Preserving Faith in a Faithless Generation
I need not take much time away from the Word of God this morning to convince you that we live in a faithless generation—you know full well that we do. Nevertheless, a few reflections on our culture are useful. This present generation is not prone to contemplation; meditation; or critical thinking. We live in a media-saturated age in which pop culture has been mainlined into our youth like heroin into the bloodstream. As a result, for the most part, Americans embrace values and worldviews that are unexamined. The consequences have been deadly. When polled recently, 66% of high school boys argued in favor of cohabitation as wisest preparation for marriage. And the vast majority of evangelical teens believe that there is more evidence for evolution than biblical creation.
Evangelical adults are not immune to this erosion of truth. Pastoral counseling rooms are overflowing with cases where professed believers are living in rebellion against God. This has become an epidemic—a mental acceptance of the truth which doesn’t translate into godly living—it’s truth disconnected from faith and life. Deep down we know why this is happening. The ‘culture of self’ has been silently assimilated into Christendom—it has slipped through the back door of the church. Countless professed believers have started with self in their spiritual quest and they have insulated themselves from the knowledge of God in the process. New domesticated gods have arisen in place of God Almighty. There is a pantheon of Jesus’ today—church members pick the version that suits their perceived needs. In American Christianity, Christ has gone from Monarch to mascot.
The battle to transmit the faith to the next generation is for the most part not being won. A startling statistic came out recently—79% of high school students from SBC will deny the faith by the time they graduate from a secular university. The physical eyes and ears of our Christian youth are so tuned to the culture that they have become convinced that the temporal is more enduring than the eternal—and the physical more real than the spiritual—material wealth far more significant than eternal wealth. In making a play for the billion dollar teen market, corporations have been shameless in their promotion of immodesty, group sex, and perversion. Is it any wonder our young people are starved for mentors who stand for decency and are animated by the hope of glory? Young people who are truly born again are eager for someone to show them how to develop unshakeable Christian convictions which will stand up to the relentless tide of our culture. Will you stand in the gap and be one of those mentors?
READ THE TEXT: 2 PETER 1:1-4
V. 1 – Peter writes this epistle during a time when false teachers were taking advantage of wide spread confusion, uncertainty, and troublous conditions. It has always been that way; unbelief takes root—takes advantage of doubt, discouragement, insecurity, and tiredness. Peter is writing this epistle to stabilize his readers—giving them needed ballast in the pitching seas of the age. The Apostle’s aim—to make certain his readers understand their foundations so that they can deepen their faith and grow in grace.
Peter identifies himself as the Lord’s BONDSERVANT. To speak of oneself as a “bondservant” was socially demeaning; but for the believer it is honorable spiritually because of the infinite worthiness of Christ Jesus. The bondservant was duty-bound to obey his master whatever the cost. Every true believer is a bondservant of Christ—we are God’s possession. We live to do His will—our rights are surrendered to the One who died on our behalf.
Our text says, “Who have received a FAITH of the same kind as ours.” Peter is stressing that faith is a gift of God—a gift of divine grace wherein the sinner takes hold of redemption and accepts the finished work of Christ on his behalf (Eph 2:8-9). “Faith breathes the breath God’s grace supplies.”
It is a FAITH of the same kind—there are not degrees of Christianity—Peter as an Apostle has the same precious faith as his humble readers—a faith equal in validity. Peter’s point is that believer’s share the equal gift of salvation because God’s righteousness is imputed to them. True faith looks up from the just displeasure of God to hear the voice of mercy from Christ. True faith contemplates Christ our Redeemer; our righteousness; clothed in our nature; sitting at the right of God. True faith sees unseen things—desires to do His will. It is impossible that this faith not produce good works. True faith is the experience of every one of God’s people—they are made recipients of illumination which reveals the glory of God, their own unworthiness, and the plan of salvation in Christ Jesus.
Our text says, “By the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is the source of salvation; His righteousness is not a static ‘holy standard’ written on a tablet of gold enshrined in heaven—His righteousness is active and dynamic. His righteousness is His zeal for His Name—it is God graciously giving His righteousness to us in Christ—it is the righteousness of God to us through Christ.
It is God giving guilty sinners right-standing with Himself through the righteousness of the Son of God. This is the amazing glad tidings of the Gospel—God is clothing unrighteous sinners in a God-provided God-approved righteousness—He is hiding them in the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21).
Through the incarnation of Christ and His substitutionary work—God in Christ has prepared a perfect place of refuge for all who believe. We have right-relatedness to God’s righteousness by faith in what God has done in Christ (Rom 3:22)—in the Son of God we truly attain righteousness in the sight of God! (EX. Catholic evangelism and God’s grace; not a method, a mechanism, or a material—God’s grace is who God is—He makes Himself known in His acts of saving grace—He provides a refuge for sinners who come to Him for forgiveness.)
God speaks His magnificent promises to the faith He creates—that’s the theme in our text. God’s riches in Christ are addressed to our faith so that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I. Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. We come to perceive what is ours spiritually—not by understanding bare propositions; but by growing in the knowledge of the Giver Himself! That’s the appointed avenue of our understanding—we come to understand what we possess spiritually knowing God in Christ (vs. 2)—knowing Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence (vs. 3).
V. 2 – ‘GRACE’ is the Father’s favor and acceptance of us. BUT, we perceive this grace of God’s infinite favor ONLY in proportion to our measure of faith. No wonder we are constantly enjoined in the N.T. to excel in faith—for by faith in Christ the love of God is confirmed to your hearts; and, the more happy, holy, and useful you will be (Rom 15:13).
The Christian faith is founded upon the true KNOWLEDGE of God (that He is just, loving, merciful, holy, and wrathful—and that these attributes are only reconciled in Christ and His cross—thus God is just, and He is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus).
The knowledge of God is only through the knowledge of Christ (Matt 11:27). The object of saving knowledge being—God’s self-revelation in Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6). Salvation (eternal life) is the knowledge of God through Christ (Jn 17:3).
The N.T. word for knowledge here is the strengthened form (epiginosko)—it implies larger, thorough, intimate knowledge—to know exactly, completely, through and through in a more personal relationship. This means that the believer knows Christ personally rather than just knowing about Him (i.e. the ‘facts’ of His life, death, and resurrection—our knowledge of Christ must be personal—knowing indeed that His saving work and intercession are directed at me in particular).
So many believers today have second-hand convictions. They’ve gleaned spiritual truth ‘second-hand’ from the work that others have done in the Word of God. The use of epiginosko (intimate knowledge) by the Apostle presupposes that your knowledge of Christ and the precious things of God is first-hand; not second hand.
The more you progress in the knowledge of God, the more every kind of blessing increases along with the sense of God’s love.
The deeper and wider one’s knowledge of the Lord; the more grace and peace is multiplied to the believer. This is what God desires—that the substance of salvation (grace and peace) be multiplied to His children. (Grace answers the just condemnation of God’s law. Peace replaces the fear; guilt; and alienation from God our sin has produced.) The better you get at matching your spiritual poverty with Christ’s willingness to be your spiritual wealth and completeness—the more grace and peace will be multiplied to you.
Growth in the knowledge of God (of God; not about God) is dear to Peter’s heart. You’ve heard it said, “knowledge puffs up; love builds up,” but the pursuit of the knowledge of God never brings pride; in fact growing in the knowledge of God is how God makes us like Himself (2 Cor 3:18). Peter ends His epistle with this command and exhortation to Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). The Apostle John uses the word ‘abide’ to refer to an intimate growing knowledge of Christ that comes from fellowship and communion with Him (1 Jn 2:28).
And the Apostle Paul speaks of pursuing the knowledge of Christ as his highest purpose—counting all as loss compared to the infinite privilege of knowing Christ (Phil 3:10: 2 Cor 3:18).
APPLICATION: Keep a book about the Person of Christ on your nightstand. Study the saving work of God toward you. Meditate upon Christ’s offices. Meditate upon all that God is toward you in Christ. Investigate what your riches are by union with Christ. Contemplate God’s saving work toward you—meditate upon the passages which describe how God sees you in Christ—joined to Him.
II. Everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him . . .
V. 3. – Christ’s POWER is the source of the believer’s sufficiency (2 Cor 12:9). (Christ is our source of power to persevere in Christian living.)
He grants us everything pertaining to LIFE and GODLINESS. Salvation is the bestowal of spiritual LIFE. ‘Christ in you’ is the essential organ of spiritual life—He conveys life and grace. True salvation is the impartation of a life that is to be lived in a godly manner. Godly living is God-ward living that is obedient, loyal, and reverent. (In Christ there is total sufficiency available for life and godliness—you are complete in Him. Peter exhorts us on the basis of this well-founded assurance—he builds the foundation; then exhorts to growth.)
This “LIFE” is bestowed through the TRUE KNOWLEDGE of Him who CALLED us. (EX. One believing ‘look’ at Christ will save you for all eternity—because that believing look gives you the knowledge of God. Where faith is there is a wonderful high prizing and valuing of Christ.)
“Knowledge” (of Him) is a key word in Peter’s epistle implying intimate knowledge—as of your own marriage partner. Thus the KNOWLEDGE of Christ here is anything but superficial or casual. It is not a surface awareness but knowledge of Christ by ‘revelation’—beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ. (When speaking of our growth in the knowledge of the Lord; Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him (Eph 1:17). It is a knowledge of our personal sharing in life with Christ (Gal 2:20).
Jesus Christ, our GOD AND SAVIOR (vs. 1b)—it is His deity that is in view—He is our “Source Person”—the Fountain of Life. He has all the things needed for the successful completion of the Christian life. He has everything needed for growth, development, perseverance, sanctification, and service.
There is a breakthrough of faith and obedience when you realize that the virtues of Christ are made available to you the believer—His love; courage; perseverance; humility; grace; service; power; single-mindedness; His heart affection. (God uses our weakness as a staging area to teach us the infinite difference between self and Christ. He does this to show us our daily need of Christ.)
How we need to hear this! For we know what we were in our state of nature; in the spiritual state in which Christ found us. In that state life and godliness are foreign to us; but now they are freely granted to us in/by UNION with Christ. They belong to us by virtue of the fact that He has CALLED us. That calling is a ‘spiritual resurrection’ in which we are “begotten of God” (1 Pet 1:3). God’s CALLING us is the means of the bestowal of these gracious resources.
We were called by His own GLORY and EXCELLENCE. The Lord’s GLORY and EXCELLENCE placed the promises of the Gospel in our hearts. As we will see in a moment in verse 4; these promises are mighty because God’s attributes stand behind them—these promises will take us all the way from dust to glory.
God has lavished these divine resources upon us (everything needed for life and godiness)—our resources in Christ are sufficient to meet all of life’s demands (Phil 4:19). (EX. God is glorifying His grace—dispensing His grace not with an eye-dropper sparingly—but in an unending Niagara Falls of grace with endless installments. He is willing to do beyond what we could ask or think—Eph 3:20. The morewithdrawals of grace; the more He is glorified in our lives.)
Think about how essential it is to know about our resources in Christ. What resolve, stability, and comfort in our setbacks, our sins, our declines, times of unfruitfulness, battles with indwelling sins. Christ’s divine power as God never fails—He keeps restoring us—He is the Lord of 10,000 times 10,000 restorations in the life of the believer. In Him, you have received everything pertaining to life and godliness. In Christ you have the resources necessary to pursue godly living—to persevere to the end and finish well.
And it is THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM that we experience the fullness of our resources in Christ—power to persevere in trials, set-backs, difficulties, inadequacies, and struggles. Some of our failure and unfruitfulness is due to self-reliance. The Father is teaching us Christ-reliance. The more you know Him; the more you will see Him as your sufficiency and therefore utilize your resources in Him (we gradually learn our resources are in Him).
When Paul says he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him; or, it is no longer I who live; but Christ lives in me—he is speaking of the exchanged life. Our adequacy in Christ is not immediately experienced—one does not normally rise out of bed saying, “Wow! I feel Christ’s power in me today!” In fact you may feel something much different—your own inadequacy—Paul did. In fact he said that Christ’s power is perfected through our personal weakness.
You see, to strive according to Christ’s power involves reckoning by faith that He desires to live His life through us. We do not have to overcome any reluctance on His part to live through us. No, He took our place when we were enemies—helpless—the exchanged life began when He traded places with us on Calvary and His redemptive work was applied to us by His Spirit. Christ now desires to manifest His moral character through us by His indwelling Spirit. Do you draw close to Christ in fellowship conscious that He is eager to be your all-sufficient resource for the Christian life?
APPLICATION: Verses 3-4 are in reality a description of the Christian life—literally the N.T. standard of normalcy in the Christian life. Do you see how much these promises are intended to stabilize the believer? You may find yourself saying, “Oh, I’ve always believed these things—this is not revolutionary for me.” But what does it mean to really believe that in Christ we have everything pertaining to life and godliness? It means death to our excuses for not serving God. It means death to our excuses for living with bosom sins. It means death to stagnancy and mediocrity. If we really believe these things then our life turns upon Christ and these promises. It means we cease to behave as if God is telling us half truths. If we really believe these things; then our faith will feed upon Christ with more gusto than our flesh does when diving into a tri-tip at the Outback Steakhouse.
V. 4—For BY THESE He has granted us His precious and magnificent PROMISES. By “THESE” is meant by His own glory and excellence (v. 3b). God’s calling of us in salvation has put His own glory and excellence on display (when we are blind to that; we tend to be preoccupied with self—stuck in patterns of defeat and joylessness).
God has, in effect, poured His perfections; excellence; glorious attributes into the mould of Gospel promises. Lord, let this sink in—the specifics of the Gospel came out of God’s own glory and excellence. He hasharnessed His infinite perfections and attributes and put them to work in saving and perfecting the saints. The cause of your salvation is found totally in God—in His perfections; excellence; attributes; and character. Therefore; His cause to shine forth His glory has become your cause for in making your salvation His cause—He has joined our cause and His in the Person of Christ. When that sinks in—it will make you want to shout!
(EX. These precious and magnificent promises were ‘cast’ in the foundry of His divine attributes—your salvation puts God’s perfections and excellence on display! How He is taking you from dust to glory is a subject of endless fascination to the holy angels.)
This transforming truth is essential to the maturation of your faith. This must not remain in the realm of the theoretical; it must be personalized—from the general to the specific—for an intimate knowledge of Christ will produce the conviction that God is exerting His attributes in my particular case. This is the adventure of the Christian life—it is learning to live on the strength of Another—upon Christ.
Now, let’s look at our text again (v. 4) the intended outcome of these promises is that we might be PARTAKERS of the divine nature. The promises in Christ and the Gospel are the means by which we become partakers of the divine nature. (Every part of our salvation has been thought out by our all-wise Father.)
By the indwelling of God’s Spirit, we are PARTAKERS of the divine nature—not little ‘gods’; but sharers in the moral nature of God. Sharing in God’s moral nature means that we are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ—Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4—we are being developed into this new life after the image of the One who created him—Col 3:10. Christ is the Architect; the Contractor, and the Blueprint for the new man—you are being constructed into His likeness—that is what these precious promises are able to accomplish—because God’s mighty attributes stand behind them and energize them.
God has harnessed His attributes (power; wisdom; glory; majesty) and cast them in a foundry so to speak to make the promises of the Gospel. Now He has done this in order that your life might be poured into the mould of the Gospel (promises). Gospel promises give form and shape to the Christian life. God is forming (constructing) a new humanity around the Person of Christ by means of the magnificent promises of the Gospel.
Now back to the concept of partaking in the divine nature. This sharing in the moral nature of God enables us to have communion with God and to ultimately to be a unified with God in glory—as much as a creature could possibly be! (We will share His holiness—Heb 12:10.) (And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ—2 Thess 2:14.) God is speaking these magnificent promises to your faith.
A true Christian is one who is a PARTAKER of the divine nature (are you conscious of this incredible spiritual reality; that the divine life has been communicated to you in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—you are the eternal habitation of God’s Spirit—Eph 2:22. And this fact determines you identity, purpose, mission, and destiny).
The bestowal of the divine nature in the believer demands that you continue in communion and obedience. The elect are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Eph 1:4). Brethren this promise is a source of resolve—to be done with the evil remnants of the old life; to turn your back on the immoral filth and pollution of the world. When God contemplates you in Christ; He sees you as HAVING ESCAPED. You live in a different sphere now—because CORRUPTION is the very opposite of the divine nature. (When Scripture commands us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ it means that you are to regard yourself as God does—as in Christ as your realm—your dwelling place—Romans 13:14.)
By the divine PROMISES you have been delivered from the tyranny of evil cravings and lusts. They once held you in their grasp and ruled over you—you could not free yourself. But by God’s sovereign grace in Christ, you have ESCAPED. You have been radically identified with Christ—His death was your death to sin (Rom 6). His resurrection is your resurrection to newness of life in Him. How can we go back to the cesspool we once drank from? Notice the text describes what is in the world by lust; it is CORRUPTION—that is decay, death, dissolution.
When a person serves sin the “death meter” is running. If he does not repent; it is but a matter of time before corruption catches him—for sin pays an unavoidable “wage” or paycheck of death and corruption. But by God’s precious and magnificent promises; you have escaped! God’s glory and excellence have constructed precious and magnificent promises which have made you partakers of the DIVINE NATURE.
Therefore our only logical, reasonable response is to renounce the WORLD entirely—there is not a thing in the world for your regenerate soul to feed upon. Therefore by faith smash your heart idols; trample the world’s lying offers. Press on; answer the upward call—pursue an experiential heart knowledge of Christ—for the image of God has been “reborn” in you. This is nothing less than God’s plan to permit you to share in His blessedness; to glorify Him self by making you eternally happy in Him.
Do you see the Spirit-inspired logic here? Sharing in the eternal life of God of complete blessedness is set against the spurious offers of this world in which are nothing but corruption. The two are mutually exclusive.
CONCLUSION: We have been called to a supernatural life. We’ve seen that the knowledge of God is the ‘door’ to holy living. But here is the wealth promised to us—what God requires; He has promised. He has imparted a new divine life to us. We are joined to God the Son. The full sufficiency of His divine resources are there to mould us into His likeness (He is exercising His power toward us—Eph 1:19-20.) God’s glory and excellence have moulded gospel promises which shall surely mould us to the likeness of God’s Son. If your faith is to move to maturity—then the mindset of our passage will become your mindset. Your faith must go from “How am I doing?” To—“What is God doing?”
Everything we need we have through a true knowledge of God in Christ. LUST is what I was by nature. But now the divine nature lives in me—this is not only a heavenly promise; but a present reality which is to characterize my entire life. Professing Christians who genuinely manifest the DIVINE NATURE—by their very lives they convict the world of sin, lust, and corruption.
God’s glorious attributes drive these Gospel promises—the Lord intends that your faith be invigorated by them—that you step out in faith. You know what the alternative is—we tend to settle back upon our duties and performances and gradually lose the big picture. “Lord, raise me up out of stagnancy and doubt to the divine viewpoint that I might see that you have moved heaven and earth in order to give me infinite resources in Christ. You have harnessed your own excellence and glory in order to plant in me the divine nature. God is speaking to the faith He has created in you. Admittedly our faith is often weak and assaulted. But we bring a weak faith to promises that are infinitely powerful because God’s glory and excellence stands behind them. As you learn to live upon Christ (go out on a limb with Him—attempting things beyond your natural strength) your intimate knowledge of Christ will grow—your ability to live the exchanged life will increase.
Would you do anything differently in your life if you believed that the Second Person of the Godhead left His throne in order to make you like Himself in order to glorify God? And that in Christ you lack nothing for life and godliness and that the Gospel promises that are yours cannot fail to take you from dust to glory?
“Lord, raise me up out of stagnancy and doubt to the divine viewpoint. Let my faith feed on your promises that I might see that you have moved heaven and earth in order to give me infinite resources in Christ. You have harnessed your own excellence and glory in order to plant in me the divine nature. Lord, by your promises you are speaking to the faith that you created in me. I want to know you more and more—I’m willing to step out upon my infinite resources in Christ to do your will.”