Sunday, 21 June 2020

Ever Closer to Jesus - 2 Peter 1

We can know up front that God provides. Peter makes this clear in verse 3: "His divine power has given everything we need". He writes 'everything' - not a few scraps, or just enough to get us started! See also in verse 3 that God has called us - remember again that God equips the called. He doesn't leave us to flounder with no resources. Even better than that Peter declares in verse 4 'so that you can participate in the divine nature'. Do you get just how huge this is?

Through God's grace and His equipping you get to take part in the very nature of God, in the spiritual and unseen. Yes we are in the physical world, but God provides so you can take part in the spiritual things, the very things of God. As followers of Jesus, even still at home in lockdown, we live in the world but not of it. We 'escape corruption' as it says in verse 4 - all the yukky stuff of the world around us. Sure we live in the midst of it, with it clawing at our lives and screaming all around us, but we are not prisoner to it. No - we get to take part in the divine nature.

Based on this Peter then writes in verse 5 'make every effort'. Use that effort to add or supply to your faith a whole list of virtues. We should not read this list like a shopping list: the way Peter writes it in the original Greek is a very careful linked progression, like a set of steps to climb.

Let us be clear that the basis is faith - our belief and acceptance of what God gives (as per verse 3). So our salvation, i.e. our acceptance and welcome by God, is at the bottom step. Though Peter writes 'make every effort' he in no way means that it is your effort to become saved or acceptable to God. We are accepted by grace, based on what Jesus has done and not on our efforts.

Furthermore the goodness, knowledge, self-control ... all the way up to love do not come by our efforts alone. They come by what God gives (verse 3 again), but they do require effort on our part to live in line with what God gives. So we can better understand verse 5 as 'Do al it takes on your part to go with what God provides for you to fulfil His calling on you'.

By doing our part, our faith develops basic goodness, and onto that a deeper knowledge of God and His ways. That enables self-control (not to be swayed by all that yukkyness!). With self-control we can learn to persevere, sticking it out, enabling us to be more godly in the way we live. That in turn enables greater affection for one another, just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are inter-twined in a wonderful mutual affection. Onto that we discover love in its truest form. This is the top of the progression, because God is Love.

Note how this progression makes sense in the face of any kind of adversity (enemies against you, in lockdown etc.). It rests on faith, and begins with basic behaviour and our knowledge of God. These are the building blocks needed for the self-control that is vital for us when under pressure. That control enables us to persevere despite the hardships, so that we indeed reach those upper steps of Godliness and Godly love even with adversity around us.

We can sum this progression up with the simple phrase:

Ever Closer to Jesus

That of course is number 3 of our 4 habits for fruitful discipleship - always wanting to be more like Jesus.

The point of all this is spelt out in verse 8: it keeps us from being unproductive. Or to put it positively, it enables us to live up to the calling God has on our lives. If we ignore this, and just sit back, the result is to go backwards (verse 9), eventually to ask what was the point of the God's grace in the first place?

Pete Re-iterates in verse 10: 'Make every effort to confirm your calling'. Again this is not by works, but apply yourself to go with what God provides, to fulfil His calling. God provides, He equips - it is down to us to pick up the equipment and start using it. In doing that we participate in the divine nature of God, changing things in the heavenlies which brings real change here in the physical.

Our discipleship habit 'Ever Closer to Jesus' is perhaps even more important now than it was in full lockdown. Now things are opening back up, people are returning to work, shops are re-opening etc. Our routines are therefore changing and the risk of life-busynessis returning, and yet we still cannot gather for weekly worship together as we used to. Hence the importance of paying attention to our discipleship habits!

We are not in control of lockdown and its gradual release ... but we can be in control of our own discipleship habits: we can do our bit to make every effort.

The eventual result is not just a simple 'welcome' by God into the eternal Kingdom of Jesus, but the rich welcome that Peter writes of. This is a hero's welcome, a "well done for the great effort" kind of welcome that we can look forward to!

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