Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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We are in a Garden of Grace

November 2nd, 2008 by Vic

2 Peter 1:1-4

In 1 Peter the focus was on our great God. He is the all knowing, the One worthy of praise, the holy, and the One in control of all things. Peter kept our eyes on God and described our salvation and our Christian living from God’s point of view.

Now in 2 Peter there are changes and Peter’s focus is more on Jesus. In the first letter one of his purposes in writing was to encourage those who were suffering and He focuses on God. Now in this letter he writes to warn them about false teachers who try to divide the church and he focuses on Christ, the head of the Church. The problems causing suffering were coming from outside the church. Now the problems are coming from inside the church. Unity is being threatened.

So in the first letter the plural pronoun “our” is used 4/5 times with sin and suffering. But in the second letter the word “our” is used 8/10 times with Jesus, Lord and Saviour.

Peter’s second letter is unique. He uses 57 words that are not found anywhere else in the N.T. In the first letter, he grouped words and phrases in 3’s. In this letter he uses pairs. It seems that the book of Daniel influenced Peter in his first letter. And in this letter there is a Greek influence. In the first few verses he uses proper Greek terminology to define our salvation. The words have double meanings. Later in this letter he clearly distinguishes our salvation from Greek religion.

He does not refer to any office holders or church organization. The terms he uses for Christianity include: the way, the holy commandment, the knowledge, and the truth you have.

His critics at this time were teachers who did not believe in the Second Coming of Christ. They were teaching that there was no coming judgement. What you see is what you get. This is all of life there is. They were saying the apostles invented the resurrection.

Peter says stop and think. Remember what God is doing for you. For Adam and Eve He planted a garden. For us God in Jesus created a new spiritual garden. We can walk in God’s orchard of grace. It is nice shade, but you need to take care of it to benefit from it. You can sit under an apple tree a long time but an apple will never bounce into your mouth. God has made available to you many good things, but you need to pick them off the tree of life. You need to receive them. Jesus has done a great work and made available for us everything we need for life and godliness.

If you are getting frustrated with some circumstances around you, pick a bit of grace. If you find yourself growing cold and apathetic, get out and take care of your garden. When people misunderstand you, remember the promises. When travelling teachers tell you plastic stories that they have made up, remember what is really important. Jesus did everything God required for our salvation. He told us everything we need to know. His life was our example. His words are everything we need for life and godliness. He is everything we need. There is no lack in Jesus.

Peter also calls himself a slave. This is the same word he used in 2:16, but different from 2:18. This slave is the one who is possessed by his Master with no rights of his own, unquestioning obedience, continual service, and no time off. Here is a term that meant the lowest of the low, but Peter takes it as an honor. When he attended a conference, the credential after the name on his nametag was slave, not co-founder of the church, not one of the three, or chairman of the Jerusalem council.

The Greek prided himself in his status and freedom; he was a slave of no one. This title would be repulsive to a Greek mind. But in Christ there is a paradox of freedom in submission. We are free as slaves of God.

He did not call himself a steward or a trustee, which is another word for slave.

Adam had complete freedom within the garden, the sphere of faith and obedience in God. When he used his freedom to disobey he lost his freedom. Now in Jesus we can again be free from the guilt of sin. We can again become servants of Jesus Christ. Like the butterfly that flies through the flames of sin, we can be forgiven and be given new wings in Christ.

Peter calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ, an ambassador or envoy. He felt that the apostles had been entrusted with the living Word of God in Jesus (2 Peter 3:2). The purpose he wrote this was to remind us not to trust the words of man no matter how pretty they are, but trust the words of God as spoken by the prophets and Jesus, which we’ve been proclaiming. The prophets spoke real truth and God has not changed.

So Peter calls himself Symeon, one who believes in equality, a slave of Jesus and an apostle of Jesus, entrusted with the Word of God. Who are you? How do you introduce yourself?

He writes to all that have received a faith like his. We are his equals. In the sphere of righteousness I received faith and I am equal to Peter because of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Equality to the Greek was important because only equals can enter into legal relationships. Peter is suggesting an equal relationship in the family of God. We are all born again of the same Spirit. Peter is emphasizing equality.

We have all been graced. We did not acquire it on our own or buy it. It was the impartial grace of God. The gracing is not of my effort but is like being given a vegetable garden and fruit orchard. It is God’s gift to reconcile us to Himself. We all stand in need under God’s tree of grace.

Our faith is received. Our faith is equally precious. All Christians have received a package of faith in the sphere of the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Plato talked of a Utopia grounded on the concept of righteousness; the same word as used here. For him the ideal world would be righteous. Every man would do right according to the standard of society.

For Christians the ideal world would be righteous. But God is our standard, not society. If we live holy lives, our world will be ideal as God intended. Through holiness or righteousness we received faith and in verse 2, through knowledge we receive grace and peace.

So who are we?

We are equals with Peter.

We are servants and ambassadors of Jesus.

We are receivers of faith, grace, and peace.

Verse 1 literally reads: Symeon Peter, slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to the ones who, equally precious with us, have received by lot, faith in the sphere of the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

If this letter had been intercepted and censored by any non-Christian Roman, he would dismiss it as a worthless for 2 reasons. First, no slave could say anything worth reading. Second, Jesus was a criminal or dead savior; Caesar was alive. Why worship Jesus?

Grace is a big idea with Peter. He begins his letter here with a wish for our grace to be multiplied and he ends this letter by commanding us to grow in grace. Grace is the beginning and the end. It’s all because of God’s amazing grace.

The primitive idea of the word grace suggests that which delights, expressed by joy or kindness. It has the element of reciprocity, which leads to thankfulness. We give thanks at our meals or say grace because of the food available. Because we’ve received, we give grace. It is reciprocal.

Then grace came to mean the favor of the gods evidenced by a gift. I receive a gift because I’m important or the gods think I deserve it.

But the Christian meaning loses the reciprocal idea. God’s graces are not deserved, but are a reflection of His nature. He is grace. He is making our nature grace. We know God’s grace is growing in our heart when we give thanks even when there is no food.

So to the Christian to grow in grace means our hearts become more like the heart of God. We express kindness and love to others because of our nature, not because of the other person; that is grace. To do good because someone deserves it is justice, not grace. To suffer for doing evil is justice. To suffer for doing good is grace. It’s a beauty of character, the beauty of holiness.

Literally verse 2 reads, “Grace be to you and peace be multiplied in the sphere of a personal knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Peace is a result of grace. It was a common greeting, but Peter lifts it out of the routine adding the following descriptive words. He seems to be choosing big words carefully.

Peace is harmony, the result of two warring factions being reconciled. Let all the pieces fit together. Peace is the result of forsaking my double-mindedness. There is no longer separation or division. We are one in the Spirit. We serve the God of peace. Jew and Gentile are equal heirs of God’s grace. There is peace through a personal knowledge of God. Where grace is beauty, peace is a song.

The more you know Jesus, the more you will see beauty and sing. Grace and peace are multiplied in and through intimate heart knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is not the knowledge of facts but a growing relationship.

Five times in this chapter Peter identifies Jesus as Lord. He is Lord! Nothing else can be. He is Lord of all or nothing at all.

SO WHO ARE WE? We are learners living in the sphere of God, a new garden of grace. In this garden is peace. All the pieces fit together.

Through Jesus we have received a precious faith and lack nothing because we have received everything.

Consider the lilies! What do they need? They have received everything they need to fulfill the nature within them. They were created to grow, withstand the storms, find nourishment, and reflect their beauty. And God cares more for us. The natural world should teach us about the spiritual.

The words divine power are a Greek religious term. The 2 words are not used anywhere else in early Christian literature. The word divine is also used in Acts 17:29 to refer to polytheistic or pantheistic gods. Divine is a flexible term that would not be offensive in the Greek culture. The Divine power of Jesus has given us and still gives us all things. The nature of Jesus is Almighty. He is competent. He is God. The Divine power of Christ cannot be defeated, frustrated, or inhibited. This is a power that He has because of His nature, not because of His money, education, or status. God has given all power to Him. This is not the power of an idea, as Plato said, but the power of a personal relationship.

When we decide to worship God, He gives us more reasons to worship. What we receive is for the purpose of abundant life in Christ and reverence toward God. We have been created with the ability to wonder and sing, but our scientific age has killed the child within us. All things stand given still today. Christ is the complete revelation of God’s grace. We can receive no more than what is already available in Jesus. Science has divided creation into pieces and real meaning is in the relationships.

If I am not enjoying abundant life, if my worship lacks reverence and wonder, my knowledge of God is fading. I need to renew a right spirit within me. I need to put some pieces together.

In Jesus we have everything we need for life and godliness. Fred Meyer has everything we need to fill our houses for Christmas. Jesus has everything we need to fill our hearts for abundant living. The cost is a personal intimate knowledge of Him. Philippians 3:10-11 should be our constant prayer, “That I may know Him.” We have to take and eat. In Genesis 2 we are commanded to eat and in Revelation 22 we are commanded to drink. Everything in between is a banquet.

In the garden with God and Jesus we receive grace, peace, and everything we need.

Christ has called all of us, not by His voice, but by his example. He has called us by His own private or unique glory and intrinsic goodness. Glory being the visibility of God and goodness being the nature of moral strength. His very nature was virtue and by His nature He draws all men to Himself.

The emphasis is on Jesus, His Divine power, His greatness, His fullness, His glory and excellence. He is the focus of the promises of God. We can participate in His nature. We can live in Him. In Him we can live and move and have our being.

What do I have? Everything I need. This world says you never have enough. The Bible says you have everything you need. Godliness with contentment is great gain. How can that be?

Verse 4 is packed with meaning and answers that question. “Through these things we’ve received, the super-great promises stand given in order that through these promises you all may become at a point in time sharers of the divine nature having run away from and escaped the corruption in this transitory world, in the sphere of lust.”

We were not created to be consumers in this world. We are grace dispensers. We can share the divine nature. We can be part of God’s family. I can really call God my Father. The Greeks agreed that we can have a divine nature, but they felt that our humanness was still corrupt. Peter says it is sin that caused the corruption, not the body.

In Christ the promises of God are fulfilled. His word can be written in my heart. I can walk with God. All the promises point to our reconciliation with God. In Christ we received reconciliation. We can be holy. We can participate in the divine nature. The word of God promises us we can live holy lives.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 6:16 and read through 7:1. What are the promises? It seems like the main promise is that God will be our Father. The promise is that we can be part of God’s family not just an individual piece of flesh.

Now turn to 1 Peter 1:17. Peter reminds us that if we call God “Father”, the promises have been fulfilled. If I claim to be God’s child, then the promises have been fulfilled. I know I am His child because I have the strength and desire to obey His commands.

1 John 2:15-17 says we can choose to love this world and die or love God and live. We can escape corruption if our desires are focused on the eternal and not the temporal.

The fact is that you have received everything you need for life and godliness. Now compare this fact from Peter to Joshua 18:3. “So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

I think the story of Joshua dramatically illustrates God’s plan for Christian living. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for Joshua is the word ‘Jesus’ when translated to Greek. Joshua was the leader who took the people into the Promised Land in the O.T. Jesus leads us into the promises of God today.

Let’s review the story of Joshua briefly. It begins with God’s promise to Abraham. 600 years before Joshua entered the Promised Land, Abraham was already living here. However, Genesis 15:16 says that God would not help Abraham conquer the land “because the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet complete.” Abraham’s descendants lived in the Promised Land until the great famine when Joseph saved Egypt and his family. They all moved to Egypt and when the people forgot what Joseph had done, his relatives became slaves of the Egyptians until Moses delivered them.

The book of Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ last words to the people before he turned the leadership over to Joshua. Then the book of Joshua begins with the crossing of the Jordan River and the battle of Jericho. From Jericho they marched throughout the land and defeated over 35 kings and many big cities. Much history and archaeology have been written about these battles.

It is interesting that at the same place where Joshua crossed the Jordan River to begin his conquest of the Promised Land, Jesus was baptized 1400 years later as He began His ministry and His conquest of Satan. Jesus’ kingdom has come. He rules in the hearts of believers.

God’s message for us has not changed. He has given us everything we need. We must enter and take possession. I want to highlight some verses in Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges and then return to Peter.

Deut. 1:6 – Moses is reviewing the acts of God over the past 40 years. They had seen God working in their lives. The people were really pretty content. Things were pretty good. This would be a nice place to stay. Let’s keep everything just like it is.

This verse is for all the Christians who have been in one spot too long. You have gotten comfortable and God says, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” This verse could also be applied to all the Americans who think they are Christian, but have been in one spot too long.

Deut. 1:8 – The promise of God is available. You need to go in. You need to possess it.

Deut. 1:21

Deut. 4:8 – You have received everything you need for life and godliness.

Deut. 7:2-6 God is going to deliver your enemies before you. You are to destroy your enemies and their religious customs. Why? Because their sin must now be punished and you are to be holy. God knew how hard it would be to be holy in the midst of a culture that worshiped sex. The Canaanites worshiped fertility. They used the babies of prostitutes for sacrifices, stem cell research, and religious rituals. When they built a new home they buried a baby in the foundation so the home would be fruitful.

Deut. 7:22 – To possess the Promised Land, you must do it in God’s time and as He leads. You cannot get rid of all the bad habits in your life quickly. As you remove the bad you must replace it with the good. We will see that in 1 Peter 2:1, 2 Peter 1:5-11, and Matt. 12:43.

Deut. 9:4 – It sounds like a contradiction, because Jesus said to love your enemies and do good to them that use you wrongly. God has not changed. If you read the whole story you will find several people who believed God and were not destroyed by Joshua. If you confess your sin, God will forgive your sin. But the soul that sins will die.

I think this verse is a reminder to all who have conquered bad habits. Remember it is God’s grace working in you to make you holy.

Deut. 30:15-20 – You can chose life or death today.

Deut. 32:46-47 This is your life. Cross over and possess.

Joshua 1:11 – You have received everything. Now go in and possess.

Joshua 3:5

Joshua 7:13 It could be a guilty conscience or disobedience like Achan. Deut. 26:12-13 says you will never be satisfied until you remove what is God’s from your possession. Don’t take what belongs to the Lord. The NT says you are the Lord’s. Don’t save it for yourself. If you think your body is yours, you are wrong. You are the Lord’s.

Joshua 11:23 They had entered the land. The next chapter lists some of the kings they conquered. The land was conquered as a whole, but many groups remained. New kings took over when old kings were defeated.

I think this verse could symbolize our Christian life. We have entered the promised life by obedience to God and following Jesus, our leader.

Joshua 13:1 The land was theirs. They had entered, but much remained to be possessed.

Joshua 16:10 But they did not drive out the Canaanites.

Joshua 17:12 If you do not possess the land, the evil in it becomes a snare to you so your life will be miserable.

Judges 1:21,27,29,30,31,33

Judges 2:20-23

It was not good enough to just enter the land. They had to possess it. You cannot be a casual Christian and enjoy all that God wants to give you. The promised life with an eternal inheritance is available to all. You need to believe in Jesus to enter the land and you need to possess the land through the power of His Spirit. We can compare Egypt to slavery in sin. We can compare Jordan to Pentecost. We can compare possessing the land to Christian living.

1 Peter 1 tells you what it means to be a Christian. We were recipients of salvation. God acted and we received the action. We have been born again because we have received redemption from God. But now there is something for us to do. We must posses the land.

There are some things you must put off. Some things should not be part of your lifestyle. You have some old rags on, some old patterns of thinking, some bad habits, some excuses that need to be laid aside. You need to dress like a child of God. Put on the fruit of the Spirit. Get rid of your rags and check out God’s wardrobe. It is time to possess the land.

If you keep doing what you have always done. You’ll get what you already have.

2 Peter 1:3-5 is written to Christians. You have entered the land. You are disciplining yourself to get rid of those things that hinder your spiritual walk. By the power of Christ that is at work within you, you are claiming the promises of God.

“So for this very reason make every effort to lavishly outfit your faith.” The word for ‘lavishly outfit’ or ‘add’ or ‘supply’ is literally translated ‘superchoreograph’. Originally it meant to sponsor a drama group or chorus. It meant to pay all the expenses for the training and production. No expenses were spared by the Greeks.

Now Peter is saying you should pay all the expenses for the training and production of your faith. As a Christian you have faith, but you need to fill your faith. You do not add to your faith, you fill it up with God’s grace. You expand it to receive more of God. You throw out your bad habits so more of God’s grace can fill your land or life.

This is a command, “Make every effort”. That is God’s message for Christians today. “You have stayed on this mountain long enough. I have made available to you everything you need for life and godliness. Enter into the promise and take possession of God’s best for you.”

In 1 John 2:8, the Christian life is a process. As we walk in the light, the darkness passes away. “The Lord will clear away these nations before you little by little;” (Deut. 7:22).

It seems common for Christians to settle for less of God’s grace than they have available. It feels safer and easier to avoid battles. We don’t like to work at getting rid of old habits and attitudes, but the more we get rid of the old enemies, the less trouble we will have in the future. Now is the time to possess the land. Be completely filled with the Spirit. Let the fullness of God be yours. Honor Jesus as Lord of your life. Purify your hearts by obedience and grow in the knowledge that God really is in control. And He cares for you.

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