Peter begins by pointing out that God has given us all we need to live a life in harmony with himself. Nothing is missing. God has called us but he also equips us for the call. This is important because sometimes we feel as though something is missing in our walk with God. But whatever is missing, its not from his end. Its from ours. According to Peter, God has given us everything we need to grow in our faith. Not only that, but God is the one who called us to himself. Even though we don't seek God, God seeks us. He calls us. He reveals himself to us. And when we come to know him, he gives us everything we need to live in harmony with him. But what exactly is it that he gives us that's supposed to help us grow?
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
The promises of God are the first practical thing Peter mentions in his letter. These promises are recorded all over scripture and it is these promises that enable us to overcome - or transcend - the corruption in this world. This corruption is caused by human desires which means the corruption is caused by us. This is not a matter of "them and us" its a matter of us. All of us have selfish human desires that breed pain and suffering, and as a result all of us are responsible for the corruption in this world. But the promises of God, says Peter, enable us to "share his divine nature". This means that through them we no longer are left to our nature alone. Instead, we are connected to God in such a way that we are enabled to escape the controlling power of our own corrupt nature. This doesn't mean that we never sin again or that we are perfect, but what it demonstrates is that true authentic faith-living happens when we are connected to God. His love-nature flows through us and buries our selfish nature thus enabling us to rise above it and live lives of authenticity in a corrupt world.
While the Bible is filled with promises all throughout, there is one major promise that is above them all. This promise is what we know to be the gospel. The promise of the gospel is the ultimate promise in all of scripture and is the starting point from which all the other promises hinge. Without a proper understanding of this promise nothing in the spiritual life will ever truly click. This promise is the one that declares that God sent his son to redeem us from our sin despite our sin and that by faith in him we can be forgiven and set free apart from any works of our own. To learn more about the gospel, click here.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.
Part of how we receive Gods promises is by reading them and applying them to our lives. When we read the Bible daily, we are brought into knowledge of Gods promises. Many even commit these promises to memory in order to carry them in their hearts throughout the day. However, Peter goes a step further. He calls us to do more than read and memorize. He calls us to respond.
Gods promises are not just pretty sayings that we can put on a picture frame and hang on the wall. They are not just wise sayings to help us feel better. They are powerful life-altering words. But we can only experience their power when we respond to them in practical ways.
For example, Isaiah writes "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you" (Isaiah 26:3). Sounds pretty doesn't it? But you wont actually experience that peace unless you respond to the promise by becoming one whose thoughts are fixed on God. But how do you do that? It will not come easily. Becoming one whose thoughts are fixed on God instead of self, or money, or lust (what our thoughts are often fixed on) will require new thinking patterns and this doesn't simply happen. We need to commit to making changes and training our thoughts to be fixed on God. As we do this we will come to trust in God. It is through this trust and God-connection that we will experience "perfect peace". Thus, Peter calls us to "make every effort" no matter how hard, or how challenging, or how long. "Make every effort to respond to God’s promises."
Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence.
Peter continues by calling us to supplement our faith. As James put it, "Faith without works is dead." Those who claim to have faith but whose faith does not translate into practical every-day choices have a dead faith which is equivalent to no faith at all. So Peter calls us, in our journey of spiritual growth, to supplement our faith with moral excellence. In other words, we are to choose, through the power of God, to live morally just lives in harmony with his law of love. He then goes on by saying:
- and moral excellence with knowledge,
- and knowledge with self-control,
- and self-control with patient endurance,
- and patient endurance with godliness,
- and godliness with brotherly affection,
- and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
Notice the progression here. Peter is mapping out a practical road for spiritual growth. True spirituality and faith is not about hiding in some monastery and transcending yourself. True faith-growth is about embracing and responding to Gods promises so that we can, in the midst of a corrupt culture, live lives of moral excellence. As we do this, we are called to grow in our knowledge of God and as we grow in knowledge of him we further develop the ability to control our impulses, desires, and natures (we are connected to the divine nature).
However, this process is not about reaching some sort of finish line. It will last as long as life lasts. We will never reach a point in which we have arrived in this world. As a result, this journey challenges us to develop patience and endurance so that we continue to press on despite our shortcomings and failures. But this patient endurance is not used as an excuse for sin in our lives. Instead, it pours us deeper into godliness. But what is godliness? John says that "God is love" and the life of Jesus, the godliest man who ever lived, is characterized by love not religious discipline and ethical strictness. While Jesus was sinless, his sinlessness is not remembered by what he didn't do but by what he did do: love. Thus, true godliness is growing in love. Therefore, as we grow in godliness we grow in our affection toward those around us and our love for everyone.
Peter then goes on to say:
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And truly, being a Jesus-follower is not simply about having knowledge and a religious culture to identify with. This knowledge of Jesus leads us to be more productive and useful in this corrupt world. By living like Jesus in our homes, work environments, cities, and places of influence we impact the world around us in eternally significant ways. And that's the real goal of spiritual growth - to get to the place where our faith-journey becomes about others not just ourselves.
But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So there you have it. How to grow in your faith from the pen of Peter the apostle himself - a swearing fisherman who was rude, self-centered, and violent and who, for the sake of self-preservation ended up denying Jesus in his hour of greatest need. It is this same Peter who discovered a new way through the promises of God and calls each of us to join him on the journey of spiritual growth. But before you embark on this exciting journey, do not forget that the finish line is not in this world but in the world to come. So long as we live in this world we will have set backs and battles to fight.
Some people erroneously view the process of spiritual growth as the picture below. A smooth uphill ride from a baby in Christ to a mature believer. Those who view spiritual growth this way are prone to focusing more on their behavior than God's promises. In addition, they are set up for spiritual burnout by thinking that the spiritual journey is about their performance or how good they can do in the process. But reality is a lot more like the picture underneath this one.