Most of us are keenly aware of the qualities we lack as followers of Jesus. Perhaps you’re like me: from time to time I catch myself thinking, “If I only had a little more faith I could be a better disciple.” Actually, we could substitute nearly any other quality for the word faith, “if I only had a little more teaching, time, energy, money . . .” We possess the assurance of our weakness instead of the assurance of his faithfulness.
Let me share with you a passage from Peter’s second letter that changed my life forever. Several years ago it flashed like lightning across my heart, and the thunder still rattles my everyday life
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. Through these 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. For this very reason, make every effort . . .~2 Peter 1: 3-5
Here are seven keys to following Jesus from these amazing words. Perhaps you could carry them with you:
• “His divine power . . .” As followers of Jesus, our everyday life in Christ should be based upon his divine power, not our human strength. Our lives in Christ began with the miracle of the new birth. He did something for us we could not do for ourselves. Each continuing day with him should be based on this same revelation--we need his divine power, daily.
• “has given us everything we need for life and godliness . . .” The problem is, most of us think that God did "His part" on the cross and now the rest is up to us. It’s a common mistake, Paul needed to remind the Galatians that what was begun in the Holy Spirit could not be finished in the flesh. The good news is on-going: he isn’t finished dispensing his grace!
• “through our knowledge of him . . .” Road block! Our western mindset leads us to believe that the knowledge of him comes through mere study. I’m pretty sure Peter is not urging us toward an academic knowledge of Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with the study of Jesus, but a more fruitful approach is to know him by experiencing his presence.
• “his own glory and goodness . . . ” 21st century Americans have difficulty understanding “glory,” but his glory can impact our life. Most of us don’t even have a category called glory, but Peter urges followers of Jesus to soak in God’s glory that way we might soak in a tub. Does that seem strange to you? Perhaps that why we have difficulty trusting in his goodness as well. Yet the testimony of those who have walked with him is: he is good beyond all measure. And better yet: this glory and goodness is directed toward us!
• “He has given us very great and precious promises . . .” Do we ever reflect upon his promises? My unscientific opinion: not one in ten believers can point to a promise made by Jesus beyond the promise of eternal life. For most the benefits of a relationship with Jesus are locked up in the age to come. Such promises may even be true, I’m afraid that for most of us his promises are like autumn leaves: beautiful, but not very useful. But what if there were promises for us to receive today?
• “So that through them you may participate in the divine nature . . .” Here is where the lightning flash knocked me over. We can participate in God’s nature, right here, right now. Part of becoming a child of God is receiving something of his nature. Have you ever reflected on the idea that if you are his child he wants you to enjoy the family identity as well? Who knows the full meaning of this scriptural phrase? Not me, but I’m convinced that whatever it means, it has to be good!
• “and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires . . . “ Many believers are trapped into thinking the gospel is only about forgiveness. They see the Christian life as a cycle of sin, forgiveness, followed by more sin. On and on, until we are transported outta here. But the good news is even better: Peter wants us to know we can be set free from the cycle of corruption!
These are the seven keys, but like all keys they merely unlock the door to the next the passageway. The scripture calls us to action as well. Two final points about taking action:
“For this very reason, make every effort . . .” Peter’s exhortation comes after we see things from God’s perspective. The order is important: notice that “effort” comes after we encounter his divine power, his glory and goodness, and his precious promises. Too many disciples of Jesus, serious in their commitment to follow him, believe that their effort comes first. Instead, our effort is a response to all he has done.
“For this very reason, make every effort (part two). . .” But there is another segment of Christians who think effort is opposed to grace. For these friends we can only quote Dallas Willard (as we do so often!) “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”
Peter’s letter goes on to relate a long list of Christian virtues, and all of them are good (of course!). The danger of these next verses is when we believe we can accomplish the list apart from his divine power, his glory and goodness, and his precious promises.
First things first, we need to realize that our progress comes from empowerment, followed by our cooperation. Don’t be in a hurry. Take a week to meditate on what he has done. Take more! We have a lifetime to “make every effort.”