Sunday, August 08, 2021

Lockdown Devotional: 2 Peter 1




How do things grow? Let’s start with something simple (or not, if you don’t have a green thumb).  You plant a seed in the right soil, give it the right amount of sun and water, fertilise if necessary, and, hopefully, it will grow into a lovely plant. (Strangely, weeds don’t require any of that care!)


How does a child grow? It needs to be fed, cleaned, and kept comfortably warm, and, also, needs affection and appropriate social interaction. For healthy, mature growth, the child also needs to exercise and to master the skills appropriate to its developmental stage. There are things a parent does for the child, and things the child must learn to do itself.


How does a Christian grow? Right now, spiritual growth might feel like it’s all too hard with our normal lives upended, but the apostle Peter had something to say about this. Remember, he was writing to a persecuted church in an environment that was awash with false teachers.


His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.



The first thing to notice is that God has already given us everything we need for a godly life (v3). It doesn’t matter where we’re at, or what’s going on around us, our primary resource is God himself, and our life and growth come from knowing him. He has not left us as orphans (John 14:18), his Spirit dwells in every believer, revealing Christ to us “through our knowledge of him”. This growth may not happen as quickly and easily as we would like to imagine; but happen it will if we continue to walk with him and feed on his word. Our goal should be just like that of Paul:


“ that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”  (Philippians 3: 10-11)


So, we feed on his word and grow in him, and put our reliance on his “great and precious promises”. God promises, in many places in Scripture, that he will redeem us, sanctify us (make us holy) and bring us home to himself in a glorious eternity. The more we learn to understand his promises and fix our eyes fast on them, the more our faith will grow, and the more we will grow in Christlikeness, because the temptations of the world and our own “evil desires” will have less power over us.


Just as a parent brings a child to birth, and feeds it and shelters it, so that it will live and grow, so God has given us life through his Spirit and feeds us on his word. But for a child to not merely survive, but to mature into a functioning adult, their comes a point where they must be active participants in the process, willing to exercise their minds and bodies. And so it is in the spiritual realm. God, and God alone, has made our salvation possible, through Jesus, but we have a part to play as well in reaching our full maturity. Otherwise, (to change the metaphor), we will be people living in spiritual poverty while our bank account holds riches beyond our wildest dreams.


And this is where the growth equation comes in (verses 5 – 7). Peter introduces us to a process of addition which we must participate in. (If you want to go into other realms of biblical maths, you could try subtracting sin, multiplying the church, and rightly dividing the word of truth!)


We start with faith, that is, faith in Jesus as our only hope of salvation, which is the entry point for every believer.


To faith we add goodness, which means moral uprightness, choosing to do the right thing, the best thing you can, rather than cutting corners.


To goodness we add knowledge, specifically the knowledge of God. We let his word saturate our thinking, so that we may see him more clearly and understand better his character and his will for us.


To knowledge we add self-control, a fruit of the Spirit’s work in us. This is the ability to say no to our own desires and impulses when they are not in line with the will of God, to resist not only what is obviously sinful, but also those subtler temptations to indulge and prioritise our own interests at the expense of others.


To self-control we add perseverance. The best intentions in the world will not achieve anything if we give up the moment things get difficult. The Christian life is often more like a marathon than a sprint, and we mustn’t underestimate the importance of just keeping going, through easy times and hard ones. This is where fixing our hope in God’s “great and precious promises” is so important. Our earthly goals will often get frustrated, but God’s promises stand unchanged, and if we make those our anchor point, we can ride out any storm.


To perseverance we add godliness – our goal in all of this, the goal of the Spirit’s work within us, is that we should become more like Christ, and walk with him.


To godliness we add mutual affection. The Greek word used here is philadelphia, literally love of the brothers. We start here by learning kindness and generosity of heart towards each other in the family of God’s people.


To mutual affection we add love. This is what we are aiming for, the love which God commands us to have towards whoever has need of us (i.e.our neighbour), the love which is clearly described in 1 Corinthians 13. But it is important to note that we can’t get to that place without the other steps Peter mentions. There are no shortcuts, but nor is there any need for discouragement. God has given us all that we need: our salvation, his indwelling Spirit, his word with all its wisdom, and the infinite riches of his grace. Even in lockdown, deprived of some of the forms of community that encourage us, these things are still ours in abundance.



No comments: