Monday, September 28, 2009

Everything We Need

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 

Every Promise

In children’s church, we sang a little tune that began, “Every promise in the Book is mine.” The song lost some of its luster as I got older and experienced a fair share of broken promises. After a while, I grew to accept the fatalism in the proverb “Promises are made to be broken.” Having failed to keep more than my share, I understood that good intentions don’t always manifest themselves. Now, when someone promises something, I tend to appreciate the spirit of the gesture without counting on it. Since disappointment is never a happy experience, I find being pleasantly surprised far more enjoyable than feeling downcast if a promise doesn't come through.

The grander the promise, the less likely we are to depend on it. This presents major challenges with God, since He doesn’t make little promises. Indeed, what He says He’ll do assumes a scale so far beyond human capability we refer to it as His “covenant,” something closer to a sacred oath than everyday promise. Even adding this gravity—this implication God is bound by His Word—doesn’t always ease our trepidation about taking His promises at face value. Yet it should. In Numbers 23.19, we’re cautioned not to let human unreliability tinge our faith in God’s covenant: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Someone actually sat down and counted the Bible’s promises, numbering them at 1260. That’s a lot of promises. But Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1.20: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” Every promise in the Book is ours. God’s Word is God’s word.

The Peter Principle

Peter spends his entire Christian experience living on promises. When Jesus finds him and his brother, Andrew, fishing on the Galilee shore, He says, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4.19) It’s an odd promise and Matthew doesn’t say whether they understand it. But they don’t hesitate to follow Christ. As Peter’s faith matures, trust in God’s promises sets him apart from the other disciples. When he confesses Jesus is the Christ, Jesus replies with a promise specifically for him: “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16.18) This promise also sounds strange. Yet it comes to pass after Peter trusts another promise Christ gives in Acts 1.4-5: “Wait for the gift my Father promised… You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When the Spirit comes as promised, Peter’s role as the Church’s leader is also confirmed. He delivers the first apostolic sermon on record, taking Joel’s prophecy as his text to preach (what else?) God keeps His word: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2.39)

Utter confidence in God’s promises is The Peter Principle. It’s the fundamental element of Christian faith, the bedrock on which all we believe rests. Thus, it’s no surprise his second epistle opens with this sweeping statement: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1.3) And how do we access everything we need? You got it—by trusting God to honor His word. Verse 4 reads: “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.”

Divine Power, Divine Nature

The authorship of 2 Peter is widely contested, with those disputing its authenticity citing stylistic irregularities and mention of Paul’s letters, which weren’t yet widely published at the time of Peter’s execution. A later writer attempting “the style of Peter”—i.e., one less learned and precise than Paul’s—may explain the convoluted prose that often requires several readings to trace the flow of ideas and connect the dots. This is certainly the case with the two verses cited above. In verse 3, Peter (or “Peter”) says Christ’s divine power enables us to receive everything we need to live righteously by knowing Him. But verse 4 embellishes this concept with a fascinating twist. It says when we place our trust in God’s promises, we “participate in the divine nature” that shields us from “corruption… caused by evil desires.” When we piece the two concepts together, we learn why trusting God’s Word is so vital.

God only promises what’s best for us. If our desires don’t square with His Word, we’re either asking for more than we need or what we most assuredly don’t need, neither of them good. Believing God’s promises liberates us from worries about how we’re viewed and cares about human standards of success. His divine power enables us to participate in the divine nature that lifts us out of the world. Our wants and needs conform to what God desires us to have. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks, what parent whose child asks for bread hands him a stone? Or who gives a snake to a child hungry for meat? Then He says, “If you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who as him!” (Matthew 7.12) God’s promises—all 1260 of them—encompass the best for our lives. Trusting Him to honor them guarantees we’ll have everything we need.

Knowing God’s promises and trusting them provide us with everything we need.

(Tomorrow: Forever Young)


Fran said...

we “participate in the divine nature” that shields us from “corruption… caused by evil desires.” When we piece the two concepts together, we learn why trusting God’s Word is so vital.

What a way for me to start my day- oh Tim, thank you thank you and thank God for you!!

Tim said...

It's an astonishing concept, isn't it, Fran? It was new to me and I had to reread it several times to let it sink in. And then I got it. If we set our desires by God's promises we are shielded. We participate in His nature. What an amazing promise that is!

Thanks for chiming in--hearing from you is a great way to start my day!


kkryno said...

There are really just a few things that we all need, and so many times people lose sight of that.

I've learned that family and friends are the most paramount things that are missing from my life. I have to make a concerted effort to remedy that.

I'm pretty sure that was the main lesson I was to learn this go'round.

BTW; I like the new photo of you!


Tim said...

Vikki, how wonderful to hear from you!

How right you are--a lot of what we think we need is just superfluous desire asserting itself. It complicates our lives and obstructs our view of what's truly important, including our relationships with family and friends who care for us and/or need our care. It's a lesson we all need to learn and never forget.

I trust you had a glorious summer and am delighted that you're "back on the tubes." We've missed you! (And thanks for compliment on the pic. I never really like photos of me, but this one looks more like me than the previous one, I think.)

Blessings of joy,