(A Godly People – Series in II Peter)
Westgate Chapel 1/14/07 2 Peter 1:1-4
PROPOSITION: The key to the Christian life is knowing Christ, in an ever-growing life of intimacy with Him, like Peter did, like we can, and that alone produces grace and peace, and the godliness that flows from His divine power within.
- LAST Sunday we concluded our study of the New Testament book of I Peter...written by the apostle Peter, from a prison in Rome, about 67 AD, just prior to his own execution for his faith at the hands of Emperor Nero.
- THE theme for the sermons from I Peter was “A Chosen People.”
- PETER was writing to small clusters of Christians in Asia Minor who were living in a world that was hostile to the faith.
- THOSE Christians were dealing with persecution and attacks from the outside world.
- SO Peter wrote them about the life of Christ, and the cross, and persevering for the glory to be revealed in Christ.
- I PETER was written to give those Christians hope as God’s chosen people. That was the apostle’s focus in that first epistle….hope!
- NOW, a few months have passed for Peter since that first letter. His own execution is right around the corner…and he gets word of another threat against these same tiny Christian churches in Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia.
- THIS time the threat is not a hostile world, persecution, or suffering.
- THIS time the threat to their very salvation is from within the church itself.
- AND the source of this threat is false teachers that have infiltrated the church.
- IN 2 Peter and Jude the apostle identifies these teachers within the church whose very lifestyle, whose influence, and teaching was threatening to destroy the work of God.
* 1:20 and 3:16 says that they distorted and twisted Scripture to suit their own purposes.
* 2:2 says that their shameful lifestyles brought the way of truth into disrepute.
* 2:3 says that the stories they told were motivated by their own greed…and designed to get more money.
* 2:14 says that they had eyes full of adultery, and never stop sinning.
* 2:12 says that they treated sacred and holy things flippantly.
* 2:10 says that they were arrogant and self-willed.
* 2:18 says that they mouthed boastful words that seduced baby Christians.
* Jude verse 8 says that these same people rejected authority.
- SO this letter now requires a totally different approach than the first one…a different theme and focus!
- WORDS pop up all through this second epistle…words like true knowledge, godliness, righteousness, and goodness.
- I HAVE entitled this sermon series on 2 Peter, “A Godly People.”
- YOU say, “Pastor, I am not so sure that the emphasis of this epistle is that relevant to us today!”
- WELL, I might have agreed with you before an hour-long conversation with Pastor Cymbala this week.
- I MUST have been out of touch…because he asked me if I had been reading Charisma Magazine lately. And when I told him that I had not, he read excerpts from some recent articles that I could not believe until I saw them with my own eyes.
- I WILL obviously not read names…because my only goal is to awaken us to the dangers we are facing in contemporary Charismatic Christianity.
* August 2000 issue…a Charismatic pastor of a West Coast church of thousands announced from the pulpit his divorce from his wife of 16 years and his marriage to someone else.
• He told his wife, before the divorce was final who it was that the Lord had shown him he was to marry.
• He told his congregation, “God didn’t call me to marriage. He called me to ministry!” and they gave him a standing ovation…not caring if what he said was Biblical or not.
* October 2000 issue….the pastor of the largest Charismatic church in South Africa divorces his wife of 24 years.
• The local church leaders express their support for his on-going and successful ministry and comment that it made the pastor a better person with more compassion.
* November 2000 issue…a leader of a national ministry aimed at our youth divorces his wife of 16 years citing irreconcilable differences.
* January 2001 issue…a Colorado Pastor and his wife indicted for defrauding lending institutions of $600,000 in the name of their church.
* Same issue…the Assemblies of God developing guidelines for “the dramatic increase of ministers addicted to pornography.”
* February 2001…an editorial in Charisma entitled “Cause for Alarm.” The editor cites an East Coast church known for it revival meetings, where the pastor admits he has been involved with multiple partners during the revival meetings.
* The editor cites yet another instance where a prominent Mid-western pastor divorced his wife, immediately started dating a younger woman, and told the congregation that he felt more anointed than ever…and they applauded.
- NOW, there is nothing new here. Sin has been our problem, my problem, since the Garden of Eden.
- I AM not citing these stories to add condemnation to those who have fallen, or to make myself look better or more holy…or to act as if I am above falling myself.
- AND I am grateful for the grace that forgives and restores us all when we repent and turn from our sin.
- BUT repentance and turning from sin is NOT what is happening in contemporary Charismatic leaders and teachers right now.
- THEY claim to know God and move in powerful anointing…but do they really know Him?
- IN the February issue Charisma takes an uncharacteristically critical view of all of this. They asked Jack Hayford to write an article on the epidemic among our leaders, and he comments,
“If we continue to entertain confusion on these points, we will give place to a Satanic darkness that will issue in a plague of spiritual death.”
- HAYFORD quotes a “kingdom now” preacher from the Atlanta area who explains these human weaknesses in himself and other Charismatic leaders by saying,
“After a person has entered God’s kingdom they transcend earth’s order and are thereby exempt from its laws.”
- HAYFORD responds,
“I will not dignify this corruption by explaining the distortions of Scripture that underlie its error.”
- SCRIPTURE twisted to suit personal goals.
- SHAMEFUL lifestyles that bring the way of truth into disrepute.
- STORIES told out of ego or greed.
- EYES full of adultery.
- SACRED and holy things treated flippantly.
- ARROGANT and self-willed leadership.
- BOASTFUL words that seduce baby Christians.
- PEOPLE….what I have described to you is an alarming trend in the contemporary Charismatic/Pentecostal movement today at its highest levels.
- AND because we have elevated image and success and charisma above holiness….we have ended up with a star-studded line up of celebrities who are leading the Body of Christ astray.
- WE have developed multiple choice Christianity, where you can pick and choose the parts you like, and what you don’t feel like obeying you can discard and still stay in the lime light.
- THIS is the exactly what Peter was facing in his second letter to the churches in Asia Minor…with people who claimed to know God.
- AND the solution, as we will find in this epistle, is not a new set of rules….not some laws to legalistically follow.
- THE solution is a Person…plain and simple.
- AND the key to this whole epistle is in plain view within the first four verses. Peter cannot wait to get right into the subject.
- IN verse 3 he writes,
“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.”
- THE false teacher claimed to know Him.
* Many had an excellent theological and philosophical grasp on God and His ways.
* Others even claimed special mystical experiences and revelations, available only to a small minority of followers.
- BUT the problem was that their lives were not matching up with what they claimed to know of God.
- WHICH is why Peter speaks about knowledge twice in the first four verses, but I am getting ahead of myself.
ii. PEter knew him
- LET’S start with how Peter knew Him.
- IN 2 Peter 1:1a, the apostle writes,
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 1:1a)
- THIS is one of those rare places in the New Testament where we find Peter’s original name, Simon, used in conjunction with his new name, Peter .
- SIMON was the name that he had before he knew Christ.
- BACK then he was brash, and rough, and arrogant, and impulsive to a fault….a small businessman involved in a family business, fishing.
- IT is a reminder to himself and his readers, in dealing with false teachers, of his humble beginnings….lest in bringing correction he himself become arrogant.
- BUT he also uses the name, Peter…a stone, built on the Rock. This is what he became after knowing Jesus.
- FOR Peter, knowing Jesus had brought about a transformation so radical as to have to change his name.
- THE apostle Paul puts it this way on 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
- THEN Peter identifies two ways in which he “knows” Christ….as a servant and an apostle.
- THE word, servant, puts Peter in the same company as Moses, Joshua, King David, Isaiah, and the apostle Paul. They all call themselves by the same name.
- THE Greek word for servant, doulos, literally means slave.
* Not your own.
* Bought with a price.
* Constantly committed to the Master’s work and priorities.
- AND apostle means…someone who has seen Christ, who has been sent out as a missionary to win souls for Christ.
- PETER knew Christ and that knowledge that changed literally everything about him….bearing in his own life and conduct the marks of true faith.
iii. we know him
- BUT in the next few words of Peter’s introduction in this letter he establishes how you and I also join him in his knowledge of God.
- VERSE 1b,
“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours…” (2 Peter 1:1b)
- THROUGH His life, death and resurrection Jesus made a way for us all to know Him, just like Peter did.
- THE Greek word for “righteousness” is not a theological term, but rather it means practical everyday right living.
- IN other words, Jesus’ practical, every-day, on the mountain, and in the valley “right living”….all the way to the cross…was what opened the door for our faith.
- IT is what made your saving faith and mine possible.
- AND it is the same precious faith that Paul and Peter had, and those destitute believers in Asia Minor, and the persecuted believers in China, and Ethiopia, and us in Edmonds, Washington this morning.
- WE have solidarity in this precious faith that cuts across all time zones, all racial and ethnic barriers, all socio-economic classes…through the righteousness of Christ.
iv. grace and peace through knowing him
- BUT wait there is more to knowing God than just salvation from sin and God’s wrath.
- THERE is grace and peace in abundance.
- LOOK at verse 2 with me. Peter writes,
“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)
- GRACE is both the saving power of God, purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross, and the real stuff of His gracious intervention in our lives sustaining us now and for eternity.
- PEACE is both the cessation of our hostility towards God, through Jesus death on the cross, and the tranquility of complete trust in Him for the day to day stuff of life.
- AND both of those are our in abundance…through the knowledge of God and of Jesus.
- NOW here is the key to this passage and the whole epistle.
- THE Greek word for knowledge is normally gnosis.
- IT means to have an intellectual grasp of the facts of some body of knowlege. It is largely Greek in origin, because they majored in head knowledge…..rationalism started with the Greek philosophers.
- BUT the word Peter and Paul use for knowledge is epignosis, which is much more than simple intellectual comprehension.
- THE word Peter uses here for knowledge literally means “increasing knowledge, always moving towards the goal of full knowledge.”
- IT is a knowledge that is focused on the Person of Jesus Christ and is daily getting nearer and nearer….a deep contemplation which is motivated by love because only love can stay zeroed in that long.
- IT is the same word that Paul uses in Philippians 3:10 where he cries out,
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…”
- THE Amplified translates this verse,
“For my determined purpose is that I may know Him…that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him…”
- THIS is the kind of intimacy that alone puts you and me in the place where Grace and Peace are poured out.
- AND it changes us at the core of our lives, effecting our marriages, how we treat our children, our employees, how we do business.
- VERY different from the kinds of lives being lived by the false teachers infiltrating the churches on Asia Minor.
v. godliness through knowing him
- BUT wait, there is more than grace and peace in abundance when you know Christ.
- AS if grace and peace are not enough, Peter writes in verses 3 and 4,
“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. (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 1:3-4)
- AS we move into intimacy with Christ, we receive resources for godliness that are without any limitation.
- EVERYTHING we need for life and living.
- EVERYTHING we need for godliness…which is our character visible to the world.
- AND again, as was the case with grace and peace, this “everything” comes through a growing intimacy with Christ…
* Getting to know more of His glory…the shining radiance of His attributes revealed to us by the Holy Spirit as we pursue Jesus.
* Getting to know more of His goodness…the moral excellence of His life and day to day actions revealed in the Gospels.
- HIS glory and goodness become actual promises to you and me concerning what is possible and what He plans to accomplish in our lives.
- THAT by His Spirit in you the very character of Christ becomes manifest.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- AND the more you and I participate in His divine nature, the easier is our escape from the corruption of this world.
- BUT make no mistake about it…the word escape means to flee, to run, dig a tunnel, climb a barbed wire fence, risk the dogs and the guard tower….but escape.
- PARTICIPATING in the divine nature, and the initiative needed for escaping the world’s corrupting grip….are both sides of the same walk of faith.
- CAN you see why Peter cannot go to his own cross until he has exposed the false teachers that say…
* It doesn’t matter how you live as long as you have saving faith.
* Our sins are only an opportunity for God’s grace to abound…no big deal.
* Character doesn’t matter, only how well you perform your ministry.
- SO in this passage he has reminded that the key is knowing Christ.
- IT was for him, it even changed his name.
- IT is what joins us with believers of all ages.
- IT is the only way to true grace and peace.
- IT provides everything we need for life and godliness.
- SO, if this morning you have never given your life to Jesus and started on the path of knowing Him.
* Get up and come to Jesus right now.
- IF you have fallen in sin this week, or last month, or last year….don’t give up.
* Get up and enter into that divine nature of Christ that is waiting for you as you grow in the knowledge of Him.
- IF you are being beat up by the enemy of your soul…don’t sit down.
* Keep on walking closer to Jesus. He has everything you need for life and godliness.