Most of the battles faced by the average Christian over his/her lifetime can most effectively be dealt with by remembering what you are in Christ: if you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you are a justified, reborn, increasingly Christ-like, persevering citizen of God’s eternal kingdom.
2 Peter was a letter written by Peter to Christians all over the Roman world who were battling against various trials and issues, ranging from false teaching, to uncertainties in their faith, to out-and-out persecution.
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: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:1-2
All of us are born sinners. We are born into sin, we are captive to it: the effects, consequences and results of our own sin, the effects, consequences and results of others’ sin against us. But we’re also born with an awareness and desire to be free from sin, and so we set about looking for things that will give us this freedom we so desperately seek.
We try self-distraction: the buzz of a weekend consumed by alcohol, the high of taking drugs, the rush of pornography, the false-security of greed, selfishness and pride. We try self-justification: a successful career, a loving family, adherence to one of the world religions, an upright moral character, fame or the approval of others.
Imagine our sinfulness being like a prison cell, and we are all looking for a way out of our sin-enslaved lives. We try these things one by one, and one by one they all fail us. The prison door stays shut. Our sin continues to enslave us. The sin of others continues to oppress us… and death claims us all, one by one. And we face death holding on to things that cannot and will not set us free; holding on to a faith that is both false and worthless.
Can you see the problem? We are looking for freedom from sin from within our own sinful world. It’s like looking for ways to be free using whatever we can find in our prison cell. Or, to use the language of 2 Peter, we are holding to a faith that depends on our own righteousness.
Can you see the problem? We are unable to attain our own freedom. Instead, we need a freedom to be given to us.
We need a freedom that doesn’t depend on us. We need a freedom that comes from outside our sinful world. We need a freedom that comes through righteousness of one who is righteous.
Jesus is the son of God born as a man and so he is sinless; he is righteous. Yet Jesus, who knew no sin, entered our world and became sin for us. He was born as a man, and so entered our prison cell of sinfulness. He died for our sin in our place on the cross, and so completely fulfilled the terms of our captivity. He rose to life, and so walked free from death, having served our sentence fully. Through his righteousness, he justifies us.
Justification is where he offers us his true freedom by his own righteousness, while taking the punishment and penalty brought about by our own sinfulness.
For all who trust in Jesus, that is what we have. We are justified and therefore free from the penalty and condemnation of our sin.
So, if you struggle with doubt or lack any sort of certainty in your faith, don’t look to yourself for assurance. Instead, look at the cross of Jesus. If, looking at the cross as described for us in the pages of Scripture, you see Jesus dying on the cross in your place for your sins then you have been saved, and your faith – what you trust in and hope for – is certain. You are justified.
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.
2 Peter 1:3-4
These two verses cover the work of the Holy Spirit summed up in the technical title of the doctrine of regeneration.
Ever since our first parents Adam and Eve rejected God and turned to sin, all humans are conceived and born as sinners. This not only means that we commit sin, but that every fibre of our being – every aspect of our nature – is sinful.
One of most amazing things about Jesus’ work on the cross is how it is applied to us personally.
A Christian is someone who: is chosen before time (predestined), is called (usually by Christians, sometimes by Jesus), and is given a new heart – a new nature – by God’s power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Sometimes this appears to happen instantaneously (as is my testimony), sometimes this appears to happen gradually (as is Kirsten’s testimony). Either way, because of that new heart, we receive the promises of Jesus for eternal life, and we receive the faith he gives us to turn away from sin and trust in him for our salvation. It is this new nature in us that provides the way for us to escaping the pull of sinfulness because of old sinful nature still at work in our flesh. When we die, that new nature continues through death into eternal life with Jesus, where we are given a new body without sin.
Until then, Christians are people who struggle with having two natures: the regenerate divine nature God has given us in our heart verses the sinful nature still at work in our flesh.
For all who trust in Jesus, God has made us part divine. We have a new nature in us that wants to live for and live like Jesus, and it is that nature that will pass through death and continue into eternal life with Jesus.
So, if you struggle with sin as a Christian – even recurring sin such as greed, lust or pride – then be encouraged. The very fact that you struggle with it is evidence of your new nature. You have the completed work of Christ on the cross, you have the Spirit at work in you, and so you have everything you need to overcome sin. It is precisely because it is Jesus’ death on the cross that saves us and not our lifelong struggle with sin that gives us the power to overcome sin and live a life of godliness.
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 near-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2 Peter 1:5-9
Because we trust in Jesus’ work of justification for us and because of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in us, we get to play our part in the work of becoming more like Jesus. This is called sanctification.
It is absoutlely essential that we understand that doing these things in 2 Peter 1:5-9 does not (and must not be though to) add anything to our salvation. The list in 2 Peter 1:5-9 are not extra conditions for our salvation. You are saved by Jesus alone, not Jesus and good works. You are saved by Jesus alone, not Jesus and self-control. Instead we add the things in 2 Peter 1:5-9 as consequences of our faith. Our goodness comes through the fact that we trust Jesus has been good to us. We practice self-control becuase Jesus died for our lack of it. And so on.
These things do not save us. They are important because the make us more effective and productive as Christians. Just take a look at any effective and productive Christian, and you’ll see someone who does these things.
But a Christian that doesn’t do these things is still a Christian. They are just near-sighted and blind in their Christian life because they have simply forgotten what Jesus has done for them.
So, if you feel unproductive and ineffective as a Christian, then check that you are making every effort to be increasingly Christ-like… not because it makes your salvation any more certain, but because you are saved, and these things reassure us that Christ is at work in us.
Perserving citizen of God’s eternal kingdom
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:10-11
These verses round off the work of the believer with the doctrine of perseverance. Christians are saved by Jesus but we also make every effort to make sure that we are saved by Jesus.
Imagine an Air Sea Rescue helicopter team rescuing a drowning man. The salvation of that drowning man depends entirely on the Air Sea Rescue team: they search for him and one of the crew comes down into the sea and secures the man with a lifebelt and saftey cable. However, what does that man do as he is plucked from the sea and is hanging from the helicopter? He holds on for dear life! Or, using the language similar to 2 Peter 1:10, he makes his rescue and salvation sure.
As Christians, our calling and election first and foremost depends on Jesus: he calls us, he chooses us, he saves us. Yet, like the man holding on to his rescuers, so we hold on to Christ and make our calling, election and, therefore, our salvation sure.
For all who trust in Jesus, a rich welcome awaits us when we die or Christ returns. The certainty of what Jesus has done for us on the cross and the certainty of that day when we are welcomed home is what drives us on as believers: never faltering, never stumbling, never giving up, always pressing on.
So, if you feel distant from Jesus and are tempted to give up on him, maybe you actually need to hold on to him all the more.
Remember what you are
Jesus is our justification, so we can be certain in our faith. The Holy Spirit brings about our regeneration and enables our sanctification, so we can be effective in our faith. Let’s play our part by making our calling and election sure, persevering until we receive our rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.
If you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then you are a justified, reborn, increasingly Christ-like, persevering citizen of God’s eternal kingdom.
Just don’t forget it.