2 Peter 1:1-15

Veronica Hynes has a message that is very precious to her. The message is from her husband Capt. Walter Hynes of Ladder Company 13, New York Fire Department. Capt. Hynes and his crew were heading for the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The second hijacked jet had just flown into the south tower. He called home and left a voice mail message: "Honey, it's real bad. I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids." Veronica Hynes takes comfort that she has these final words from husband. It comforts her to know that he was thinking about his loved ones in his final moments.

If you knew that death was near and you had a chance to leave behind a final message what would you say? Who would you say it to? It is interesting that most last words focus on first things - those things that are of ultimate importance. There is no stunning revelation expressed in Capt. Hynes message; not really anything that his wife or children did not know. But his message was one that needed to be shared. Last words tend to focus on those things that are most important.

The letter we call Second Peter represents the last words of the apostle. For his farewell testimony, Peter does not offer any new revelation or a long held secret he needs to reveal. There is no attempt to reconcile a long held grudge, rather he holds out one more time the basic message to which he has preached and taught since Christ called him. He admits that his readers will know all these things and are probably quite devoted to these principles. Peter chooses to make the first things his last words.

12 Therefore, I intend to keep on reminding you about these things, even though you already know them and are firmly established in the truth that you now have. 13 Yet I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I am living in this bodily tent, 14 because I know that the removal of my bodily tent will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me.15 And I will make every effort to see that you will always remember these things after I am gone.

Peter is interested in the believers remembering these first things and keeping them in the center of their lives. Knowing that his days are few he intends to spend them in an effort to emphasize the importance of these first things. Peter is establishing a legacy. He intends for this testimony to continue beyond his life. As we study these "famous last words" let us be aware that the apostle intends for us to remember these first things that are foundational to our faith. What are these first things? Peter discusses these in the opening of the letter.

The Power for Godly Living [2 Peter 1:3-4]
1 From Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith that is as valuable as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2 May grace and peace be yours in abundance through the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord! 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the full knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 4 Through these he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, seeing that you have escaped the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires.

Everything Peter has to say is based on the power of God. It all begins with God! Before any of us did anything, God has already acted.
There is a troublesome idea that too often circulates among Christians. It is the idea that God is the all-seeing eye waiting and watching everything we do and then, when the moment is right (or wrong depending on how you look at it) he reacts to our actions. It is as though God is a patrolman waiting to catch those of us you break life's speed limits. Or he is the school principal who always seems to appear when you break the rules. This view of God is childish and unbiblical. God is not waiting to react to our actions. He has acted, he sent his prophets, he visited us in Christ, he has given gifts, he has blazed the trail, he has sent the Spirit, he has prepared the future and after all this action we are the ones who must react!

Why do we live right? Because God gave us the power to live right and he has invited us to live a life better than any other. He took the initiative to save us. God has a vision for our lives that breaks away from a hollow, meaningless life marred by sin. His vision is a life in which he empowers us to participate in his divine nature. It seems like a huge challenge, but remember that God has already equipped us with everything we need to make the journey ...

The Path for Godly Living
There is an old saying that says the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The wisdom of this saying invites to look at life as a journey of growth. In between the blessings of divine power and the promises of divine nature are the virtues of godly living. There is a "path" that we follow as we grow and mature in Christ. The Christian life is a journey in which the things we know are more than just knowledge - they become virtues. The faith that we might so eagerly contend for is not so much a legal code as it is a transforming truth that bears fruit in the lives of those who accept it. This is certainly Peter's outlook as he envisions a path of growth for those who begin with faith ...

5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to supplement your faith with moral character, your moral character with knowledge, 6 your knowledge with self-control, your self-control with endurance, your endurance with godliness, 7 your godliness with brotherly kindness, and your brotherly kindness with love.

There's much we could say about the process from faith to love. Faith leads to virtue and in time we come to know more about God as we live virtuous lives and the knowledge of God gives us discipline which enables us to endure temptations and hardships and that perseverance then builds more character in the form of godliness and that then changes the way we relate to others first by enabling us to love better those who are dear to us and then, ultimately, blossoming into the kind of love we see in Jesus - the love of God. This love is the goal of God's word. Paul described it as the most excellent way and said that love is the highest quality of all - even higher than faith and hope. Without love, all other good things and good deeds are lacking something (1 Corinthians 12-13).

The Promise of Godly Living
The path of godly living is not a process for obtaining the promises of God as though it were some sort of contract that puts an obligation on God. That kind of thinking is not consistent with the mature knowledge that Peter describes. The path is a lifestyle that is really a foretaste and glimpse of what is to come. (Traveling to Branson - The destination influences the path - Look at what has happened to Hwy 412 and Hwy 65.)

Peter says that if we follow the path toward the promises of God then that future life we look forward to will seep into the present time.
8 For if you possess these qualities and they continue to increase among you, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in attaining a full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For the person who lacks these qualities is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing that he has received from his past sins. 10 So then, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election certain, for if you keep on doing this you will never fail. 11 For in this way you will be generously granted entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  1. God has given us the power to grow in Christ. (v. 8) - The increase of virtue = success in knowing Christ. Peter says that our lives are going to count for something. Our lives will not be ineffective and unproductive. Get this, as you come to know Jesus your life will become more meaningful. There is no such thing as a person who really knows Christ whose life is meaningless. Paul disregarded everything he strove for in his life (and he had quite a resume) and his only point of pride was that he might know Christ ever more and be more like him (Philippians 2).
  2. We are promised new life. The old life is gone. We have been cleansed. These promises are certain and guaranteed. Those who lack the virtues of the divine nature have lost their sight/vision. We can live godly lives! That's a promise! (But isn't that presumptuous? Sure if you are relying on yourself - but Peter's confidence isn't on self - it is on God.) We can look back to our baptism and we understand how it was a turning point. In his first letter, Peter says that we were born again, not of perishable seed, but imperishable (1:23).
  3. Since that is the case, we need to live up to our Christian calling. We are invited to participate in the divine nature. Simply staying the course is success because it is God who opens the way to the kingdom - not our own righteousness. Too often we falter on the journey because we get distracted by our own inadequacies or fears. The problem is, we think we're trailblazers - and we're not. Jesus is the pioneer and he has blazed the path ahead of us. The outcome is not uncertain. We have free will, but the promise is secured by God - you cannot get a better backing! Entry into the kingdom is not something we secure. We have been invited into the kingdom. We trust the one who shares the divine nature with us. We are brought in as partners. We are shareholders in the divine nature [The role of a shareholder]

So, what is holding you back? What would you do differently if you weren't afraid of failing? God will ensure success in his way. Just stay the course!

Among the many last words spoken by those who perished on Sept. 11 there is this one: A husband in one of the hijacked jets left a message for his wife saying, "I want you to be happy, I want you to carry on, See you when you get here."

Peter's last message for the church tells us that we will find true happiness if we rely on God's power and live a godly life. He wants us to continue on the path of godly living so we can obtain the promise of that sort of life. Peter wants us to strive for the life that is to come in the new heaven earth. In a sense he's saying, "Stick to the path, trust in the promises and I'll see you when you get here!"

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 July 2004

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