Thursday, 29 January 2015

How precious is your faith?

2 Peter 1.1-4

How precious is your faith?

What is precious to you? A person, home, freedom, career, possession, a ring!

Peter writes here of his faith as being something that is precious.

1. It is precious because it is the gift of God

Notice how he writes, ‘To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours’ (v1)

Our faith is gift. If there were no Jesus, if he had not come from heaven to be born as a human being, if there had been no sacrificial death on the cross, no resurrection – then there could be no Christian faith.

And God has done it all.

We did nothing to deserve life; we did nothing to deserve God’s mercy; we did nothing to deserve God’s forgiveness or acceptance; we did nothing to deserve the fact that God calls us his friends, or that God pours out on us his Holy Spirit, or that God gives us the hope of eternal life.

I don’t know whether you think the same way as me. But at about 5.30 – especially on a cold, dark evening, I think, ‘Oh no. I’ve got to go to church’ (and it is probably easier for me. I’ve got to! I’m paid to!). But when I get here, and when I start to say the words, to declare the truths, to sing or listen to the worship, or when I come to receive communion – then nearly always something happens. There are moments when heaven is opened and He is there. And that is all I need.

And it is at moments like that, when we realise that this faith really is a phenomenal gift. It is so precious. And we long that others would come and receive this gift.

2. It is precious because it is about knowledge of God.

Knowledge of God is important here.

v2: ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord’

v3: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him ..’

(it comes again in v8 and in 2.20)

This is not really knowledge about God, but personal knowledge of God. Faith is not just about believing a set of facts (e.g. I believe that Jesus existed, he was born of a virgin, he rose from the dead, he gives us his Holy Spirit, that 2 Peter was written by Peter). It is more than that. This is trusting faith – like a child trusting a parent to catch them if they fall.

At one level we can know a bit about God. But at a deeper level how can we, with our human minds, understand the creator of time and space? We can’t really understand him or know him.

Paul describes him as ‘The only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see’ (1 Timothy 6.21).

But if we cannot fully know about God, we can know him through trusting him.

This faith is about holding on to the hand that is offered to us. It is about knowing, not necessarily here in our head, but here in our heart.

When I went to Sometimes on Sunday [a group we have for people with learning disabilities], this was very made real for me. There was a lady there and if I had asked her about various doctrines or what happened when Jesus died on the cross, she would have looked at me as if I was mad. But instead she saw my dog collar, looked at me with shining eyes and said, ‘I love Jesus. I love Jesus’.

And actually we get to know God more in this way, when we are prepared to trust him and allow him to lead us through the dark places of life: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me’.

And the more we know God, and the more we know Jesus, the more we know grace and peace and everything that we need to live a God pleasing life.

That is why this is such a precious faith

3. It is precious because it rests on the precious promises of God.

 I’m sure you noticed that. Precious faith (v1), precious promises (v4).

 ‘Through these [his goodness and glory] he has given us his very great and precious promises ..’ (v4)

We’ve mentioned some of them. The promise that he will never turn us away if we come to him, of forgiveness, that if we pray as part of the family of Jesus he will answer our prayers (he will not necessarily give us what we think we desire but he will give us our deepest desires), that if we seek him he will make us fruitful, that he will never leave us. We have the precious promises about God’s word, about the Holy Spirit, about the church, about eternal life.

And there is the promise in these verses that as we get to know him, he will give us everything we need for life and for godliness.

4. It is precious because it enables our heart to be changed.

We have just read one of the most remarkable verses in the bible.

When we put our faith, our trust, in the precious promises of God, God changes us. He does not simply change our mind or thinking, but he changes our very being and our very nature. We ‘participate in the divine nature’ (v4)

People have written papers and books on this verse. It is a significant verse in Eastern Orthodox thinking.

I think it is saying the same thing as Ephesians 3.19, where Paul prays that we may know the love of God that surpasses knowledge – ‘that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’.

God will change us from the inside. He will change who we fundamentally are. He will change our nature so that instead of desiring the things that this world offers – money, sex, power – the things that basically lead to destruction, we will begin to desire the things of His world: the things that lead to eternal life: love, joy, and peace. And we will desire, above all things, to know Him.  
 

People sometimes say to Christians, ‘I envy your faith’.

I wonder at times how true that is. They may envy the fact that we seem to have a hope, an insurance policy for death, a second family in the church and the sense that someone is with us even in the dark places.

But if they truly do envy our faith, then perhaps they would really seek faith, and seek God. Someone on Wednesday told me of a friend who said exactly that, and who then made it their business to seek faith. And God met with them.

Sadly I think many people are not like that. They like some of the benefits that a faith can bring, but they don’t think they really need to change. They are not willing to allow God to change them.

And how precious is your faith to you?

If we have truly realised just how precious our faith is, we would work hard to keep our faith alive. We would work hard in the boring times, in the daily routine and discipline of everyday living.

Jesus told a story of 10 bridesmaids waiting for the coming of the groom. It was a long wait. They began to go to sleep. But 5 were wise. They had their oil lamps with them, and they kept a source of spare oil. They were ready for when the action began.

How precious is your faith? Is it sufficiently precious for you to guard it and grow it, to spend time daily with God and his word, to come regularly to worship with his people and to receive communion, and to be obedient in the small things of life. Don’t neglect it. Don’t let other things overwhelm it.

 

It really is so very precious.

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