Monday, 07 December 2015 12:47

2 Peter - The Beautiful Beginning

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For the next five weeks in the month of December and into the new year, 2016, I invite you to follow with me a short study of II Peter. Peter wrote this second letter when he was an older disciple and soon facing his death for the gospel’s sake. It is believed Peter died a martyr for the faith under the persecution of Nero sometime between 64-67A.D. Christian tradition has long taught that he was crucified upside down on a cross. Peter wrote this second letter before he died, wanting to encourage Christians in the faith around the world in his day. And to keep focused on Christ the Saviour and His word always! Peter’s short three chapter letter is full of precious and practical gospel truth that is most relevant today still. In this first message we will look at just II Peter 1:1-4 as our text, having as our theme, “The Beautiful Beginning of II Peter!” Just listen to what the apostle Peter writes as he begins his letter: “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” From these verses will you notice the following three points about Peter’s beautiful beginning to his second letter? 1. The Christian Attitude Peter displays; 2. The Christian Basis Peter teaches; 3. The Christian Care Peter shows us. Our ABC, (attitude, basis, care) points should be easy to remember, yet every true Christian will humbly testify, it takes a lifetime to learn and reflect the same. Thinking about attitude, what is the Christian attitude in life that we should have before God and before others? Isn’t the question so important because how often we can spoil so much by a poor and wrong and sinful attitude before God and others? It could be you presently have an ungodly, unkind, and ungrateful attitude in your heart. God knows. Will you take a look at Peter’s Christian attitude? He begins his letter saying, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Do you see what a humble attitude Peter has? He describes himself as a servant, literally a slave of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t first mention that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, but a servant of his Saviour and Lord. True Christians are submissive to God and His word in everything. By describing himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, Peter also here makes plain from the start that what he is writing is in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is not writing this second letter for his own honor but in submission and devotion to God and the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Are you servant-like in this way before God and others? Is this not so often the problem with our attitude? We don’t want to be a servant before God and others? Instead, we want to be served ourselves and our attitudes become sinful and resentful and bitter when we are not served as we think we deserve. Let us learn from Peter’s opening words to have a Christian attitude. Not only in him saying he was a servant of Jesus Christ but notice, Peter describes himself also as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The word apostle means literally to be sent forth by God, by Christ, to testify of the gospel in the church and to the world around us. Every true Christian is in a sense an apostle. Someone God keeps alive here on earth and sends forth to live to His praise and honor before God and others, being witnesses and examples in word and deed of His gospel while it is yet the day of grace. To be sure, we know Peter and the other apostles who personally witnessed the life and death and resurrection of Jesus had this office of apostle in a unique sense. So also we speak of the apostolic age, and the church being “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” as Paul mentions in Ephesians 2:20. But as Peter expresses in this opening verse his awareness of his holy calling ever to testify and point to Christ and desiring in everything to do so, what a Christian attitude he displays here. Do you display this Christian attitude: I am a servant of Christ, submissive to Him and His word in everything and desiring always to live all out for Him? Is this what comes across in your life at home, at school, at work, in church, and in your neighborhood? Notice further Peter’s very gracious and loving and brotherly attitude towards other Christians. He writes “to them that have obtained [literally ‘ have received’] like precious faith with us”. Here Peter makes clear that all true believers, whether from Jewish background or from the pagan and Gentile world, are one in equal standing before God by grace through faith in the Saviour. No Christian can ever rightly exalt himself or herself above another Christian. All who are saved are equally dependent on God’s grace alone for the whole of their salvation. Interestingly in Acts 15 when Peter also shows and promotes the equal standing in the faith of believing Gentiles with believing Jews, he is referred to as Simon Peter even as he labels himself here in vs. 1. What a humble and loving attitude Simon Peter displays in our text. Our attitude before God and others is always so very wrong when not showing this same attitude Peter here demonstrates. Notice too that Peter shows the Christian attitude of confessing Christ Jesus and His saving work as the sole ground of our acceptance with God and our salvation from Him. Simon Peter had learned well he was nothing in himself but a hopeless hell-deserving sinner. Isn’t this what all God’s true people realize and learn, more and more even, in their Christian faith and life? The like precious faith of true Christians everywhere throughout the ages is that we are saved only as Peter says in vs.1, “through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Sinners are saved only always by what God has done for us in and through Christ. With Jesus’ perfect payment for sin even to the death of the cross, and His perfect righteous life lived and offered up on the sinner’s behalf we become reconciled to God by grace through faith in Him. God-approved everlasting deliverance from sin’s curse, and bondage, and penalty, and complete redemption from all sin and evil for now and forever is freely granted to us for Jesus’ sake alone. Did you catch too how vs.1 testifies Jesus is God come in the flesh? Salvation and perfect righteousness to our account is “of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” You could also translate, “of God even our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Peter doesn’t hesitate to refer to Jesus as God in vs.1 and as Lord in vs. 2 and 11. Peter’s attitude is of a person who is Christ-focused and God-exalting in all he thinks, says, and does. He points those he is writing to, many of whom were suffering persecution for the sake of the gospel, to Christ Jesus as the one source of comfort and hope and help in our every need. This comes out also in vs. 2 when he states this beautiful word of prayer and blessing saying in God’s name, as servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter knew to receive grace and peace from God is the ultimate blessing, and to have that multiplied over and over and without end is the greatest riches in this world and the next. And we may receive this blessing freely and continually through mind and heart reception of God as revealed in Jesus Christ the Lord, the crucified and risen Saviour of sinners. When Peter says in vs. 2 “through the knowledge of”, he speaks here of active faith directed towards the one true God as made known to us in Scripture and the Saviour, Jesus Christ. In and through Christ the Saviour Peter is saying, ever trusting and following Him in spirit and truth you and I may receive out of His fullness grace for grace and peace upon peace, regardless what we go through. Grace abounding is the believer’s portion and peace like a river welling up in our hearts and lives even in the midst of intense storm and severe trials. Do you see with me Peter’s Christian attitude in his being so servant-like, humble, loving, brotherly, thankful, and Christ-focused and hopeful and helpful even as he writes this second letter to Christians scattered through the then known world? What a beautiful beginning to this second letter as we see this wonderful Christian attitude reflected from every word Peter writes. Dear friends, what is your attitude before God and others? Is it Christian, something like Peter here displays? Will you and I learn from our text? Won’t you now be drawn to the gospel and to the Saviour of sinners even from our text so far? In bringing out Peter’s Christian attitude in life, the aim is not to have us glory in Peter. No, Peter’s attitude in life is all from the Lord to him and about the Lord from him, by God’s grace. And Peter in his Christian attitude was all out, by God’s grace, to tell and promote who God is for us in Christ Jesus. Here we come to our next main point, namely, the Christian basis of Peter’s outlook in life. It is unbelievable, the rich radiant gospel truths about our Triune God as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Peter mentions seven riches of God the Saviour in vs. 3 and 4, riches precious beyond words and giving so much help and hope in the Christian life and service before God and our neighbor. What are those seven riches? Drawing also from another commentator on II Peter 1:3&4 with the first of these seven points, Peter tells of God the Saviour having divine power. Our Lord Jesus Christ together with the Father and Holy Spirit is the God of almighty, literally ‘dynamite’ power. With Him is spiritual dynamite cleansing and saving power both to remove sin from our lives and that sanctifying power to make our lives God-honoring and fruitful to His glory. If the Lord was not an almighty Saviour, what help and hope could we expect from Him? But since He is omnipotent Saviour, can we not always be more than conquerors in and through Him with us and by us and in us in all our ways and needs? With God nothing is impossible and all things are possible. That is part of the gospel message of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Paul exclaims thus jubilantly in Philippians 4:13. A second radiant gospel truth to consider is the infinite generosity of God our Saviour. Both in vs. 3 & 4 you have the expression about God’s giving to us. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him…” [vs.3] and then in vs. 4 Peter says “whereby are given unto us….” Both verbs in each case are in a verb tense which speaks of a constant state of endless giving. It is not like those glass balls which when you turn over have autumn leaves or snowflakes or sparkles just falling down and then all of a sudden ends till you turn it upside down again. No, but God in Christ gives and gives and gives, again and again. He never becomes the poorer with His endless giving to all who trust and follow Him. God in Christ is unendingly and gladly giving to us, however undeserving we are in ourselves. All that we need for this life for body and soul in becoming Christians and living and thriving as Christians we may receive out of His fullness, grace for grace. Again, what solid basis and precious outlook this gospel truth gives for all of life! God’s almighty power and endless generosity or graciousness in Christ Jesus gives everlasting resources for believers, everything they need for life and godliness. Oh, what boundless comfort is here proclaimed for all who trust and follow Jesus! Do you hear this good news and believe it? Going on to the third one, Peter speaks of Christ the Saviour as the God of glory. He has called us to glory and into His glory. In John 1:14 we hear John describe Jesus this way: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” In John 17:24 we also hear Jesus praying in His high priestly prayer the night before His crucifixion, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.” Yes, as triumphant Saviour and glorious Redeemer of elect sinners, even of all who repent and believe in Him. How safe and blessed we are when saved by grace and led by the infinitely glorious God and to be given more and more to see and enjoy the glory of God as revealed in Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Christians have the infinitely powerful, gracious, and glorious God leading them and blessing them always in and through Jesus the Saviour. Notice next the fourth of the riches. Peter mentions the Lord as revealed in Christ Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, is the God of virtue; perfect virtue and excellence in every way. There is no flaw in God, no defect in character, no blot or spot or wrinkle about Him, but only infinite uprightness and beauty and goodness. The LORD God as revealed in Christ is the God of everlasting infinite virtue, eternal excellence, the one in Whom is no sin nor darkness; He is the Light of the world. Through the knowledge of Christ, trusting and following Him as only Saviour and Lord, Christians are led by the God of power, grace, glory, and perfect virtue or infinite moral excellence. Imagine this sure blessing of being led and guided all through life by the everlasting God who never does wrong but only always does what is right and true and altogether good and wonderful and beautiful! So God’s people may be led. Wonderful gospel, isn’t it, for all trusting and following Christ Jesus as only Saviour and Lord! Yet Peter tells us more about the basis of the Christian faith, saying, fifthly, how the Saviour God is the God of promises. Not just any promises either but exceeding great and precious promises. Gospel promises for soul and body in life and death for this life and hereafter. Gospel promises all of grace that never fail and never end. His promises far outmatch what we can ever imagine, and always though so underserved by us are guaranteed to us in and through Jesus the Saviour, for Jesus’ sake alone. Peter teaches God calls us to live out of and by and dependent on the His promises. Bring each and every problem of any and every day alongside the exceeding great and precious promises of God in Christ Jesus, and see what help you may find for whatever problems you may have. Our struggle in the Christian life all too often is that we let the problems loom large before us and we forget the exceeding great and precious promises of God in all our needs. In our own strength nothing comes of knowing God truly and growing and thriving in grace and godliness. But the Christian gospel word is all about not going in your own strength but looking to the Lord in all our needs. Listen, the Lord as revealed in Christ the Saviour of sinners is the God of infinite power and generosity and glory and excellence and exceeding great and precious promises for us. Come to Him empty in yourself, unclean and undeserving of yourself, and draw from Him. He delights in mercy. Always, as someone has well said, “there is more grace in Christ than sin in you.” That is the gospel truth in Jesus’ name, for whoever has ears to hear! And consider God’s goal in and through Christ Jesus for His people, Peter’s sixth gospel treasure that he mentions. Namely, as Peter says, that by God’s promises “we may be partakers of the divine nature.” What bold words these are from Peter. We can be certain Peter in no way means with being partakers of the divine nature that we somehow become divine ourselves. That is pagan mysticism and the lie of the new age movement and false religions like Buddhism. Rather, what Peter is saying here is that the Lord makes all who turn from sin and trust and follow Jesus the Saviour to be His children, and once again by His grace and Spirit He causes us to reflect God’s image and likeness by the power of His call in and on our lives. As Genesis 1 and 2 teach us, in the beginning of time we were created in God’s image meaning spiritually having a true knowledge of God and living in righteousness and holiness before Him. But with the Fall into sin, we lost these blessings and are no longer by nature of ourselves the perfect image bearers of God as when we were created. Our true humanity is restored in fullness and more when we trust and follow Christ. Through the Saviour Jesus Christ, trusting and following Him, we once again become partakers of the divine nature, evermore recipients and reflectors of Him in spirit and truth. This is the work of God Triune and His goal and delight with each of His people. So John the apostle also writes in I John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear [speaking of Jesus’ second and final coming], we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as he is.” Compare the goal of God with His people to that of Satan with his followers. Satan is out to destroy and ruin us and to spoil all that is of God and that is good and right and true. He is out to lead in hatred and evil and misery in every way, always and forever. This whole ungodly world following after Satan is headed to everlasting condemnation and destruction. But Christ, as sent of the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit, came to this world to save sinners. God Triune is the almighty, generous, glorious, most virtuous, excellent, ever promising God of salvation for His people, all who trust and follow Jesus Christ the Lord. By Him and through Him we not only are saved from sin but saved to become true image bearers of God again, completely so and eternally so even, by God’s grace. And to confirm all these truths about God the Saviour of sinners, Peter adds yet saying God in Christ is the God of escape for us, the God who delivers us from the corruption that is in this world through lust. What he means again here is that it is only in and through Christ that any one of us can find true forgiveness and cleansing and heart renewal and real reformation and transformation of life for now and forever. Of ourselves we are inclined towards sin, prone to wander, prone to fall. But with Jesus as our Saviour and Lord we may and will, by His grace and Spirit, persevere steadfastly in resisting sin and living godly and fruitful lives to the Lord’s praise and for our neighbor’s wellbeing. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. The fight against sin in ourselves and from all around us and against Satan and this world is hopeless on our own, but it is sure and eternally hopeful for us in and through Christ Jesus. Yes, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and personal acquaintance with Him by grace through faith in Him. Reflecting on vs. 3-4 and how God-focused and Saviour-exalting these verses are in the seven truths they speak of our Saviour God, do you see with me what Christian basis it gives? What precious Christian foundation for all the Christian life? Here is the power of the gospel laid out both in coming to Christ for a first time, and for growing in grace and godliness for all time, for as long as we live. With Jesus, the crucified and risen Saviour of sinners, what a gospel message is given us. Let lost wayward sinners come to Christ and know Him in this seven-fold way Peter tells about. And let weary believers, struggling persecuted believers, doubting and fearful believers, come again and again to this Saviour God and rest themselves on this salvation foundation Peter here gives us, and be encouraged in trusting and following Jesus initially and continually till your last breath. That is surely the purpose of Peter’s writing here and of the Holy Spirit including this letter in the Bible. Here we come to our third point about the Christian care Peter shows. As we will learn more as we go through this short letter, the apostle Peter had a burden not only to call and encourage people in the Christian faith, but also to urge God’s people, all confessing Christians, to persevere and to advance more and more in the Christian faith and walk of life. How beautiful the way Peter shows such care for others that they truly seek and serve the Lord in line with all God’s word and not stray from it ever. You and I can’t be thankful enough for such Christian Christ-like pastors and teachers and leaders and parents and mentors in our lives. What a blessing when you and I too as confessing Christians are living in our homes and churches and communities having the same Christian care and concern for others that Peter had for people in his day, especially for all confessing believers. In conclusion, don’t you just love the beautiful beginning of II Peter in it telling us and showing to us the Christian attitude and Christian basis and Christian care that we all should have and may have when truly and always trusting and following after God as revealed in Christ the Saviour and His precious gospel word? II Peter begins with ABC points so important for all of us to learn and keep learning and modeling all our lifetime, God helping us. How wonderful when this is your confession of faith and Christian conviction too! Even so, may God Triune crown His own gospel word time and again, also this radio message by His grace Spirit. In Jesus Name. Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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