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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Svc, 2013-07-14

Text: 2 Peter 1:1-4

Last Sunday we began a new series of messages on the theme, “Growing in Christ-Likeness.” This is very important for us to know, because God wants every child of His to become like Jesus Christ. The amazing thing is that God had this desire for us long before this world even existed! Even though none of us were born yet, God already knew us personally and God had planned that we would one day be fully conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

And from the time we were born, God has been working in our lives to accomplish this plan. He shaped the circumstances and events in our lives to bring us into an encounter with the Gospel – It may have been through a friend who invited us to church or to a Christian meeting. It may have been a book or Gospel tract we so happened to read. Whatever it was, God used it to make us realise that we need Jesus Christ to save us from sin and eternal death. And then we started believing in Jesus alone for salvation. Since then, God has been gradually changing our lives to become more and more like our Lord Jesus. How wonderful it is to know that we will be like Him one day, especially when we know what a great and wonderful person He is.

Unlike everyone else, Jesus is perfect in every way. All that is recorded about Jesus in the Bible tells us how perfectly righteous, faithful, kind and loving He is. From birth He grew up in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and with man. During his ministry He brought life, love and hope wherever He went, and He gave His life to die on the cross for the people He loved!

There is no one whom I would want to emulate more than Jesus. Is He the One that you want to emulate? Some people want to be like their favourite K-Pop star, or their favourite athlete or soccer player. Others dream of becoming like some famous leader or great hero in history. There are many whose lives have made a difference and they have inspired people to follow them. But none of them can ever be as good as Jesus Christ. He is simply the best! And so I have made it my goal in life to be like Him.

Let me assure you that when you really get to know the Lord Jesus, you will want to be like Him too. Martha Snell Nicholson expressed this in a poem that goes like this: “What can it mean to be like Him? I, to be like my dear Lord? I could not believe it, had I not The promise of His precious Word. I, with my follies and failures, I, with my weakness and sin, To be like the Lord in His beauty, Perfect without and within?”

Perhaps these are also your sentiments: You find it very hard to believe that you can ever become like your dear Lord. You think to yourself, “How can this possibly happen? Look at all my follies and failures. Look at all my weaknesses and sins. I am so imperfect. I am so far from being like Jesus Christ. How can I ever become like Him in His beauty, perfect without and within?” The answer is that God has provided all that we need in order to become like Jesus Christ. This morning we will learn what these provisions are as we study a passage in 2 Peter 1:1-4. Let us turn our Bibles to this passage and read it (read).

The one who wrote this passage identifies himself at the beginning as “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” This is the same Peter who was a fisherman from Galilee until Jesus called him to become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). Then he and several others abandoned their fishing nets and boats to follow Jesus for about 3½ years. Peter had his ups and downs. He confessed boldly that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and yet he failed miserably by denying that he knew Jesus three times. But the Lord Jesus restored him, and so Peter went on to become the foremost servant and apostle of Christ to the Jews.

Peter wrote this epistle shortly before he died by being crucified upside down some time in AD 67 or 68. And so what he wrote here are his last words, which would include many precious lessons distilled from all the years he had spent following and serving Jesus Christ. Here at the beginning of his epistle, he mentions two things which are precious: Precious Faith in v.1, and Precious Promises in v.4. These are two precious provisions that God has made for us to grow into the likeness Christ. First, I would like you to consider:

I. God’s Precious Promises

You will notice in v.4 that Peter calls them “exceeding great and precious promises.” Why are such strong words used to describe these promises? The reason given here is that by them we may be partakers of the divine nature! Let us pause for a moment to reflect on this statement. We may know that God is a very great and awesome God through what He has done in creation. We may understand that God is really marvelous through all that the Bible says about Him. But if all these have nothing to do with us, then what’s the point of knowing and understanding them? What effect can they have on us, if we have no part at all in them?

If there is no link at all between God and us, what difference can all these truths about God make in our lives? None! But thankfully there is a link between God and us, a very precious link that gives us a share in these truths. What is this link? It is all the promises that God has given to us! Dearly beloved, we must be very thankful to God for these precious promises. They bring God into our personal experience, and by doing this, they make a tremendous impact on our lives!

When these promises are properly applied, they will bring about a significant change in us – we become more like God Himself. We become partakers of His divine nature. But this change does not take place overnight. It is a gradual process, as can be seen in verses 5 to 7 – adding virtue to faith, adding knowledge to virtue, and so on until all these 8 characteristics are found in us abundantly. And though this process of change may be long and gradual, the end result will be glorious! We become partakers of God’s divine nature. And here is a point that must be impressed on our minds: No other promises are capable of making this change in us. Only God’s promises can do this.

You may ask: How do they bring about this change in us? They do it in at least two ways: Firstly, these promises urge us to keep striving toward what God has promised us. The more we think about them, the more diligent we become to use every means of grace to reach our goal. Do you remember how the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness until they reached their Promised Land? What was it that kept them going? It was the prospect of experiencing its wonderful delights – how nice it will be to live in the land which flows with milk and honey! The promises of God are just like the land of Promise. They urge us to keep moving forward no matter how difficult life becomes.

Secondly, the promises of God make us lose interest in the attractions of this world. Through them we see what all the world’s attractions really are: Things that will eventually corrupt and decay. The latter part of v.4 mentions this: “…having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” All the treasures of this world will rust and corrode. What are they, compared to the solid joys and lasting treasures God has promised us? Why should you live for them, when you can live for things that are so much higher, nobler, better and that will last forever? Now, up till this point we have seen that the promises of God are described as beingexceeding great and precious because of what they can accomplish for us.

There is another reason which is found in the promises themselves. As you examine them, you will understand why they deserve this description. There are actually over 8,000 promises of God in the Bible! Here is a sampling of 8 of them: 1. The promise of His Protection: Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” There is no doubt at all that God means what He says here. What more can we ask for than to be accompanied, strengthened, helped and upheld by God Himself!

2. The promise of His Rewards: Hebrews 6:10 – “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” God never forgets what you have done for Him and for others. This promise should encourage you to serve God and His people well. Even though what you do may not be noticed by anyone and may eventually be forgotten, God will never forget!

3. The promise of His Oversight: Psalm 32:8 – “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” This promise helps us whenever we need to make decisions. Some decisions can be really tough to make! There will be moments in your life when you will be very perplexed and in need of God’s guidance for some decisions. That is when you need this particular promise of God. And God will provide the guidance you need through His Word and the Holy Spirit.

4. The promise of His Mercies: Lamentations 3:21-22 – “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” How wonderful it is to have this assurance that we will not be consumed or utterly destroyed, because of God’s mercies for us. He knows how much we can bear and He will not allow us to be afflicted beyond that. This assurance is also found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

5. The promise of Inward Joy: Psalm 126:5-6 – “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” This is a promise that encourages us a lot whenever we sow the Gospel seed: The joy that will certainly be ours when we see God causing it to bear fruits in the lives of people. This joy will not be ours alone. In Luke 15 Christ said that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents (Luke15:10). Let this motivate us to keep on sowing the gospel seed whenever we have the opportunity.

6. The promise of His Strength: Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” There is no better promise than this one for those of us who are tired and weary in our spiritual journey or in serving the Lord! Wait upon the Lord, and He will renew your strength. And if you have become weak because of sickness, please remember also God’s promise in (SLIDE20) 2 Corinthians 12:9. He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

7. The promise of His Eternal presence: Hebrews 13:5 – “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” This promise has always encouraged God’s people since ancient times. King David testified that he feared no evil when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, because he knew that the Lord was with him (Psalm 23:4). Paul testified that though everyone deserted him when he stood on trial before Caesar to answer false charges that were brought against him, the Lord stood with him and strengthened him (2 Timothy 4:16,17). Therefore whenever you have to face any trial by yourself, you can say boldly, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6)

8. The promise of Serenity: John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace that God gives is not merely the serenity that accompanies pleasant circumstances. It is a serenity that you can have even in the most turbulent moments of your life – a deep, supernatural peace that will keep your heart and mind through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7).

Thus we have seen a small sampling of the over 8,000 promises of God in the Bible, and we can now understand why they are exceeding great and precious. You may notice by now that there is one thing that all these promises have in common – there is no uncertainty in them. They are not given with words like “I may…I can…I could…I might” but with words like “I shall…and I will…!”  This gives us the maximum assurance that none of them will fail!

Israel’s history demonstrates that God has kept every promise He made to His people. Not one of them has failed. Doesn’t that make God’s promises better than any promise made by men? I am sure there have been times when you were disappointed by your friends and even by people you looked up to, because they did not keep their promises to you. Perhaps there were also times when you did not keep a promise you made to others. God is not like that. He never breaks any promise He makes! He keeps everyone of them faithfully and we can depend fully on Him to do just that. This brings us now to our response to the promises of God:

II. Our Precious Faith

A. What is Faith?

The response we should have to them is faith first. We must know exactly what faith is, because the word ‘faith’ is often misunderstood and misused. To some, faith is just a subjective feeling of assurance. Even those who don’t believe in God sometimes use the word ‘faith.’ They encourage each other by saying, “Have faith, man, just have faith!” or “Keep the faith!” – But what they mean is to have a positive or optimistic outlook on life.

To some, faith is nothing more than agreement about certain facts. James wrote about this, saying, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19). Some regard faith only as a helpful supplement to knowledge. They say, “Where knowledge ends, faith begins.” A little child was asked what faith is. This is what she said: “Faith is believing in something you know isn’t true.” Is this faith, or is it fantasy?

None of these ideas of faith are correct. One cannot speak about faith correctly without making reference to God. Faith is a deep-seated assurance in the soul that comes from trusting fully in God, and particularly in the Promises God has made to us. Faith isn’t just believing that God can do something. It is not just an assuring feeling, or a positive outlook or mental agreement to certain truths. It is more than that. Faith is the act of relying on God, and entrusting yourself fully to Him alone to do it. And in order to have such complete trust in God, you have to abandon every other ground of hope and confidence. The word ‘Faith’ itself supplies an acronym for this: “Forsaking All, I Trust Him.”

Knowing what faith is, is very essential for us, but what is even more essential is to have such faith. Whenever we have problems in our spiritual life, the root of the problem is very often a lack of faith. We know that we should trust in God and in His precious promises to us, but instead of doing that, we choose to trust in others or in ourselves. We lack faith!

When Jesus lived on earth two thousand years ago, He often lamented the lack of faith in people around Him. When His disciples were afraid that the boat they were in was going to sink in a storm, He said to them,“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). And then He calmed the storm. To those who were worried that they may not have enough clothes to wear Jesus said, “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?”(Luke 12:28)

If only we have faith to trust in God and His promises, we will not fear what can happen to us. If only we have faith to trust in God and His promises we will not worry so much what the future holds for us. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is therefore very precious. That’s how Peter described it in v.1 of our text – It is a “precious faith,” more precious even than gold (1 Peter 1:7)! And so we now ask the question:

B. How Can We Obtain Faith?

In v.1 of our text, Peter says that his readers are “them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” What does this tells us? It tells us that God is the One who bestows faith. Faith is therefore a gift of God (cf. Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”).

If you have faith to trust in God and in His promises, thank God for it and exercise it! But if you lack faith to trust in God and in His promises, then ask God for it! Mark 9:24 records the response of a father who asked Jesus to help his son who was demon-possessed. When Jesus said to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth,” he cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” The good news is that God is more than willing to give faith to all His children. Why? It is because He loves every child of His and He wants them to become like Jesus Christ.

If you are His child, He will give you the precious faith you need to trust in Him and in His precious promises. There are several things that you need faith for…

C. What Do You Need Faith for?

1. Provisions for all your needs: You must trust the Lord to provide for all your needs. Always remember this each time you mention that petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The term “bread” here is used to mean “necessities, conveniences of this life, food, raiment, housing.” One verse that clearly shows this promise is Philippians 4:19 tells us – “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

2. Deliverance: You must trust God to deliver you whenever you are in trouble or going through difficult trials. Look at how David trusted God for deliverance in Psalm 25:18-20 – “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in Thee.” Some years ago I ministered to a church member who was diagnosed to have lung cancer. He put his faith completely in the Lord to preserve him and help him during his fight with lung cancer. And the Lord granted him an extension of 3 years so that he could see his daughter getting married and also enjoy seeing his first grandson. He was an excellent example of a Christian who had faith in God’s promises. We have seen that we need faith to trust God for provision and for deliverance. But the most important thing in life that we need to trust God for is:

3. Salvation from sin and eternal death – Remember John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you are not saved yet, God wants you to trust in Him alone for your salvation from sin and eternal death. This means that your faith should not rest on anything else – your good works, your family background, upbringing, church membership, etc. Jesus Christ must be the sole object of your faith. So let me urge you now to put your faith only in Him.

As our Heavenly Father, God lovingly wants His children to experience these things – His adequate provisions for our daily needs, His timely deliverance when we go through trials in life, and most of all, His salvation of our souls from sin and from eternal death. And ultimately God wants us to be like His Son, Jesus Christ. This morning we have seen two precious provisions that God has made to help us to do this. The first is His exceeding great and precious promises, which are found in His Word. And the second is the precious faith we need in order to trust in those promises.

Let us commit ourselves now to know and understand God’s promises well, And let us have faith to believe that God will surely keep all His promises.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11