The Danger of Forgetfulness.

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge… Isaiah 17:10 ESV

The northern kingdom of Israel had made an alliance with Syria in order to come against the southern kingdom of Judah. Not only were they planning an attack on their own brothers, they were turning to a foreign nation to help them do it. They were placing their trust in men rather than God. And at the heart of their decision to place their trust and hope in men was a failure to remember that God was the source of their salvation. As a result, their efforts to sow seeds of faith in pagan idols would prove unfruitful. Their alliances with other nations were just not diplomatic and military in nature, but they also formed spiritual alliances, turning to the false gods of those nations as a source of help and hope. But God warned them, “In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense” (Isaiah 17:7-8 ESV). A day of judgment was coming. At that time, the people of Israel would learn to turn to their God and to abandon their false gods, made with their own hands. They would receive a powerful reminder of the danger of forgetting God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Isaiah 17-18, 2 Peter 3

Ultimately, God is in control. Mankind may forget or even ignore Him, but He does not go away. He does not cease to be God. Our refusal to acknowledge Him does not alter His reality or diminish His capacity to rule and reign. God is sovereign over all. Repeatedly in these chapters, we see the words “in that day” and “at that time.” There is a day of judgment coming. God has planned a time of payback, when He will deal righteously and justly with the sins of mankind. We can read in the Old Testament the countless times in which God fulfilled His warnings of coming judgment on the people of Israel and Judah. He had warned about the coming of the Assyrians against the northern kingdom and it took place. He later warned the people of Judah that the Babylonians would come, and they did. He has provided ample warning of yet-future judgments to come that will involve the entire world. And those days will come just as He has said they will. “For the Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV). God will do all that He has planned to do, and no one can stand in His way. It doesn't matter whether we believe it or not. It doesn't make any difference if we agree with it or not. God's will will be done.

What does this passage reveal about man?

There will always be scoffers. Peter reminded his readers of that reality. “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” (2 Peter 3:1-4 ESV). There were those in Peter's day who were denying the return of Jesus. They scoffed at the idea. Warren Wiersbe describes a scoffer as “someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously.” These individuals took a look at the world around them and concluded, “From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created” (2 Peter 3:4 NLT). In other words, they believed that the world would simply continue to go along just as it always had, because God was not involved. Jesus was not coming back. There was no need to concern yourself with right moral standards or holy living. But Paul reminded his readers that these scoffers “deliberately overlook this fact” (2 Peter 3:5 ESV). They choose to ignore the reality that God has intervened in the affairs of the world on a variety of occasions, including at creation and during the world-wide flood in the days of Noah. God is not aloof and distant, simply watching the world from afar. He is intimately involved and has a divine plan for its ultimate redemption and restoration. Peter assured his readers that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). It will come unexpectedly and suddenly, catching everyone unawares and unprepared. But he encouraged his audience to be ready – to not forget the God of their salvation and their rock of refuge. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God wants us to be ready. He wants us to live as if we truly believe in the return of His Son. We are to live in anticipation of “day of the Lord” as if it could be any day. We should desire to “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14 ESV). There will be those around us who scoff at His return and live as if it isn't even going to happen. They will refuse to live their lives in preparation for His coming. But we must be ready and “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15 ESV). The longer He delays, the more people have the opportunity to accept the gift of salvation made available through His Son. While we should long for and pray for His return, we should also see each passing day that God delays that event as a sign of His grace and mercy on mankind. And in the meantime, we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter3:18 ESV). Rather than forget Him, we are to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Father, You are our Savior. You are our rock of refuge. Never let me forget that. It is so easy to turn to someone or something else other than You. But those things always prove insufficient and incapable of delivering what they offer. Only You can rescue and redeem. Only You can save and sanctify. You are in complete control and Your plan is unstoppable. No matter what I see taking place around me, I can know that You are intimately involved in the affairs of men and diligently working Your plan to perfection. Amen

The Truth About Falsehood.

Isaiah 15-16, 2 Peter 2

They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 2 Peter 2:19 ESV

The Israelites were always surrounded by options. When they faced difficulties and trials, there were plenty of places they could turn to for help and hope. If one nation threatened to come against them, there were always other nations with whom they could form alliances and treaties, in the hopes of averting disaster and destruction. But the only problem was that God had intended for them to turn to Him alone for their salvation. They were His people and He was their God. In the book of Isaiah, we see God pronouncing a series of warnings against the nations surrounding Israel. Some of the nations included in God's oracles were Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Cush, and Egypt. There were nations that would prove to be threats to the safety and security of the people of God through conquest. But there were also nations whose main danger came in the form of false hope. They would prove to be tantalizing tests of Israel's faith, offering them false hope when they found themselves faced with threats to their national security. God wanted the people of Israel to know that He was to be their only source of security. They didn't need to fear the likes of Babylon. But they also didn't need to turn to potential allies like Moab. None of these countries could be trusted because they were God-less. Yes, they had their own gods, but they failed to worship the one true God. They were marked by pride and arrogance. They were characterized by self-sufficiency and had their own stable of man-made gods to which they turned. But God makes it clear that “The people of Moab will worship at their pagan shrines, but it will do them no good. They will cry to the gods in their temples, but no one will be able to save them” (Isaiah 16:12 NLT). So why in the world would the people of God every turn to a nation like that for help? 

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is sovereign and all-powerful. That is one of the primary points of the book of Isaiah. In this list of oracles pronounced by God on the nations, we get a clear picture of God's sovereign hand over the nations. He is more powerful than Babylon. He is more trustworthy than Moab or Egypt. He is greater than the greatest enemy of Israel. In fact, God uses these nations to accomplish His divine will. Not a one of them operates outside of His sovereign plan for mankind. In their pride and arrogance, they envision themselves as free-will agents operating on their own initiative, but they are nothing more than pawns in the hands of God. Isaiah knew of Moab's reputation all too well. “We have heard of the pride of Moab – how proud he is! – of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; as his idle boasting he is not right” (Isaiah 16:6 ESV). But he also knew of Moab's of fate: “the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude and those who remain will be very few and feeble” (Isaiah 16:14 ESV). God would cut Moab down to size, just as He would do to Babylon. There was no reason for the people of God to trust in Moab. That nation would prove to be a false source of hope and help. God was to be their salvation. He was the one to whom they were to turn in times of need.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But the temptation will always exist to seek out false sources of salvation. God's people will always find a steady supply of alternative forms of help and hope. It was as true in the early church as it was in the days of Isaiah. Peter reminds his readers that in the Old Testament “false prophets also arose among the people” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). But then he adds the warning, “just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1 ESV). In the Old Testament there were always plenty of false prophets who made a habit of offering alternative forms of “truth.” They claimed to speak for God, but were actually contradicting the very words of God. They offered false hope. They gave faulty advice. And in the early days of the New Testament church, there were plenty of false teachers who were guilty of doing the same thing. Peter described them as being driven by sensuality, marked by greed and false words, insatiable for sin, irrational, despising authority, and destined for destruction. He calls them “waterless springs and mists driven by the storm” (2 Peter 2:17 ESV). They are false sources of sustenance. They can't provide what they claim to offer. And yet, there is always the temptation to turn to them as sources of help and hope. Yet Peter warns: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption” (2 Peter 2:19 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The world in which we live is full of false hope. It offers up a steady diet of false forms of help. As the people of God we are to seek Him only. We are to turn to Him in our times of need. But there will always be the temptation to find other forms of salvation. Peter warns us that those who offer up falsehood “entice unsteady souls” (2 Peter 2:14 ESV). They prey on those who are not grounded in the truth of God. Those who don't know the truth will always be susceptible to falsehood. They will always be easy targets for those who offer up counterfeit gods and alternative sources of hope. That is why Peter spent so much time warning his audience. He wanted them to understand the dangers. He wanted them to seek God alone. In fact, he reminded them, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Peter 2:9 ESV). We must never lose sight of the fact that God is our sole source of salvation. He is the only place we can turn to for truth. We are surrounded by lies and constantly offered up false forms of hope. But we must place our trust in God alone. He alone can rescue. He alone can save. He alone can provide the help we need as we live out our lives on this planet. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NLT).

Father, You are my help and hope. Never let me seek salvation from another source. I know I do and for that I ask forgiveness. Keep me coming back to You. Help me to learn that You alone can be trusted. You alone can save. You alone can provide what I need to live the life You have called me to live. Amen

The Greatness of God.

Isaiah 23-14, 2 Peter 1

The Lord of Hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” Isaiah 14:24 ESV

Our God is unstoppable. His plans are unalterable and His will unchangeable. He will finish what He starts and always accomplish what He purposes. For Isaiah, the future was a mixed bag of God's coming punishment upon the people of Israel, as well as eminent destruction of their enemies. God was giving Isaiah a panoramic view of His divine plan concerning Israel and the nations. Babylon, which in the days of Isaiah, was still not yet a powerful nation, would rise to prominence and become a key world player. But the pride and arrogance of that great nation, personified in its kings, would be brought low by the Lord God Almighty. From a human perspective, the things that happen in our world can appear so random and uncontrolled. The events of our day can seem so arbitrary and as if they are nothing more than the outcome of blind fate. But God wanted Isaiah to know that His will was being done at all times. He was behind the affairs of men, orchestrating events and individuals in such a way that His plan was always being accomplished. God asked Isaiah, “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV). God had plans for the people of Israel. Those plans included their ultimate punishment for their sin and rebellion. But those plans also included their future restoration and redemption. God would use the Babylonians and Assyrians to carry out His judgment on the people of Israel, but He would also eventually turn the tables and exalt Israel while humbling their enemies.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Sometimes we can find ourselves judging the efficiency and effectiveness of God based on what we can see. We look around us and see nothing but trouble, trials, difficulties and despair. It can appear as if the enemy is winning and our side is losing. But in those moments, it is not our God who is lacking, but our perspective. We are limited in our outlook. And our nearsighted approach can blind us to the reality that God is in control, whether it looks like it or not. Some of the problem lies in the fact that we often confuse our plan with God's plan. When things don't turn out quite the way we envisioned, we can jump to the conclusion that God's will is not being done. But what we fail to understand is that His ways are not our ways. He sometimes works in ways that are contradictory and contrary to our expectations. Captivity and enslavement was the last thing they Israelites expected. They saw themselves as God's chosen people, the descendants of Abraham. They were the apple of God's eye. But it was their very position as His people that made their punishment inevitable. God was not going to allow them to live in open rebellion to His ways. God was going to discipline them as a father disciplines his children. Their seemingly negative circumstances were actually a sign of God's love for them. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Our goal in this life should be to learn to see God in all the ups and downs of life. The enemy and the world are constantly attempting us to take our eyes off of God and to focus on anything and anyone else but Him. Our greatest temptation will be to forget that God is in control and to wrongly conclude that our lives are nothing more than a series of random events left to chance and our own limited powers. Even as believers, we can somehow conclude that our spiritual lives are completely up to us. We may fully believe that our salvation was the work of Jesus Christ, but wrongly assume that our sanctification – our growth in Christ-likeness – is somehow up to us. For many of us, our spiritual growth is nothing more than an ongoing attempt at self-improvement, done in our own strength and marked more by failure than success. We forget that our sanctification is just as dependent upon the work of God as our salvation. Paul reminds us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). It is God who must complete the transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ. And Peter echoed these sentiments when he wrote, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV). The New Living Translation puts it this way… “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” How easy it is to forget that.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But that does not mean I have no role to play. God sovereignty does not eliminate my responsibility. Peter goes on to say, “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT). God has given me all that I need to live the life He has called me to live. He has provided me with His Spirit. He has equipped me with His Word. He has placed me within the body of Christ, the Church. But I still must supplement my faith. I must seek to add to my life the qualities that are characteristic of Christ-likeness. And I must grow in my understanding that God uses anything and everything in my life to accomplish His will for my life. My troubles and trials are instruments in His divine hands. The circumstances of my life are actually opportunities for me to witness God's power as He exposes my sins and expresses His strength through my weakness. The goal is to grow in my awareness of His greatness and in my dependence upon His grace. The discipline of God should remind me of His love. The difficulties of life should drive me to my knees in dependence upon Him. The successes of life should cause me to rejoice in His blessings. God is accomplishing His will in my life, whether I recognize or realize it. 

Father, You are a great God and greatly to be praised. You are working out Your plan in my life and in this world in ways that I cannot always see or fathom. Your will is unstoppable. Your plan is unalterable. May I learn to trust You more. May I learn to lean on You more. May I grow to understand that You have given me everything I need for living a godly life. But I must turn to You for help and hope. I must lean on You for strength. Because You alone are great. Amen

Grow In Grace.

2 Peter 3

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – Vs 18

Keep on growing. Continue to increase. Make every effort to mature. That's the essence of what Peter says as he ends his letter. He has warned his readers about false teachers and their destructive heresies, about mockers who cast doubt on the Word of God, and about the need for believers to keep their eyes and hope focused on the return of the Lord. But he closes his letter with a charge, an admonition. That his readers will respond to all of this by continuing to grow or increase in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Grow in Grace

What does this mean? How do you "grow in grace?" First of all, we have to get our minds around the concept of grace. In the New Testament it refers to the free, unmerited favor of God; to the favor or kindness given to those who can never deserve it or earn it by anything they do or refrain from doing. As Chuck Swindoll aptly puts it, “Every time the thought of grace appears, there is the idea of its being undeserved. In no way is the recipient getting what he or she deserves. Favor is being extended simply out of the goodness of the heart of the giver.”

Grace is a gift. So how do we grow in it? I think what Peter is really saying is that we are to grow within the context of grace, remembering that even our spiritual growth is up to God and not us. We can no more make ourselves grow spiritually than we can save ourselves by our own effort. Both are made possible by grace. Sure, we can study the Bible and memorize Scripture. We can pray, meditate, fast, and practice all of the spiritual disciplines. We can serve God and share the Gospel with the lost. But if we do it thinking that we are somehow gaining favor with God or earning merits that put us in a better light with Him, we have failed to understand the grace of God. And the truth is, many of us as believers fail to grow in the context of grace. It is not the environment in which we spiritually mature. Think of it this way. It is like a plant that finds itself in an environment that is perfectly suited for growth – ample sunshine, gentle rain, fertile soil. The plant does not do anything to improve its environment, it simply grows in the midst of it. It takes full advantage of it. It grows because the context is perfectly suited for growth. So as believers, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the context within which we have been place. The context of grace. We must remind ourselves that God has placed us in His garden of grace, where self-effort, human achievement, hard work, and self-righteousness play no role and add no benefit. In fact, remember what Peter said at the beginning of his letter:

His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. – Vs 3

So we should grow, increase, mature – because His grace makes it possible. In fact, within His grace, growth is natural, normal and effortless. It is when we step outside of His grace, that it becomes painful and labored, leaving us stunted, immature, and fruitless.

Grow in the Knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

In the garden of God's grace, we are to increase in our knowledge of Jesus. As verse 3 states, it is through our knowledge or recognition of Jesus Christ as our Savior that we gain everything we need for life and godliness. And that doesn't change after salvation. It is still all through Him. We need to remember the context in which we live: Grace. And we need to remember the source of all we need: Christ. Our goal is to seek to know Him better and better. Not to know about Him, but to know Him, personally and intimately. To increase in our relationship with Him. As we increase in our knowledge of and intimacy with Jesus, we take on His characteristics. We begin to live like He lived, love like He loved, and serve like He served. And the qualities listed in chapter one, verses 5-7 begin to appear in our lives.

The tendency for us as Christians is to look at our immediate surroundings and question how we can possibly grow in a place like this, surrounded by sin. But what we fail to remember is that we are IN grace. We have been firmly planted in the fertile soil of God's garden of grace. We are being nourished by His grace, watered by the gentle favor of His grace, and warmed by the sunshine of His grace. So we can grow and increase in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, the One who made God's grace possible in the first place.

Father, may I remember each and every day that I am planted firmly in the garden of Your grace. My growth is no more up to me than was my salvation. Help me remember that. I still need to study, meditate, grow, share and serve, but I also need to remember that any growth that takes place in my life is due to the undeserved favor of God. Not because I somehow earned it. So even on my worst day, I can grow. Even when I am tired, I can grow. Because the sunshine of Your grace always shines on me. Thank You!  Amen

Grace-less and Truth-less.

2 Peter 2

These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. – Vs 17

In this chapter, Peter warns the people to beware of false teachers showing up in their midst. In the Greek, Peter's language carries the idea that they will sneak in unawares. These individuals would look and sound good, but they would really be teaching "destructive heresies." This isn't talking about off-the-wall doctrinal falsehood. It simply means they'll have viewpoints and opinions that, in the end, will destroy the body of Christ from within. They'll start out subtle, but it will end up with them denying the very One who died for them – Jesus Christ. Sounds pretty serious. But listen to what Peter says:

And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. – Vs 2

Many will follow them – mimicking their lifestyles, willingly accepting their brand of truth over "the way of truth" – God's revealed plan for salvation through Jesus Christ alone. They'll come teaching "false words" and motivated by greed. Think your average, over-the-top, prosperity-preaching, TV evangelist. Except the people Peter is talking about were a lot less obvious about it. They were going to show up looking like one of the saints, but sharing viewpoints and opinions that were grace-less and truth-less.

Look at how Peter describes them. "These are springs without water and mists driven by the storm" (Vs 17). I love the way the New Living Translation puts it:

These people are as useless as dried–up springs of water or as clouds blown away by the wind––promising much and delivering nothing.

It reminds me of the description of false teachers found in the book of Jude:

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted. – Jude 1:12

Hidden reefs in your love feast (Vs 12) -    They are treacherous and can shipwreck your faith -    They were part of the fellowship -    Sharing in intimacy -    They were shepherds feeding themselves

Clouds without water (Vs 12)

-    They appear promising, but only disappoint

-    They fail to provide

-    They obscure the light

-    They fail to meet needs

Carried along by winds (Vs 12)

-    Blown by every wind of doctrine

-    No substance or stability

Autumn trees without fruit (Vs 12)

-    No spiritual fruit in their lives

-    Their words supply no life-giving refreshment

-    They fail to fulfill their purpose

Doubly dead, uprooted (Vs 12)

-    Absolutely dead and worthy of destruction

Wild waves of the sea (Vs 13)

-    Undisciplined and out of control

-    Destructive

-    Active, but non-productive

-    Revealing only their own shame

Wandering stars

-    You can’t chart a course by them

-    Unreliable

-    Their destiny is hopeless and dark

These kinds of people are to be avoided like the plague, but Peter warns that they are coming to a church near you soon! They may already be there. In fact, they're all around us. Speaking half-truths, offering tempting words that sound good, but lead to destruction. If fact, there's a prominent TV preacher who is filling the minds of millions of people with his "opinion" of the truth. See if you can spot the heresy.

  • When one is born again by faith in Jesus, he is given a new spirit man that wasn't there before -- a spirit man that is divine in nature and God-like
  • Never, ever, ever go to the Lord and say, 'If it be thy will'
  • No Christian should ever be sick
  • We Christians possess 'power in our mouths' to heal or kill just as witches possess it
  • Job tapped into the negative side of the faith force by a negative confession
  • Christ 'became one with the nature of Satan' and was 'born again' in hell
  • Christ would have sinned without the Holy Spirit and would have remained in the grave 'if the Holy Ghost had changed His mind about raising Him from the dead'
  • We are 'little gods' and even part of God with all the power of God
  • We are 'little messiahs,' everything that Jesus ever was."

Do you see it? False words. Destructive heresies. Arrogant. Enticing. Promising. But totally wrong. And potentially destructive. So Peter warns his readers and he warns us to beware. But what's the best way to spot falsehood? Know the truth. Study it. Meditate on it. Apply it. Test it. Make the truth of God so real in your life that you can spot falsehood a mile away. Jesus put it this way:

If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine. and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." – John 8:31-32

Father, make me a student of Your truth. Help me continue in, to hold to, to obey the teachings of Your Son. That I might know the truth and have the freedom that only it can deliver. Never let me be enslaved to the false teaching that is so prevalent today. It sounds so right, but is so wrong. Because it is not of You. It's my desire to be a student of Your truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.  Amen

His Role / Our Role.

2 Peter 1

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence… – Vs 5

…the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. – Vs 11

It seems that most of us as believers are always struggling with the part we play in this mysterious journey called sanctification. If we are in Christ, we basically understand that our salvation was God's thing. He did it all through Jesus Christ. We played no part in it. We couldn't earn our salvation or add anything to it to deserve it. It was a gift from God. But there's something strange that happens after Christ redeems us. We somehow think it's up to us alone to reform us. He bought us our ticket into heaven, now we have to make sure we are worthy to get on the train when it departs the station. So we begin earning our stripes. We go out of our way to make ourselves more holy. We seek after righteousness. We pursue moral excellence. We run the race to win. And we wear ourselves out in the process. Not that any of those things are wrong, in and of themselves. In fact, they are all biblical.

He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. – Proverbs 21:21

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:11

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. – Romans 12:11

I could go on and on. Even in this chapter of 2 Peter, we are told to supply, add to, or "furnish besides" a whole list of qualities to our faith. But have you ever wondered why we can work so hard at improving ourselves spiritually and still seem to lack any real fruit, experience any significant joy, feel any closer to God than when we began? I think Peter gives us some insights. He tells us that God has "granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness" (Vs 3). The New Living Translation puts it this way:

As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.

Peter goes on and says that "He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature" (Vs 4). God has given us His Son and His Holy Spirit to save us and to sanctify or transform us. And they are both ours by an act of faith. We don't do anything to receive either one, except believe. And it is because we have received these promises of God that we should then begin to add to our faith the qualities listed in verses 5-7. But we don't manufacture them. We don't will them into existence. They are already ours at salvation. We have them available to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. They reside within us. Peter says, "For if these qualities are yours…" (Vs 8). The New English Translation puts it this way: "For if these things are really yours…" In other words, Peter is saying, if you are a Christian, then these qualities are yours and they should be increasing. They are the byproduct of a vibrant relationship with Christ.

To lack these qualities is a sign that something is wrong. Peter says, "But concerning the one who lacks such things – he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins" (Vs 9). No amount of pursuing, striving after, seeking, or attempting to manufacture this list in my life is going to work if I have become blind to the fact that I have been purified from my former sins. In other words, I have lost sight of the fact that it is because I have been saved and redeemed that I am able to experience these godly characteristics in my life. God has purified me and He will perfect me. He wants to mature me into the nature He has already given me. Lacking these qualities is a sign that I lack faith. I fail to trust God that He can accomplish His work in me. That's why Peter warns us to "be all the more diligent to make certain of His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble" (Vs 10). If these things are lacking in our lives, Peter seems to say that we may need to go back and examine whether we were ever saved in the first place. Because someone who is in Christ will naturally "practice these things." They are the natural outflow of a relationship with Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

It's interesting that Peter goes on to say that God not only supplies everything I need for salvation and sanctification, He supplies my ultimate entrance into heaven (Vs 11). He uses the same word that he used in verse 5 - epichoregeo. God supplies it all. He gives us everything we need for life and godliness. But how easy it is to forget that and assume that it is somehow up to us. So we work. We strive. We serve. We pursue. And we wear ourselves in the process. Because we fail to understand that our holiness is up to Him, not us. It is a gift of His grace. Which is why Peter starts his letter by saying, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (Vs 2).

Father, keep me focused on You. Forgive me for often thinking that it is all up to me when it comes to my holiness. I work so hard to please You, serve You, and to grow in godliness. But I just find myself worn out. But You offer Your grace and peace. You grant me everything I need for life and godliness. Help me to understand that truth and live it out in my daily life.  Amen