October 20, 2002
Most of us are interested in knowing how to be a better person—but sometimes our reasons are good, and at other times they are misguided. In this message, Alistair Begg leads us through the foundational Gospel principles that open Peter’s second letter. It is through God’s grace alone that we can be reconciled to Him and receive His promised help to live godly lives.
Sermon Transcript: Print
Now, what I’d like to do, I think, in these evenings is work through 2 Peter with you. That gives us three chapters, and I think we can probably do that before Christmas dawns. I’m hopeful of that. I don’t know, but we’ll do as we can do. And so, let’s just begin. We’ll probably get through maybe three or four, or perhaps—yeah, three or four verses this evening and then pick it up from there next time.
The context in which we come to 2 Peter, without going into a lot of details that you can find out for your own with a good commentary, is simply that the environment to which Peter was writing was an environment in which false teaching was clearly on the rise. We know that because he’s addressing these issues and the statements being made by people, primarily individuals denying the reality of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as a result of that, a kind of moral carelessness and looseness was beginning to creep in amongst the people of God. And Peter writes to them in such a way as to remind them that the things that he and the other apostles have been saying to the flock of God had to do not with some mystical notion that they dreamt up but actually had to do with historical facts and figures. They were conveying, he says in this letter, the things that they had seen—the eyewitness accounts of verifiable events—in much the same way as John does in his first epistle when he says, “The things that I’m writing to you about, dear children, are the things that we have seen, that we have handled, that we have gazed upon with our own eyes”—and also the truth that has then been inscripturated in the very letter that he is writing to these folks.
The commentators estimate that this was written probably in the ’60s, in the early to mid-60s, just before, of course, Peter was put to death. It wouldn’t be written after he was put to death, clearly, but it was written before he was put to death, which was under the persecutions of Nero, probably. And with all of the impending thought of his departure looming before him, he writes what is his second letter to these believers.
Now, there’s usually a key into a book and a key into a letter, and I think there clearly is here in 2 Peter. And it doesn’t come right at the beginning, but it actually comes in the statements that he makes from verse 12 on. You say, “Well, you only read the first eleven verses. Why would you start at verse 12?” Well, it’s just the way I am. And I want to suggest to you, without spending a great deal of time on it, that the key to understanding just what is taking place, that opens the door both to the content and structure of this letter, is actually in this little paragraph which begins, “So,” he says, “I will always remind you of these things.” “It[’s] right,” he says in verse 13, “to refresh your memory”—notice his phraseology—“as long as I live in the tent of this body.” And in verse 15: “I [want to] make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”
Now, why is he doing this? Well, he’s seeking to guard the readers against error and at the same time to put them on guard. And the way that he accomplishes this is by conveying to them the truths which provide the necessary basis for growing to maturity and for being men and women of stability. That, of course, is the responsibility of all who have a responsibility in pastoral leadership. And therefore, I, along with my colleagues here, do a disservice to you if we fail to provide for you the doctrinal underpinnings that will allow you to grow to maturity and become men and women of stability. And what he does is simply walks them through what are the basics. It’s a dose, if you like, of preventative medicine—of necessary, preventative medicine. And many of you who are here tonight are in the health world, in the world of medicine, and you know, as well as others of us who read the newspapers, that a tremendous amount of money is spent on healthcare in the United States of America. Approximately $1.4 trillion a year is expended on health—hence the great interest on the part of, not least of all, the insurance companies to engage in preventative medicine, on the basis that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Now, he’s really operating on the same basis in spiritual terms, making sure that his readers are not distracted by all the voices that are filling the air, according to 2:1—the “false prophets” who had been “among the people.” So, he says, “there will be false teachers” that come “among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” and “bringing swift destruction [up]on themselves.” He speaks very straightforwardly, and he sets an example to all who will be involved in the care of souls.
Despite the pressure to capitulate to contemporary modern educational theory, I think it remains important for us at Parkside from the very earliest age on and up to teach our children in ways that are memorable and to use whatever mechanisms work in order to do the same. I, along with some of you, was brought up on very old-fashioned memorization skills, which seem now to be far and removed from anything that is represented in our day—although when I say this, every so often a Sunday school teacher comes up to me and says, “Oh, no, no, no! We did that just this morning. We were doing that today. You’re not the only one.”
So, for example, how many of you tonight, if I said that we were going to engage in “sword drill,” would know exactly what I’m referring to? Just put up your hands. Okay. So probably about 33 percent know what sword drill is. So that means that 66 percent haven’t a clue in the wide world. So I’m going to tell you what it is. In the whole idea of being soldiers and ready with the equipment necessary, in Sunday school, teaching us that the Bible is the sword of the Spirit, the teacher would call out various verses of the Bible, and you had to look them up, and the first one that found it stood up and had the opportunity to read it out. It may seem like simple pleasures in these days of dramatic video games, but nevertheless, for anybody with a competitive edge at all, it meant a great deal. And so you had to sheathe the sword, and then you had to draw the sword, and the reason you held it up in the air like that was to prevent people cheating by having their Bibles down on their laps and thumbing through before the person said what the actual verse was. So, the skeptical Sunday school teacher had everybody hold the thing up in the air, and then he would say, “2 Kings 9:15.” Then the Bibles would come down, and the little fingers would go everywhere till they found 2 Kings 9:15, then somebody would stand up. And oh, the great achievement of being able to read it out!
At the same time, we would rehearse together, one and another, “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings,” and so on, and we memorized it just straight up and off by heart. We knew the Ten Commandments in order. Many of us don’t even know, couldn’t come up with Ten Commandments and are desperately keen to make sure that I don’t launch us into a sword drill right now, ’cause we have a horrible feeling that we’ll still be scrambling around after we’re on verse 7 and twenty-five people have stood up ahead of us.
Susan and I have a friend in Glasgow who often gifts to us both books on any and every occasion. And the last book that I received from this family friend was a book on Glasgow trams. And there was a tramway system in Glasgow, which ran until I was about six years of age, and then they took them out because trams were passé. Unfortunately, they desperately need them now, but that’s forty-six years ago, and they lifted up all of the tracks. But it is a wonderful book on the Glasgow trams—filled me with nostalgia. And she inscribed in the front cover of the book this: “To remind you never to forget.” “To remind you never to forget.” I know what she was saying. “Don’t you ever forget where you came from. Don’t you ever forget these essentials.”
Now, that is what Peter is doing here. And that really is the responsibility of pastoral ministry: to make sure to constantly remind one another so that we don’t forget. That it is a matter of urgency is clear from verse 14: “I’m going to soon put the tent aside,” he says, “as the Lord Jesus has made clear to me. Therefore, since I’m about to move on, I want to make sure that I leave my mark upon you. And the mark that I want to leave is in this repetitive element.” “I will always,” verse 12, “remind you,” purposefully.
Now, you see, Peter’s fear, says Christopher Green, “is not that the [next] generation will codify and fossilize the truth, but rather that they will become so careless about it that they will forget it altogether.” What do you think the great danger is in the transition from one generation to the next—especially at this time, where there is scant regard for the Bible, scant awareness of the essentials, an unwillingness to do the dutiful task of simply committing things to memory? Is the great danger that our children and our children’s children will codify truth and leave it locked away somewhere as unrealistic dogma? Or is the more realistic danger that they will forget about it altogether?
Now, Peter, as with other Jewish men and women of his time, was well aware of all the markers that God had given his people throughout the Old Testament as an aid to their memory. For example, I won’t turn you to these, but I’ll give you the Scripture references. In Deuteronomy 16:3, in addressing the issue of the Passover, God says, “I want you to do this. I want you to do this so that all of the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.” Why did he give this to them in symbolic form? As an aid to their memory. The standing stones, of which you can read in Joshua 4:21 and 22—why does he have them take these stones and set them up in this way? Exact same reason: “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground’”—so that they were put there as an aid to memory, as a trigger to recollection. And their significance, of course, had to be underpinned by the awareness on the part of God’s people as to the nature of what God had been doing. And so “the business,” says Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “of the church and of preaching is not to present [men and women] with new and interesting ideas, it is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths.” And when men and women are confused about what they believe, then you will find that their behavior also goes along with it. And the antidote to that, then, is in an understanding of the Scriptures, which pierces the darkness.
Now, having said all that as the key that opens the doorway into the book, let’s come back and just work through the opening couple of verses.
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” “A servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” He emphasizes relationship, you will notice, before rank. This is the Simon Peter that we all know of “I can do it, even if everyone else goes away”; the Simon Peter of “No, I never heard of him, I don’t know him, I wasn’t with him”; the Simon Peter who by his very name, Simeon, meant “shaky,” and who by the intervention of the Lord Jesus became Peter, “the man of rock.”
And the point of contact between Peter and his readers, you will note, doesn’t lie in a shared concern about the problems and challenges that these individuals face, nor is it to be found in a common opposition to the falsity that he addresses, but it is grounded in a shared faith: “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” Now, I want you to notice that little phrase “To those” and then the explanatory clause “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, some of you are saying, “Frankly, I don’t know. And that last one that you mentioned, I don’t even know what it is. What do you mean, ‘the imputed righteousness of 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.
The New Testament addresses the way in which man and God are brought together in a number of words that are often regarded as too hard to be considered and therefore are set aside, but they’re not that difficult. They may be a little unusual, but they’re all perfectly understandable, and we need to know what they mean. Paul uses a whole variety of them. For example, he speaks in terms of justification, where he uses the language of the law court. He speaks of propitiation, where he uses the language of the temple sacrifice. He speaks also of redemption, where he uses the language of the slave market. And here in 2 Corinthians 5, he speaks in terms of reconciliation.
Now, you could read this all the way through, but from verse 16 he says, “From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” And as he goes on to speak concerning these things, he issues this great exhortation in the second half of verse 20: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” “We implore you to be reconciled to God.”
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. So unless God has provided a means of reconciliation, then there is no possibility of it coming from our side across.
What, then, are the marks of an alienated life? Well, in 2 Corinthians 5:12, those who are alienated from God “commend [them]selves.” If you talk to them about why they think God would accept them, they say things like, “Well, I think I’m as good a person as the next.” They say things like, “Well, I’m sure that God is pleased with some of the things that I’ve been doing. I don’t see that I’m as bad as Mr. So-and-So, who was in the newspaper the other day, or as bad as my neighbor up the street. If you’d heard of the some of the things she did…” And that attempt to protest the individual’s desire to save face—to take pride in face—is an indication of their alienation.
In verse 15, they “live for themselves.” A man or a woman who is alienated from God has their own personal agenda. And their regard for the Lord Jesus Christ—verse 16—is “worldly.” They look at Jesus, and they do not see him as a Savior and as a Lord and as a Friend. They may see him as a great moral teacher. They may see him as a religious figure. They may see him as a guru. They may see him as a number of things. Why do they view Christ in that way? Why do they have such an opinion of themselves? This may be a description of you this evening. Why are you this way? The answer, says the Bible, is that by our natures we are alienated from God. And the call of the gospel is to be reconciled to him.
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 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? For sin had to be dealt with. Sin had to be punished. A price had to be paid—hence the picture of redemption, in the slave: the slave had to be redeemed. Hence the picture of justification in the law court: the guilty had to be acquitted. Hence the picture of propitiation: the hands of the priest were laid on the scapegoat that was driven out into the wilderness. The one that was the sin-bearer was driven out. And in all of those pictures, it is pointing to the fact that God did not count sins against us but instead counted 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. Islam has no knowledge of this. In fact, Islam repudiates this. In the Qur’an it repudiates it—the idea that a great prophet of God, whom they believed Jesus to be… Indeed, it has become quite common at the moment for Islamic people to say, “You know, we pay more respect to Jesus than you Christians do.” And what they mean by that is “We do not believe that Jesus Christ was crucified upon a cross. The great prophet of God could never be crucified upon a cross.” It is an anathema statement to any devout monotheist that such could be the case. They reject wholesale the message 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 “regard[s] no one from a worldly point of view.” They see them as sheep without a shepherd. They find themselves going to the Browns game and looking at all this vast company and saying, “I wonder how many of these people know Christ?” What brought that about? An interest in religion? What changed? Why do they regard people differently now? 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? If 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 says, “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 all 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, great stumbling, bumbling character that he was, jumping over the side of the boat: “I can walk on the water. Now I’m drowning. Help me, Jesus!” “Jesus, if everybody leaves you, I’ll still be there with you.” Everybody’s gone, and he’s gone too. And so it goes. 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.” “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 listened 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 of 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.” The distinction that is there in the NIV is unhelpful. The word is epígnōsis in the Greek: 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? God has given you in Christ everything that you need to begin it, to sustain it, and to finish it. 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 the 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—that horrible feeling, especially in Scotland, where on Christmas Day there wasn’t a place open, not an opportunity in the world of getting a battery. 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 1:20 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 not 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, koinōnéō, koinōneîti—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 am 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 busting. 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 ’cause 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 fact that Christ has 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. Oh, 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.
Let us pray:
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’re 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 have never come to you and said with Augustus Toplady,
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.
 1 John 1:1 (paraphrased).
 See Ephesians 6:17.
 Dick Lucas and Christopher Green, The Message of 2 Peter and Jude: The Promise of His Calling, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1995), 67.
 Deuteronomy 16:3 (paraphrased).
 D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons on 2 Peter (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1983), 56.
 Matthew 26:33; Mark 14:29 (paraphrased).
 See Matthew 26:69–74; Mark 14:66–71; Luke 22:56–60; John 18:17, 25–27.
 See Colossians 1:21.
 See Leviticus 16:21.
 Matthew 14:28–30 (paraphrased).
 Romans 5:1 (KJV).
 2 Timothy 3:5 (KJV).
 See 1 Peter 4:13.
 Dennis Bowie, quoted in “Dennis the Menace,” Vanity Fair, May 2001, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2001/05/felix-dennis-maxim.
 Ray Stevens, “Mr. Businessman” (1968).
 Augustus Toplady, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me” (1776). Lyrics lightly altered.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.