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Christian Growth 1. Faith

Key Text: 2 Peter 1:3; 5

2 Peter 1:1-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

Greeting

1 Simeon[a] Peter, a servant[b] and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Confirm Your Calling and Election

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d]4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so near sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[g] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We have talked a lot about the gospel and it’s centre to the Christian life in the evening services. We have focused on the wonder of the fact that all of life is about what we have received in Christ rather than what we can achieve. However, in thinking about this I have discovered that there might be a disconnect on this as a thought and this as a practice.

In other words, it sound nice that the gospel is everything, but in our day to day lives, in our coming and going, how do we make this practical? Essentially, what we are going to look at for the next 7 weeks is what is the key, the and the path to growing in grace – to growing in the Christian faith.

Peter’s writing here is foundational to this. Peter gives us in this short passage the key to Christian growth and then the logical development of that growth. Tonight we are looking to the key, which is what we are going to have to go back to almost every week. But tonight is the starting point and end point of the Christ walk and that is the issue of faith.

The start of Peter’s development of the Christian life starts with faith. In verse 5 he says;

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge…

Etc.

The whole development starts with faith. So let’s ask…

  1. What is faith?

The Greek word used here by Peter is πίστις (pistis). Now, that doesn’t really help us in our understanding of things right? Great Barry, now I don’t know what this means in two languages. What is faith? What does it mean to have faith?

Many of us, because of the time that we live in, have this idea of faith being a feeling. It is this deep sense of emotional convincing. We unfortunately get this from terrible Christmas movies and fairy tales. The idea here is if I close my eyes, and dig deep down and “believe” then it will be real. It is this emotions over facts, feelings above evidence.

The bible never presents faith like this, because the bible doesn’t understand the makeup of man like we do. We have an understanding of man as if we are made up of our rational side and our emotional side and these two sides to our beings are in conflict.

The problem is that the bible has no concept of this dichotomy and in fact life doesn’t have an idea of this dichotomy.

Biblically, and in reality, we are complex being in that feelings interpret facts and facts impact feelings.

Biblically, faith is the ground of ideas and systems that you will use to interpret the world. To use more simple language, faith is essentially your deep, core convictions that help you interpret your world.

This is why the bible constantly calls us to repent, we have to abandon one set of core beliefs and fully embrace another.

And this is why the bible never puts faith in competition with doubt. Which leads us to our second point.

  1. What is the opposite of faith?

Fascinatingly, Peter contrasts the foundations of faith (which we are going to look at in our next point) with what many of your English translations translate as lusts. The ESV translates it as sinful desires in verse 4.

The word is ἐπιθυμίᾳ (epithumia). This is a fascinating word that comes up again and again the writings of the New Testament. Now, before we look at this I have to give credit to Tim Keller and his exposition of this word from Galatians. He explains that this word is a construct of two Greek words ἐπι (epi) and θυμός (thumos). Now epi means over and thumos means passion or heavy breathing. So, this word translated means an over desire. Now, that doesn’t make sense in English, so many translators use sinful desires or lusts. But both of these do not convey what is being communicated here.

The Greek is conveying a making too much of a good thing. An obsessing over something. So lust, it is over desire of the other. gluttony is the over desire of food. Racism is the over desire of one’s nation or people. These are good things; sex, food and love of people, taken to a sinful obsession and in it causing decay and destruction.

Peter masterfully contrasts this destructive tendency in man to obsess about something, with the object of our faith, which is the divine promises. Peter says at the end of verse 4

So that through them (the great promises) you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by “epithumia”.

Note the contrast. This world is decaying or falling apart because of epithumia. And this is so true, why are we stressed out? Well one reason is that we want control in our lives, so we obsesses about the outcome of something, we over desire a beneficial outcome and in doing this we cause chaos in our own lives as well as anyone and anything that is getting in the way of the outcome we want.

Or why do we stress about work, well our value is attached to our work, so rather than seeing work as a good this; a gift or opportunity we see it as our very life. We epithumia it. and in this we kill ourselves to prove ourselves in the work that we are employed in.

Church, every obsession, every sin, and every evil in the world, if you trace it back you will see a good thing that someone or a group of people have made into an ultimate thing and they are over desiring that thing at the expense of God’s good world.

At the base of all this is people trying to be, or get, God from something that is not God. And that is why there is chaos associated with it.

Biblically speaking then, the opposite of faith is not doubt, but a self-willfulness a seeking after God in our own way. Paul will emphasise this in self-righteousness that works itself out in epithumia, Peter simply contrasts faith with epithumia, because he is aware that this over-desiring, this obsessive nature that we all have is a result of our lack of faith.

So, let’s ask the question what is the object of our faith?

  1. Faith in what?

Peter is not asking us to well up some feeling of faith, he directs it. To Peter (and the Bible) faith is an acceptance of something. What is that something? Well Peter defines it in verse 3;

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d]4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,

Peter says our faith is in the “very great promises”. God has promised that His divine power has granted to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. In Peter’s mind God himself has promised to give us everything we need to grow and be whole.

And if the message of the bible is true, God has. In Jesus Christ, every demand of God has been met. “There is now, no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.” The gospel is that Jesus has done it all. Therefore, in the mind of Peter all that is left is the promise of God.

Paul puts it another way in 2 Cor 1:20:

For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God.

The argument is, that Christ has taken our punishment, our sin, so that we are left with his blessing, His rewards. This is why the Christian walk is started by faith, it is maintained by faith and it is completed by faith.

Faith is the acceptance of what Christ has done and the, then, clinging onto that reality by faith!

What is that reality? What is that promise or reward? That is our last point tonight;

  1. What is the promise?

The promise of God, according to Peter is that we will share in the divine nature and thereby escape the epithumia that causes chaos.

We will share the divine nature, we will become like Him and in fact if you get faith (if you grasp the gospel) you already are sharing in that divine nature.

The gospel is that; through Christ Jesus all of our sins, all of our failing, everything that has made us an enemy of God is paid for; it is dealt with on the cross. This means that, in faith, we are made right with God. God is no longer our enemy but he is for us, with us, working all things for our good. Not because of anything we have done, but through and act of Christ.

Therefore, our sense of right being, of things being okay is received on the completed work of Christ. By faith, God is our God and we are His people. Therefore, it is by faith that we are sharers in that Divine nature. And because Christ has already done it, we can be sure that when God promises us that we will be with Him, we will enjoy His future, we will become like Him, we can trust that promise.

We will share in the divine nature. Why? Because Christ has ensured that we are already accepted already there – by faith.

But now comes the crux of this series; you might be asking, “But, I am not! I have many things to overcome, I am not who I want to be.” And you are right. We are all not where we want to be; hence the next 6 weeks, we will have to add to this assurance things that will develop what already is. But you will discover over the next 6 week we ourselves are not adding to the work of Christ. We are not proving our acceptability, rather we are working from acceptance to becoming what we already are in Christ.

The reality is your epithumia, your over desires (the things causing chaos in your life) are the out-workings of the fact that you are not resting in who you were made for. Your stress is a direct result of the fact that something is taking the place of God in your life, your sin, your obsessing and scheming they are all out workings of the fact that you don’t trust God to be good and for you. You think you know better, or can do better.

So if you want to grow in the Christian life, you have to take your obsessions, your epithumia and break them through faith. Take your obsessions, your trying to fix your life, your self-control and self-righteousness, your pride and take it to what God has done for you in Christ Jesus.

Look at the love of God for you in Jesus, and ask yourself why am I not trusting Him to be who he says He is and trusting in what He has already done. Here and here alone is the hope, the engine of the Christian life.

As Martin Luther said, “All of life is repentance.”

So, repent of the ways you are trying to save yourself and trust in Christ who has already saved you.

Let’s pray.