At the Corner of Promise and God Part One
Topic: Promises Passage: 2 Peter 1:1–1:11
At the Corner of Promise and God Part One
Pastor Allen Snapp 12/28/15
In two weeks we are going to be wrapping up the series we’ve been in and starting a new study from the book of 1 Cor. that I am calling Letter to a Really Messed up Church. I am looking forward to getting back into a book and going through it chapter by chapter, and 1st Corinthians is a book that covers a lot of ground as Paul addresses a number of important – and at times controversial – issues that the church of Corinth was dealing with, issues that the church faces to this day, so I think we will find this to be, not only an interesting study, but a very relevant one to our lives and church as well.
For the last four months we’ve been in a series called At the Corner of Life and God and we’ve been looking at how God wants to intersect with our lives, not just on the special occasions, not just in church, but in a day by day, hour by hour kind of way. He wants to intersect with our lives where the rubber meets the road, where our lives are the realest, and often where they are the messiest. How the Lord wants to enter those rooms of our lives that we close off from everyone and don’t want anyone to know about, not in order to humiliate or hurt us, but in order to bring healing and real change to our lives and most of all, to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him.
So over the past four months we have met at quite a few different corners, including:
- the corner of success and God
- the corner of failure and God
- the corner of fear and God
- the corner of friendship and God
- the corner of loneliness and God
- the corner of little things and God
- the corner of forgiveness and God and…
- the corner of thanksgiving and God
As I thought and prayed about where to end this series, there was one more corner I felt we needed to visit, so turn with me please to 2 Peter 1 where for the next two weeks we are going to meet at the corner of promise and God.
The Bible is a book that is full of promises, from the third chapter of Genesis, immediately after Adam and Eve fell when God promised that one day a deliverer would come who would crush the head of the serpent, from that point the promises continue all the way to the second to last verse of the last book in the Bible, Rev. 22:20, when Jesus makes this promise, “surely I am coming soon.” Virtually every aspect of the Christian’s life and future hinge on the promises of God. Christians are called “believers” – but what are we believing? The promises of God. We walk by faith, but faith in what? The promises of God. One day faith won’t be needed anymore because we will see the Lord with our eyes, and we will walk the streets of His eternal kingdom and faith will give way to sight. But until that day, God chooses to meet His people with promises and invites us to believe them. But they’re not just promises. Peter calls them “precious and very great promises” to us from God and when we follow all the connections that Peter makes we see that the promises of God are the channel through which we receive the power of Christ both for eternal life and to live a godly life while we remain on this earth.
2 Peter 1:1-11
In just a couple weeks one of the first bills the new Congress is promising to put on Obama’s desk is the bill to approve the Keystone Pipeline. This pipeline would help move oil from Canada through the US all the way down to Houston, TX. The oil is there in Canada, but a pipeline is needed as a means of channeling the oil where it needs to go. Canada can’t just spray oil in our general direction and expect it to accomplish anything of use.
In the same way, God doesn’t just “spray” His power in our general direction and hope something good happens. This passage is kind of like a spiritual pipeline conveying the power to live godly lives and receive eternal life to us and to help us see all the connecting points between God’s promises and our lives I want to break them down into five connecting points, which all happen to begin with the letter “p”. Now, just to let you in on a little inside baseball for pastors, it can be dangerous when a preacher tries to make all their points start with the same letter because the preacher will often be tempted to twist a point just to make it fit the letter, but in this case I’m not bending these points like a pretzel to come up with five “p” words - I’m taking these five words directly from the passage. And the first word is “power”:
The first word is the word “power”. That’s what verse 3 tells us is at the beginning of the pipeline and it’s what God wants to convey to our lives: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
Peter tells us that God gives His power to those who have placed their faith in Christ and his righteousness and that power is for two things: life and godliness. Life speaks of the internal life of God at work in our souls. By His power, God has made us spiritually alive in Christ! So life speaks of the life of God within us. Godliness speaks of the external outworking of that life. Living a life outwardly that corresponds with the internal power of God’s life at work within us. But notice that the power to be godly doesn’t come from us. Peter’s focus is on God’s power flowing to us, not us trying harder in our own power to be godly. God has given us “all things” or, as the NIV translates it, “everything we need for a godly life…” We will see next week more specifically how that power flows into our lives through the promises of God, but it’s important for us to see that godliness doesn’t start with us, it’s not our power at the beginning of the pipeline, it’s God’s power.
But that power isn’t just sprayed at us. Look at the next link of the pipeline: It flows to us through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. Peter’s main reason for writing this letter was to address a teaching called Gnosticism that presented a false and heretical image of who Christ is, so Peter wants these believers to know that the power for godliness and eternal life flows to us only through the true knowledge of Jesus Christ which we can only receive through God’s inspired word. There is no power for godly living or eternal life apart from knowing Jesus.
Joel Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in America, and has over 3 million followers on Twitter. A writer for the Christian magazine, the NTEB Newsroom, recently went through all of Osteen’s tweets of the past year. What this author found was over the last year, Osteen had tweeted over 800 times, but only mentioned the name of Jesus Christ four times, one of those times being a plug for the movie Son of God, and the other three having to do with Easter. That is a tragic omission when you consider that the power that gives eternal life and the power to live godly lives only comes to us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ! There is no other name given under heaven by which man can be saved. So the power of God flows to us through the knowledge of him (Christ) who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…
The second word is “promises”. The God’s power flows to us via the channel of God’s promises, what Peter calls His “precious and very great promises”. To be precious means that it is of great value or high price. If your house was burning down, the thing you’d grab first to save from the flames is what is most precious to you. If you are a parent, you would never think of saving the flat screen tv before you’d saved your children, because they are precious to you in a way your tv or food processor or that heirloom lamp could never be.
Peter uses this word “precious” three times in his two letters: speaking of the blood of Christ in 1 Peter 1:19, of our faith in 1 Pet. 1:7 and of God’s promises here in 2 Peter 1:4. Christ’s blood is precious because it is the blood of the Son of God, shed for our sins. It is precious because it is the only agent in the universe that has the power to cleanse us from the stain of sin. It is precious because, as Peter points out, it is by Christ’s blood that we have been ransomed from death and bought back to God.
Our faith is precious because it is the means by which we access the salvation God has provided through Christ. Faith is the muscle that grips the grace of God: we have been saved by grace through faith. Faith is the receptor, the channel through which the grace of God flows to us.
But both of these precious things, the blood of Christ and faith in Christ, hinge on the promises of God. How can we be sure that Christ’s blood has cleansed us of our sin and ransomed us back to God? Because God promises it. How do we know that we are saved by grace through faith? Because God promises it. Christ’s shed blood promises us something, and faith believes in that promise. So the preciousness of both Christ’s blood and of our faith hinges on the preciousness of God’s promises.
And so, because all of our lives and future hinge on God’s promises, they are very great and very precious to us indeed. But there’s one more vitally important factor that is necessary to make God’s promises precious. These promises don’t come to us out of the clear blue sky. Peter says in verse 4 they come to us by something: by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises…So we have to ask, by what? The answer is found in verse 3: through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,by which…
By what? By his own glory and excellence. The word translated excellence comes from the Greek word arête and it means specifically moral excellence. God’s promises flow from His morally excellent character and God puts His character on the line with every promise.
See, the value of any promise is only as good as the trustworthiness of the promiser. A huge promise from someone who breaks his promises is worthless. The value of a promise isn’t determined by the size of the promise alone; it’s also determined by the trustworthiness of the one making the promise. If you know someone is faithful to keep their promises, you have probably grown to trust them when they make a promise. But if someone you know frequently makes promises and then doesn’t keep them, their promises have probably have come to mean very little to you – because you know they just aren’t worth
much. Sometimes when someone knows that their promises have come to mean little because they’ve broken so many promises, they try to increase the value of their promises by increasing the size of their promises. They promise bigger things hoping that will restore the value to their promise. It won’t. A large promise from someone who breaks their promises is just a big lie. The value of a promise is only as good as the trustworthiness of the promiser.
This is what makes God’s promises so priceless to us: God is always100% true to His promises. Every promise that God has ever made, He’ll keep. Not one promise from God will ever fail or fall to the ground. When you have a promise from God, you have something more precious than gold, because God’s character is glorious and excellent. When you’re standing on a promise of God, you’re standing on rock solid ground. When you’re struggling with something, or there’s a stubborn sin or a tenacious fear that is more than you can overcome, find a promise from God and make it yours. Stand on it, claim it, memorize it, rehearse it to your soul, until you believe it with all your heart.
Even on that final day when we face death, God promises to walk us across the dark waters of the Jordan to the other side and that promise is more precious than anything in the world. I was talking to my 94 year old grandma on Christmas Day and as she often does lately, she said she was so ready for the Lord to call her home. Normally I would say something like, “Well, Grandma, I hope for our sakes He doesn’t call you home yet” but this time I didn’t say that. She’s ready, her body’s falling apart. There’s so little she can do, not much more than read. Her food needs to be pureed so even the pleasure of eating is diminished.
Grandma has been a gift to our family, a faithful prayer warrior who prayed for all of us to know Jesus long before any of us believed in Christ. She has been a constant witness for Christ. But Grandma is not perfect and she is very aware – painfully aware- of her faults and sins and failures. With tears in her voice she said to me, “I don’t deserve to enter heaven, but I know I am forgiven by Christ and he will welcome me in.” She is standing on the promises of God and they will carry her safely to the other side.
We’re nowhere near done looking at how God’s power is channeled to our lives through God’s very great promises to us, but we’ll have to finish the last three points next week. This is a good time to ask of ourselves, “Am I trusting God’s promises to me? Am I standing on the promises of God? Do I even know what those promises are?”
As we stand at the edge of 2015, what does the New Year hold for you? Maybe you think you know. Maybe you have no idea. The reality is that none of us really know what the next year might have in store for us. But if you are trusting in Christ you have his promise that he will be with you not only through 2015 but always. Or, to put that promise in the negative form, the Lord says he will never you or forsake you. (Heb. 13:5). That’s a promise.
God is always 100% true to His promises. Is there a promise that you need to cling to in this season? I wrote this promise to someone in our church who has a family member facing a serious health concern: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. That is a promise that comforts our souls in times of trouble. We have a refuge in God. He is our strength and our help in trouble. We have power flowing to us that is not our own, it comes from God.
When we are fearful about what the future holds, we can cling to a promise given to Israel through Jeremiah, but applies to all of those who trust in Christ: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
When something enters our lives that seems so bad, we can make the promise of Romans 8:28 the rock we stand on: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28 (NIV)
When a temptation seems to be stronger than we can bear, we have this promise from God to hold onto: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13 (NIV)
If we feel like our life is barren and empty of meaning, and we wonder what our purpose is, we can claim a conditional promise and press towards it: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 Draw near to Christ in faith and he will produce much fruit through you. His power delivered through his promise.
Faith isn’t vague and general. Faith is never in a vacuum. Faith holds to specific promises of God, and to the overall faithfulness and goodness of God and believes in His promises even when the answer or the deliverance or the provision is nowhere in sight. In a sense, every corner of our lives is the corner of promise and God because God meets us at every point in our lives with a promise and invites us to believe it.
The deeper it penetrates our souls that God is always faithful to His promises, that not one of His promises will ever go unkept or broken, the stronger the faith that rises in our hearts will be and the more power for life and godliness we will experience. The promises of God are the pipeline through which the power of God flows to us.