. The key to manifesting the “fruit of the Spirit” is to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

Peter has a list of qualities which includes some in Paul’s list in Galatians 5. But Peter does not emphasize the work of the Spirit, as true and as essential as the Spirit’s work is. What does Peter emphasize as the basis for Christian growth? Peter emphasizes the Word of God. He speaks of our salvation and our sanctification as the result of knowing God through His revealed Word. This is the thrust of his entire first chapter. In chapters 2 and 3, Peter shows how false teachers seek to undermine the Word and turn saints from the truths of Scripture. How quickly, how easily we are turned from the truths God has revealed in His Word to the alleged “truths” of men, who appeal not to the spirit but to the flesh. Let us recognize that the knowledge of God not only saves us but sanctifies us. This does not happen independently of the Spirit, but through the Spirit, as He illuminates the Word of God in our hearts.

Our text also tells us that Christian growth is neither automatic nor is maturity merely a function of time. I fear many Christians have a “civil service” mentality concerning their Christian growth. They seem to think that time alone results in growth and maturity. This is not the case:

“Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Christian growth does take time, but growth occurs as believers diligently and obediently seek to grow, in the power of the Holy Spirit and through the provision of the Scriptures. The writer to the Hebrews rebukes his readers for failing to grow. Growth results from the application of biblical truth to daily living. Growth occurs when we employ the resources God has supplied through His Word.

Failing to grow does not mean that we simply grow stagnant, never moving beyond where we are in our spiritual life. No; failure to grow means we move backwards. According to Peter, failure in striving toward Christian growth and maturity sets us up for a fall. That which we once possessed we can lose. This happened to the church at Ephesus, who lost their first love (Revelation 2:4). If we do not use what we have, we lose it:

“And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Mark 4:24-25).

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to godliness, brotherly kindness and love – 2 Peter 1:7


In a good marriage, the husband and wife are also friends. Philia’s companionship is many things…being reasonably happy to go shopping with her…watching TV together and munching popcorn…feelong lonely when he/she is out of town.

Friendship also means communication. Philia’s communication is many things…sharing something you read in a book or magazine…reminiscing how you had to catch all the mice and remove all the bats before you could move into your apartment…eating breakfast together without the morning paper…agreeing on the design of the new wallpaper for Jane’s room…having the courage to tell you her you don’t that dress she’s trying on.

Philia is also cooperation. While eros is almost always face-to-face relationship, philia is very often a shoulder-to-shoulder relationship. When there is philia, husband and wife are working together on something greater than both of them. They are finding their oneness, not directly in each other, but in their interest in a common cause. In eros, each seeks fulfillment in the other; in philia, they both seek fulfillment in one mutual goal.

“Brotherly kindness” is the love saints should have for one another as fellow-believers. It is a love based in part on what we share in common with the One we love. There is a certain element of reciprocity involved, for ideally we should be a blessing to our brother in Christ, and he should be a blessing to us.

This love, based on a shared relationship with Christ, can be sensed immediately even though two saints may never have met before. This does not mean that brotherly love is a snap, that it is automatic. If it were, Peter would not have found it necessary to command us to pursue it with diligence, not only in his second epistle but also in his first: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, (1 Peter 1:22, emphasis mine).[1]

Sin not only alienates men from God, it also alienates them from one another. Thus, when men come to faith in Christ, they are united with Him and also with their fellow believers. This union of believers with one another crosses every barrier, racial or social: “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” [which is] performed in the flesh by human hands—12 [remember] that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:11-16).

While God has removed the barrier between fellow-believers, this is something we must strive to practice and to preserve. It is a humanly impossible task for which God has provided the means to accomplish. As believers, we must diligently strive to practice brotherly kindness by employing these means.

This love is the fraternal or family love one has for his fellow Christians. This love recognizes the difference between the church and the world This love binds us together in a common bond in he family of God (Rom. 8:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:13). Next to the love Christians have for God should be their love for fellow Christians (1 John 4:20). A man who does not love his brethren is not converted to Christ (1 John 3:14-15).

Paul emphasizes love for brother when he speaks of helping others (Gal. 6:10). Throughout the New Testament, Christians are urged to love one another (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8).

In love of the brethren there is to be no partiality. God shows no partiality in loving his children and neither should we? Every Christian is precious to Christ no matter what his station in life may be. Love is the only real body of unity in the church of Christ. Paul says it does not matter what you do, if it is not motivated by love it is worth nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

The unity pleasing to God is not limited to a few essential acts of worship and living.  Love makes service to God pleasing. Agreement among brethren without love is hollow mockery. Brethren can dwell together in total unity in regard to techniques and yet be totally separated before God, because of a lack of love (Gal. 5:15). Since we are human, it is difficult to achieve this unity in love, but God expects us to grow and progress in this respect. The Christian who loves and hates any discord or strife in God’s Family, will do everything possible to correct it.

If we truly love the brethren, we will want to be with them in worship and also during the week. Because of this love, when any part of the Family suffers the whole Family suffers and likewise all will rejoice with each member who rejoices (1 Cor. 12:26). The proof of discipleship is the way we love one another (John 13:34-35). Brotherly love must be demonstrated, not just verbal affirmation (1 John 3:18).

When Christians treat one another with kindness, benevolence, courtesy and consideration, they eloquently declare to the world that they do indeed love one another, and that we are thus true disciples of Christ. There were many examples of brotherly love in the early church (Acts 2:42-44; 4:32, 34, 35). Christ set the example (John 13:34; 13:1; Eph. 5:2).

John makes it very clear that we cannot love God and not love our brethren (1 John 4:20). This is something more people should consider as they put their soul in danger by holding ill feelings against one or more of God’s children. If we can’t love our brethren, we can’t love God – that is serious.

And to brotherly kindness, love.NIV While Christians must exhibit “brotherly kindness” in their dealings with others, their love must also go deeper. To brotherly kindness, they must add love that always puts others first, seeking their highest good. The Greek word agape refers to self-sacrificial love. It is the kind of love God demonstrated in saving us. Such love among believers allows for weaknesses and imperfections, deals with problems, affirms others, and has a strong commitment and loyalty. Such a bond will hold the believers together no matter what persecutions and suffering they may face.

1:8 For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.NRSV The eight qualities mentioned above (these things) ought to be part of every believer’s life, but they are not static. Believers don’t merely “have” these qualities; instead, they are increasing in these qualities. To grow in these qualities, we must practice them in the rough-and-tumble of daily life. As these characteristics increase, they keep believers from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Ineffective” means idle and slothful, literally “out of work,” and parallels James 2:20, “Faith without works is dead” (nkjv). “Unfruitful” means barren, unproductive, and refers to the life crowded with pleasures and cares (see Matthew 13:22). The false teachers exemplified these qualities (see chapter 2 and Jude 11).

Believers “know” the Lord Jesus, but their knowledge must bear fruit in such qualities as those mentioned above; otherwise, the believers are “ineffective” and “unfruitful.” This can happen when believers rest on past achievements, stagnate, and cease to grow, or when other priorities dampen our desire and service to Christ. The false teachers sought knowledge for its own sake, but Peter explained that we must go beyond knowledge. Our knowledge must bear fruit.

Our faith must go beyond what we believe; it must become a dynamic part of all we do, resulting in good fruit and spiritual maturity. Salvation does not depend on positive character qualities and good works; rather, it produces those qualities and works. A person who claims to be saved while remaining unchanged does not understand faith or what God has done for him or her. Faith in and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ that leads to growth in these qualities causes believers to make a difference in their world and persevere to the end.

1:9 For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.NRSV In contrast to the believer who is increasing in the positive qualities Peter mentioned above, a believer who lacks these things, who is not growing in these qualities, is nearsighted and blind. Peter had harsh words for believers who refused to grow. The word “nearsighted” is also translated “shortsighted.” Peter may have meant that believers who were not growing could see only as far as the world around them. Their shortsightedness left them blind to the big picture—the promise of eternity and the glory of becoming more like Christ. Thus they remained tied to earthly possessions and transient promises. The word muopazo (shortsighted) can also mean “to blink” or “to shut the eyes.” Thus Peter may also have meant that these believers were intentionally closing their eyes to Christ’s light, thus causing spiritual blindness. This second interpretation is most likely, for the phrase is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins pictures those who deliberately put out of their mind all that Christ had done in erasing the sins they committed before they were saved. The “cleansing” was a reminder of the believer’s vows at baptism—the public show of faith and desire to live for Christ. At baptism, believers professed their cleansing from past sins and their break with old, sinful lifestyles. A believer who is “forgetful” of this and refuses to grow becomes unfruitful for God.

1:10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election.NRSV The word therefore ties this verse with the preceding passage (1:3-9):

  • therefore, because Christ has empowered believers through knowledge of him to live morally excellent lives (1:3),
  • therefore, because he has given believers great and precious promises so that we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world (1:4),
  • therefore, because believers desire to increase in godly characteristics so that they do not become ineffective and unfruitful (1:8)—

then believers must be all the more eager to confirm themselves as God’s children. The Greek word translated “all the more eager” (spoudasate) was also used in 1:5, “make every effort.” Peter urgently called upon these believers to determine to live for God, no matter how difficult it might become, and to be growing in the virtues mentioned above. To confirm your call and election is also translated “make your calling and election sure.” On one hand, the calling and election were already “sure” and “confirmed” because they were by God’s initiative. However, the believers’ behavior would “confirm” that call by their good qualities and good works. They were “confirming” their call and election not for God, but for themselves. Peter probably was making no distinction between the words “call” and “election” and was using them to emphasize God’s initiative in salvation.

For if you do this, you will never stumble.NRSV The believers to whom Peter wrote were in danger of turning to the doctrine of false teachers who were teaching that immoral living incurred no judgment. These false teachers said that once people were “saved,” they could live any way they pleased. Peter countered this teaching, explaining that Christians must match their calling and election with holy living. If they did this, they would never stumble (see Colossians 1:22-23; 2 Timothy 2:12-13). The word “stumble” means more than merely to “trip.” It means to come to grief or ruin, referring to the Day of Judgment, when sin takes the unbeliever and rebel into eternal damnation.

1:11 And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.NIV Those who live fruitful and productive lives for God, who do not disastrously stumble along the path to the eternal kingdom (heaven) will receive a rich welcome. This pictures the type of welcome Stephen experienced as he was martyred, “‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:56 niv). All believers will experience a wonderful welcome into their true home, the eternal kingdom of the Lord and Savior. Those who have been called and chosen, but have been unfruitful and have stumbled much along the way, will still reach the kingdom and receive their salvation, but it will be, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “only as through fire” (nrsv). Whether this welcome will be any different is unknown; but Peter encouraged his readers to confirm their calling and election (1:10) and to ensure a rich welcome by living to please God during their time on earth. Looking toward our future eternal life provides the motivation for right living now. We must be centered on heaven’s priorities, not those of this world. We can face hardships and still be faithful to God because we know the bright future he has for us. How wonderful it is to contemplate that God wants, expects, and waits for us.

1:12 Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you.NRSV Because of the glories awaiting the believers, Peter intended to keep on reminding them not to allow their salvation to become a license for immoral living, nor to rest content in knowledge of the gospel without obeying it and applying it to their lives. The times were difficult—persecution was increasing from without; false teachers were spewing evil doctrine from within. He encouraged the believers to continue to stand firm on the basics of their faith, to continue to remind themselves of these truths (even though they knew them already), and to reestablish themselves in the truth they had been taught.

Peter explained that he knew these believers were established in the truth. The word “established” translates the perfect passive participle, esterigmenous. Jesus used a form of the word when he told Peter, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen [sterizo] your brothers” (Luke 22:32 niv). Knowing (being established in) the truth is a source of spiritual strength.

1:13-14 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.NIV Peter would continue to “remind” the believers (1:12) and refresh (literally “wake up” or “arouse”) their memories regarding the basic truths of their faith as long as he lived. The phrase as long as I live in the tent of this body emphasizes the transitoriness of this life on earth (see Paul’s use of the word “tent” in 2 Corinthians 5:1, 4). As nomads pack up their tents in order to move to a new location, so human beings one day will put aside their physical bodies in order to move into eternity—in the case of believers, to new and glorious bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Peter reminds us that the eternal realm matters, not the temporal.

Peter knew that he would die soon. Many years before, Christ had prepared Peter for the kind of death Peter would face, although the only timing Peter knew was that he would be “old” (see John 21:18-19). At the writing of this letter, Peter knew that his death was at hand. Scholars have discussed whether Peter had received some kind of revelation so that he knew his death was coming, or whether Peter simply thought he would die because of the intense persecution in Rome and his being a prominent Christian figure in the church. In any case, Peter was martyred for the faith in about a.d. 68. According to some traditions, he was crucified upside down, at his own request, because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Master.

1:15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.NIV Christ had told Peter about Peter’s own death, and Peter carried this knowledge through his years of ministry. Now, as an old man, knowing he would soon die, Peter wrote of his coming departure calmly and fearlessly. It would be merely a “departure” (the Greek word is exodos), a moving on to another place. Peter was prepared to leave the “body” (1:13) and move into the “eternal kingdom” (1:11).

Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Peter and Jude.

[1] It should be noted that in 1 Peter 1:22, both the noun, Philadelphia, and the verb, Agape, are found. Some seek to make too much of the distinction between “Phileo love” and “Agape love.” These two terms are sometimes interchanged. This is true in John 21:15-17.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to  perseverance, godliness – 2 Peter 1:6


The terms Peter employs here for “godliness” are infrequently used in the New Testament.  This may be because the same expression was the most common word for religion in the pagan culture of Peter’s day.[1] Godliness refers to practical religion, or, perhaps we should say, practiced religion.

Godliness simply means “God-likeness.” In the original Greek, this word meant “to worship well.” It described the man who was right in his relationship with God and with his fellowman. Perhaps the words reverence and piety come closer to defining this term.

It is that quality of character that makes a person distinctive. He lives above the petty things of life, the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do the will of God and, as he does, he seeks the welfare of others.

We must never get the idea that godliness is an impractical thing, because it is intensely practical. The godly person makes the kinds of decisions that are right and noble. He does not take an easy path simply to avoid either pain or trial. He does what is right because it is right and because it is the will of God.

The Greek word for godliness was used by ancient pagans to describe a religious individual who kept in close touch with the gods. Here Peter uses the word to speak of the need for Christians to be continually aware of God’s presence. Knowing that all of our life is in His hands should influence every aspect of our life. We should live for God and not for ourselves.[2]

Godliness is the religion we practice in our day-to-day walk. It is “the attitude of reverence which seeks to please God in all things. It desires a right relation with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life.… This characteristic distinguishes the true believer from the ungodly false teachers (2:5-22; 3:7).”[3]

The Old Testament Law related true faith to the daily aspects of living. The New Testament does the same:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.… 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:14, 23).

“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, [and] to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27).

We were once “ungodly” as unbelievers, ripe for the judgment of God (see 2 Peter 3:7). Now that we have come to newness of life in Christ, we must put off our old way of life and put on the new: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:8-10). 

In Acts 10:2, used to describe Cornelius as “a devoted man.” Godliness here carries the idea of “god-ward-ness, a state of mind which accepts God as the central object of trust and life (1 Timothy 6:11). The adding of all the Christian graces is to make us “godlike”, not just one grace. To possess the grace of godliness, one must live a godlike or moral life; however, it is possible for a person to live a good moral life and not even believe in God. The truly godly person obeys moral law “because of his respect and reverence for its divine giver.” His life is bound to God by love.

One who possesses godliness has truly given his heart to the Lord (1 Peter 3:15). True godliness is dynamic, not static as a spiritually empty life is an irreverent life (2 Timothy 3:4-5). Reverence for God is inseparable from reverence for his holy name (Matt. 6:9; 12:34-37; Psalms 111:9).

Relationship of godliness to other graces. Godliness gives us a sense of divine purpose in adding the other graces. Unless God is “true” all these things will have little meaning. All the graces must be “God” oriented. The Christian who possesses godliness can’t be self-inflated (1 Cor. 15:10). Godliness will help keep us from taking Christianity for granted.

Developing Godliness. Godliness must be developed (1 Tim. 4:7). To achieve godliness we must exercise our spiritual bodies as the athlete exercises his physical body (1 Tim. 4:8). The faithful Christian desires a greater realization of God’s presence in his life, a deeper sense of His majesty, holiness and power.

He will accomplish this as he devotes himself to the following: Bible study – no one can study without expressing some reverence in his approach to this study. The study of the Bible will reveal the nature of God, who is portrayed as the “creator” (Gen. 1:1); “eternal” (Gen. 21:33); “holy” (John 17:11); “omniscient” (1 Sam. 16:7); omnipotent” (Gen. 1:3); “omnipresent” (Psa 139:7); “love” (1 John 4:8); and many, many other expressions of the greatness and majesty of God.

Meditation – not enough to read and study, but must make God’s word a part of us (Prov. 23:7; 4:23; Phil. 4:8). The more we contemplate the nature of God, the more reverent we become.

Worship – in worship the Christian approaches God directly to express his appreciation for the presence of God in his life. Worship is where we prostrate our spirit before the throne of God (Matt. 4:10; John 4:24; 1 Peter 2:5; Rev. 19:10). The spirit of godliness makes for acceptable worship, and such worship contributes to the development of godliness. The more we reverence God in worship, the more reverent we will be toward God in our daily life. The various acts of worship, prayer, communion, study, giving and singing, are our ways of interacting with God and developing the grace of godliness.

It takes time to be godly. In a society which practices everything to the contrary, it takes an effort to be godly. With so many things to distract him, the Christian may find himself without time for the things of God. It is up to the individual as to whether he develops godliness or not, it does not happen by accident. As in everything good, Christ is our example. Christ was on earth to do God’s will (Matt. 26:39; John 17:4; Heb. 5:8-9). Our aim should be as Christ’s, o do the will of the Father.

Too often Christians do not give proper consideration to who they really are. Christians belong to God because he bought them with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

[1] “The word eusebeia is rare in the New Testament, probably because it was the primary word for ‘religion’ in popular pagan usage. The ‘religious man’ of antiquity, both in Greek and Latin usage (where the equivalent word was pietas), was careful and correct in performing his duties both to gods and men. Perhaps Peter uses it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behaviour both to God and their fellow men. Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God (which they mistakenly boasted they possessed) manifests itself in reverence towards him and respect towards men. There is no hint of religiosity here. Eusebeia is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.” Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), revised edition, p. 79.

[2]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[3] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude (Greenville, South Carolina: Unusual Publications, 1989), p. 54.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to self-control, perseverance – 2 Peter 1:6


These Christian graces are beginning to link together in their natural sense: A person who exercises self-control will not easily succumb to discouragement or the temptation to quit. Viewing all circumstances as coming from the hand of a loving Father who is in control of all things is the secret of perseverance.[1]

The word is hupomone.  Chrysostom called hupomone “The Queen of the Virtues.”  In the Authorized Version it is usually translated patience; but patience is too passive a word.  Hupomone has always a background of courage.  Cicero defines patientia, its Latin equivalent, as:  “The voluntary and daily suffering of hard and difficult things, for the sake of honour and usefulness.”

Didymus of Alexandria writes on the temper of Job:  “It is not that the righteous man must be without feeling, although he must patiently bear the things which afflict him; but it is true virtue when a man deeply feels the things he toils against, but nevertheless despises sorrows for the sake of God.”  Hupomone does not simply accept and endure; there is always a forward look in it.

It is said of Jesus, by the writer to the Hebrews, that for the joy that was set before him, he endured the Cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).  That is hupomone, Christian steadfastness.  It is the courageous acceptance of everything that life can do to us and the transmuting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.

The word is not passive; it is active. It is not the spirit that just sits back and puts up with the trials of life, taking whatever may come. Rather it is the spirit that stands up and faces life’s trials, that actively goes about conquering and overcoming them. When trials confront a man who is truly justified, he is stirred to arise and face the trials head on. He immediately sets out to conquer and overcome them. He knows that God is allowing the trials in order to teach him more and more patience (endurance).

Patience is the ability to endure when circumstances are difficult. Self-control has to do with handling the pleasures of life, while patience relates primarily to the pressures and problems of life. (The ability to endure problem people is “long-suffering.”) Often, the person who “gives in” to pleasures is not disciplined enough to handle pressures either, so he “gives up.”

Patience is not something that develops automatically; we must work at it. James 1:2-8 gives us the right approach. We must expect trials to come, because without trials we could never learn patience. We must, by faith, let our trials work for us and not against us, because we know that God is at work in our trials. If we need wisdom in making decisions, God will grant that wisdom if we ask Him. Nobody enjoys trials, but we do enjoy the confidence we can have in trials that God is at work, causing everything to work together for our good and His glory.

“Faith” brings us into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “Moral excellence” seeks the character of God as the standard and goal for our own character. “Knowledge” describes what God is like, and what we should be like as well. “Self-control” enables us to curb our physical passions and to make our bodies servants of the will of God. The next character trait—“perseverance”—enables us to persist in our pursuit of godly character, even when we suffer for doing so.

If self-control has to do with physical pleasures, perseverance has to do with pain. Our natural tendency is to pursue pleasure and flee from pain. The gospel calls for us to identify with Christ, which includes identifying with Him in His suffering: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25).

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of [this church] I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the [preaching of] the word of God, 26 [that is,] the mystery which has been hidden from the [past] ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:24-27).

Perseverance is the frame of mind and character which persists in doing what is right even though doing so may produce difficulties, suffering, and sorrows. Perseverance is the commitment to suffer in the short term in order to experience glory for eternity.

Perseverance was exemplified by our Lord: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Perseverance also includes patience. In the light of eternity, suffering is light and momentary (see 2 Corinthians 4:17), but when our Lord’s tarrying seems to be endless, we desperately need patience to persist in the stewardship God has given to each of us. The false teachers point out that our Lord has not returned as proof that He will not. They urge men to live for the moment and to pursue fleshly pleasures, doubting the reality of a day of judgment or even our Lord’s return as told in Scripture (2 Peter 3:1ff.). Knowing that in God’s economy one day is as 1,000 years, and 1,000 years is like a day, we must patiently persist in doing what is right, looking for our eternal rewards when He returns.

Practicing Patience…A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. 

A train was filled with tired people.  Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot dusty plains and at last evening had come and they all tried to settle down to a sound sleep.  However, at one end of the car a man was holding a tiny baby and as night came on the baby became restless and cried more and more.  Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group.  “Why don’t you take that baby to its mother?”

There was a moment’s pause and then came the reply. “I’m sorry.  I’m doin’ my best.  The baby’s mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead.”  Again there was an awful silence for a moment.

Then the big man who asked the cruel question was out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child.  He apologized for his impatience and unkind remark. He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep.  Then in loving patience he cared for the little child all through the night.

I cannot think of a virtue that is more desperately needed, or harder to produce in our lives, than patience. And we’re not often prone to waiting. It reminds me of the prayer offered by the impatient Christian: Dear God, please grant me patience. And I want it right now.

The story is told of a young Christian who went to an older Christian for help. “Will you please pray for me that I may be more patient?” he asked. So they knelt together and the old man began to pray. “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man…”

At that point the young Christian blurted out, “No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience.” “Ah,” responded the wise old Christian, “it’s through tribulation that we learn patience.”

WHAT IS PATIENCE?

“Patience” (makrothumia) is the quality of putting up with others, even when one is severely tried. The importance of patience is evidenced by its being most often used of the character of God, as in the great text from Joel: “Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” (2:13, RSV).

Ulrike Ruffert had an interesting take on this, as well: “Patience is the ability to put up with people you’d like to put down.”

“Patience is self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate against a wrong.” That’s pretty good. When someone does you a wrong, how do you respond – with patience or anger?

Here’s another: “Patience is the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously.” How do you deal with delay or disappointment? For some that’s really tough. Yet, patience is the ability to accept it without becoming upset.

Finally, perhaps this speaks to each of us? “Patience is the powerful attribute that enables a man or woman to remain steadfast under strain – and continue pressing on.”

Maybe that is where some of us are. We’re dealing with difficult circumstances. We’re a raising a child, or we’re caring for aging parents, or maybe we’ve had a loved one who is ill and we’ve spent long hours at the hospital or nursing home.

We’re weary, but patience is the quality that says, “This too, will pass. It’s almost over. I can keep on keeping on.”

This is my favorite definition: “Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control.”

In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, “Shake me off; I still have wings.” [2]

From the spiritual realm, and because of our devotion to petitions through prayer to God, we learn valuable lessons. As a rule, prayer is answered and funds come in, but if we are kept waiting, the spiritual blessing that is the outcome is far more precious than exemption from the trial. [3]

The word translated for patience (makrothumia) expresses a certain attitude both to people and to events. It expresses the attitude to people which never loses patience with them, however unreasonable they may be, and which never loses hope for them, however unlovely and unteachable they may be.

It expresses the attitude to events which never admits defeat, and which never loses its hope and its faith, however dark the situation may be, and however incomprehensible events may be, and however sore the chastening of God may be.

The story is told of an artist who went to visit an old friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a beautiful handkerchief that had great sentimental value, but which had been ruined by a spot of indelible ink.

The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail a few days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty. Now it was more beautiful and more valuable than ever.

Well, as desirable as patience may be, as the young Christian found out, it is not easy to develop patience. For instance, I think developing patience is difficult because it goes against human nature. We aren’t born patient, are we?

When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and is hungry, or its diaper is wet, it doesn’t lie there and think, “I know Mom and Dad are tired. So I’ll just wait until a more convenient time to let them know that I need something to eat or my diaper changed.”

No! That baby cries impatiently and continues to cry until it receives the attention it demands. Children aren’t very patient. Have you ever traveled with a child? That can be quite an experience.

How about the little 4-year-old boy who was traveling with his mother and constantly asking the same question over and over again: “When are we going to get there? When are we going to get there?”

Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.”

The boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”

A second reason why developing patience is difficult. It’s because there are weeds of pride, selfishness and anger that can choke out the fruit of patience.

A couple of years ago a survey revealed that we have become an impatient and often times angry nation. You see it at work. You see it in school. You see it on the highways.

A man’s car stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green. All his frantic efforts to get the car started failed, and a chorus of honking horns behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car and walked back to the first driver behind him and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and honk your horn for you.”

Thirdly, patience is difficult to develop because it’s contrary to our culture. We don’t live in a relaxed culture. Go to most third world countries today and you’ll find a much different lifestyle. They’re more laid back. They think, “Whatever happens, happens. It’ll be all right.” And they wonder why we’re so uptight.

It’s because we’re on a fast track, and in a rat race. We’re in a world of fast food and quick print and expressways and 10-minute oil changes and instant cameras and microwaves.

One Calvin and Hobbes comic strip pictured his father sitting at a computer saying, “It used to be that if a client wanted something done in a week it was considered a rush job, and he would be lucky to get it. Now, with modems, faxes, and car phones everybody wants everything instantly.” About that time Calvin walks by holding a microwave dinner, reading the instructions. “It takes six minutes to microwave this,” he says. “Who’s got that kind of time?”

I think another reason that patience is difficult to develop is because we have convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue. So you hear people say, “Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done.”

We like “type A” personalities, hard-charging people who get things done, and somehow impatience is seen as a virtue. Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

A young man was very upset with his mother. They had argued, and at work that day he wrote her an angry letter giving all the things that he felt were wrong with her. It was a very nasty letter. After sealing the envelope, he handed it to a co-worker to mail it for him. Well, the co-worker knew what was in the letter, so he put it in his pocket. “Maybe he’ll have second thoughts about it. I can always mail it tomorrow,” he thought.

The next day, when he went to work, his friend was sitting there all forlorn, saying, “Oh, I wish I had never written that letter. I’d give $100 to have it back.” Well, you know what happened, don’t you? His friend pulled it out of his pocket and said, “Here it is.”

Patience in marriage works a lot like faith. It demonstrates the certainty that what we hope for–physical, emotional, spiritual oneness–is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it in the here and now. [4]

Sometimes expectations push us, making us grow in ways we wouldn’t otherwise. You can’t just automatically say no. Maybe God is opening a door. [5]

Thomas a Kempis offers this advice: “First put yourself at peace, and then you may the better make others be at peace. A peaceful and patient man is of more profit to himself and to others, too, than a learned man who has no peace.”

Christians, of all people, should understand that the MasterCard mentality is not the way to master life.  The pattern Jesus established was one of deferring desires–not because the fulfillment of desiring is wrong, but because “my time has not yet come.”  Most of us think our time has come five minutes after the desire first pops into our minds. [6]

People often discuss the importance of delayed gratification; what do you mean when you talk about “displaced gratification”?      In delayed gratification, we put off something so that we can enjoy something even better later on–avoiding a “sex life” before marriage, for instance, so that we can more fully enter into a deeper love of the marital union. In displaced gratification, we put off something so that the gratification can go to somebody else. Within marriage, for example, we put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own.

When William Booth finally left the Salvation Army, he sent a one-word telegram to every member of his army. That one word embodied the guiding principle of Booth’s life: “Others.”

What is the reward of displaced gratification?  The man or woman who understands delayed and displaced gratification realizes that “others” are what it’s all about. Instead of demanding our rights and satisfaction, we can work for the rights of others, we can find fulfillment in seeing other people satisfied, and we can serve instead of trying to conquer. Displaced gratification is the oil that keeps our society running smoothly.

Where do you draw inspiration to live this way?   Learning to put the needs of others above your own is the “displaced gratification” my father taught me about. The ultimate understanding of displaced gratification is reflected in the life of Christ, who gave up heaven for earth, who could have been crowned king, and who could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross. Instead He accepted brutal, humiliating torture on our behalf. He put serving others ahead of serving His own needs. [7]

Would you consider yourself to be a patient person? Do you show patience in your life? No doubt many of us struggle with this. No doubt we all could use a little more patience. It’s so often the case, is it not, that we allow ourselves to become guilty of impatience.

You know, it can even be said that in some ways, impatience lies at the heart of almost every sin you can think of. Just look back to the beginning of sin, when Eve was tempted by the serpent in the garden of Eden. The serpent tells her that if she were to eat of the forbidden fruit, she could be like God, knowing good and evil. She saw that the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. She became impatient for that wisdom, she became impatient with the command of God which said to her that she did not need to have that wisdom, so she ate, and she gave some to her husband, and he ate.

We should simply wait on him. So doing, we shall be directed, supplied, protected, corrected, and rewarded. [8]

Consider also the Ten Commandments, and how impatience will cause you to break each and every one of them:

  • Command 1: You shall have no other gods before me. Why would we want other gods? Because we are impatient with God, and we think that perhaps some other gods can give us more of what we want than God.
  • Command 2: no graven images. We make graven images because we are impatient with the way of worship which God commands of us in his Word, we impatiently want to make an image of Him that we can see. Remember how the Israelites were impatient when Moses was up on the mountain, so they made a golden calf.
  • Command 3: no taking God’s name in vain. We take His name in vain in cursing because we become impatient in reaction to something which has happened to us. Can you think of any instance where you would swear in anger when you are not being impatient?
  • Command 4: remember the Sabbath. We break Sabbath, doing unnecessary work because we are impatient to see that that work gets done. We can’t wait until Monday to do what we want to do.
  • Command 5: honor your parents. You do not show your parents the proper respect which God commands of you because you are impatient with their weaknesses.
  • Command 6: no killing. You show anger toward your neighbor, perhaps even going so far as killing them, because you believe that they did something wrong to you, and you are too impatient to leave it to God to avenge.
  • Command 7: no adultery. You lust after someone sexually, you commit some sexual sin, because you are too impatient with respect to having your physical desires satisfied in the proper context of marriage.
  • Command 8: no stealing. You steal from your neighbor, because you are too impatient to actually earn for yourself that which you stole. Someone steals a car to sell for money, they are too impatient to earn their money in a legitimate job.
  • Command 9: no bearing false witness. Someone lies about their neighbor, bearing false witness against them, because they are too impatient to let the truth takes its course.
  • Command 10: no coveting. You envy what belongs to your neighbor, because you impatiently believe that God has not given you enough. You are impatient with His providence, knowing that He has promised to take care of all your needs, but not believing that he is taking care of them fast enough.

I would dare say that there is hardly a sin which you could think of which somehow is not connected, if not directly, than at least indirectly, to impatience.

It should not be surprising then, that impatience is so completely contrary to the will of God. It should not surprise us that God commands his people to be patient. As Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

And Colossians 3:12 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” 

We have been called by God to live as his chosen, redeemed people, and as redeemed people, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, we should be living as patient and humble people, putting up with one another as people who share a common bond of love.

This is not just simple moralism here. I am not just trying to promote a feel-good, let’s-all-try-to-get-along, sort of attitude. People of God, this is the will of God for His people. This is what redeemed people will be like, having the Holy Spirit live in their hearts, producing in them the fruit of patience. This is the will of our God for our entire lives.

We must be patient with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But now, consider this: if you are sitting there thinking, “Yeah, that’s right, that so-and-so over there, he sure has to be more patient”, then you yourself are being impatient with that brother or sister, and you had better look to your own heart to see where you yourself can be more patient.

In a crowded department store a young mother had the added difficulty of a small girl pulling and tugging at her side and whispering incessantly.  Suddenly the harassed mother pleaded softly, “Quiet, Susan, just calm yourself, and take it easy.”

An admiring clerk commented on the mother’s psychology, then turned to the child, “So your name is Susan.”

“Oh, no,” interrupted the mother, “her name’s Joan.  I’m Susan.”

Harvey Mackay in his book Swim with the Sharks tells of the 88 year old President of Japan’s largest enterprise, Matsushita Electric, answering an interviewer’s questions on the future of his company. The interview went as follows:

Question: “Mr. President, does your company have long-range goals?”

Answer: “Yes.”

Question: “How long are your long-range goals?”

Answer: “Two hundred fifty years.”

Question: “What do you need to carry them out?”

Answer: “Patience.”

A chaplain who was ministering to a seriously wounded soldier was requested by the dying man to write a letter to his former Sunday school teacher. “Tell her I died a Christian because of what she taught me in that class in church. The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to accept Jesus has stayed with me. Tell her I’ll meet her in Heaven.” The message was sent, and some time later the chaplain received this reply: “May God forgive me. Just last month I resigned my position and abandoned my Sunday school pupils because I felt my work had been fruitless. How I regret my impatience and lack of faith! I shall ask my minister to let me go back to teaching. I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blessed!”

[1]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[2] Wayne A. Lamb in 100 Meditations on Hope;  Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 4.

[3] J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), English Missionary to China, Founder of the China Inland Mission. “Money II,” Christian History, Issue 19.

[4] Harold B. Smith, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 9, no. 1.

[5] Bonnie Halcomb, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3.

[6] Joel Belz in World (May 11, 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 8.

[7] John Ashcroft, former governor of Missouri, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994. He is author of Lessons from a Father to His Son; Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.

[8] Vance Havner, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 4.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to knowledge, self-control… – 2 Peter 1:6


“…and to knowledge, self-control…”(2 Peter 1:6)

Temperance is the next quality on Peter’s list of spiritual virtues, and it means self-control. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls” (Prov. 25:28). Paul in his letters often compared the Christian to an athlete who must exercise and discipline himself if he ever hopes to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:12-16; 1 Tim. 4:7-8).

Self-control means mastering one’s emotions rather than being controlled by them. The false teachers whose views Peter was exposing believed that knowledge freed people from the need to control their passions.[1]

To this practical knowledge must be added self-control, or self-mastery.  The word is egkrateia, and it means literally the ability to take a grip of oneself.  This is a virtue of which the great Greeks spoke and wrote and thought much.  In regard to a man and his passions Aristotle distinguishes four states in life.

There is sophrosune, in which passion has been entirely subjugated to reason; we might call it perfect temperance.

There is akolasia, which is the precise opposite; it is the state in which reason is entirely subjugated to passion; we might call it unbridled lust.

In between these two states there is akrasia, in which reason fights but passion prevails; we might call it incontinence.

There is egkrateia, in which reason fights against passion and prevails; we call it self-control, or self-mastery.

Egkrateia is one of the great Christian virtues; and the place it holds is an example of the realism of the Christian ethic.  That ethic does not contemplate a situation in which a man is emasculated of all passion; it envisages a situation in which his passions remain, but are under perfect control and so become his servants, not his tyrants.

We don’t use the word “temperance” in our daily speech very often, but we’re all likely familiar with the concept of self-control. It speaks to the willingness to seek to master and control the body or the flesh with all of its lusts. It means desire, appetite and passion, especially sensual urges and cravings. It means to be strong and controlled and restrained. It means to stand against the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16).

William Barclay informs us that the term rendered “self-control” means literally “to take a grip of oneself.”[2] Self-control is the opposite of self-indulgence. As unbelievers, we are dominated by our physical appetites, enslaved as we are to them: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14). 

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

But we have been delivered from our bondage to the flesh: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:15-18; see Romans 8:12-13).

Living a godly life requires us to master the flesh and make it our servant, rather than our master: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but [only] one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then [do it] to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Sin uses the flesh to keep us in bondage (Romans 7:14-21). Satan and the world encourage us to live according to the flesh. But being a child of God requires that we live no longer for the flesh or in the power of the flesh. Our flesh still has a strong attraction, as Paul’s words in Romans 7 and our own experience make painfully clear. Only by God’s grace can we overrule fleshly lusts, and because of His provisions, we must diligently strive to do so. The prompting of the flesh must be brought under control, and we are to heed the prompting of the Spirit of God, as He speaks through the Word of God (see Romans 8:1-8; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 3:16-17; 4:6).

False teachers appeal to fleshly lusts. They gather a following by proclaiming a gospel which indulges the flesh rather than crucifying it: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.… 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; … 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:1-3, 9-14, 18-19).

Such false teaching is not uncommon in the pulpit today. The “good-life gospeleers” offer a different gospel than the apostles. Rather than proclaim a gospel which involves suffering and self-denial, they proclaim a “better” gospel of self-indulgence and success in life. They promise that those who possess enough faith can escape suffering and adversity and be guaranteed peace and prosperity. They promise that when one gives a little, one may be assured of receiving much more in return. These rewards are not looked for in heaven as much as on earth, now.

The gospel of the apostles was very different: “But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him [speak] about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you” (Acts 24:24-25).

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 Envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).

Let us not dilute the gospel to make it attractive to men by appealing to their fleshly lusts. We must proclaim the message of the gospel in its fulness and its simplicity, knowing that only through the Spirit of God are men enabled to grasp the truth of the gospel and quickened to do so (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 14-16; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 3:1-11; 4:1-15).

A father noticed that his son lacked self-control and decided to confront him about it. Before he had a chance to do so, however, he felt the Spirit begin to deal with him. He realized that his son lacked self-control because he lacked it too.

After seeking the Lord for direction, the father recognized he needed to develop discipline in certain areas of his own life. He then apologized to his son for failing to set a good example.

Next, he began to incorporate discipline into his everyday life through consistent Bible reading, prayer and personal devotions. The change in his father had such influence on the boy that shortly afterward, the son also began to change. The difference was so dramatic that the boy’s baseball coach called the father to ask what he’d done to effect such improvement. The boy’s attitude had changed, and he no longer had a temper. The father responded, “My son’s changed because I’ve changed.”

In Peter’s day, self-control was used of athletes who were to be self-restrained and self-disciplined. Thus, a Christian is to control the flesh, the passions, and the bodily desires, rather than allowing himself to be controlled by them (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:23). Virtue, guided by knowledge, disciplines desire and makes it the servant, not the master, of one’s life.[3]

Henry Ward Beecher told of an acquaintance who barged into their home one day, his face flushed with anger. “He was in a terrible rage, supposing he had a serious grievance against us,” said Beecher. “As the man aired all of his complaints, my father listened in complete silence. Then he said in a low tone, ‘You only want to do what is right, don’t you?’ ‘Certainly,’ replied the disturbed visitor. Before anything could be explained, however, he again flew into a rage and restated his charge. Father then inquired gently, ‘Brother, you are misinformed, wouldn’t you be interested in knowing the true facts in the case?’ When calmness was restored, our side of the story was quietly presented. The man cooled down as the circumstances were fully revealed. Meekly he said, ‘Forgive me, Sir, forgive me! I was wrong!’ My father had won a great victory. It was a lesson I never forgot, for it gave me an insight into the calming effect of Christian self-control.”

Suppose some morning we go to a race. Runners are lined up, stripped to the bare essentials. All is ready for the race when suddenly we see another fellow coming to the starting line. But strange as it seems he is fully dressed. He has on a full suit, heavy overcoat, hip boots and a heavy woolen cap. In his hands he carries his lunch bucket and an umbrella. His pockets are filled with medicines. Everyone is surprised that such a person would try to win the race.

Finally we approach him and ask him about it. “Of course,” he says, “I’m running the race. What’s wrong with what I wear? Is anything wrong with a coat or cap or medicines? After all, the race is long, the terrain is treacherous, and I may become ill. I’m going prepared for whatever may lie ahead.” We can’t tell him that what he carries is a burden, maybe even a sin. But we know he’ll never win the race. Why? Because he is loaded with weights.

The writer of Hebrews told the Christians to lay aside every weight. Self-control requires us not only to avoid sin but also demands the discipline to give up good things that will keep us from being and doing our best for God.

Self control gives us the ability to know the right thing to say. In a department store a young husband was minding the baby while his wife was making a purchase. The infant was wailing, but the father seemed quite unperturbed as he quietly said, “Easy now, Albert,” he murmured, “keep your temper.” A woman passing by remarked, “I must congratulate you! You seem to know just how to speak to a baby.” “Baby nothing!” came the reply. “MY name is Albert!”

Some times we can over do it. In Scotland, during the early days of aviation, a stunt pilot was selling rides in his single engine airplane. One day he got into an argument with an old farmer who insisted upon taking his wife along on the ride — at no extra charge. “Look,” said the pilot finally, “I’ll take you both up for the price of one if you promise not to utter a sound throughout the entire trip. If you make a sound, the price is doubled.” The deal was made and they all clambered aboard. The pilot then proceeded to put the aircraft through maneuvers designed to make the bravest tremble. But not a sound came from the back, where his passengers sat. Exhausted, he set the plane down. As the farmer climbed out, the pilot said, “I made moves up there that frightened even me, and yet you never said a word. You’re a fearless man.” “I thank ye,” replied the Scotsman. “But I must admit that there was one time when ya almost had me.” “And when was that?” asked the pilot. The farmer replied, “That was about the time my wife fell out!”

Self control certainly speaks to the issue of anger in our lives. We must control our self! Anger is only one letter short of danger. And no man can think clearly when his fists are clenched. When angry, we need to take a lesson from technology; always count down before blasting off.

Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism.  Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a sharp letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded missive to the President. “What are you going to do with it?”  Lincoln inquired.

Surprised, Stanton replied, “Send it.” Lincoln shook his head.  “You don’t want to send that letter,” he said.  “Put it in the stove.  That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry.  It’s a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better.  Now, burn it, and write another.”

Erwin Lutzer, in his book Managing Your Emotions, writes: “We all know that Alexander the Great conquered the world. But what few people know is that this mighty general could not conquer himself. Cletus, a dear friend of Alexander’s and a general in his army, became intoxicated and ridiculed the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger, quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a soldier and hurled it at Cletus. Though he had only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend. Deep remorse followed his anger. Overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but was stopped by his men. For days he lay sick calling for his friend Cletus, chiding himself as a murderer.”

Lutzer concludes by saying, “Alexander the Great conquered many cities. He conquered many countries, but he failed miserably to conquer his own self.”

How does one develop self discipline:   These are some things that help through the years:

  1. Start small. Start with your room. Clean it, then keep it clean. When something is out of place, train yourself to put it where it belongs. Then extend that discipline of neatness to the rest of your home.
  2. Be on time. That may not seem very spiritual, but it’s important. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time! Develop the ability to discipline your desires, activities, and demands so that you can arrive on time.
  3. Do the hardest job first. Doing that will prevent the hardest jobs from being left undone.
  4. Organize your life. Plan the use of your time; don’t just react to circumstances. Use a calendar and make a daily list of things you need to accomplish. If you don’t control your time, everything else will!
  5. Accept correction. Correction helps make you more disciplined because it shows you what you need to avoid. Don’t avoid criticism; accept it gladly.
  6. Practice self-denial. Learn to say no to your feelings. Occasionally deny yourself things that are all right just for the purpose of mastering doing it. Cultivating discipline in the physical realm will help us become disciplined in our spiritual lives.
  7. Welcome responsibility. When you have an opportunity to do something that needs to be done, volunteer for it if you have a talent in that area. Welcoming responsibility forces you to organize yourself.

Why is teaching self-discipline so important?  The kind of self-discipline we’re teaching our children at home is no different than self-discipline on the football field or at the office or, for that matter, in any aspect of life. Each of us has tasks to carry out. Each of us gets the job done.

When the Chicago Bears were at a peak in the mid 1980s, winning the Super Bowl in 1986, we had an unbeatable defense not only because of the talent of the players but because we all carried out our given assignments. We didn’t freelance. We didn’t take a day off. We had a plan to execute, and we stuck with it. We demonstrated self-discipline.[4]

[1]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[2] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976. The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 302.

[3]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

[4] Mike Singletary. Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 2.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to goodness, knowledge – 2 Peter 1:6


“…and to goodness, knowledge…”(2 Peter 1:6)

 Faith helps us develop virtue, and virtue helps us develop knowledge (2 Peter 1:5). The word translated “knowledge” in 2 Peter 1:2-3 means “full knowledge” or “knowledge that is growing.” The word used here suggests practical knowledge or discernment.

It means knowing what to do in every situation and doing it; it is practical, day to day knowledge that sees situations and knows how to handle them. It is seeing the trials and temptations of life and knowing what to do with them and doing it. It refers to the ability to handle life successfully.

It is the opposite of being “so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good!” This kind of knowledge does not come automatically. It comes from obedience to the will of God (John 7:17). In the Christian life, you must not separate the heart and the mind, character and knowledge. Remember the charge: we must add knowledge to our faith. We must give diligent attention to the situations of life and figure out how to conquer them. This means understanding, correct insight, truth properly comprehended and applied. This virtue involves a diligent study and pursuit of truth in the Word of God.

The word is gnosis.  In ethical Greek language there are two words which have a similar meaning with a very significant difference.  Sophia is wisdom, in the sense of “knowledge of things both human and divine, and of their causes.”  It is knowledge of first causes and of deep and ultimate things.

Gnosis is practical knowledge; it is the ability to apply to particular situations the ultimate knowledge which sophia gives.

Gnosis is that knowledge which enables a man to decide rightly and to act honourably and efficiently in the day to day circumstances of life.

So, then, to faith must be added goodness and effectiveness; to goodness and effectiveness must be added the practical wisdom to deal with life.

In our former state as unbelievers, we were not knowledgeable; we were ignorant: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).

The solution to our ignorance is having our minds transformed with the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowledge which comes from the Scriptures (see John 17:17; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 1:9-11) and is communicated through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Ephesians 1:17).

This is a doctrinal knowledge, a knowledge revealed in Scripture with clear biblical support. While it must be a doctrinal knowledge revealed in Scripture, it is also an experiential knowledge of God. This experience is not divorced from Scripture; rather, it is the experiencing of Scripture. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Paul writes “For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12).

This “knowledge” must also be understood as contrasting and contradicting the false knowledge of the false teachers who would undermine both the truth and the faith of the saints if they could: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep… 17 These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-19).

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:14-18).

The knowledge of God is essential to our growth in Christian character and our ability to recognize and avoid those who teach what is false.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2022 in Christian graces

 

To your faith…goodness – 2 Peter 1:5


For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness….”(2 Peter 1:5)

First in Peter’s list of moral excellencies is a word that, in classical Greek meant the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds. It also came to mean that quality of life which made someone stand out as excellent. It never meant cloistered virtue, or virtue of attitude, but virtue which is demonstrated in life. Peter is here writing of moral energy, the power that performs deeds of excellence. [1]

Of all the virtues listed by Peter in our text, this is by far the most difficult virtue to grasp. Two problems have troubled me in my study of this quality. First, the precise meaning of the term rendered “moral excellence” by the New American Standard Bible. The difficulty in defining the word Peter uses here can be inferred from the various ways it is translated:

  • “virtue”—KJV, NEB, Berkeley
  • “resolution”—Moffatt
  • “goodness”—NIV, Goodspeed, Jerusalem Bible
  •  “moral character”—Williams
  • “manliness”—Helen Montgomery—The Centenary Translation
  • “Noble character”—Weymouth
  • “real goodness of life”—Phillips

The second problem is that “moral excellence” precedes “knowledge.” One would think “knowledge” would be a necessary prerequisite to “moral excellence,” rather than the reverse.

The key to resolving these two problems seems to be found in the usage of this term in the Greek Translation of the Old Testament in the texts below:

  • “I am the LORD, that is My name;
  • I will not give My glory to another,
  • Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8, emphasis mine).
  • Let them give glory to the LORD,
  • And declare His praise in the coastlands (Isaiah 42:12, emphasis mine).
  • “The people whom I formed for Myself,
  • Will declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:21, emphasis mine).25

When we compare these Old Testament uses of Peter’s term with all the New Testament occurrences of this same term, the meaning begins to come into focus:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8, emphasis mine).

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis mine).

Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3, emphasis mine).

Add “virtue” (areten): moral excellence and goodness of character; moral strength and moral courage. It means manliness; being an excellent person in life, a real man or a real woman in life; living life just like one should, in the most excellent way. It means always choosing the excellent way.

The King James Version of “virtue” most often refers to a characteristic or quality of God. In the Isaiah texts, it is that for which God is praised or praiseworthy. In Isaiah 42:8 and 12, it is an expression poetically paralleled with the glory of God. God’s glory is His virtue, His excellencies, for which He is worthy of praise. No wonder Paul will instruct the Philippian saints to set their minds on that which is both “excellent” and “worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

If His excellencies are God’s very nature, His glory for which men should praise Him, then our condition as unbelievers is exactly the opposite:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). 

Man in his sinful state refuses to give glory to God, deifying himself instead: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Romans 1:18-28).

God revealed His nature, His divine power and glory to sinful men, but they refused to give glory to Him. Instead of worshipping God their Creator, they worshipped created things. Instead of believing the truth, they believed a lie. As a consequence of their sin, God gave them over to a depraved mind so they could no longer grasp the truth. Apart from divine grace and intervention, sinful men were hopelessly lost.

The good news: God did act. He sought out sinful men and gave them faith in His Son. He enabled them to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Since a part of this nature is His “own glory and excellence” (verse 3), it is little wonder this should become a part of our character as well. The “moral excellence” we are to “add” to our faith is the excellence of God’s nature, which He makes available to us in Christ. We are to “add” it to our faith by acknowledging it as good, as desirable, as worthy of praise, and as that which we wish to emulate in our own lives.

But why does excellence precede knowledge? I think we can understand this in light of Romans 1. Sinful men rejected the glory of God and established their own glory. As a result, they were darkened in their minds, unable to grasp divine revelation and truth. As a result of our salvation, we are now able to recognize the excellencies of our Lord and regard His excellencies as worthy of praise, embracing them as qualities we desire in our own life. When we embrace these virtues, we are then able to grasp the knowledge which comes next in the list of virtues. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:17-25; see also Ephesians 1:13-23).

To embrace the excellencies of God is to strive after them and then to express them in our lives to the glory and praise of God:

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis mine).

Embracing and pursuing the excellencies of God means having the spirit of mind which exalts the Word of God and explores the Word for the knowledge of Him who saved us. Thus we see how “virtue” or “excellence” precedes “knowledge.”

“If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or [whether] I speak from Myself” (John 7:17).

In summation, the excellence or virtue of God is God’s glorious nature, which is our ultimate good we should pursue as the goal of our character to the praise and glory of God. Doing so produces a mindset receptive to the knowledge of God revealed through the Scriptures.

“Excellence” is greatly emphasized these days in the secular culture and also in the church. I must say with deep regret that none of the excellence sought after today is that of which Peter speaks in our text. The “excellence” often sought by Christians concerns numbers and worldly standards and appearances rather than the moral character which emulates the excellencies of our Lord to His praise and glory. But this is not a new problem. This same mindset characterized the saints of old, causing King Lemuel to write about the “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31:10-31, where he contrasted the worldly standard of physical beauty with the moral excellence of godly character:

“Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, [But] a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:29-30).

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2022 in Christian graces

 

Make every effort…add to your faith 2 Peter 1:5


For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith…(2 Pet 1:5a) 

“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”[1]

These words were likely not the words of someone who knew much about hard work and dedication. They might not have understood the concept of  a good day’s “effort.”

Where there is life, there must be growth. The new birth is not the end; it is the beginning. God gives His children all that they need to live godly lives, but His children must apply themselves and be diligent to use the “means of grace” He has provided. Spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires cooperation with God and the application of spiritual diligence and discipline. “Work out your own salvation. . . . For it is God which worketh in you” (Phil. 2:12-13). Because of all the God-given blessings in vv. 3,4, the believer cannot be indifferent or self-satisfied. Such an abundance of divine grace calls for total dedication.

The Christian life is not lived to the honor of God without effort. Even though God has poured His divine power into the believer, the Christian himself is required to make every disciplined effort alongside of what God has done (cf. Phil. 2:12,13; Col. 1:28,29). [2]

Peter listed seven characteristics of the godly life, but we must not think of them as seven beads on a string or even seven stages of development. The word translated “add” really means “to supply generously.” In other words, we develop one quality as we exercise another quality. “Add” is to give lavishly and generously. In Greek culture, the word was used for a choirmaster who was responsible for supplying everything that was needed for his choir. The word never meant to equip sparingly, but to supply lavishly for a noble performance. God has given us faith and all the graces necessary for godliness (vv. 3,4). We add to those by our diligent devotion to personal righteousness.[3]

These graces relate to each other the way the branch relates to the trunk and the twigs to the branch. Like the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), these qualities grow out of life and out of a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not enough for the Christian to “let go and let God,” as though spiritual growth were God’s work alone. Literally, Peter wrote, “Make every effort to bring alongside.” The Father and the child must work together.

Peter calls for diligent, disciplined, life-long effort on the part of the Christian (verse 5a). This is a discipleship text which requires discipline and self-denial. It is a challenge to every Christian for all the days of their lives. No Christian ever works his way through this text to move on to other pursuits.

The Christian’s efforts are based on the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His provisions (verses 1-4). Peter has already laid the foundation for the Christian’s exertion. In verses 1-4, Peter emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation. Salvation has been accomplished by God, through Christ, apart from human works or merit. Peter also stresses the sufficiency of God’s provisions for our salvation and sanctification. God has provided all that is necessary for life and godliness (verse 3).

Peter says that we must bend all our energies to equip ourselves with a series of great qualities.  The word he uses for to equip is epichoregein which he uses again in verse 11 when he speaks of us being richly gifted with the right of entry into the eternal kingdom.

This is one of the many Greek words which have a pictorial background.  The verb epichoregein comes from the noun choregos, which literally means the leader of a chorus.  Perhaps the greatest gift that Greece, and especially Athens, gave to the world was the great works of men like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, which are still among its most cherished possessions.  All these plays needed large choruses and were, therefore, very expensive to produce.  In the great days of Athens there were public-spirited citizens who voluntarily took on the duty, at their own expense, of collecting, maintaining, training and equipping such choruses.  It was at the great religious festivals that these plays were produced.

For instance, at the city of Dionysia there were produced three tragedies, five comedies and five dithyrambs.  Men had to be found to provide the choruses for them all, a duty which could cost as much as 3,000 drachmae.  The men who undertook these duties out of their own pocket and out of love for their city were called choregoi, and choregein was the verb used for undertaking such a duty.  The word has a certain lavishness in it.  It never means to equip in any cheese-paring and miserly way; it means lavishly to pour out everything that is necessary for a noble performance.  Epichoregein went out into a larger world and it grew to mean not only to equip a chorus but to be responsible for any kind of equipment.  It can mean to equip an army with all necessary provisions it can mean to equip the soul with all the necessary virtues for life.  But always at the back of it there is this idea of a lavish generosity in the equipment.

So Peter urges his people to equip their lives with every virtue; and that equipment must not be simply a necessary minimum, but lavish and generous.  The very word is an incitement to be content with nothing less than the loveliest and the most splendid life.

But there is something else at the back of this.  In verses 5 and 6 Peter goes on that we must, as the Revised Standard Version has it, add virtue to virtue, until the whole culminates in Christian love.  Behind this is a Stoic idea.  The Stoics insisted that in life there must continuously be what they called prokopemoral progress.  Prokope can be used for the advance of an army towards its objective.  In the Christian life there must be steady moral advance.  Moffatt quotes a saying that, “the Christian life must not be an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.”  It is very apt to be just that; a moment of enthusiasm, when the wonder of Christianity is realized, and then a failure to work out the Christian life in continuous progress.

That brings us to still another basic idea here.  Peter bids his people bend every energy to do this.  That is to say, in the Christian life the supreme effort of man must co-operate with the grace of God.  As Paul has it:  “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12, 13).  It is true that everything is of faith; but a faith which does not issue in life is not faith at all, as Paul would heartily have agreed.  Faith is not only commitment to the promises of Christ; it is also commitment to his demands.

Bigg well points out that Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, says that there are three theories of the source of happiness.  (i)  It is something which can come by training, by learning and by the formation of right habits.  (ii)  It is a matter of divine allotment, the gift of God.  (iii)  It is all a matter of chance.

The truth is that, as the Christian sees it, happiness depends both on God’s gift and on our effort.  We do not earn salvation but at the same time we have to bend every energy towards the Christian objective of a lovely life.  Bengel, in commenting on this passage, asks us to compare the Parable of the Ten Virgins, five of whom were wise and five of whom were foolish.  He writes:  “The flame is that which is imparted to us by God and from God without our own labour; but the oil is that which a man must pour into life by his own study and his own faithful effort, so that the flame may be fed and increased.”

Faith does not exempt a man from works; the generosity of God does not absolve a man from effort.  Life is at its noblest and its best when our effort co-operates with God’s grace to produce the necessary loveliness.

Verses 5-7 contain a list of character qualities for which God has made provision and for which every Christian should strive. This is not a list of imperatives, duties, or activities. Peter is not writing about “how to,” but about the kind of person the Christian should strive to become. The character qualities we are to pursue are also the character traits of God. Peter has written in verse 4 that God has provided for us to become “partakers of the divine nature.” These character qualities he then lists are the particular character qualities of God which should also be evident in our lives.

What does growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ involve?” First, it involves the development of eight “graces.” These “graces” are briefly defined…

  1. FAITH is “conviction, strong assurance”
  2. VIRTUE is “moral excellence, goodness”
  3. KNOWLEDGE is “correct insight”
  4. SELF-CONTROL is “self-discipline”
  5. PERSEVERANCE is “bearing up under trials”
  6. GODLINESS is “godly character out of devotion to God”
  7. BROTHERLY KINDNESS is “love toward brethren”
  8. LOVE is “active goodwill toward those in need”

We must “abound” in these “graces” Only then can it be said that we are “growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” Therefore it something more than simply increasing our “intellectual” knowledge of Jesus Christ! Though such knowledge has a place, it is just one of the graces necessary. Peter is talking about growing in a full and personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, which comes by developing the “Christ-like” attributes defined above. The more we grow in these “graces”, the more we really “know” Jesus (for He is the perfect personification of  these “graces.”

That it involves more than intellectual knowledge is also evident from the Greek word used for knowledge in 2 Peter 1:2-3, 8: the word is epignosis {ep-ig’-no-sis}, meaning “to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to know accurately, know well.”  Such knowledge comes only as we demonstrate these “Christlike graces” in our lives.

Second, it involves developing these graces in conjunction with each other, we notice the word “add” (or “supply”) in verse five. Before each grace mentioned, the word is implied. The word in Greek is epichoregeo {ep-ee-khor-ayg-eh’-o}, originally, to found and support a chorus, to lead a choir, to keep in tune.” “Then, to supply or provide.” This word therefore suggests the idea of “each grace  working in harmony with the others to produce an overall effect”

Peter gives us a list unlike any other list in the Scriptures. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit.” First Timothy 6:11 has yet another list of godly qualities the Christian should pursue. None of the New Testament lists are exactly alike, which suggests that Peter has given us a selected list and that there are other character qualities to pursue. It also implies Peter’s list was compiled for a particular reason. I believe this list of qualities was chosen because of the false teachers who will seek to distort the truth of the Scriptures and seek to seduce men to follow them. If the character qualities of verses 5-7 are also the attributes of God, they are in dramatic contrast to the character of the false teachers and their followers.

A purposeful order and relationship is evident in this list of character qualities. This list of character qualities is not presented in a way that suggests a random order. Each quality builds upon the qualities before it. The sequence of qualities begins with faith and ends with love. These qualities are similar to the ingredients in a cake recipe where all ingredients are needed, but they should be added in the proper order.

It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to worship gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, gives him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.

It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.

Work and play are an artificial pair of opposites because the best kind of play contains an element of work, and the most productive kind of work must include something of the spirit of play.

Work is man’s great function. He is nothing, he can do nothing, he can achieve nothing, fulfill nothing, without working. If you are poor—work. If you are rich—continue working. If you are burdened with seemingly unfair responsibilities—work. If you are happy, keep right on working. Idleness gives room for doubt and fears. If disappointments come—work. If your health is threatened—work. When faith falters—work. When dreams are shattered and hope seems dead—work. Work as if your life were in peril. It really is. No matter what ails you—work. Work faithfully—work with faith. Work is the greatest remedy available for mental and physical afflictions.

Work is not a curse, it is a blessing from God who calls man to rule the earth and transform it so that the divine work of creation may continue with man’s intelligence and effort.

The verb epichorego (add) has a colorful and fascinating history. In Greek drama the plays were put on by the combined effort of a poet (who wrote the script); the state (which provided the theater); and a wealthy individual called a choregos, who paid the expenses. This called for a generous but sometimes costly effort on his part. In Peter’s view, God has written in the blood of Jesus the captivating script for a Christian life; the world is the theater wherein it will be played out; but the believer must cooperate by expending his diligent efforts to make the script come alive in vivid display.

The idea of ‘diligence’ describes a determined zeal which marks a daily goal. It is what Jesus asks for in Matthew. 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

It begins with faith (pistis); everything goes back to that.  For Peter faith is the conviction that what Jesus Christ says is true and that we can commit ourselves to his promises and launch ourselves on his demands.  It is the unquestioning certainty that the way to happiness and peace and strength on earth and in heaven is to accept him at his word.

The first characteristic of the growing Christian has a uniqueness to it—the Christian is not instructed to supply faith. Faith is a given, something upon which the Christian builds. According to Peter, faith is given, for the readers of this epistle are those who “have received a faith of the same kind as ours” (verse 1).

Faith is something we have received, not something we are to supply—because faith is a gift from God (see Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:8).

Faith is the beginning point of this search for excellence. Everywhere in the New Testament it marks the beginning of the Christian life (Acts 3:16, Romans. 3: 28).

Faith begins as saving faith and then becomes the faith without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6); whatever does not originate through faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

Our faith is based upon the revealed word of God (2 Peter 1:4; see Romans 10:8, 17). Our faith is tested, proven, and strengthened by the trials and adversity God allows to come into our life (1 Peter 1:6-7). Faith is not only the basis for belief but also the basis for our behavior (see Hebrews 11).

Our Lord Himself is the object and the source of our faith; Christ is also the model for our faith. It is easier to think of the Lord Jesus as the object of faith than to think of Him exercising faith. But His faith was exercised when He submitted to the will of the Father by taking on human flesh and suffering and dying at the hands of sinful men (1 Peter 2:23).

If you have not come to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot possibly pursue the course Peter prescribes in our text. To enter into that “faith,” which is of the same kind as the apostles (verse 1a), you must know God through Jesus Christ and find the righteousness you desperately lack in none other than Jesus Christ (verse 1b). Knowing Him brings grace and peace (verse 2).

Only by His power are we granted everything necessary for life and godliness (verse 3). The basis of our salvation is the work of Christ, and the basis for our future hope is the promises of God. All we need to know about these is recorded in God’s Word (verse 4a).

Trusting in God’s provisions, as revealed in God’s Word, makes us partakers of the divine nature and delivers us from the corruption of fleshly lusts (verse 4b). Taking on the divine nature does not happen quickly; it happens by the process of sanctification (verses 5-11). While this sanctification is individual, it also takes place through the body of Christ, the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The process of sanctification is completed not in this life, but when we are with Him in glory (Philippians 3:8-14; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 3:1-3).

[1] Jerome K. Jerome (1859–1927)

[2]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

[3]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2022 in Christian graces

 

Great and Precious Promises… 2 Peter 1:4


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. (2 Peter 1:4)

        Great and precious promises refers to the numerous offers of divine provision found in Scripture. These promises offer us the glory and virtue of Christ as the basis for our growing participation in the divine nature. We have Christ within us, as He promised (see John 14:23), to enable us to become increasingly Christlike (see 2 Cor. 3:18).

Because we have become new creatures in Christ, we have already escaped the corruption (the moral ruin) that is in the world through lust (perverted desire). We should make our escape from this world evident to all by our godly behavior and the renewing of our mind (see Rom. 12:2). These promises are the fourth resource (vv. 1, 3) upon which believers may draw for sustaining help.

I have heard some incredible promises in my lifetime, just as you probably have also. Most often advertising promises far more than it delivers. But the promises of our text are completely reliable. Indeed, the benefits of heeding Peter’s words, and the consequences of neglecting them, are great.

Listen to his words: “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. (2 Peter 1:8-11)

Peter calls for diligent, disciplined, life-long effort on the part of the Christian. This is a discipleship text which requires discipline and self-denial. It is a challenge to every Christian for all the days of their lives. No Christian ever works his way through this text to move on to other pursuits.

Heeding Peter’s words keep us from being useless and unfruitful in our relationship with Jesus Christ and enables us to live in the present in light of our past conversion and our hope for the future. Doing as Peter instructs can keep us from stumbling and assure us a triumphant entry into the kingdom of our Lord. Conversely, neglecting Peter’s instruction diminishes our perception and confidence in the salvation God has provided and sets us up for a fall.

Peter’s own words should convince us to pay careful attention, for the benefits pertain to our past, our present walk, and our future hope. May we approach our text with a deep sense of its importance and an open and willing heart eager to hear and heed what God’s Spirit has revealed.

Scripture affirms that “Jesus is the yes to every promise of God.” These promises are the offers of divine provision found in the scriptures. They offer the glory and virtue of Christ to us as the basis for a growing participation in the divine nature. We have Him within us, as he promised, (John 14:23), to enable us to become increasingly Christlike (2 Corinthians. 3:18).

Because we have become new creatures in Christ we have already escaped, by new birth, the corruption (moral ruin) that is in the world through lust (perverted desire). There only remains that we shall make this escape evident to all by our changing behavior.

This expression (“divine nature”) is not different from the concepts of being born again, born from above (cf. John 3:3; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23), being in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:1), or being the home of the Trinity (John 14:17–23). The precious promises of salvation result in becoming God’s children in the present age (John 1:12; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27), and thereby sharing in God’s nature by the possession of His eternal life.

Christians do not become little gods, but they are “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17) and have the Holy Spirit living in them (1 Cor. 6:19,20). Moreover, believers will partake of the divine nature in a greater way when they bear a glorified body like Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20,21; 1 John 3:1–3)[1]

It is clear from this verse that participation in the divine nature is the starting point of Christian living, and not its goal. This participation becomes more and more evident as we allow our thinking to be renewed (Romans. 12:2) by understanding and appropriating the great and precious promises found in the scriptures. These promises are the fourth resource upon which believers may continually draw for sustaining help.

In verses 3 and 4 there is a tremendous and comprehensive picture of Jesus Christ. (i)  He is the Christ of power.  In him there is the divine power which cannot be ultimately defeated or frustrated.  In this world one of the tragedies of life is that love is so often frustrated because it cannot give what it wants to give, cannot do what it wants to do and must so often stand helpless while the loved one meets disaster.  But always Christ’s love is backed by his power and is, therefore, a victorious love.

He is the Christ of generosity.  He bestows on us all things necessary for true life and true religion.  The word Peter uses for religion is eusebeia, the characteristic meaning of which is practical religion.  Peter is saying that Jesus Christ tells us what life is and then enables us to live it as it ought to be lived.  He gives us a religion which is not withdrawal from life but triumphant involvement in it.

He is the Christ of the precious and great promises.  That does not so much mean that he brings us the great and precious promises as that in him these promises come true.  Paul put the same thing in a different way when he said that all the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).  That is to say Christ says, “Yes.  So let it be,” to these promises; he confirms and guarantees them.  It has been put this way-once we know Jesus Christ, every time we meet a promise in Scripture which begins with the word “Whosoever,” we can immediately say to ourselves, “That means me.

He is the Christ by whom we escape the world’s corruption.  Peter had to meet the antinomians, the people who used the grace of God as an excuse for sin.  They declared that grace was wide enough to cover every sin; therefore, sin does not matter any more, the grace of Christ will win forgiveness for it.  For any man to speak like that is simply to show that he wants to sin.  But Jesus Christ is the person who can help us overcome the fascination of the world’s lust and cleanse us by his presence and his power.  So long as we live in this world sin will never completely lose its fascination for us; but in the presence of Christ we have our defence against that fascination

The word “corruption” has the idea of something decomposing or decaying. “Escaped” depicts a successful flight from danger. At the time of salvation, the believer escapes from the power which the rottenness in the world has over him through his fallen, sinful nature.

He is the Christ who makes us sharers in the divine nature.  Here again Peter is using an expression which the pagan thinkers well knew.  They spoke much about sharing in the divine nature.  But there was this difference-they believed that man had a share in the divine nature by virtue of being man.  All men had to do was to live in accordance with the divine nature already in them.  The trouble about that is that life flatly contradicts it.  On every side we see bitterness, hatred, lust, crime; on every side we see moral failure, helplessness and frustration.  Christianity says that men are capable of becoming sharers in the divine nature.  It realistically faces man’s actuality but at the same time sets no limit to his potentiality.  “I am come,” said Jesus, “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  As one of the great early fathers said, “He became what we are to make us what he is.”  Man has it in him to share the nature of God-but only in Jesus Christ can that potentiality be realized.

Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the divine nature or new man. Exceeding great and precious promises have been given to us. The promises are those that have to do with the divine nature of God, the divine nature that is planted within the heart of a person who believes in Jesus Christ.

When a person believes in Jesus Christ, God sends His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to indwell the heart of the believer. God places within the heart of the believer His own divine nature and makes him a new creature and a new man. The believer is actually born again spiritually. He actually partakes of the divine nature of God through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

And note what happens: the believer escapes the corruption that is in the world. He lives eternally, for the divine nature of God can never die. When it is time for the believer to depart this life, quicker than the blink of an eye, his spirit is transferred into heaven, into the very presence of God Himself. Why? Because of the divine presence of God: the believer is a new creature, a new man, a person in whom the very Spirit of God Himself dwells; and the Spirit of God cannot die. The person thereby escapes the corruption of this world.

These promises are great because they come from a great God and they lead to a great life. They are precious because their value is beyond calculation.

God makes a promise; faith believes it, hope anticipates it, patience quietly awaits it. He is the God of promise. He keeps his word, even when that seems impossible; even when the circumstances seem to point to the opposite.

His promises are, virtually, obligations that he imposes upon himself. God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine. We know this because God cannot lie. “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, {14} saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” {15} And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. {16} Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. {17} Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. {18} God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.” (Hebrews 6:13-18)

The Revised Standard Version puts it this way, “His precious and magnificent Promises.”  There are so many of God’s promises. I am told that there are over 30,000 promises that God has made His people as recorded in the Bible.

God will keep His promises.  God is faithful. He is not whimsical, capricious, or flippant. He cannot violate His own integrity nor fail to keep His promise. We would have no gospel without God’s faithfulness, no good news unless God could be counted on. Our gospel begins with the claim: Our God is faithful!

Paul tells us that God works in and through all things for the good of those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28).

Professor E. C. Caldwell ended his lecture. “Tomorrow,” he said to his class of students, “I will be teaching on Romans 8. So tonight, as you study, pay special attention to verse 28. Notice what this verse truly says, and what it doesn’t say.” Then he added, “One final word before I dismiss you — whatever happens in all the years to come, remember: Romans 8:28 will always hold true.”

That same day Dr. Caldwell and his wife met with a tragic car-train accident. She was killed instantly and he was crippled permanently. Months later, Professor Caldwell returned to his students, who clearly remembered his last words. The room was hushed as he began his lecture. “Romans 8:28,” he said, “still holds true. One day we shall see God’s good, even in this.”

Notice that his emphasis is on God’s good, not our temporary health, happiness, or prosperity. That perspective allows us to see our suffering and pain as bad in themselves, yet to be reassured that He is working in and through them to fulfill His good purposes.

When we can say, “Lord, use me any way You can to advance Your plan, ” we will have begun to understand the meaning of Romans 8:28. And, as the professor said, this verse will hold true — even through tragedy.

Yes, God is a faithful God, meaning He will keep His promises.

David Livingston, missionary to Africa went to Glasgow University to receive the honorary Doctor of Law Degree. He said, “Would you like for me to tell you what supported me through all the years of exile among people whose language I could not understand and whose attitude toward me was always uncertain and often hostile? It was this promise God had made me, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” “It is the Word of a Gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor.”

When David Livingston was found in the jungles down on his knees, he was cold in death. His Bible was opened to that text upon which he had placed his finger a thousand times.

We are saved by hope according to the Word of the Lord.

(Rom 8:24)  “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” 

(Rom 8:25)  “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” 

New Testament hope means “certain expectation.” We are assured that what we hope for will be ours.

Two little girls were counting their pennies. One said, “I have five pennies.” The other said, “I have ten.” “No,” said the first little girl “You have just five cents, the same as I.” “But,” the second child quickly replied, “My father said that when he comes home tonight he would give me five cents, and so I have ten cents.” Trustfully, she counted what her father had promised as though she already had possession of it.

We need to appropriate these promises, believe them, and rest upon them.  A man called upon a needy widow in Scotland. She complained of her condition and remarked that her son was in Australia and doing well. “But doesn’t he help you?” he asked. “No, nothing,” she said, “He writes me once a seek but only sends little pictures.”

He asked to see them and found each of them to be a draft for ten pounds. That is the condition of God’s children. God has given us many “exceeding and precious promises” which we either are ignorant of or fail to appropriate. Many of them seem to be pretty pictures of an ideal peace and rest but are not appropriated as practical helps in daily life.

The promises of God are like keys that unlock doors of difficulty, despair, and doubt.  A scene from Pilgrim’s Progress illustrates the point.  The author John Bunyan portrays Christian, the main character in his allegory, as temporarily at a standstill on his journey to heaven. He finds himself locked in a dungeon beneath Doubting Castle. Then one morning Christian says in amazement, “What a fool am I, to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk with liberty! I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.” To which Hopeful, his traveling companion, exclaims, “That is good news, good brother; pluck it out of your bosom and try!”

So Christian pulls out the key and tries it in the dungeon door. The bolt opens with ease, and Christian and Hopeful hurry out. They then proceed to the outside door that leads into the castle yard, and the key opens it too. One last barrier stands between them and freedom — an iron gate. At first the lock resists. Christian keeps working the key of promise, and finally the heavy gate swings open.

Do you find yourself locked in doubting Castle, held prisoner by despair? Choose to trust one of God’s promises and act upon it today.

Someone has give us some good advice, if we’ll only take it.  “Life is so stressful, so crowded with work and battle and burden that we need all along to fortify ourselves with the promises from God’s Book. One does not even know how to pray like he ought, if he cannot take these promises, and fill his mouth with them, and plead them before God, saying, as did one of old: “Do as thou hast said.” These promises are designed to inspirit us, and rest us, and fortify us. We do not make enough of these promises from God’s Book. They fit every condition in human life. If we will only find it, there is no condition that is not met by a promise out of God’s Book, and these promises give us a grip on spiritual realities.

I summon you today, my busy men and women, to search out these promises from God’s Book constantly and appropriate them, and make them your own, and plead them before Him. One promise from God’s Book has, times without count, anchored a human soul and kept it going in the right way.”

One has said, “No matter how dark, the promises of God all shine brightly.” God’s promises are so precious to us now while we live and they’ll be precious to us when we come to the end of life here. The promises of God will light up the death bed for the Christian.

A young preacher was called on to visit a dying saint, eighty seven years of age, who was a devout Christian. The preacher asked God to give him a message for the time. When he entered the room the old man said to him, “Sir, I am dying. For years I have been feasting upon the promises of God, but this morning I can’t remember a single one of them.” The preacher said, “Dear friend, do you think that God has forgotten any of His promises?” the old man answered, “Praise God, He will remember, won’t He?”

God helps us to stand on His promises.  We live in changing times.  It seems like our society in which we live today is jazzed up and sex drenched. Liberty has become license to sin.  I believe we have some very sad days ahead,  unless we as a nation wake up.

Moral decay is rampant. Man has taken deity out of religion.  Some today are facetious enough to tell us that Jesus Christ was only a good man. We live in an age today where men have taken the supernatural out of christianity, and say the Bible is uninspired.

Morality has been taken out of our preaching in America. So many have become hard and soured on God. Art has been changed on the cinema screen to base sex. Art for art sake can be re-phrased as Art for sex sake.  Nudity has become the subject for a lot of things. Ethics have been taken out of business.  A man’s word and handshake used to be enough, but not anymore.

Our age has taken fidelity out of marriage.  Marriage was designed to be a lifetime commitment but now people view it as temporary. Some make marriage a 90 day option.  Many try out the marriage bed before they try out marriage! We live in a day of pantomime church, pantomime christianity, a see saw theology.

Man is trying to sabotage the Bible, humanize God, deify man, minimize sin, glorify science, secularize religion, glamorize sex and neutralize our society.

On many fronts our nation is in grave danger. With all these terrible things going on in the world, I ask this question today.  Is there anything we can really depend on?

I know we can’t depend on military might, Financial institutions, religious organizations.

We conclude the only thing we can depend on anymore, is that which was always dependable.

The word of God is dependable and true. “In the beginning God”,  is the first statement in the Bible (Genesis 1:1). The next to last statement is, “Even so come Lord Jesus”. (Revelation 22:20 ). There is the alpha and the omega of divine revelation. The beginning and end of Gods message to man.

The God of the Bible is a covenant God.  he can be depended and relied upon. Psalms 119:89   reminds us that Forever O Lord thy word is settled in heaven.  Thy faithfulness is unto all generation. This passage tells us that whatever God has spoken is settled both on earth and in heaven.

When God speaks that settles a matter.  There is no room for debate.  Whether I believe it or not it is settled.  What God said about the church is settled.  What God has said about church attendance is settled.  What God says about the Lord supper is settled.  What God has said about forgiveness and love is settled. There is no room for argumentation

And when we might be prone to think God has forgotten, Peter remind us that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promises as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  The writer to the Hebrews also said, Let us hold fast to the profession of our faith, for he is faithful who promised. (Hebrews 10:23).

God is dependable, trustworthy and reliable!  God can produce with all the promises he has made.  God never commits himself to something he cannot do!  In fact God can do all that he said. We can count on all the Lord has said and told us about.

Several years ago a man had a gospel meeting in a southern town.  The preacher was to stay with an elderly couple of the congregation.   The home was modest and small but filled with lots of love.  The preacher had a small room prepared for him the whole week.  The preacher and the couple had tremendous devotionals together.  This older couple was sweet and loving.  They read and prayed together that week.  The bible was worn and well marked. The preacher noticed several passages that were marked and beside the verse there was a TP beside of the passages.  The preacher asked what the markings were far.

The man said the passages that are marked , those are promises of God.  He said and the TP written beside of the verse means they have been tried and proved in my life.

He said when two of my sons were in the service our older boy died in the war.  He said I took mama to the table and held her hand and said we still have the promises of God though I son is gone.  The second boy came home from the war and the second day he was home he was killed by an automobile accident, he said that was devastating.  We lost our second son but we still have the promises of God.

My third child was a daughter.  She came home one day and her marriage was destroyed.  Her husband had become a sexual pervert.  The man took his wife and daughter and said this is terrible but we still have the promises of God.

The man said preacher after this meeting, mama will go in the hospital for some tests and the doctors told us to expect the worst. Even if she goes home to the Lord we will still have the promises of God.

A few weeks after the meeting the preacher wrote the couple and the woman had passed away from the surgery.  The note was answered and said mama’s gone but we still have the promises of God. The promises of God can help us and see us through the most difficult times of life.

Sometimes we feel short changed and cheat in life. We try to be the best person possible but things just does not turn our for us. We need to hear the promise of God.  In the by and by God will make things right for his children.  If we love and serve God, he will make things right.

Life is a tapestry of many colors and hues.  Sometimes in our lives we have dark moments.  Every life has hills and valleys. In the end of all things, our lives will look like a beautiful picture and tapestry. All things will work together for our good. Sometimes things go great, then suddenly something knocks us down into the valley of depression. God says,  keep loving and serving me, and things will work out for your good.

A crippled blacksmith was a Christian.  He had a bedridden wife and a child with polio.  The blacksmith was very happy and cheerful even in the midst of one problem after another.  A man asked him why he was so happy with all his problems.  The blacksmith took a piece of metal and placed the metal in the fire.  The blacksmith then took the metal and placed it on an anvil.  He threw it back in the fire and said it doesn’t have the right temper.  Finally after doing this several times he threw the metal on the scrap heap.   The blacksmith said, everyday I pray to God and tell him to go ahead and put me in the fire, but God, please don’t ever throw me on the scrap heap.

Sometimes in the valley of life, in the fires of life the difficult times remember God can use that experience to make us better and stronger.

I have seen people through the year that have obeyed and been changed by the word of God. Some harlots have been made holy, the doomed and the damned have become redeemed.  The lord can change the life of the most defiled and giove hope and help.

There is a land of new beginnings and that is the kingdom of God, the church.  I am glad to tell you no matter who you have been, what you have done through Christ you can me made new and clean again. The Lord offers a new beginning. That is the promise of the Lord also.

When the sinner believes on Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to impart the life and nature of God within. A baby shares the nature of its parents, and a person born of God shares the divine nature of God. The lost sinner is dead, but the Christian is alive because he shares the divine nature. The lost sinner is decaying because of his corrupt nature, but the Christian can experience a dynamic life of godliness because he has God’s divine nature within. Mankind is under the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8:21), but the believer shares the freedom and growth that is a part of possessing the divine nature.

Nature determines appetite. The pig wants slop and the dog will even eat its own vomit (2 Peter 2:22), but the sheep desires green pastures. Nature also determines behavior. An eagle flies because it has an eagle’s nature and a dolphin swims because that is the nature of the dolphin. Nature determines environment: squirrels climb trees, moles burrow underground, and trout swim in the water. Nature also determines association: lions travel in prides, sheep in flocks, and fish in schools.

If nature determines appetite, and we have God’s nature within, then we ought to have an appetite for that which is pure and holy. Our behavior ought to be like that of the Father, and we ought to live in the kind of “spiritual environment” that is suited to our nature. We ought to associate with that which is true to our nature (see 2 Cor. 6:14ff). The only normal, fruit-bearing life for the child of God is a godly life.

Because we possess this divine nature, we have “completely escaped” the defilement and decay in this present evil world. If we feed the new nature the nourishment of the Word, then we will have little interest in the garbage of the world. But if we “make provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14), our sinful nature will lust after the “old sins” (2 Peter 1:9) and we will disobey God. Godly living is the result of cultivating the new nature within.

[1]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2022 in Christian graces

 

His Divine Power Has Given…  2 Peter 1:3


 

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. (2 Peter 1:3)

At some point in our life, we must realize and then admit that God’s calling the shots. He’s running the show. Either He’s in full control or He’s off His throne.

Why would we want it any other way? Deity means power. It’s guided by His glory and goodness.  At some point we’re forced to pray a simple reality: Dear God, be good to me; The sea is so wide, And my boat is so small.[1]

The apostle Paul identifies the divine power referred to here as “the power of His resurrection” (see Phil. 3:10; 4:13). This power is the third resource for godly living that Peter lists in this letter (v. 1). by glory and virtue: These words suggest the qualities of Jesus that attract believers to Him. The glory that John saw in Jesus (see John 1:14) was His authority and power. The glory that Peter saw probably was manifested at the Transfiguration (vv. 16–18). Jesus’ virtue is His moral excellence that continually awed His disciples.

These are unique expressions in the New Testament. The divine power is the power God used in raising Christ from the dead and is that same power is available to the church (Eph. 1:19, 20). This divine power has provided us with the spiritual ability to live a godly life. The divine nature is the nature that characterizes God, the nature that is expressed in holiness, virtue, righteousness, love, and grace (see 1:5–7). By being regenerated with the divine nature, believers can exhibit the same characteristics.

The genuine Christian is eternally secure in his salvation and will persevere and grow because he has received everything necessary to sustain eternal life through Christ’s power. godliness. To be godly is to live reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God. Peter means that the genuine believer ought not to ask God for something more (as if something necessary to sustain his growth, strength, and perseverance was missing) to become godly, because he already has every spiritual resource to manifest, sustain, and perfect godly living.

“Knowledge” is a key word in 2 Peter (vv. 2,5,6,8; 2:20; 3:18). Throughout Scripture, it implies an intimate knowledge (Amos 3:2), and is even used for sexual intercourse (Gen. 4:1) The knowledge of Christ emphasized here is not a superficial knowledge, or a mere surface awareness of the facts about Christ, but a genuine, personal sharing of life with Christ, based on repentance from sin and personal faith in Him (cf. Matt. 7:21).

This call, as always when mentioned in the NT epistles, is the effectual call to salvation (cf. 1 Pet. 1:15; 2:21; 5:10; see note on Rom. 8:30). This saving call is based on the sinner’s understanding of Christ’s revealed majesty and moral excellence evidencing that He is Lord and Savior. This implies that there must be a clear presentation of Christ’s person and work as the God-Man in evangelism, which attracts men to salvation (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1,2). The cross and resurrection most clearly reveal His “glory and virtue.”[2]

Peter is describing the process by which a relationship with Jesus Christ is communicated to the world at large. He says four things. First of all, he says it is His divine power that has accomplished all this. Everyone in the world wants to tap into divine power, to find within himself, in some sense, the divine life, and to tap into that. Or he wants to find it somewhere else, so that he may share in that life. That is the great concern because every man knows that somehow he has the potential to be godlike. That is his desire, if only he had the power to do it. Somehow he senses, think intuitively, that only God can be godlike, and therefore he has to find that godlike spark or life or however it is described either within himself or somewhere else. By so doing, he can then fulfill his destiny.

The second thing Paul tells us is that this divine power has to do with life and godliness. That is, it relates to every area of life. Not only life in the sense of the observable, the visible, the mundane–but also piety (the word Peter uses), godliness, the realm of the Spirit. This divine power, he says, has relevance not only for the here and now, but it has to do with spiritual things as well. That is, it touches all of life.

It concerns the use of our resources now. It concerns the problems that you face right now. This power has to do with issues just like that, not merely things that happen when you are gathered together as a body of believers here, or when you are doing something that is obviously spiritual. Paul is saying that this power has to do with all of life.

Paul identifies this power as “the power of his resurrection” (Philippians. 3:10). It is a power which all true believers possess which enables them, if they choose to count on it, to do “all things through Christ who strengthens” (Philippians. 4:13). Thus any failure to live a godly life is due to our weakness or folly and not to God’s lack of supply. As has been suggested, this power is meted to us as our knowledge of God and Jesus increases.

The Christian life begins with saving faith, faith in the person of Jesus Christ. But when you know Jesus Christ personally, you also experience God’s power, and this power produces “life and godliness.” 

When you are born into the family of God by faith in Christ, you are born complete. God gives you everything you will ever need “for life and godliness.” Nothing has to be added! God never has to call back any of His “models” because something is lacking or faulty.

Jesus Christ is the Messiah of life and godliness. What is meant by life and godliness? It means all things that are necessary for life.

First, life is the energy, the force, and the power of being. The life which Jesus Christ gives is a life of energy, force, and power.  Whatever is necessary for life is given by Christ. He longs for man to live, to have an abundance of life; therefore He gives all things that will make a person overflow with life.

Second, godliness is living like God and being a godly person. It is living life like it should be lived. God gave man life; therefore, God knows what life should be, and above all things life should be godly just like God.

The word “godliness” (eusebeian) actually means to live in the reverence and awe of God; to be so conscious of God’s presence that one lives just as God would live if He were walking upon earth. It means to live seeking to be like God; to seek to possess the very character, nature, and behavior of God. The man of God follows and runs after godliness. He seeks to gain a consciousness of God’s presence—a consciousness so intense that he actually lives as God would live if He were on earth.

It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent. What God expects us to attempt, He also enables us to achieve.

Recently while reading J. Sidlow Baxter, I came across this statement. “Far too many Christians live their life on the battery system.” He went on to explain that as a boy he had ridden on battery driven street cars. When the battery was charged all was well; but when it went dead, so was the street car. Baxter goes on to make this comparison: There are Christian believers who seem to run their spiritual life and service on that system. They go to a convention on the deeper life and when they return they are altogether different, for three weeks. Or they read some powerful Christian biography and as they close the book they say, “Now my life will never be the same.” Nor is it, for three weeks. Some Christians go from crisis to crisis, convention to convention, seminar to seminar, book to book, but have a lot of dead spots in between. They seem to rely on these experiences rather than on Christ.

History tells us that when Crowfoot, the chief of the Blackfoot nation in southern Alberta, gave the Canadian Pacific Railway permission to lay track from Medicine Hat to Calgary, he was given in exchange a lifetime railroad pass.  Reportedly, Crowfoot put the pass in a leather pouch and wore it around his neck for the rest of his life — but he never once availed himself of the rights and privileges it spelled out.  What a tragedy it is when Christians do the same thing with the Word of God, using it as a decorative badge of Christianity, but never availing themselves of the wealth of access to God’s thoughts it affords.

Waste of power is a tragedy. God does not waste the great power of his Spirit on those who want it simply for their own sake, to be more holy, or good, or gifted. His great task is to carry on the work for which Jesus sacrificed his throne and his life–the redemption of fallen humanity.[3]

Martin Luther King, Jr.  offered this encouragement, “So I say to you, seek God and discover Him and make Him a power in your life. Without Him all of our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest nights. Without Him life is a meaningless drama with the decisive scenes missing. But with Him we are able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope. With Him we are able to rise from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy. St. Augustine was right–we were made for God and we will be restless until we find rest in Him.”

Over lunch, British writer G.K. Chesterton once expounded to fellow writer Alexander Woollcott on the relationship between power and authority.  “If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here.  But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.” Chesterton’s vivid example is right.  There is a profound difference between power and authority — and Jesus possessed both.

In his book Forever Triumphant, F.J. Huegel told a story that came out of World War II. After General Jonathan Wainwright was captured by the Japanese, he was held prisoner in a Manchurian concentration camp. Cruelly treated, he became “a broken, crushed, hopeless, starving man.” Finally the Japanese surrendered and the war ended. A United States army colonel was sent to the camp to announce personally to the general that Japan had been defeated and that he was free and in command. After Wainwright heard the news, he returned to his quarters and was confronted by some guards who began to mistreat him as they had done in the past. Wainwright, however, with the news of the allied victory still fresh in his mind, declared with authority, “No, I am in command here! These are my orders.” Huegel observed that from that moment on, General Wainwright was in control.

Huegel made this application: “Have you been informed of the victory of your Savior in the greatest conflict of the ages? Then rise up to assert your rights. Never again go under when the enemy comes to oppress. Claim the victory in Jesus’ Name.” Huegel observed, “We must learn to stand on resurrection ground, reckoning dead the old-creation life over which Satan has power, and living in the new creation over which Satan has no power whatever.

Hudson Taylor said, “Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little, and they always fail. All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and His presence to be with them.” Like David, who said, “The battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam 17:47), we also need to understand that Jesus is our source, and we can be directly connected to Him.

How’s your power source?  Are you plugged in?  In his book Spiritual Stamina, Stuart Briscoe tells the story of a man who bought a new computer.  Bringing his new prize home, he carefully opened the box, gingerly took the machine out, studied its manual, and connected the wires.  Eagerly he flipped on the power switch — but nothing happened.  Puzzled, the man switched the computer off and rechecked all the connections. He rounded up a screwdriver and fastened the wires more securely.  He read again the relevant portion of the manual.  Satisfied that he’d followed directions, he flipped the computer on — and again nothing happened.  As his anger rose the man’s little girl walked into the room.

“Hi, Daddy!” her cheery voice rang out.  “What a pretty computer! Can I plug it in?”

We are not told that Jesus ever taught His disciples how to preach, but He taught them how to pray. He wanted them to have power with God; then He knew they would have power with man.[4]

Two significant points are made, points that are absolutely essential for us to heed if we wish to have real life. Note where life comes from. It does not come from man himself; life is not in and of man himself. Man dies. He is a dying creature, always in the process of dying, always moving onward toward the grave. Man is as good as dead. And in the process of dying, he experiences all kinds of trials and sufferings such as sickness, disease, accident, emptiness, loneliness, corruption, evil, shortcomings, failures, lies, thefts, killings, wars, and death after death of friends and loved ones.

Man has anything but life; at best he only exists for a few years that are ever so short and frail. Where then can man find life? Who has the power to stop the process of death and to deliver us from death? No man has such power. But note this verse: there is “divine power,” the very power of Christ Himself that can stop death and give us life—life abundant, life now and life eternally. This is the power of Christ, the power to save us from death and to give us life and godliness.

Note how we receive life and godliness: by the knowledge of Christ. We must know Christ personally. We must know Him as our Savior and Lord, surrendering all that we are and have to him. We must be willing to walk and share with Him all day every day, serving Him as the Lord of our lives. We must be willing to know Him by living a godly life, by actually experiencing the life of God as we walk day by day.

Christ has called us to glory and virtue. This is the very life to which He has called us: a life of glory and moral excellence both here on this earth and in heaven. We are to live pure and righteous lives, glorious lives; and when we do, He promises to give us a place in the glory and perfection of heaven. Note that this may read in the Greek: “Christ has called us by His glory and virtue.” That is, it is His glory and virtue (moral excellence) that attracts man and pulls man to seek life and godliness in Him.

Allen Gardiner experienced many physical difficulties and hardships throughout his life. Despite his troubles, he said, “While God gives me strength, failure will not daunt me.” In 1851, at the age of 57, he died of disease and starvation while serving on Picton Island at the southern tip of South America. When his body was found, his diary lay nearby. It bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. The last entry in his little book showed the struggle of his shaking hand as he tried to write legibly. It read, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.” Think of that! No word of complaint, no childish whining, no grumbling at the circumstances — just praise for God’s goodness.

God knows what is good for us better than we ourselves. Let us not make the mistake of judging God’s overall plan for our lives by that portion which happened to be revealed today. God has all eternity in which to bring His plans to fulfillment for our lives. Think not in terms of today, but in terms of eternity. After all, that’s where we’ll spend most of our life.

One of the things that impresses me is that when Abraham Lincoln went off to the Black Hawk War he was a captain and, through no fault of his own, when he returned he was a private. That brought an end to his military career. Then his little shop in a country village “winked out” as he used to say, marking his failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, he was too impractical, too unpolished, too temperamental to be a success.

Turning to politics he was defeated in his campaign for the legislature, defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for Congress, defeated in his application to be Commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the Senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his aspirations for the Vice Presidency in 1856, defeated again in the Senatorial election of 1858.

Then 1861, over 100 years ago, found him in the White House as President of the United States. How did Lincoln interpret this strange succession of failures and frustrations which finally culminated in terrific personal victory? He said, “That the Almighty directly intervenes in human affairs is one of the plainest statements in the Bible. I have had so many evidences of His direction, so many instances when I have been controlled by some other power than my own will that I have no doubt that what this power comes from above.”

If we look for it, we can see the goodness of God no matter what our circumstances.

Baseball pitcher Dan Quisenberry was a three-time All-Star reliever in the 1980s. In the winter of ’96-’97 an aggressive form of brain cancer brought him low. Even so, he always emphasized the goodness of God. Following surgery to remove a tumor, Mr. Quisenberry spoke of his gratitude: “Every day I find things to be thankful for. … Sometimes it’s just seeing a little boy on a bicycle. Sometimes it’s the taste of water. It’s hard to explain.” He died in the fall of 1997 at age 45. Mr. Quisenberry’s minister, Ted Nissen, recalled a post-surgery visit. “He was on such a high, talking about how good God had been to him,” he told the Kansas City Star. “He blessed me on that visit.”

I have been shocked by the number of Christian men and women who come to their deathbeds knowing nothing about the God of love and mercy. They have known instead the Judge of impossible standards, and they have been, naturally enough, afraid to meet that God.

When we seek to win others to Christ, we must never think we possess any power in ourselves, or lead others to believe we do, through any air of superiority or lightness as we proclaim the gospel.  We would do well to heed the advice of Dr. Payson, who said,  “Paint Jesus Christ upon your canvas, and then hold Him up to the people, but hold Him up so that not even your little finger can be seen.

A party of pioneers on the Oregon Trail had suffered for weeks from a scarcity of water and grass for their animals. Most of the wagons had broken down, causing endless delays in the stifling heat. A feeling of fretfulness and futility prevailed. Optimism and cheer were gone. Courage was in limited supply.

One night the leaders called a meeting to air complaints. When they had gathered around the campfire, one man stood up and said, “Before we commence our grief session, don’t you think we should at least first thank God that he has brought us this far with no loss of life, with no serious trouble from the Indians, and that we have enough strength left to finish our journey?

The other settlers agreed. After the brief prayer, all that could be heard was the cries of a distant pack of wolves. There was otherwise stone silence around the campfire, because no one had any grievances they felt were important enough to voice. They suddenly realized if they couldn’t be satisfied with what they’d received, they could at least be thankful for what they’d escaped. Thankfulness enabled them to see the mercies of God they had been overlooking.[5]

A teacher asked the pupils to tell the meaning of loving-kindness.  A little boy jumped up and said, “Well, if I was hungry and someone gave me a piece of bread that would be kindness.  But if they put a little jam on it, that would be loving-kindness.”

God provides for us the bread…and the jam!

[1] Breton fisherman’s prayer, quoted in Celtic Blessings and Prayers, edited by Brendan O’Malley, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today, Vol. 44, No. 13.

[2]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

[3] Alan Redpath in The Life of Victory. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 6.

[4] Dwight L. Moody in D. L. Moody’s Little Instruction Book. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 2.

[5] Gregory L. Jantz, Becoming Strong Again (Baker, 1998), quoted in Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 4.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2022 in Christian graces

 
 
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