No one comes into the Kingdom of God with it all figured out. Most of us learn by trying and falling, picking ourselves up, and trying again. If we are blessed, we’ll have big brothers and sisters in the faith standing nearby, making sure we don’t hurt ourselves or others in the process.
Early on, as a new believer, we’re prone to be so excited about the Christian life that we run on spiritual adrenalin. Eventually, as it always does, that divine-chemical-in-our-bloodstream subsides, and we are left to try to figure how we’re going to continue to live this Christian life.
That’s when we either make shipwreck on the shoals of temptation or discouragement or we learn the importance of daily time in God’s word and earnest, honest prayer to Him throughout every day. As we do this, we start learning the great lessons God has reserved for the faithful.
The Gnostics of olden times used to hold that God has special knowledge reserved for the spiritual elites. I am not saying that or anything close to it. But I do say that only those who stay with the Lord through thick and thin, good weather and foul, emotional peaks and spiritual valleys, only they learn the great lessons of the Christian life. All the others settle down in the Plains of Boredom where we profess one thing and live something almost entirely different.
Here’s one of life’s greatest lessons regarding the Christian life: It’s all about Jesus.
John the Baptist surely knew almost nothing of what you and I call “the Christian life,” but He absolutely had the secret of intimacy with God nailed down. He must increase; I must decrease. (John 3:30)
Here’s how the Apostle Peter felt on the subject. And keep in mind from all we know of this dear brother from the four gospels, he learned every lesson the Lord had for him in the hardest way possible.
To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
As a pastor, I’m tempted to read that and throw up my hands with a “Holy cow! There’s enough stuff there for a whole book! How can I get my mind around that!?”
HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS has given us a faith.
HIS KNOWLEDGE has multiplied to us grace and peace.
HIS POWER has granted to us everything for this life.
Clearly, the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a do-it-yourself-affair. The church is no spiritual Home Depot that declares, “You can do it; we can help.”
Instead, the church says, “You cannot do this. You don’t have what it takes to live for God.”
Let’s revisit the outline above with a few helpful (I hope!) remarks….
HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS has given us a faith.
1) This faith is a body of revealed truth. We speak of “defending the faith” in this way.
2) This faith is a confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Where is your faith?” Jesus asked at various times. He was not asking what doctrine they held dear but where was their confidence in Him.
The Bible uses “faith” in both ways, as “to believe” and as “what we believe.”
Notice three things about this faith which His righteousness has bequeathed us:
–It’s precious. Priceless. It cost Jesus Christ His life on the cross.
–It’s the same for all of us. There are no second-class Christians.
–It’s ours by the righteousness of Jesus.
Let’s camp out there for a few moments. In what way does the righteousness of Jesus provide and inspire our faith?
I’ve been reading Ravi Zacharias’ book, “Jesus Among Other Gods.” (And I recommend it highly for anyone wishing to establish whether this Christian gospel is just one of many religions or if there was something unique about Jesus.) He writes,
(Jesus’) birth was not by natural means. This cannot be said of Mohammed, Krishna, or Buddha. The TV host Larry King once said if he could interview any figure from history, he would ask Jesus Christ one question: “Are you indeed virgin born?” King said, “The answer to that question would explain history for me.” (pp. 36-37)
But there was a second way in which Jesus proved His absolute and eternal existence. His life has always been regarded as the purest that has ever been lived. On numerous occasions, His antagonists were challenged to bring some contrary proof against Him. They were never able to besmirch His pristine life. He challenged His adversaries to lay any charge of sin at His feet.
They tried. But they could not. Contrast that with all other religious founders known to mankind. (Zacharias goes into detail, contrasting Jesus with what is known from holy writ on Mohammed, and from history on Buddha and others.) (pp. 38-40)
I’m taking more time on this point than the ones to follow, but it’s worthwhile to quote more of Zacharias here about the unique ministry of Jesus….
Jesus did not begin His mission by leaving more comfortable surroundings in order to gain enlightenment so that He would find the answers to life’s mysteries. That was the origin of Buddhism.
He did not come to give a certain group of people ethnic worth so that they, too, could have an identity as others around them did; Islam had its beginnings for such reasons.
He did not give any people a reason to boast of particular privilege because of the age of their culture or the perceived strength of their society’s cohesion; virtually all pantheistic cultures pride themselves on how long they have been in existence.
He did not come to affirm a people who boasted inthe strength of their military power, as the citizens of Rome did in claiming their city to be the eternal city.
He did not come to compliment the Greeks for their intellectual prowess.
In fact, He did not even come to exalt a culture because it was the recipient of God’s moral law, a boast the Hebrews delighted in.
His strong and unequivocal claim was that heaven was His dwelling and earth was His footstool. There never was a time when He was not. There never will be a time when he will not be. His was a positing of truth from an eternal perspective that uniquely positioned Him.
And that is what inspires our faith!! Our precious faith, the kind we all share with each other if we are His disciples.
HIS KNOWLEDGE has multiplied to us grace and peace.
We’re told that these were the two greetings of Jews and Greeks. “Shalom” is Hebrew for “Peace!” And the Greeks greeted one another with “Grace.” But Peter has something far better in mind than new insights into old greetings.
In Christ, we have God’s grace which surpasses all man’s attempts to proscribe and describe (Ephesians 1:6-7 speak of the glory and riches of His grace), and we experience God’s peace which defies all attempts to understand or define it (see Phil. 4:7).
The Apostle John said it like this: The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
The next time you hear someone singing “Amazing Grace,” remember that that grace is known to us only in Jesus Christ.
But note that in Christ, grace and peace are multiplied.
What does that mean? Probably, that they just keep coming. It keeps getting better and better. In John 1:16, the verse prior to the one above, the apostle says, And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. That is to say: “He has given us all of Himself and blessings upon blessings.”
Feeling good? You ought to. This is not about how deserving we are, how smart we were to get in on this, how special we are. This is about Jesus Christ.
No wonder Christians make so much of Him. And so much over Him!
But let’s not miss Peter’s point here: We experience God’s grace and peace by KNOWING JESUS CHRIST. That is to say, by knowing Him as our Lord and Savior at salvation and then by continuing to know and experience Him in deeper and deeper ways as we mature in Christ.
In the final verse of this little epistle, Peter instructs us to Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18)
Baby Christians know Jesus, but they know Him in such a limited way. The excitement and challenge of the Christian life is learning Him in deeper and wider ways. In one sense, everything that follows conversion is to enable and enrich that knowledge.
God will seemingly withdraw from us for a time in order to pressure us to walk by faith and not by our feelings. He will send people into our lives to encourage us and inspire us by their words and loving example, then will turn around and allow serious pests to hinder and afflict us with their harassments. All of it has the same goal: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. (Philippians 3:10).
HIS POWER has granted to us everything needed for this life.
Plainly said, in Christ we have everything necessary to sustain spiritual life on this planet. We need no more secret messages, divine revelations (I’m thinking of additional “holy” books), privileged information reserved for the wise and elite. None of that foolishness.
We used to have a secretary in our church office who belonged to a charismatic church. Her pastor was a dear friend. One day, she said to our staff–and naively thought she was complimenting us, I suppose–“Brother Ray says Baptists are wonderful Christians, but they just need a little more than they have.” Far from being complimented, we were slightly put out. (Love is not quick to take offense, and it was not a divisive issue between us.)
I love how Paul states it in Colossians. These two verses form one of the most powerful one-two thrusts to be found in God’s word:
For in Him (Christ) dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:9-10)
Think of it: All of God is in Jesus; we have everything we need in Him. Nothing lacking.
“Everything that pertains to life and godliness,” Peter says.
And once again, this is “through the knowledge of Him who called us” (1:3). God has very little spiritual blessing–if any at all!–available outside of Jesus Christ and our knowing Him as Lord and Savior.
Through knowing Him, Peter says, we have received “exceeding great and precious promises” which are sent to enable us to share God’s divine nature.
Peter does not go into detail here as to which promises he has in mind. But, I’m satisfied that if this were a computer message the apostle was sending us, at this point he would provide a link to connect us with some of the great and glorious promises found all through Scripture.
You will have fun researching all those promises yourself. (Don’t make your Bible teacher or pastor do all the study for you. The research and digging you do on your own will be far more beneficial and lasting.)
That said, here are a few of my favorites–
“As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
“Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things have become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).
“But we all…are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Promises about our Future:
“We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
That’s sufficient to get us started.
When my younger brother Charlie opened his heart to Jesus, he was staying with us temporarily while working the late shift at a local factory. He told me sometimes he would come in and read his Bible until the wee hours of the morning. He said, “Now that I’m on the inside of it, I love to find out all I’ve become a part of!”