Spiritual Amnesia

Peter concludes his introduction to his second letter by commending the qualities of faith, virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love as of great value in leading a fruitful Christian life.  He then makes an interesting observation in verse 9 regarding those who lack these qualities.  What does Peter conclude?  Are they not working hard enough?  Do the slackers need more teaching, more education, more knowledge in regard to what God expects in the fruit department?

Peter attributes their lack to spiritual amnesia.  Look with me at II Peter 1:9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”  Our number one problem with sin is not the power of the flesh, not the still resident but mortally wounded sin nature, and not our lack of effort.  Our number one problem, the sin that underlies all others, is forgetting the precious and magnificent promises of God regarding all that became new at our new birth, especially our new found freedom from the power of sin in our life.

Forgetfulness in daily life has been an increasing challenge for me, usually attributed to my current stage of life (think theater discounts, junk mail from AARP, and a closer parking space at church).  I don’t like it and have not been adapting well to it.  My young wife has already increased her penchant for lists.  She is the queen of lists.  She has lists of lists.  As for me, I just keep it all in my head, a stubborn attempt to live in the past.  Whenever I forget something, Rhonda gently asks, “Where is your list?”  I tap my temple and reply, “Right in here, Baby, with all the other lists.  Right here in this steel trap brain.”  She sighs, “That’s what I was afraid of.”

I know what she is thinking but is too nice to say it.  “That steel trap has been left out in the rain a few times too often and is starting to rust.  It might also have a loose spring.”  We can laugh about our forgetfulness after failed trips to the grocery or hardware store.  But in the spiritual life, forgetfulness drains us of our spiritual power and energy.

Remembering is so important that Peter returns to this theme further down the page in verse 12.  “Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present in you.  And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.” (II Pet 1:12-13)

We cannot be reminded too often that “God’s divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”  May we never forget the promises of God regarding our new birth.  May we always find our spiritual energy in the resurrection power God has bestowed upon us.  May we embrace and live into all that God has promised when He literally “created us anew.”

Faith, Love, and the Watching World

In II Peter chapter 1, the apostle highlights some of the qualities of the fruitful life with the bookends of faith and love.  We wrote about faith last time.  Today, we want to concentrate on love.  Some writers see the list of II Peter 1:5-7 as a progression, starting with faith and continuing step-by-step through virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  In this view, love is the ultimate goal.  Whether this list represents increasing maturity in the Christian life or not, we do know from the rest of the New Testament that love indeed is our highest goal.

Jesus taught it in the two great commandments.  Paul taught it throughout his letters.  In the book of I Corinthians, Paul elevates love as the final answer to division in the church.  He drove home the point in I Corinthians chapter 13 with his eloquent defense of love trumps knowledge, love trumps giftedness, love trumps good works.  John taught it in the great book on love, I John, as the natural outflow of our becoming the literal children of God.

Francis Schaeffer, in his book The Mark of the Christian, calls love, not only the tie that binds but the final apologetic for the church before the watching world.  He built the book around two verses and their context.  “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35) and, “…that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me.” (Jn 17:21).  Dr. Schaeffer goes on to conclude, “Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”

Finally, coming back to faith and love together, Pastor Dwight Edwards writes, “This combination [of faith and love] is what puts God on display most noticeably before the world – our radical dependency in an unseen God plus our extraordinary concern for other people (especially fellow believers).  Paul calls it ‘faith working through love.’ ” (Revolution Within).

Lacking Nothing

The apostle Peter introduces his second letter in the New Testament with these words of encouragement, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” (II Pet 1:2-4).

What does life look like for a “partaker (i.e. sharer) of the divine nature?”  Peter goes on in verses 5 through 7 to list the evident qualities of our spiritual life – faith, virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – in a pattern similar to the fruits of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23.  Peter’s catalog begins with faith.  Faith is the foundation of our fruitful life.

Faith is believing that “God’s divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”  Faith is believing we are “sharers of the divine nature.”  Faith is believing the “precious and magnificent promises of God.”  Faith is believing that everything God promised to make new at our salvation did in fact happen.  The promise of a new nature, a new identity, a new heart, a new disposition, a new relationship with sin, a new power, a new Spirit inside, a new freedom, and much more has been the theme of this blog for several months.

By faith, we believe that one outcome of the new birth is a fruitful life.  Fruit is the natural result of a healthy tree.  It is not the result of a tree working hard to produce something that does not come naturally.  It is the same in the Christian life.  Spiritual fruit should come naturally to us because we are infused with divine, resurrection power.  We often picture spiritual growth working in opposition to our deepest desires – characterized as dark and evil, but this is not the case.  Our deepest desires now have a God-bent and the “working out” of our Christian life – the “practice” of our Christian life – is watering our God-bent desires, feeding these desires, and allowing them to come to full bloom.

It all starts with faith.  Growth in the Christian life is the result of believing “the precious and magnificent promises of God” (vs 4), not the result of working harder to keep this list or any other.  Do you see the difference?  We will continue to explore the difference as we move forward.

The Kingdom Treasure

Jesus spoke many other parables, the study of which leads to a rich understanding of His secret kingdom.  We will close with a short one.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from the joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44).  Jesus presents the kingdom of heaven as something of great value and our positive response to His offer brings tremendous joy to both us and the king.  In fact, the treasure of citizenship in His kingdom is so valuable that we “sell all that we have” to join in. 

What does it mean to “sell all that we have?”  It means to consider the cost of joining the kingdom of God.  But I thought the entrance was free?  Not exactly.  There are actually two costs required to join God’s kingdom.  Cost number one was the debt of our sin.  On more than one occasion, Jesus referred to our sin as a debt too large to repay.  But Christ paid the debt for us with His death, burial, and resurrection.  That cost is paid and is completely free to you and I.  It is pure gift.

The second cost, however, does land on our shoulders.  It is the cost of decision.  The cost is an “all in” decision to join the kingdom through our trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our deliverance, our salvation.  It is the decision to accept God’s gift and to proclaim, “I’m in.”

The treasure of the kingdom is of immense value.  It is hidden in the sense of Jesus kingdom being a secret kingdom.  And though it comes with a cost, an “all in” decision, its value far outstrips the cost.  “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:7-8).