Partakers of the Divine Nature #1: The Knowledge of God
Larry Kirkpatrick. Moab SDA Church 26 August 2000.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Like Precious Faith With Us
These early verses in Second Peter are a thrill. They tell us about something we need to have: The knowledge of God. What is this all-important knowledge? What does it involve?
This knowledge, so important, involves God's "divine power" overflowing to produce "life and godliness" in His people. It involves "exceeding great and precious promises" through which we may live lives as we've been called, filled with "glory and virtue."
Peter writes "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us." The underlying words here literally state that he is writing to other Christians with the equal privilege or the same honor. How quickly we exalt these apostles of Jesus and how readily we ascribe to them a heroic faith somehow separate from ours or unattainable. But here Peter is writing to those who "have obtained" like precious faith. It is a faith like his own of which he speaks. Yes, Peter walked and talked face-to-face with Jesus. But when He went away, Jesus sent us "another Comforter," the Holy Spirit. He even said it was the best thing for us that He would go away and send the Holy Spirit to us. Could it be that there is no essential difference between the faith that Peter obtained and that which we may obtain?
Our text here is rich. Notice what it links with this faith. It says that such faith has been obtained "through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." How do we obtain the same kind of faith that the apostles had? "Through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Sometimes it seems that people think that God the Father's righteousness and the righteousness of Jesus Christ are somehow different. Yet this faith is obtained through a righteousness that they have in common. Romans 3:21-22 speaks of the Father's righteousness: "And now the righteousness of God without [apart from] the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe..."
When the Father sent His Son and He lived the law, He was living what He was; He was living-out His own character. He was "being Himself." The ancient Scriptures, the law and the prophets, testified that this was true, for of them Jesus said, "they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). Jesus lived-out His own and His Father's own righteousness. Don't forget. Jesus said, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). The Father and the Son do the same things. They share the same righteousness. It is the righteousness of God.
It is only by what God has wrought out through Jesus Christ that we can have any faith at all. Never forget. We didn't approach God. He approached us. We didn't send for His Son. He sent His Son for us.
It was the righteousness of God. It was the righteousness of Jesus.
And the Scripture says that He would put this righteousness "unto all and upon all them who believe" through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who believe obtain the real article; like precious faith. Not just upon us outwardly, but unto us within, as an inward reality. "For He [God] hath made Him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Did Jesus really pay the penalty and suffer for your sins and mine, in our place? Yes. Then is God going to stop short of fulfilling His plan? Will He stop short of making us the righteousness of God in Jesus? Never! Rather, He will grant to us all that we are able to receive.
Too often we toil through our days playing with sin and living under the condemnation of a convicted conscience. But it doesn't have to be this way! We go onward down darker and darker paths. We become lazy in our spiritual battles. We sink back to the bottom and buy-in to the trash and the tinsel of a world that is passing away. But the possibility of vast, measureless spiritual riches is embossed upon our experience through the nail-prints in Jesus' hands. We can be so much more than we are, if we will permit Him to repair our wounds, and give us His righteousness both upon us and unto us. We can live "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27- 29). The same righteousness that God has, was upon and in Jesus. And the same righteousness that Jesus had can be upon and in us.
Are we willing?
Through the Knowledge of God
The greeting in Peter's letter insists on, multiplying to us "grace and peace" "through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." What is this knowledge of God? It is an experiential knowledge. Not just an inward assurance that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died to save us from our sins, but an experience involving reception of the divine power that is inevitably present in a real connection with Jesus. It is knowledge gained by actively receiving the promises of God. When we willingly receive, God willingly gives. He sends the Holy Spirit, and we become changed. Consider these two paragraphs found in the Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White:
"Abundant help" has been provided for His church by our Lord. The Holy Spirit was not a second or third-tier gift that God was thinking He might give us. Maybe? No! "The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people." Now the Mormons have a whole teaching on a doctrine they call "exaltation." The gist of it is that as they grow, Christian people in a sense finally become "gods." Let's be clear. Ellen White's use of "exaltation" here has nothing to do with any of us ever becoming gods. The exaltation we speak of here means the repair of God's people, who will ever be His people, and never be gods. We will, through the effects of the gospel, be all that we were always meant to be. Perhaps more. But not gods.
Consider the next line: "The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent." Friends, we aren't going anywhere unless the Holy Spirit regenerates us, and the Holy Spirit isn't going to regenerate anyone who is unwilling to be regenerate. Without God's doing an inward work in us, the sacrifice of Christ would not help us. Salvation is not just a legal thing. It involves real change, real repair. We can only resist sin through the strength of the Holy Spirit working in us. He doesn't come to us with half-hearted energy. He comes in all of His power. Hey. We are far-gone. Nothing less will do the job. For God to save us is no small proposition. We are so far down that it takes everything even that God has to lift us up. And so "It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure." In fact, the next line in that reference comes right back to our passage: "Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature."
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." You want grace? Peace? This greeting is more than a friendly hello. Peter truly expects Christians to experience, in large measure, real grace and peace. "Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." But how do we get there? Verses three and four really are the explanation, although we are going to talk about that more in another message. Consider the fact though, for now, of this knowledge.
It is said to be "through" this knowledge involving God the Father and Jesus that real grace and real peace are to be multiplied unto us. The implication is that there is no other way to have real grace and real peace. This is it.
No one will argue that they don't need or don't wish for inward peace. Who wants to be at odds with one's self? Really, this is Satan's big argument for sin. Our nature is fallen, it cleaves toward sin because the flow of our nature has been changed from self-to-out, to self-to-in. The pull is there. It is inward. We can fight the pull of the flesh, but that means to war against it. Satan says "don't fight it. Just go ahead and flow downhill like the sewer line does." But there is another factor. Our conscience is also there. The Holy Spirit electrifies our conscience, He turns it on. The conscience is designed to know right from wrong and alert us when we are on the verge of violating right. There can be no peace for our conscience if we sin and are under conviction of sin, and righteousness, and justice. If we follow the flesh, we wound the conscience. If we follow the conscience, we wound the flesh. In other words, there is going to be war. Automatically. There is no place right now where we can obey our conscience without wounding our fleshly nature, or obey the fleshly nature without wounding our conscience. Just isn't.
The working of the conscience is an interesting and sensitive thing. I'm told that if you are standing right where the lightening is about to strike, you'll feel a creepy sensation and your hair may begin to stand up from the electrical charging of the air. It's the presence of the electricity that causes the hair to stand up. It's the presence of the electricity that causes the local effects. And when it comes to the conscience and the Holy Spirit, it's the presence of the Holy Spirit that turns-on the conscience. Without the Holy Spirit, the lights won't go on. As Christians who are to partake of the divine nature, we need both, a conscience that's running. Only then can we rightly use the power to obey.
"Grace" comes from the Greek "kharees'h. We get the word "charisma" from it. It means God's favor bestowed. Without this kind of grace, a fallen being is only a graceless fallen- being. He has no protection against himself. Most of us have probably heard the illustrative tale of the scorpion and the turtle. The scorpion wanted to cross to the other side of the lake, and wished the tortoise to give him a lift. "But," protested the tortoise, "if I take you on my back you'll sting me and we'll both drown." "No, no," reassured the scorpion, "I won't do that. I promise." Eventually the scorpion convinced the turtle, he allowed him to hop on his back and they began to go across the lake. About halfway across, the scorpion's tail drew back and then thrust into the turtle's neck, a fully-venomed, jugular-vein sting. "Why did you do that! Now we're both going to die!" shouted the turtle. And the scorpion replies, "Sorry. I guess it was just my nature."
Unless God intervenes, our nature is like the scorpion's. It is like Nazareth. Nothing good can come out of it unless He intervenes. Just like Nazareth, God has to go there first to bring anything good out of it. God has to give us grace before anything that is not a disgrace can come out of us. Our conscience must be clear with God before we can have peace. Our nature must have grace applied before we will have strength to live a life in harmony with God. And so, Peter's prayerful plea, "grace and peace be multiplied unto you," really has meaning.
As we live a life partaking of the divine nature, a knowledge of God will be ours. Not a disconnected head-knowledge, but a whole-knowledge—an experience—will be there. The great and precious promises mustn't be outside and disconnected, but rather let them be living realities to us. Participation in the divine nature needn't be an untried theory. It should be our daily experience.
When it is our daily experience, we'll be living the truth of the line that I gave before: "Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church." Our hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil are both to be overcome. Not to be coddled to, or left idling in the driveway while in park, to perculate to the surface somewhere down the line during eternity. God is taking care of the problem right here and right now.
And did you notice that this was also important so that our Father could "impress His own character upon His church"? I have to ask, if He's not allowed to impress His character here, then where else will He be allowed to impress it? If His own people don't care to be like Him, then who else will? The church must live what the Father is, if it is going to have any role in vindicating Him. If it can't present His case for His character, then you know it will present evidence for the other side. Satan stands ready to have the behavior of those claiming to be God's people checked in under his case as evidence against God. So what shall it be? We will live and fully develop a knowledge of God, or we will live and fully develop a knowledge of Satan. And so it is true that "the very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people." Who do we want to be? Shall we be god-like, or Lucifer-like? The choice is ours. Shall we have grace and peace with God and our conscience, or disgrace and peace with our flesh and the devil?
What is the knowledge of God? It means God's "divine power" overflowing within us to produce "life and godliness." What does the knowledge of God involve? It involves "exceeding great and precious promises" through which we may live lives as we've been called, filled with "glory and virtue." Grace and peace can be multiplied unto us. But we must be active about it or it will never happen. We can talk about a knowledge of God, or we can live it. Living it means a connection with the righteousness of God. It means a high-voltage experience. It's scarey. But it means clinging to Jesus and trusting in His keeping-power. Keep your face to the front, gird yourself for battle. Nothing less will do. Get hold of the knowledge of God.
(Link to Partakers of the Divine Nature #2 sermon.)
Last Modified 1 September 2000
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