Most of us are keenly aware of the qualities we lack as followers of Jesus. We possess the assurance of our weakness instead of the assurance of his faithfulness. The very first believers knew little of such introspection because they directed their gaze toward Jesus. They saw him flash like lightning in the dark sky of human effort. The more clearly they saw him, the more they discovered that his overwhelming love empowered them to become like him.
Here’s how Peter explained it:
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. 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. For this very reason, make every effort . . . ~ 2 Peter 1: 3-5
When I read this passage years ago it flashed like lightning across my heart. I am still thunderstruck by these amazing words.
• “His divine power . . .” As followers of Jesus, our everyday life in Christ is based upon his divine power, not our human strength. Where should we fix our attention--our lack or his supply? The life we live reveals the answer of our hearts.
• “. . . has given us everything we need for life and godliness . . .” When was the last time anyone told you that you have everything you need? The beauty of “life and godliness” are within our reach, and has been ever since the resurrection. It’s not a “legal fiction,” it’s a present reality.
• “. . . through our knowledge of him . . .” This is a modern road block—our western mindset leads us to believe that the knowledge of him comes through mere study. His first followers knew better: the only true knowledge of him comes as we experience his presence. Apart from his presence we are only spiritual historians.
• “. . . his own glory and goodness. . . ” Who talks these days about “glory and goodness?” 21st century Americans have difficulty understanding the glory of God, yet this glory has been streaming live into creation from the very beginning. And his goodness? We walk in that goodness everyday, most of us unaware of this never-ending supply. He is good beyond all measure. Better yet: his glory and goodness are directed toward us!
• “. . . He has given us very great and precious promises . . .” Do we ever reflect upon his promises? Seriously: how many can you name? I’m afraid that for most of us his promises are like autumn leaves: beautiful, but not very useful.
• “. . . So that through them you may participate in the divine nature . . .” Here is where the lightning flash knocked me over. We can participate in God’s nature, right here, right now. Who knows the full meaning of this phrase? Not me, but whatever it means, it has to be good!
• “. . . and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires . . . “ Many believers think the gospel is only about forgiveness, but the good news is even better: corruption is the legacy of a dying world, but we are a new creation.
And still there remains one more. It’s not enough to know. We must walk.
“For this very reason, make every effort . . .” Notice that effort comes after we encounter his divine power, his glory and goodness, and his precious promises. Too many disciples of Jesus--serious in their commitment to follow him--believe that their effort comes first. Instead, our effort is a response to all he has done: a joyful, grateful, confident recognition of his kindness toward us.
The challenge of this passage continues into verses 5–11, and it is a dangerous challenge at that. The danger of these next verses is that we believe we can accomplish the list apart from his divine power, his glory and goodness, and his precious promises. Only a fool would attempt to fulfill the chain of virtues by human effort alone.
We need the lightning to illuminate the dark landscape of our hearts. We need the thunder to ring in our ears and shake our dead skeletons. We need power, glory, goodness, and promise before we take a step. Fortunately, he still thunders forth from heaven.