Intimate knowledge through encounters with God
The year wrap-up I did last week by way of video, included some of my favorite words from Peter found in 2 Peter chapter 1. This came back to me yesterday as I was seeking God on how to start off this new year.
Focus of the year and new year resolutions
For some time we have had a “focus for the year” … a sort of year long series of teachings focused upon what I truly and deeply believe God wanted us here in this church to grow in.
I don’t know for certain if this year will be different, but it somehow feels different going in.
You know, just because we have been led to proceed with a year long series in the past doesn’t mean it is the only right way or that we are locked into it forever. In fact, I’m a little concerned that it could generate a way of thinking that is inherently dangerous and worldly due to its running parallel with a year’s beginning and ending.
The world makes “New year resolutions” and I don’t think that is a bad thing, but such rituals often focus on life improvements, which boil down to self-improvements.Worldly self-improvement is just that – SELF improvement with an emphasis on self.
The process usually goes something like this –
- Reflect on what most disappoints us about our past year
- Identify what we want to see changed
- Create a plan of attack born out of human scheming
- Employ methods of self effort in order to see it through.
If you notice the common denominator for this problem is also at the root of the issue needing improvement – SELF. It has self all the way through it. Because of this, the worst thing that could happen is for it to succeed! Succeeding through self effort produces pride and a point on which we are now inclined to judge others with less empathy if they have not recognized the same success.
I don’t blame them – it is all they know.
For the believer however things are considerably different and Peter points out how, here in this first chapter of his second letter.
So as you turn to 2 Peter 1, let me say that even if the Lord leads us into another year of teaching focused upon a certain thing, we are not doing so for SELF-IMPROVEMENT BECAUSE it is the beginning of a new year and as such it is just was we humans do.
No! We study and teach and learn in order to cooperate with the leading of the Spirit of God Who leads us in triumph in Christ Jesus.
He alone knows how to form Christ in us and therefore He alone has the wisdom and plan for what we need to focus upon. He invites, reveals, waters and causes the increase – not us.
All we do is love Him. I mean, love produces certain things which are conducive to His work like trusting reliance, submission, remaining pliable in His hands and sensitive to His leading – all of which equates to sincerely loving Him.
Now, knowing as we do the POINT of salvation – what is the goal Peter is looking to reach in these people through these words he writes them?
The Kingdom of God through Christ being formed in us!
“(1) From Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, have been GRANTED a faith just as precious as ours.”
OUR COMMON PRECIOUS FAITH
It could be argued, albeit wrongfully, that those who walked with Jesus had an advantage over all other believers. That due to the nature of their revelation of Jesus, their trust in Him was more abundant, better developed and more precious.
Peter here dispels that assumption, for he was there when Jesus told he and the other disciples that it was to their advantage for Him to go away. He told them that on that day, they will finally and truly see Him and know Him by the inward work of the Holy Spirit and their reborn human spirits.
This is actually in step with the real meaning of the word FAITH as it is used here. This word faith is the same word as is used everywhere, only here it is used metonymically – which points to the object of the faith rather than the faith itself.
As such, it means the truths of the gospel, the tenants of our faith, the self-disclosure of God the Father in His Son Jesus Christ.
This is further supported and illustrated as Peter continues to point out the preciousness and necessity of our KNOWING of the Father and Jesus.
So these precious believers, over whom Peter was a type of overseer, had a faith which was on equal standing with his own.
And how did he described it? Precious! For the meaning of the word precious here is equally precious and valuable.
So both as those who were NOT present with Jesus in His earthly walk AND as Gentiles they and we have been blessed with a salvation that is in no way inferior to that of the Jews – even those Jews who were His disciples… and so we have equality in the body of Christ!
“(2) May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!”
We are very familiar with the meaning and use of the word and concept of Grace, though in this case the focus of the grace is not in how it comes but what it is – especially God’s goodwill, favor, blessing, acceptance, kindness which causes gratification and joy.
Peace in a Christian and thus biblical usage means the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, fearing nothing from God and as a result that person is content with their earthly lot, whatever it is.
This peace is the direct result of redemption and consists primarily of a state of conscious reconciliation with God.
So, God’s favor, blessings and kindness and the ever present, conscious awareness that we are reconciled with and accepted by God, creates a settling in our hearts from their restlessness and it is LAVISHED upon us AS WE GROW in the experiential and rich knowledge of Jesus our LORD!
You know this is a fix for nearly every earthly ill!
All of our strivings come from a sense of being unsettled within and so dissatisfied without. It is in fact the primary reason for most ‘New Year’s resolutions’.
- We want newer and better stuff.
- We want greater pay with more prestige.
- We want status and admiration which grows and does not diminish and we bend all our effort into obtaining these things or bemoaning our lack of them.
James says it this way in the fourth chapter of his letter,
“(1) Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from?
Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you?
(2) You desire and you do not have;
you murder and envy and you cannot obtain;
you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask;
(3) you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.
That is a real problem guys. That right there is representative of nearly all human prayer – born again or not.
Praying wrongfully is any prayer where my flesh born desires are the primary focus and I am the primary beneficiary.
What did James can such heart focuses and motives? Adulterous!
(4) Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God?
So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.
(5) Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”? (6) But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”
Peter calls us to holiness, devotion and singleness of focus. Desiring and pursuing knowing God which results in peace.
“(7) So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. (8) Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. (9) Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. (10) Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”
But Peter says that as we grow in our experiential knowledge of Jesus, these cravings for external things diminish and are replaced with a satisfied knowing of the transcendent value of those things we already possess, the greatest of which is acceptance with God coupled with His everlasting favor.
Show me a truly dissatisfied Christian and I will show you a Christian who has forgotten the favor and the peace they have in Him!