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We Shall See Him and be Like Him Part III

April 15, 2007

A Granted Escape to Glory and Excellence

3His 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. 4Through 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
2 Peter 1:3-4

On 8 June 1941, C.S. Lewis gave a sermon at the Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin entitled The Weight of Glory. In it he describes different kinds of rewards. One type is a “mercenary reward” which is “the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things.” He gives examples like marrying a woman for money. Money is the proper reward for marriage, but marriage is the proper reward for a genuine lover. Lewis describes proper rewards as those “not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.” So for example, a school boy who learns Greek in order to enjoy Greek poetry may not at first comprehend the reward at the end like those who are already at the stage of enjoying Greek poetry. This is like those who have already obtained everlasting life with God, our ultimate reward. We cannot begin imagine how great and glorious our reward will be “except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward.” Our first reward is the supernatural power to desire more and more the future reward of the presence of the glory of God. Lewis eloquently describes this transformation by saying, “poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.”

Exposure Based Sanctification
This is the equation that I believe Lewis gets right: exposure transforms desires and desires transform obedience. In other words, the more we expose ourselves to the revelation of Christ, God’s communication with man, the more our desires are transformed, and the more our desires are transformed, the more our obedience will do likewise. All this is not to gain the ultimate reward, but to desire it more. This is not a “works based salvation” but an “exposure based sanctification.” This has, of course, been the theme of this whole series. The more we see Christ, the more we shall be like him – “we shall be like because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

His Glory and Divine Power Changes Everything
In Part II of this series, By His Cross I Can Hate Sin and Taste the Sweetness of the Lord, I tried to explain by what factor we exchange the desires of sin for desires of the sweetness of the Lord. How are we able to say to one another “taste and see that the Lord is good.” As explained through Romans 6:4-6, it is through the participation of the death and resurrection of Christ, so that we a new supernatural sensory system. We have new eyes, taste-buds, ears, and a mind. The glory of Christ becomes an aroma from life to life everlasting (2 Cor. 2:16).

At this point I believe 2 Peter 1:3-4 becomes very helpful in (1) understanding the means by which God transforms us to life and godliness and (2) how we are granted an escaped from sin and corruption and cause a domino effect of understanding in our fight with sin.
(3)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. (4)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 (2 Peter 1:3-4)

From Romans 6:4-6, we understand that to even the capability to desire Christ and to have a taste for his goodness we need to participate in a death and resurrection like his. From this death and resurrection we have a new taste for Christ and his goodness. We can say then that God uses our new taste buds for the glory of Christ to change everything. 2 Peter 1:3-4 deals directly with Christ’s divine nature, power, glory, and excellence and its affect on us. Peter lists for us many affects Christ glory has on us: (1) His divine power grants us everything we need for life and godliness. (2) He has called us to salvation by glory and goodness (which can also be translated as divine excellence). (3) Through his glory and goodness we have very great promises so that we may (4) participate in his divine nature. (5) Through participation in the divine nature (which is the glory of God reflected and working in us) we escape sin and corruption. We can safely say that the glory of Christ is the cause of every supernatural change in the life of the believer.

The Glory of Christ as a Means for Our Daily Sanctification
The first two parts of this series, part I Meditations on Jesus and the Defeat of Sin, and part II By His Cross I Can Hate Sin and Taste the Sweetness of the Lord have been by and large conceptual or mostly abstract notions without much practical ways to accomplish it. I have taken little time on how to appropriate this to the daily struggle with sin and temptation believers face. These are the only two places of application:

This, then, is the practice of meditating on the glory of Christ: always keeping it before you (end of part I)

And,

How do we fight? Always put God’s Word that contains the holiness of Christ before our eyeballs and become more and more acquainted with the knowledge of it (end of part II)
.

A part of me wants to say that is enough. Let truths of the glory, goodness, holiness and beauty of Christ burn in the heart of a believer like seed in a fertile ground and just watch growth, transformation, maturity, even life for that matter happen. It appears that often people believe that meditating on the person of Christ revealed in Scripture for an effectual change in their life doesn’t work fast enough for them. We need lists of strategies to stop habits. We need methods on how to flee properly. But if we don’t incessantly put before our eyes the severe contrast of our sin and the perfect and holy glory of Christ, then the steam behind those strategies and methods will soon be gone – like a string doll, it can entertain children but for only the length of the string. So it is with us. Only the infinite glory of Christ is powerful enough to advance change eternally. However, with that being said, I know Christ-centered and glory-centered application that shows specific relevance to lives can be helpful. And so, I think 2 Peter 1:3-4 can help us further in this.

Faith in a Granted Escape
One question that may be helpful to answer in our study is to ask the question: What is the direct topic of 2 Peter 1:3-4? Or more precisely: Is Peter dealing with the issue of conversion or the Christian life. At first glance, it may seem somewhat obvious that Peter is dealing with conversion. The phrases “who called us to his glory” and “escape from the corruption”, and even in verse 11, “there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom” are all directly related to the topic of conversion. However, while these phrases certainly do directly relate to conversion, we must let the entire context dictate the purpose and theme of Peter’s instruction.

Having a right understanding of verse 4 might be useful in understanding Peter’s thought. God has granted us great promises through his own glory and excellence (vs. 3b-4a) “so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (4b). So far, God’s promises are for the purposes of partaking of the nature of God, his holiness and glory. “So that you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” What is unclear from the ESV translation is the relationship between partaking the divine knowledge and escaping corruption. The question is, is our escape from corruption the cause of being partakers of the divine nature, or is the divine nature the cause of the escape from corruption? The grammatical structure in the Greek text is clear that the escape from corruption is a result of our participation in the divine nature, which was promised to us as a gift in verse 3. A good precise translation of verse 4 might look like, “by which he granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature so that you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

Verses 5-7 continues to show us that Peter is certainly teaching on the life of the believer, who must “supplement our faith” with an extended lists of qualities from virtue to knowledge, from godliness to brotherly affection, etc. He says in verse 9 that, “whoever lacks these qualities are blind.” Then the climax of the passage is found in 10-11, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance in to the eternal kingdom.” Phrases like “make sure your election”, “supplement your faith with”, “if you practice these qualities you will never fall”, and “for in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom.” These phrase expel great weight on the believer to perform for assurance of our eternal reward. But we must read these phrases within the promise of verse 3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” We act in obedience with faith that God promise what he has also demanded. Not only has his power granted us all things, but his divine nature, which we have obtained through “very great and precious promises”, is the means by which we escape from sin.

The partnership of faith and obedience is not new to 2 Peter. In fact, the Bible commonly uses these words as synonyms. Psalm 78 pertains to the great and mighty works of God in rescuing his people, the Israelites from Egypt and providing miraculously food and water in the wilderness, and as verse 32 says, “In spite of all this, they still sinned, despite his wonders they did not believe.” Sin and disbelief here are parallel. Again, in Hebrews 3, the theme is the Israelites in the wilderness and their lack of God‘s blessing to enter into the rest of God’s promise land. “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedience? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” Despite God’s provision for the Israelites to survive in the wilderness and prosper in the land, they did not obey and believe.

The glory of Christ and his divine nature has been granted to us for the escape of sin and corruption. It has been provided to us for our satisfaction and obedience. 2 Peter’s instruction on faith and obedience is dually filled. (1) We must trust that the glory of Christ is much more satisfying to our renewed taste-buds than the swine-trough that sin offers us, and the more often we feast and meditate on Christ, the more satisfying he becomes and less satisfying sin will become. (2) We must trust that we are capable of obedience and escaping sin. Overcoming sin is done by the over-whelming presence and work of the Spirit in our lives. Pleading and seeking his work and guidance is the unchanging way of killing sin. Obedience is always present with faith.

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