Christians have faced threats from persecution, and from false teachers since the earliest days of the church. So how do we discern what is true?
How do we stay strong in our beliefs to the very end, even while we live in a corrupt world? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg teaches us from the opening verses in 2 Peter chapter 1. Let's come back and just work through the opening couple of verses. Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. Is this a reference here—the righteousness, the right-doing of God—to his impartiality in extending both to the Gentile as well as to the Jew the opportunities of salvation?
Or is it a reference to the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, turn as a cross-reference to 2 Corinthians 5 for just a moment, and let me try and explain this so that none of us are stuck when next the question arises. And here in 2 Corinthians 5, he speaks in terms of reconciliation. Now, why would men and women need to be reconciled to God? Answer—because they are alienated by nature from God. Why is it that men and women feel an experience of alienation, whether it is social or material or personal or psychological?
The answer is, these elements are all fruit of the great alienation which men and women know, namely, that God is holy and other than us, and we, because of our sins, are separated from him. There is a great gulf that is between us. How, then, are we ever to bridge that gap?
Well, the answer is, we can't. Now, how has he made provision for such a reconciliation? Now, in verse 21, the answer is clear. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. If you go back up to verse 19, a phrase that I've pointed out to you before, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. Notice the phrase, not counting men's sins—two crucial words—against them. It doesn't say, not counting men's sins, as if somehow or another God was regarding sin as a casual thing and as something that was of marginal importance. No, he wasn't counting their sins against them.
Well, then, against whom did he count them? To the record of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that the call to reconciliation is a call to experience a great exchange. And this, my friends, is the essence of the gospel. And the idea that is prevalent at the moment that all of the great religions of the world agree on the central issues and the disagreement is on peripheral things just is not true.
The great disagreements are at the very heart of the matter. And here is the great wonder of the gospel. And the experience of it, of being reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, changes everything. So verse 16, from now on, the reconciled person regards no one from a worldly point of view. They see them as sheep without a shepherd. Not only do they view other people differently, they view themselves differently.
They're no longer stuck on themselves. They realize it is a great mystery, that God would love them. And their view of Jesus is altogether different. Though once we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Now, all of this, my friends, is wrapped up in this phrase. Through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, we have received a faith on account of God making Jesus to be sin for me and making me the beneficiary of his righteousness. And in the understanding of that, and in the staking of our lives upon that, is the discovery of this precious faith.
Can I ask you tonight, is that a faith you know? Someone said to you, What does it mean for you to be a Christian? Would you tell them I was once alienated from God, and I have been reconciled through the death of his Son? I once viewed everybody from a completely worldly perspective. I once looked at Jesus, and he really meant very little to me at all. I once viewed myself, and as far as I was concerned, I really was as good as the next person, and there was no legitimate reason as to why I would not be welcomed into heaven. And then I looked upon the cross, and I realized that this Christ was dying there for sin, but he was a sinless man. And then I understood that God was not counting my sin against me but was counting my sin against his Son. And I said that he would die for me and bear my place.
Would I not give my life away to him? You see how soft and trivial we make so many of our professions of the gospel sound? Well, I invited Jesus into my heart.
I know what we mean by that. Most of our friends don't have a clue what we're talking about, and we can't go to the Scriptures and say anything sensible about it, you see. And that's why we often get so gummed up in our witnessing, because one of them comes back, as I've said to you many times before, and say, Well, I'm very glad that you did, because I invited Buddha into my heart. And I'm doing very well with Buddha, thank you very much. And I'm glad that you found Jesus. We all have to find something, don't we? That's the kind of things they say when they're walking out of the office. Well, we've all got to find our own way, don't we?
And there are multiple ways, and you find yours, and I find mine. And you see, we pave the way for that kind of dismissive statement, because we trivialize our understanding of what Peter means when he says, Those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. This is something that God has done. This is something that God has initiated. This is something that God has completed. And we are then humbled by this.
We are amazed by this. For we know what we're like. And if anybody knew what he was like, surely the author of the letter knew what he was like. And he says, It's a mystery to me that I am a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, and I want you to know, and I hope it's a mystery to you, that we all share this same wonderful faith, the trust which has brought us salvation, the God-given ability to trust him.
Peter, a member of an unrepeatable group, a unique and unrepeatable group of apostles. And yet despite that distinction, the privileges of those to whom he writes are equal to his own. They are each recipients of the grace of God, because the ground at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is level. What a wonder it is that whether we're rich or poor, whether we're fat or thin, whether we're wise or dumb, whether we're old or young, if our glory is in the cross of Christ, then we can rejoice in this great and precious faith. Now, what's the great need of his readers as they are confronted by these heresies and buffeted by the onslaught of persecution? Well, more than anything else, in verse 2, grace and peace. I think the order is probably important.
Cause and effect, perhaps. Romans 5, therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God. You see, again, how the doctrine of justification provides the basis of our standing before God and how we can rest in our beds at night, not on the basis of how well we've done today, not on the basis of how well we've read our Bible or how much we listen to at church, but all on the basis of what Christ has done upon the cross. So we lay our heads on the pillow in the righteousness that God has provided in Christ, complete in him, accepted in him, looking away to him, all Christ, all grace. And in that, the discovery of peace.
And this grace and peace, you will notice, is not enjoyed in a vacuum. It is ours through a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, or equally translated, in the knowledge of Jesus our God and Lord, a knowledge of God which is a gift of his grace, by which men and women are constituted true believers. It is to him that this knowledge is given. That is, to the believer. And once this knowledge is given, then there is a knowledge that comes about as a result of diligent study, as we'll see in a subsequent occasion. Because of this wonderful knowledge of Jesus, we want to grow in our knowledge of Jesus, and hence the exhortations that follow in verse 5. Diligent study, careful application, working out our salvation along the steps of maturity.
So you see what he's saying? I'm writing to you folks. I know that it's a rough time.
I know there are all kinds of crazy ideas around. I know that persecution is upon you. I want to encourage you that you have received the same faith through the righteousness of God.
I'm praying for you that you may know grace and peace. I want you to know, verse 3 and 4, that his divine power—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead—has given us everything we need for life and for godliness. This is a wonderful statement. All of God's provision for us is grounded in our relationship with him. He has initiated this wonderful friendship, not on account of something that he's seen in us, but on the basis of his own glory and goodness. That's the significance of the end of verse 3. "...who called us," notice, "...by his own glory and goodness."
And so these dear people, aware of their weaknesses, antagonized by those who were bold and arrogant and who were apparently powerful, they needed to be reminded of the divine power that God had given them everything that they required for living life and for pursuing godliness. I wonder, have you been reminding yourself in recent days that by his divine power, God has given you everything that you need for the commencement, for the continuance, and for the completion of the Christian life? How could we ever begin except for Christ's death on our behalf? How could we ever continue except for Christ's death on our behalf? How could we ever hope to stand bold in that day before the bar of God's judgment except for Christ's death on our behalf? All that you need tonight for the commencement, the continuance, and the completion of the Christian life. What a wonderful truth that is. You don't need to go scurrying around looking for it somewhere. You don't need to go finding it in a conference.
You don't need to go and get a special set of tapes anywhere at all. It all comes with a package, if you like. Do you remember when you got Christmas presents when you were a child? The worst possible gift you could ever get was a gift that required batteries, and there were no batteries with the gift.
And so you had this phenomenal toy, a train, or a car, or some piece of mechanism that moved, and it couldn't move a bit because you didn't have the power that went inside of it. That's the experience of religion for many. They've got all the constituent parts.
They've got ideas about the religion and about Jesus and so on. But it never moves. It never changes. They remain unchanged. They sit with it. They take it out of the box, and they look at it. They put it up, and they observe it. They show it to people. But it does nothing.
It goes nowhere. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. And through these—namely, his own glory and goodness, verse 4—this is our last verse. Through his own glory and goodness, he has given us his very great and precious promises. All these promises of God that Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1, verse 20, find their yes and their amen in Jesus. And these great and precious promises, you will notice, provide the key to our participation in the divine nature, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. So, on the basis of the promises that are entrusted to us, we participate in the reality of God, and we are liberated from the corruption in the world around us. Now, Paul is now suggesting for a moment that we're absorbed into the deity. But I'll tell you what, in a time in postmodernism where people are interested in the idea of being absorbed into the deity, this is a very good verse to talk with them about. And you can tell them that the very great and wonderful promises that are in the Bible are the means of our participating in the divine nature.
And when they say, What does that mean? We can tell them that by means of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are partakers—and the word in Greek is the same word from which we get fellowship, koinoneity—we become partakers of his suffering and his glory. You can read of that in 1 Peter 4.
Now, friends, and with this I want to wrap it up. What Peter is describing here is not a goal towards which we're moving. What Peter is describing here is the starting blocks from which we spring. And if what I'm describing to you tonight is completely foreign and alien to you, it is for one of two reasons. Either because you have never come to genuine faith in Christ and therefore all that you know is a form of moralism, a sort of recharged, reorientated interest in making a go of it, in doing something to improve yourself. That is not biblical Christianity. Or that having been redeemed by God's outstretched hand, you really are a baby Christian, and you haven't understood, you haven't been taught, you haven't had the benefit of understanding the magnitude of what has happened to you in being made a member of God's family. And so I want to encourage you by this. I say this not to dishearten you but to encourage you.
In other words, all of these things that we're talking about just now—being reconciled to God and being justified freely by his grace, becoming partakers of the divine nature, having this through the righteousness of God—in all of these great and precious promises, Oh, my, my, you say, Oh, slow down, slow down. I can't get all this. My head is bursting. I don't know what to do. I'll never get all of this at all.
Listen, this is not a goal I'm moving you towards. This is where you spring from. God has done all this for you. Your Christian life is going to be the discovery and the rediscovery of the magnitude of what this means.
But all of it is yours in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we say again and again from Sunday school, we have been saved by sin's penalty. We are being saved from sin's power.
We will be saved from sin's presence. Because things are different now. Things are different now. I just read of one of the richest men in the United Kingdom an article describing the hedonism of his life, and it quoted some poetry that he'd been writing, and he obviously should have stayed away from poetry, but it was expressive of the conviction of his life, and this is what he said in one of the verses. I do not speak of secrets long dormant or concealed, of passion unrequited, of wounds which never healed. I seek for treasures buried, a hoard, as you might say, though what I seek is worthless, encased in human clay.
Spending all of his time and all of his energy devoted to placing value on the worthless and disregarding priceless wealth. And in contrast, Peter writes to these Christians in the early part of the church, and he says, Come on now, be in practice what you already are in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of you think that what you need, because you're having difficulty in your marriage, is a good talk with somebody about how to get on with your wife, how to close the drawers, as it were, because she's ticked off because you leave the drawers open. Others of you are concerned because of some other area in your life. The longer I stay in pastoral ministry, and I don't mean to be simplistic in this, I'm discovering again and again and again that these things are symptomatic. Some of you are concerned about assurance, and you want to come and meet somebody and have somebody give you ten verses that explain why you should be assured. They'll never help you.
That's not what you need. You need to understand the first four verses of 2 Peter 1, that his divine power has given you everything you need for life and for godliness. He's done it! That through his great and precious promises, he has made all of this available to you. That once you were alienated from God, viewed Christ with disregard, viewed yourself as something special, viewed other people in the wrong way.
But now he's changed all that. Oh, the process continues. But when you discover all of that, then you realize, well, why am I holding my wife to such a dreadfully high standard? When I am such a dreadful wretch, and were it not for the fight that Christ had redeemed me, where in the world would I be tonight? Instead of sitting and trying to memorize verses on assurance, why don't I just sit and ponder Christ upon the cross? Instead of trying to jack myself up by mechanisms of religious orthodoxy, why don't I just take a bath in a great big bathtub of grace and just rest in the wonder of who Jesus is and what he did? And then you see, that's what brings the change that is necessary to help me become the father, the husband, the partner, the colleague that I need to be.
Now, we can rub cream on the symptoms from now for a very long time. But until Christ comes to deal with the root of the problem, to reconcile us to God, then it will be superficial at best. I implore you, be reconciled to God. It is in God's Word that we have everything we need to begin, to sustain, and to complete the Christian life. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.
Alistair will be back in just a moment to close today's program. If you'd like to learn more about what it means to be reconciled to God, take a few minutes and watch a couple of videos you'll find on our website. Go to truthforlife.org slash learn more. You'll also find links to several other series on topics like Christian basics, the person and work of Jesus, and why it's essential to read the Bible. It's a privilege for us at Truth for Life to teach God's Word every day to an audience of listeners all around the world. And here after the holiday season, we recognize it is sometimes difficult to get back into the normal routines of life, and that can include our spiritual disciplines or spiritual habits. That's why we want to recommend a book to you to help you restart your devotions and your prayer time in the new year. The book is called Habits of Grace.
It's a book that explains how you can incorporate four key spiritual disciplines into your routine. These include spending time in God's Word, in prayer, in fellowship with other believers, and in fasting. Request your copy of the book Habits of Grace today when you give a donation online at truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair with prayer. Father, we thank you for the Bible, and I pray that out of all of these words you will bring clarity to our hearts. I thank you that, since I could never know all of the lives and the different needs and concerns of people, that you are able to match your Word to each of our circumstances. Some of us, Lord, have become adept at religious routine, but we've never understood the fact that you did not count our sins against us but that you counted them to Christ.
We've never come to you and said with Augustus' top lady Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee. Let the water and the blood from your riven side that flowed be of sin the double cure. Cleanse me from its guilt and power. Nothing in my hand I bring just simply to your cross I cling. And naked come to you for dress, and helpless come to you for rest, and I just rotten to your fountain fly.
And I say, wash me, Jesus, or I die. Grant us to know that no religious professional, no well-meaning mom or dad, no zealous pastor, no gracious friend can affect this divine transaction. Lord Jesus Christ, come then to us in your amazing grace and grant that we may take our stand upon all that you have done.
I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. Did you know that in many ways your faith is like a muscle? Tomorrow we'll learn some of the benefits of exercising your faith and the eternal and significant effects of neglecting to do so. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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