The Life-Changing Power of the Gospel

The Life-Changing Power of the Gospel

The Life-Changing Power of the Gospel
Text: 2 Peter 1:3–4

Main Idea: God has given us everything we require to live godly lives.

Sermon Outline:

I. The Christian’s Power for Godly Living (2 Peter 1:3a)

II. The Christian’s Path to Godly Living (2 Peter 1:3b–4a)

III. The Christian’s Purpose in Godly Living (2 Peter 1:4b)

As we turn to the opening verses of 2 Peter this morning, we are confronted with a gospel-truth that many sectors of the modern church carefully avoid, willingly ignore, or openly deny: the truth that, God has given us everything we require to live godly lives. Everything! Yet, to be fair, their motivations in this are not uniform.

Some of these pastors grew up in graceless, legalistic, churches that were always judging a person’s behavior; while others were promised they would receive an instantaneous infusion of holiness if they were wholly committed to God. Yet, in both these cases they never saw anyone in their church really exhibit kind of life-transforming  godliness to which the New Testament authors consistently point. Simply put, “if it doesn’t work” or “if it was part of a painful experience in my Christian life,” I’m not going to preach about it.

This is a serious problem. But, greater still are those —like the false teachers in 2 Peter— who openly deny the gospel’s explicit call to AND power for holy living… which is nothing less than a denial of the gospel itself!

Christian, if you find yourself in any one of these categories today, these verses are for you!

  • God does not just give us some of the things that we require to live godly lives and leave us to figure the rest out on our own.
  • He doesn’t save us from our sin only to stand passively by until we are able to meet his standard of pious, empty-handed surrender.
  • He does not give some believers (like pastors, elders, deacons) more of what they require for godly living while at the same time withholding it from the average Christian.
  • Nor, does he save us from the penalty of our sin, so that we can freely wallow in the fecal cesspool of our sinful desires. No!

Peter is pointing us to the gospel-truth that [Main Point] God has given us everything that we require to live godly lives.

The Christian’s Power for Godly Living (1 Peter 1:3a)

 What does Peter want us to know about this power?

The first thing that he wants us to know is that this power comes from Jesus Christ, himself. Now, some of you may be wondering why I believe Peter is pointing us to Jesus and not God the Father or the Triune Godhead. Well it’s because a personal pronoun (like “his”) usually refers back to the previously referenced person. And in this case, the last named person in verse 2 was Jesus.[1]

This may not seem like that big of deal at this point. But, it helps us see that Peter is still focused on the centrality of Jesus Christ in all things. And if this is the case, it means that Jesus is the “him who called us” in verse 3 and the “he” who “granted to us his precious and very great promises” in verse 4.

The Second thing that he wants us to know about this power is that it is explicitly reserved for those who have come faith in Jesus Christ.[2] What I mean by this is that, the pronoun “us” in verse 3 clearly points back to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of Christ,” in verse 2. Jesus’ power for “life and godliness” belongs’ to Jesus’ people.

The third thing he wants us to know about this power is its purpose. It is directed toward everything we need for “life and godliness.” Notice here that, Peter is not promising: power to overcome every obstacle in life, power to avoid suffering, power to overcome personal illness, or power to do whatever you put your mind too. (You know like the countless athletes that think Philippians 4:13 is a promise that Jesus will help them out-perform their competition.)

Peter is using these two terms (life and godliness) to clarify the fundamental nature of the Christian life— godly living… a life in which Christians look more like Jesus (in their attitudes, desires, and actions) than they look like the world. But here is the key, he is not calling us to “copy” his character. He is giving us the power to actually become like him.[3]

Don’t miss this Christian. Peter is telling us that from the very moment that God opens your eyes to the glory of Christ in the gospel and you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you have not only been saved from the penalty of sin. You have been granted divine power to overcome patterns of sin in your daily life. This ultimately means that godliness is NOT a matter of cold, external, legalistic rule-keeping BUT a God-given power to change from the inside-out!

The Fundamental Question

But how is this power experienced? How does it become active in our lives? Because the truth of the matter is that we don’t always feel this power that Peter is talking about. Well, Peter tells us in the second half of verse 3 and the first half of verse 4:

The Christian’s Path to Godly Living (1 Peter 1:3b–4a)

The Clear

Now I confess that this section of our text is a little confusing whether you are reading in the original Greek or modern English. So let’s begin with the clear before we attempt to unravel the less clear.

What does Peter want us to know about this power? He wants us to know that it is comes one way. It comes through our knowledge of Jesus Christ himself. And, just like last week, I think this is an expressly personal knowledge because this knowledge is not merely “about him” (i.e., a list of facts) but the knowledge “of him.”

See, the Christian faith isn’t just a set of facts and doctrines to be accepted. Christianity is a power to be experienced through the knowledge of a person. And the sad reality is that this world is full of people who anchor their hope of forgiveness and eternal life on the former instead of the later! Please hear me, doctrine, in and of itself, will damn you to hell, if it is severed from the person and power of Jesus Christ! And we know this because James tells us that demons know and believe countless truths about God… the problem is that their doctrine of God drives them to shudder at his imminent wrath instead of delighting in his infinite perfections.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

So Peter’s clear statement is this: The Christian’s power for godly living comes through our knowledge of Jesus Christ himself.

What is less clear is, how do “His calling” and “his promises” relate to this “personal knowledge of Christ”… Well, I believe Peter is pointing us to two interrelated experiences in the Christian life our conversion and our sanctification. So let me paraphrase this section as I understand it:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to godly living, through our knowledge of him.

We first came to this knowledge and this power when Jesus called us “by” his own glory and excellence (Note: most English translations prefer the preposition “by” over “to” and ESV footnote indicates “by” is an acceptable translation).

Secondly, we are impowered to continue growing in godliness as we pursue the precious and very great promises that flow from his glory and excellence.

Two Interrelated Truths

First, in regards to our calling, Peter is point us to the pride-crushing truth that our “knowledge of Christ” was NOT the natural product of our inherent uprightness, cognitive ability, or spiritual sensitivity BUT Jesus’ free and sovereign initiative on our behalf.[4] And this is nothing new for Peter. It is the very same way that he explained the nature of conversion in his previous book.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 2:9–10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

See, in Peter’s mind, this “calling” cannot be discovered by human ingenuity or earned by human effort. Rather, this “call” is an effectual (powerful) call that awakens sin-bound rebels to the true “glory and excellence” of Jesus Christ. And this is incredibly important in the context of 2 Peter because he is attacking false teachers who are anchoring their so-called knowledge in the wisdom and philosophy of man.

Notice what is at the heart of our conversion to Christianity? It’s not that we are wise. It’s not that someone has answered every question we might have about God. It’s is not that we were passionately pursuing God. Nor is it that our guilt and misery finally drive us to search for forgiveness.

According to Peter, the heart of our conversion —the thing that compels us to faith— is a true vision of the glorious perfections of the One who freely offers forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life. His “glory and his excellence” are the means by which he calls us and captivates us.[5] Or to put it another way, the operative power of our conversion occurs when our knowledge about Jesus supernaturally becomes knowledge of Jesus.

Someone shares the message of the gospel with us (whether it be the 1st time or the 978th time) and something totally unexpected happens. Jesus gives us eyes to see, he reveals the true nature of his beauty and moral perfections to us, for the first time in our life we see him and finally know him as he truly is. And this gracious, purposeful and powerful in-breaking of God’s grace empowers us to do the impossible —just like the merchant who sold everything he owned to attain the “pearl of great price”— we willingly turn away from our sin and joyfully embrace Christ in faith as our Savior and Lord.

This is the 1st way that Jesus has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through our knowledge of him.

But, as we turn to verse 4, Peter want us to see that Jesus has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness in a second way— through our ever-growing knowledge of his promises to us.

Now stay with me here, Peter is NOT talking about promises of earthly prosperity and security. NO! He is pointing us to the manner in which God empowers our war against actual, everyday sin AND our pursuit of everyday godliness. He wants us to see that the only kind of knowledge that can impart sin-conquering power is “promising knowledge.” And what do we call the embrace and pursuit of God’s promises? We call it faith!

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [faith looks forward]

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [faith believes in God and believes his promises to us]

What is faith? Faith is primarily a future-oriented “assurance of things hoped for.” Or as John Piper puts it in his book Future Grace, faith is a deep trust and satisfaction in all that God promises to be for us in Jesus—beginning now![6]

To link this to our passage in 2 Peter, what do promises do? They call us to put our hope and faith in something we cannot see and pursue it with all of our might. And as we read through God’s Word we discover that these promises contain negative and positive encouragements beginning with the gospel itself.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Matthew 5:11–12 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue sanctification (growth in godliness) without which no one will see the Lord. [Peter will tell us more about this next week]

See Peter is pointing us to the fundamental truth: that the key to Christlike Christian living, the fuel that powers the engine of personal growth in godliness, is found in only one place— the knowledge of Jesus’ promises to us. But, these promises only become power for godly living when we embrace them and pursue them in faith.

Think of it like a wood stove.

The wood is like God’s promises to us. We do not create the wood that we burn, but we have to put the effort into collecting it, cutting it, and storing it. It takes work. But, at the same time, our wood stove will not keep us warm unless we take the wood from the wood-pile and actually put it into the stove. This is our part. This is our faith.

BUT, the spark that ignites the wood and converts it to heat is not our faith, it’s the power of God.

This is the relationship between the power of God and the promises of God in our pursuit of Godly living.

The Christian’s Purpose in Godly Living (1 Peter 1:4b)

The Overall Goal

Now does this verse mean we become divine? No. It Peter’s way of telling us that God is actively restoring his image in us, an image that was hopelessly distorted after our first parents rebelled against God.

Think of it like the difference between a quality mirror and a fun-house mirror: Adam and Eve reflected the true nature and character of God before the fall, BUT after the fall the best they could manage or any of us can manage is a warped and twisted reflection of God. A reflection that looks more like us than it does him. In fact, that’s why sin feels so normal and godliness feels so foreign.

In fact, this is why we desperately need the Bible. The only way to grow in godliness is to see Jesus as he is revealed in the Word.

Romans 12:1–2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Christian, godly living is not the means by which you and I must secure or maintain God happiness with us in this life. Not in the least bit!

Godliness is the means by which you and I are able to experience and enjoy the kind of life that God intended us to live in first place! To put it another way, the more we grow in godliness by God’s power the more we experience what it must have been like for Adam and Eve before the fall… but even better in that we have a power that they did not have!

And in this we discover the truth that, at its root, our battle against sin and pursuit of righteousness is, in fact, a battle to know Jesus for who he truly is and believe the many precious and great promises that he purchased for us in his death, burial, and resurrection… an event that we are going to commemorate this morning as we celebrate communion together this morning.

  • His body broken for us.
  • His blood poured out for us.
  • That we might be rescued from the rightful wrath of an eternal hell and receive everlasting joy.

[1] Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 168.

[2] Additionally, the Greek verb “granted” (dōreomai) is in the perfect tense, which means that every true believer has continual access the power of Christ; (Matthew S. Harmon, “2 Peter,” in Hebrews–Revelation, ESV Expository Commentary, ed. Iain M Duguid, James M Hamilton, and Jay Sklar [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018], 371).

[3] Dieudonne Tamfu, 2 Peter and Jude, ed. Samuel Ngewa, Africa Bible Commentary (HippoBooks, 2018), 18.

[4] Gene L. Green, Jude and 2 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 183.

[5] Harmon, “2 Peter,” 371. “His person attracts men: his power enables them to respond;” (Michael P. Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 82).

[6] This section is developed from, John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Press, 1995), 10–13.