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Living on the Promises of God

 

2 Peter 1:1-11

 

Jim Davis

 

“You’re acquainted with house sitters. Not wanting to leave your house vacant, you ask someone to stay in your home until you return. Let me describe two nightmares.

 

“The first house sitter redecorates your house, changing white paint to pink, Berber carpet to shag. His justification? ‘The house didn’t express me. I needed a house that communicated who I am.’

 

“Your response? ‘It’s not yours! My residence doesn’t exist to reflect you! I asked you to take care of the house, not take over the house!’

 

“You might choose him, however, over nightmare number two. She didn’t redecorate; she neglected. Never washed a dish, made a bed, or took out the trash. ‘My time here was temporary. I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

 

“Of course you’d mind!

 

“Both these sitters made the same mistake: They acted as if they owned the dwelling. How could they?” (Max Lucado, Temple Talk, Honoring God with Your Body, Discipleship Journal. Issue 141 May/June 2004, pg 52.)

 

But how could we do the same thing with our lives? When it comes to our lives, the Bible declares our lives are not ours. Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV). Paul is saying your life is not your own. You belong to God. You have been bought with a price.

 

In our minds we may somehow separate our physical life from our spiritual lives. This world says use your body to indulge your passions. Jesus teaches us to give control of our bodies to the Spirit of God to use our bodies to honor God. Use your whole body as a tool to glory of God.

 

Standing on God’s Promises

We must make absolutely sure that we are standing on God’s promises rather than our contrived desires. We may become anxious and jump the gun when it comes to God’s promises as we seek to turn the Bible into a magic book to fulfill our selfish desires. Many turn phrases like “whatever you ask in my name, you shall receive” into a magical wand to wave over their own selfish contrived plans they seek to make into the promises of God.

 

A sign in front of the church down the road read, “Don’t change God’s message, His message must change you.” It is one thing to know what is taught and quite another to stand on what is taught. Peter writes his epistle to persuade his readers to stand on what the apostles and prophets taught.

2 Peter 1:16-21

16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."   18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

 

19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. NIV

 

Faith is not devised by the cunning of men, but a through a knowledge of God’s promises. Peter reminds us, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” I think of the magicians who performed the same feats as Moses as their staffs turned into snakes (Exodus 7:10-13), but Moses snake swallowed the magicians snakes. God’s power brought Egypt to her knees. The world witnessed his power. Simon the sorcerer was considered to be some great divine Great Power, but when he heard what Philip preached he became a believer (Acts 8:9-13). Paul looked straight at Elymas the sorcerer and called him a child of the devil and God caused Elymas to go blind (Acts 13:8-11). Those who believed the gospel in the first century did not believe it was some cleverly devised tale. They saw the power of God and they staked their lives on the promises of the Almighty.

 

It is difficult for some to bring themselves to simply stand on God’s promises. I read a story of a liberal preacher giving a dissertation to a bunch of theologians. He was asked to teach on the apostle Paul’s teaching on justification by faith. He made a superb effort to teach what Paul taught. Afterwards a fellow preacher came up to him and congratulated him. However, he went on to say, “I didn’t know you believed what you taught today.” The speaker replied, “I don’t believe it, but I wasn’t asked to teach what I believe on justification by faith, I was asked to teach on Paul’s teaching about justification by faith.”

 

How can we stand on God’s promises when we don’t believe in his promises? It is through faith in God’s promises that we escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.

 

2 Peter 1:3-4

3 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.

 

The knowledge of God reveals his promises. It is through these promises we discover life as God meant it to be. It is through these promises that we participate in God’s nature. It is through his promises we escape from sin.

 

Our Competency Comes from God

 

We can only live lives of incompetence without God. None of us is capable to accomplish the impossible. Yet, God is asking us to do the impossible. The disciples became so frustrated with seeking to do the impossible they asked on one occasion, “’Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:25-26).

 

2 Corinthians 3:4-6

4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant- — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. NIV

 

It is hard to admit that  we don’t measure up and that we will never measure up. It is discouraging, but it is true. We need to accept it. This concept is the one thing that brings us to trust in God’s competence. This is what Jesus told the rich young ruler when he told him to go and sell everything he had and follow him. He went away sad because he was seeking to live a competent life without God. It was on this occasion the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” It is impossible for me to salvage my own life. I must depend upon God’s power working in my circumstances making it possible to stand on his strength alone. This is what it means to stand on the promises of God.

 

Claiming God’s promises through prayer is the only means to living competent lives. We simply take back to God his promises of what he said he would do. We do not try to twist his arm and persuade him to do something he’s not inclined to do. We don’t say, “Well, you probably don’t want to do this for me, but I would like to ask you anyway.” No, God has said he will do it. It brings joy to the Father’s heart when his children come to him and say, “Please fulfill this promise in my experience today.”

 

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV

 

You can’t figure your own way out, you must look to God to provide the way of escape. Paul tells us God has provided a way of escape from temptation. We are all tempted, and when temptation comes we should ask, “Father, show now the way of escape in this particular situation.”

 

2 Peter 1:1-3

1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

 

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

 

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

 

3 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.

 

God’s divine power works all things out for those who are actively seeking to love him. Dependency upon God does not negate the essentiality of our need to actively do what is necessary to stand on his promises.

 

God promises to forgive the whole world, but we must claim his promise. To use the avenue he provides to claim his promise of forgiveness makes us no less dependent upon God’s power exerted through his promises.

 

We must stand on God’s promises to experience his salvation. Listen to the last thing Mark records that Jesus said before his ascension to heaven.

 

Mark 16:15-16

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. NIV

 

Listen to the first thing Peter taught on Pentecost that the Jews must do to be forgiven.

 

Acts 2:36-39

36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

 

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

 

38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call." NIV

 

There is no way we can experience God’s salvation without standing upon his promises. Whenever we are tempted to doubt this, we must go back to God’s word and ask, “What does God say?” Someone may retort by saying well we are saved by faith and not by works. James retorts by saying, “Of what good is faith without works (James 1:14-26). The Bible goes to great extremes to teach that we are not saved by our works; but it also goes to even greater extremes to teach us that our works are the result of a saving faith.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. NIV

 

Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand that no matter how hard they worked they were still saved by their faith and not by their works. Salvation is through God’s power. When we begin to depend on our works we displace the power of God. Only God’s power can salvage our lives. Works without dependency on God’s promises through faith leads to incompetence.

 

First John verse nine is the Christian’s bar of soap: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If you’re a Christian, there will never be a time in your life when 1 John 1:9 isn’t true for you, and available when you need it. But you must make the effort to claim it for yourself. The Holy Spirit wants us to confess the sins he points out to us. When we are sensitive and responsive—confessing, and making restitution if necessary—then God cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The slate is clean, and our channel of communication with the Father is wide open and perfect. Our intimacy with him grows. (Skip Gray, “Standing On The Promises Of God” Discipleship Journal.)

 

Incidentally, the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the accusation of Satan is threefold. When the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, the conviction is specific, gentle, and hopeful. But the accusation of Satan is vague, harsh, and discouraging. If you’re struggling with guilt recognizing this difference can help you determine whether it is the Holy Spirit’s work or the devil’s. (Skip Gray, “Standing On The Promises Of God” Discipleship Journal.)

 

Building Lives on God’s Promises

 

Some feel no need to go beyond their initial response to Christ and forever remain babes in Christ. They fail to build on God’s promises. Some forever want to hear only the basic principles of Christ, but we must go beyond foundational principals if we are to build upon the foundational principles.

 

Hebrews 6:1-6

6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

 

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. NIV

 

The Greek concept of knowledge was that it was a gathering of informational truth to be stored in the mind. This is how most study the Bible today. We gather the truth for storage in the cerebral cortex. The Hebrews concept of knowledge was much different. They saw knowledge as a relational experience. It is no accident that the Bible was written to describe the interaction of Bible characters and God. Moses writes that Adam “knew” his wife (Genesis 4:1). Adam knowing his wife was relational. To know her was to interact with her in a personal intimate way.

 

Salvation comes through knowledge of Christ, but it ends with knowing Christ. Peter penned his letter with the Greek language, but he had a Hebrew mind-set. He wrote, 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 (2 Peter 1:3). However, it is God’s power that works through our knowledge of Christ that saves us.

 

We come to know God through doing his will. Peter speaks of adding to our faith.

 

1Peter 1:5-11

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

 

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

To have a productive faith we must add these things to our lives. When we seek to add these things to our lives we will begin to experience the work of God in our lives. We will begin to see God at work in us. We will experience God accomplishing the impossible with us. But keep in mind it will be God’s power doing it.

 

This is a lifetime process. The better we get to know him as we see him make and keep his promises, the greater confidence we will have in his trustworthiness as the years go by. A beautiful marriage is a work of art built on the promises made at the altar. As we work to keep and enhance those promises the better we know one another in the marriage relationship. It takes a lifetime to make a beautiful marriage, and so does a beautiful Christian life.

 

God’s promises provide the fundamental foundation for our lives, but we must be about the business of building our lives upon his promises. This is what it is to know God. Marriages are built upon the vows made at the wedding; it is a life long process. When we start to take those vows lightly the relationship is diminished. To embrace the vows so to build a relationship upon them takes work.

 

A true knowledge of God is built upon faith, but the end result is not knowledge—it is a living vibrant relationship with God as we experience his powerful presence in our life.

 

Peter speaks often about living holy godly lives throughout his epistles. The practice of godliness is an exercise or discipline that forces us to focus on God. It is a Godward attitude. Godliness is more than Christian character. It is character that springs from a devotion to God. Many live as good as Christians live, but their lives are not devoted to God. Their lives may be devoted to a higher calling, a moral belief it is a better way to live, but they are not devoted to God.

 

It is possible to build a Christian behavioral pattern for our lives without a foundation of devotion to God. It is no better for the Christian who seeks to live a godly life with trusting in God’s promises. Too often Christians make an initial response to Christ but they fail to build a life on the foundation Christ provides. The church in Corinth had accepted Christ, but they were seeking to build a life without a devotion Christ.

 

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. NIV

 

Conclusion:

 

Paul speaks of Christians as those married to Christ.

 

Ephesians 5:25-27

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. NIV

 

We make ourselves ready for the coming of Christ as we seek to live upon the promises of God.

 

Revelation 19:7-8

7 Let us rejoice and be glad

and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.

8 Fine linen, bright and clean,

was given her to wear." NIV

 

Bible Study Questions

 

  1. How do many separate the spiritual life from the physical life? (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

  2. How are some ways we might change God’s message rather than allowing it to change us?

  3. How do we participate in God’s divine nature? What will I discover when I begin to live upon God’s promises?

  4. How do our lives become incompetent without God? How do you feel when someone tells you that you don’t measure up? What do you do about it?

  5. What is the only means to live a competent life?

  6. How does God work with those actively seeking to do his will? How is escaping the corruption of this world connected to living upon God’s promises?

  7. Why do many have difficult standing upon God’s promise to save them when they are baptized into Christ?

  8. When we are saved by grace what value is works?

  9. What is the difference in the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the condemnation of Satan?

  10. Why do some never go beyond the initial steps to salvation?

  11. What was the difference in the Greeks approach to knowledge and the Hebrews approach to knowledge?

  12. What happens when the Christian begins to add the Christian graces to his faith? (2 Peter 1:5-11)

 

 

 

 

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