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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
 www.frcsr.com/fellowship/melville/
 
Title:God has given all we need for a godly life
Text:2 Peter 1:1-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2019-01-20
Added:2019-03-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

ESV.

2014 Book of Praise

Psalm 96:1,2,4

Psalm 119:40,42

Psalm 25:1,2

Psalm 100:1,2,3,4

Hymn 6:1,2

Read:  2 Peter 1:1-15.

Text:  2 Peter 1:1-4.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Dear congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edwards was born in the United States of America on October 5, 1703.  His parents were godly Christians and he was brought up in the fear of the Lord.  He loved God from an early age, but it was in 1721, when he was about 18 years old, that Jonathan Edward’s heart and life was gripped by the gospel.  At that time he read 1 Timothy 1:17 –

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Edwards later wrote:

“As I read [these] words, there came into my soul … a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense quite different from anything I ever experienced before … I kept saying and as it were singing over these words of Scripture to myself and went to pray to God that I might enjoy Him …  From that time I began to have a new kind of [understanding] of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him.  And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, in the beauty of his person and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in Him.”[1]

Jonathan Edwards wrote further,

“I felt a burning desire to be in everything conformed to the blessed image of Christ … how I should be more holy and live more holily … the heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness, to be with God and to spend my eternity in holiness with Christ.”

Jonathan Edwards was a puritan and the puritans have been criticized for being stern, austere, and overly serious Christians.  But I want to you understand what it was that made Jonathan Edwards, and the puritans like him, to speak and write as they did about the Christian faith and why they emphasized the need for godly living.  It was, he said, because of a deepening sense of the glory of God – of knowing who God is, of knowing who Jesus Christ is, and knowing what the gospel, the good news of salvation by faith in Christ alone is.   It was because of his deepening awareness of the glory of God and of the beauty of living with Him forever that Jonathan Edwards wanted to live in Christ and for Christ every day and every moment, “to be more holy and to live more holily.”

  This morning we read from Second Peter, and one of the main themes in this letter is that it is a call to godliness and to godly living.  Peter calls his readers to supplement or add to their faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness and so forth.  He warns his readers about the danger of false teachers were “slaves of corruption” and entangled in the godlessness of the world.  And, knowing that Judgment Day will come, he asks in 2 Peter 3:11,

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?”

So Second Peter is a call to godly living.  But what does it mean to live a godly life?  Why should you live a godly life – and how can you be godly, anyway?

  We will be turning to 2Peter 1:1-4 this morning to find some answers to these questions.  And as we dig deeper into this portion of Holy Scripture we will discover, as Jonathan Edwards did, that godliness begins with a clear understanding of who God is and what the gospel is, and that godliness is a matter of living out of what God has given us through His Son Jesus Christ.  Indeed, God Himself has given all we need for life and godliness.  And that will be my theme for this morning’s sermon.

God has given all we need for a godly life.

  1. The source of godliness.
  2. The growth of godliness.
  3. The fruit of godliness.

1. The source of godliness.

If someone, knowing he was about to die, was to write you a letter, you would assume that his last words to you would be very important.  His last words would be the things that he really wants you to know, he really wants you to understand and he really wants you to follow.

 

Second Peter was written by the apostle Peter just before he was about to die a martyr’s death under Emperor Nero in about 67 A.D.  And what he has to say is important. 

“I intend always to remind you of these qualities”

he wrote in 2Peter 1:12.  And verse 14,15

“I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.  And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”

And the thing that Peter really wanted his readers to understand is that godliness matters!  As God’s people we are called to be godly and we are called to godly living.  

You see, when Peter wrote this letter, there were false teachers going around who were telling the Christians that it did not matter how they lived.  “Do what you want!”  they said.  “Live however you like!  Follow your heart and do whatever your heart desires.” And Peter did not mince his words when he described them.  2 Peter 2:13-15a says that these false teachers

“count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. . .”

And 2Peter 2:18,19

“For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

So that’s what the apostle Peter and that’s what the Christians to whom Peter was writing to were up against:  people who claimed to know the way of truth but who spread lies and mocked the call to careful, godly living.  If they had escaped the corruption that is in the world at all, they were turning right back it as “a dog returns to his own vomit” (2Peter 2:22).

  But the Christian, the true Christian that is, is not like that!  The true Christian will not return to a sinful way of life, but the Christian will be different!  He will be godly.   As Jonathan Edwards put it, he will want to be holy and live more holily.

But we need to understand what it means to be godly, what it means to live a holy life.  There are many people who appear to be good people, who have good morals, who do good things.  There are many people who would consider themselves to be spiritual, who deny all sorts of earthly pleasures, who try to find their way up to god – whoever this “god” might be for them – or who might even be trying to become one with their god.  There are also people who think that moralism or legalism is the way to godliness.  They will look to people whom they think are good people, perhaps even godly.  They will go to seminars and to church services to hear messages on “Ten Steps to godliness” or else to hear someone tell them, “If I can be holy, if my program works for me, it will work for you too!”.  People want to hear these things so that by following these messages they can somehow find their way up to God.  Or else there is legalism where a person will do what he or she can to be noticed by God, to earn his favor, to be seen by Him as a good person, even a godly person, and so be accepted by Him.

  But that is not what Peter is talking about in his second letter!  Godly living is not a way to make your way up to God.  Rather, godly living is the way to live having been saved by God!  Do you remember Jonathan Edwards?  What the reason that Jonathan Edwards wanted to be holy and to live more holily?  It was because the LORD had shown Him who He, the LORD is!  It was when he had a sense of the glory of God and when he had a greater understanding of Christ and of the salvation that is ours in Christ, that is, a greater understanding of the gospel that Jonathan Edwards wanted to grow in godliness!  You see, godliness is not a way to be saved, nor to be accepted by God.  Rather it is the way to live having been saved, having already been accepted by God!  And we need to understand that!  If we don’t understand that, then the command to be godly would be a burden.  And even more, if we don’t understand that, we could not even begin to be godly.

   But when we do understand this, when we do understand that a godly life is to follow our salvation in Jesus Christ, then we will also understand that the source of our godliness does not come from ourselves but from Jesus Christ.  And that’s how the apostle Peter begins his second letter.  Let’s have a look at the first few verses of 2Peter more closely.  Verse 1:

“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The letter begins by declaring the author to be Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.  As an apostle, Peter sets himself apart from the false teachers he was writing against, and reminded the readers of his letter that what he wrote was the word of God Himself.  Peter further reminded his readers in 2Peter 1:16,

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

So Peter was to be trusted and this letter is to be believed. 

  But in addition to being called an apostle, Peter calls himself “a servant” or a slave of Jesus Christ.  Whereas the false teachers were “slaves of corruption”, as Peter said in 2Peter 2:19, Peter himself was a slave of the Lord Jesus, subject to his Master, committed to Him, committed to live for Him and knowing that he would soon even die for Him.

Having introduced himself, Peter now goes on to address those to whom this letter is written:

“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Peter is writing his letter to people who share the same faith with him in the same God who is our Saviour Jesus Christ.  There are a number of things to take note of here.  First of all, notice how the Lord Jesus Christ is described.  Peter describes Him as “our God and Saviour.”  Jesus Christ is God – and so the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who deny that Jesus is God are clearly wrong.  But more, our God who is Jesus Christ is our Savior!  As we can learn from 2Peter 2:1, He is the Lord who bought us!  And He is the Saviour of all those to whom God, through His Holy Spirit, has given them faith.

  And that has to be our starting point when it comes to life and godliness, to godly living: a true faith in our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.  If you don’t have faith, then you can’t be godly.  You might grow in self discipline, you might work hard at being a better person, you might even grow to be more spiritually minded.  But those things will not make you godly!  You see, the first thing we need to understand is that by nature we are not godly!  Even though God created us in His image that is, in true righteousness and holiness, we have all fallen from that, we’ve all become sinners and therefore by nature we are all ungodly.  And while we can try to change the outside of who we are, although we can try to be a bit nicer, even try to be more spiritual, we cannot change who we are inside, we cannot change our hearts.  And so we need to begin by knowing not just how God created us at the beginning, but also knowing how far we have fallen into sin, how in our natural state we are all ungodly and estranged from God.  As it says in Isaiah 53:6,

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way.”

But Second Peter was not written to those who remained in their sins; rather, it was written to those who have their sins forgiven!  It is written to those who have obtained or have received a faith of equal standing with Peter and those with him, by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Through faith then, they shared in the righteousness of Jesus Christ – and this was not their own doing but the gift of God!  It was God who saved them through Jesus Christ and it was Jesus Christ’s righteousness that was given to them.  And therefore, verse 2 says,

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

And then Peter goes on in 2Peter 1:3 to say

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called to his own glory and excellence.”

It was God’s divine power that had given this, and in fact it is God’s divine power that has given everything we need for life and godliness.  Or, to put it another way, God’s divine power has given everything we need for a godly life.  And you need to understand that.  When it comes to godliness and godly living there are some who think that this is a journey we need to make in order to find our way to God.  But that’s not true!  When we were lost it was God who found us!  When we were dead in sin it was God who made us alive.  And He did that through His Son Jesus Christ.  So if you want to grow in godliness, if you want to grow closer to God – even “be partakers of the divine nature” as 2Peter 1:4 says – then you need to be saved and you need to be made new in Jesus Christ.  It is only when you have received this and therefore made right with God that you can then learn to live with God and then grow in godliness.

  The source of godliness therefore, the place where it all starts, is with God and with what He has given us in Jesus Christ.  It is by faith in Christ – a faith that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts – that we may be joined to our only Saviour Jesus Christ and it is by faith in Him that we are declared righteous in Christ.  And it is His power that gives us these things.

 

2. The growth of godliness.

When 2Peter 2:3 says that through His divine power God has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, this can be understood to mean that He has given us everything we need for “eternal life and godliness” but it is more likely that this should be read as saying that by His divine power God has given us everything we need “for a godly life”.  (If you love grammar, the phrase “life and godliness” is a hendiadys, two terms that stand for a single thing.) 

  But how are we to cultivate this godly life?  How are we to grow in godliness?  That’s a good question for us who are Christians.  As Christians we want to be more godly, we want to be holy and to live more holily.  But can you do this?  How can this godliness or holiness be cultivated?

  If you looked for answers to this question there is no doubt that you could find a variety of answers to this question, some good and some not so good.  But 2Peter 1 directs our attention to the most basic answer to how one grows in godliness, and that is through

“the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (verse 2)

If you want to be godly, if you want to grow in godliness, you have to know God.  And it is not some sort of secret knowledge that you need here; rather it is simply getting to know God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible.  And the whole idea of knowledge and of knowing God and knowing the way of salvation is emphasized a number of times in 2Peter.  Let’s have a look at some Bible verses together.

2Peter 1:2,

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

2Peter 1:3,

“His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”

2Peter 1:5,

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control” etc.

2Peter 1:8,

“For if these qualities are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Peter1:12 says that

“you know and are established in the truth.”

And 2Peter 2:20 speaks about escaping the defilements of the world

“… through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

And finally 2Peter 3:18 says,

“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

What I want you to see from all of this is that growing in God and therefore growing in godliness involves growing in knowledge.  Do you remember Jonathan Edwards?  It was when he read the Bible, 1 Timothy 1:17 to be precise, and gained a greater knowledge of who God is that he gained a greater sense of the glory of God and of the way of salvation.  And it was because of this that Jonathan Edwards had what he called “a burning desire” to be godly, “to be more holy and live more holily.”  And that’s the pattern we find in Second Peter.  As you get to know God better and as you understand the wonder of the gospel better, your love for God will grow and your desire to live with God and to live in godliness will grow.  You cannot worship what you do not know but when you know God – not just with your head, but as you know Him as your God and Saviour, then you will praise Him and then you will live for Him.  So read the Bible, study it, talk about it, meditate on it and so grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  And when you do that you will grow in godliness.

3.  The fruit of godliness.

The world still pulls at us, and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes will still drag us to dream about, to look at or even to experience what Second Peter calls “the defilements of the world.”  But as we grow in the knowledge of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and as we turn our eyes upon Him, then our minds will become sincere or pure (as it says in 2 Peter 3:1), and the sinful things of this world that used to look so good, so alluring, will, to use the words of 2 Peter 2:22, will look more like the dogs’ vomit and the pigs’ mud that it really is.  And so we will look to God and to the promises of God and praise Him for our salvation in Christ “having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4). 

  And there you see the difference between a person who knows God and knows his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as opposed to one who has denied Christ, who has forgotten what it means to be cleansed from your sins. 

 

But now what about you?  How are you going in your battle against sin?  How are you going in your godly walk of life?  Reading through the Second letter Peter, we will be challenged.  We will be called to a deepening knowledge and a deepening love for God and a greater wonder at the gospel of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.  But we will also be asking ourselves, “Am I really living a godly life?  Do I really love God more than I love my sin?  Why am I so attracted to the cheap thrills, even to the dogs’ vomit that this world dishes up?  Do I really want to grow in godliness?  Do I really want to be holy and live more holily?  And then we will be convicted.  Convicted of our sin and convicted of our lack of love for God and for our Saviour Jesus Christ.  But then we will turn back to God’s Word, back to the gospel so that we might know God and the wonder of the salvation obtained for us by the righteousness of Christ.  And then once again we will turn to Him and we will love Him and we will want to love Him more.

And then, rejoicing in what 2 Peter 1:4 calls God’s “precious and very great promises” we will be blessed to be

“partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

For by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit we will be in Christ and grow to be Christ-like.  No, when the Bible speaks about us being “partakers of the divine nature” this does not mean that we will absorbed into the Godhead, nor will we be little gods and goddesses, but we will grow to be more like God.  Since we are already in Christ through faith in Him, not only will we live for Him but we  will begin to reflect Him.  And since we may already begin to enjoy that now, imagine the future that awaits us!  And Lord’s Day 22 of our Catechism puts it,

“Since I now already feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess perfect blessedness, such as no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived – a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”

That’s the fruit of a godly life, a life lived in Christ.  That’s what we may now enjoy and that’s what we look forward to.  What a blessing it is to have escaped the corruption of this world!  What a joy we have when grace and peace is multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  What riches we have since God’s divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  And what an amazing thing it is to be told that through the blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus we may be partakers of the divine nature, we may live in Christ and for Christ.  That’s the wonder of the gospel and that is the beauty of living a holy life in Christ.  God has given us all we need for life and godliness.  Let us therefore thank Him and live in the godliness He has obtained for us.  Amen.

 

[1] Quoted in J. Beeke & R. Pederson “Meet the Puritans”, 2006: Reformation Heritage Books, p196.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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