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Sunday, July 31, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Great and Precious Promises"

“Great and Precious Promises”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
July 31, 2011
2 Peter 1:3-11


Today, we’re starting a brand new short sermon series called “Great and Precious Promises.” 

We’ve just finished our series on Resisting Gossip. And just in time! As this week, I’m going to sit down in front of the computer and start trying to turn the material in that series into a ministry book. Pray for me!

And we’re soon going to start the book of Acts. I think that we’ll jump feet first into Acts on the second Sunday in September. So, we’re getting ready for that.

So, I thought, “What do we do between those two series?

What do we need to hear?

What do our hearts need right now?

And the answer that came to me is “Preach on God’s Promises.”

That’s what we need right now. We need to hear God’s promises given to us once again to fuel our faith.

We need God’s commands, too, of course.  We need everything God says in His Word.

But it seems to me that right now, we could all profit from a hefty dose of God’s great and precious promises.

One of the things that I want each Sunday for you is to walk out of here fed and fortified for another 7 days of life in this world.

Now, if this is the only biblical meal you get all week, then you’ll probably not last very long.  But if this is feast in God’s word (and especially God’s promises) then you’ll you be fed and fortified for tackling the challenges that come at you each day.

That’s what I want for you.

And that’s found in God’s promises.

God’s promises are sure. They are certain.
God’s promises are life-giving.  They are encouraging.
God’s promises are fuel for living. They give us the fire in our bellies for living the life that God desires.

Thank you for turning in these survey sheets from last week.  There are still some in your bulletins today.

I got a few back this week. They were full of God’s great and precious promises.  One of them had an attachment with a list of great promises two pages front and back, hand-written!  Amen!

One of you answered the question, “What one promise would you most like to hear a message on?” by saying, “All or any are wonderful.  The one that has been awesome to me recently is Zephaniah 3:17.  Not only is He with me, does He really take delight in me?  I know He quiets me.”

That shows you someone who has been in God’s word. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Isn’t that a great promise?

And so precious?!

What I want to do with this series is to introduce it today by taking you to the passage in Scripture that calls God’s promises, “Great and Precious.”

Actually it says “very great” or KJV “exceedingly great and precious.”

And think about what makes God’s promises so exceedingly great.

And then on Aug 14, 21, and 28, we’ll pick some great and precious promises and apply them directly to our hearts. Ok?

Do you know the children’s song that goes:

Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!

That’s what we want to sing with our hearts because we’ve studied this together.

So, let’s see what the Apostle Peter has to say about God’s promises in 2 Peter 1:3-11. We’ll start in the first verse to get the context.

[scripture reading, prayer]

What is going to get you through the next week?

What is going to get you through the challenges that you are going to face in the next seven days?

Life in this fallen world is not easy.

Life is not a piece of cake.

Some of us have it easier than others at times but no one lives on Easy Street.  Not for long, at least.

Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble.

And that’s almost an understatement.

Life in this fallen world is not easy.

What is going to get you through the next week?

What is going to get you through the next month?

The next year?

The rest of your life?

What’s going to get you through?

I love what verse 3 says about God’s gracious provision for our lives.  Verse 3.

“His divine power [that “His” is God’s, the Lord Jesus’ from verse 2, His diving 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.”

We read this passage just a few weeks ago when we were studying gossip.

It’s an awesome declaration of the sufficiency of God’s grace for our lives.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”

“Everything we need!”

Isn’t that awesome?

Where do we find everything we need?  In a relationship with Jesus Christ.  V.3

“Through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

In Christ, in the Lord, in knowing Him who called us to Himself by His own glory, by His own goodness, we have everything we need for life and godliness.

Now, if we just internalize that truth, we’ve got everything.

If we just truly believe that and live out of that, we are set for life!

But there is more.

He says (v.4), “Through these [that is, the Lord’s glory and goodness] 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.”

So, God has given us everything we need through our knowledge of Him and has also given us “his very great and precious promises.”

They are part of the “everything we need for life and godliness.”

The Greek word for “great” here is MEGISTOS.  And it means, “Great!”

“Exceedingly great!  Very great.  Tremendous!”

We’d say, “Awesome!”

And Greek word translated “precious” is TIMIOS.  And it means, “as of great price, “precious,” “held in honor,” “esteemed,” “especially dear.”

Is that how you feel about the promises of God?

Some of my favorite birthday presents are promises.

I’m told that I’m kind of hard to buy for in the present category, because what I really like is books, and that’s kind of boring to buy a guy a book every time his birthday rolls around.

“I got you another book, honey!”

So, my wife and now daughter have taken to making me coupon books for my birthday.  And they say things like this.  “This coupon is good an action flick of your choice and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.”  “This coupon is good for a free afternoon (including Suindays) to read a good book (with no kids around).”  “This coupon is good for BUCKEYES.”  Unfortunately, that one was already redeemed. Rats!

Every one of those coupons is a promise.

And the promises are just as good as the person making the promise.

These are great and precious to me.  Thank you!

But how much more great and precious are the promises of God!

Here was a list on one of your sheets;

Romans 10:9
Romans 8:32
1 Corinthians 2:9
Titus 3:3
1 Peter 1:3-4
Revelation 21:4
Hebrews 13:8
John 14:1-3

Do you know what those “coupons” say?

Somebody here does.  And they love them. They are great and precious to this person!

What makes God’s promises so very great and precious?

I think that this passage gives at least 6 answers to that question.

Let’s think about them briefly.

#1.  THEY ARE GOD’S GIFT!  V.4 Again.

“Through [his glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises.”

The promises of God are not things that we must earn.

The promises of God are not things that we must be worthy of.

The promises of God are not things that we must deserve.

They are gifts from an exceedingly gracious God!

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises.”

That is such good news because you and I could never deserve them.

Some of the promises of God are so good that they hardly seem believable, much less attainable by worth and merit and effort.

They must be a gift for sinners like you and me.

And they are.  And that makes them so much greater and so much more precious.

Number Two.  What makes the promises of God so great and precious?

#2. THROUGH THEM WE PARTICIPATE IN THE DIVINE NATURE! That’s verse 4.

“...he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”

Now, what does that mean?

It’s an amazing statement.

It’s more than just our sins are forgiven.

It’s that we share, somehow, in the life and being of God.

We become like Him and share in His life.

Doctor Martin Lloyd-Jones said it this way. “A Christian is one who is a partaker of the divine nature. H eis one in whom are, essentially, the traits and characteristics of God Himself, the divine life. He is like Christ. The life of godliness, the divine quality of life, the divine characteristics are in him, as being formed in him, and he is manifesting these divine characteristics. That, according to Peter, is the thing to which we are called; thais what is demand and expected of you and me as Christians. We not merely believe that our sins are forgiven in Christ–thank God that we do believe that–but we must not stop at that. I am not merely one who is forgiven, I am to be a partaker of the divine nature; I am to be a new man, a new creation, a new being; and I am to reveal and manifest these characteristics. That is the calling.”  (D.M. Martin Lloyd-Jones, 2 Peter, pg. 15).

And what makes that possible?

The promises of God!

“Through them you may participate in the divine nature.”

It’s because of the promises of God that the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell inside of each true believer and remake them into the image of Christ.

We don’t become God (No!), but somehow, we begin to live a bit of the God-life!

We share in the life and nature of God.

That’s mind-blowing and it comes from the promises of God.

More. #3. THROUGH THEM, WE ESCAPE THE CORRUPTION OF THE WORLD!  Next phrase in verse 4.

“...so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  Or King James Version, “lust.”  “Inordinate and misplaced desires.”

The promises of God are great and precious because through them we escape the corruption of the world.

I think that means, at least, salvation.

We are rescued from the decay of the world.  We are headed to heaven.

And that’s supported by the tense of the Greek word here.  It literally means, “you have escaped” from the corruption of the world.  Saved!

But I think it means more. I think it means that the promises of God are cleansing and purifying and help us to be victorious over temptation.

The promises of God are great and precious because they are sanctifying.

Let use a gossip example since that’s what I’m living and breathing right now.

Last month, we used two different promises of God to interact with sinful gossip.

Before you gossip, there was the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

We don’t have to give in to the temptation. That’s the promise. And we can escape the corruption of the world.

But what if we’ve given in?  What if we’ve fallen into that corruption?

1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Confess and repent and move on.  He’ll forgive because of the Cross.  That’s the promise.  Take hold of it and move on.

And we escape the corruption in the world.

How great and precious that is.

If we don’t understand the depths of our sin, the depravity and bankruptness of our sin, we won’t understand how great and precious these promises are.

They promise the escape from sin!

More. #4. THEY EMPOWER OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH!

Notice what happens in verse 5.  Don’t miss the first 4 words.

“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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

Peter says to add these 7 qualities on top of your basic faith.

Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

Now, he doesn’t mean to do them one at a time.  Don’t wait until you’ve got goodness down to gain in your knowledge.  Don’t wait until you’ve got perseverance to gain godliness.

In fact, these virtues are overlapping to some degree in meaning.  They are not stair steps.

But they are all things to grow in. They are something we work at “make every effort” at adding to our lives.

A number of our kids had a whole week at camp on just “brotherly kindness.”

Putting other people first.  Being givers not takers.

It’s talking about spiritual growth.

But don’t miss this!  What makes that growth possible?

What empowers that growth?

Is it self-powered?  Is this bring yourself up by your bootstraps?

No!

It is effort, but it is promise-driven effort.  Look again at those first 4 words.

“For this very reason...”  What was the reason?  V.4

“He has given us his very great and precious promises!”

“For this very reason...” make every effort.

Now, some people think that grace means that we don’t have to do anything.

But grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.

Grace empowers our efforts.

We must pursue spiritual growth, but we do it empowered by the grace of God found in the great and precious promises of God.

Isn’t that awesome?

How are you doing with your spiritual growth?

Which of these virtues need the most work in your life right now?

Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love?

You won’t make any headway on your own.

But there are promises in this book that if believed, if taken-to-heart, will give you grace to make every effort to add these virtues to your life.

They a great and precious because they empower our spiritual growth.

Peter says that opposite is also true.  V.8

“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 if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

Ouch!

The last thing I want God to say about me is that I was “ineffective and unproductive . . .  and nearsighted and blind.”

How about you?

Here’s the opposite.  God’s promises are great and precious because.

#5. THEY HELP US TO BECOME EFFECTIVE, PRODUCTIVE, AND CLEAR-SIGHTED!

Wow. That’s a lot, isn’t it?

Notice again, the chain of thought.  You need to have goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love in increasing meausre to keep from being ineffective and unproductive and nearsighted and blind.

If you don’t have those things, you’re in trouble and you’ve forgotten the gospel.  V.9, you have “forgotten that [you have] been cleansed from [your] past sins.”

But to get those things, you must believe the promises of God.

So they are essential in being effective Christians, productive Christians.  Christians that are clear-sighted, far-seeing, and visionary.

Do you see how great and precious the promises really are?

Is that how you are treating them?

Are the promises of God your delight?

Are they your regular diet?

Are they the meat and potatoes of your life?

I think that sometimes we are tempted to make the promises of God something we run to when things go bad, but that we ignore the rest of the time.

As if they were just medicine what ails us.

They are medicine.

But they should also be the staple foods of our heart’s diet.

If not, we become ineffective, unproductive, and nearsighted and blind.

We don’t need a church like that.

We don’t need Christians like that.

We need effective Christians. Productive Christians. Clear-sighted Christ.

Christians who value the promises of God as the great and precious things they are.

Here’s the last one for today.

#6. THEY CONFIRM OUR STATUS AS GOD’S ETERNAL PEOPLE!

The promises of God confirm our status as God’s eternal people. V.10

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As we believe the promises and grow in grace, then we will know more and more that we certainly do belong to Christ.  That we are His chosen people because we are more and more growing into the restored image of Christ.

And we will be more and more sure our rich welcome into Heaven and the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Not because we’ve earned it, but because Jesus has earned it for us, and we believed His gospel promises.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

That’s a great and precious promise!

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