Every Sunday we gather here for worship with our minds and hearts filled with the concerns and challenges of the past week and the week ahead. We live our days filled with temporal concerns. Our daily bread and daily needs consume our thoughts and our time and our energies. But how are we different from non-Christians? Are they not also anxious about their days and their lives and livelihoods? As Christians we are called to a higher calling, we are called to live in two worlds at once, to have a foot in two countries, to have one eye on temporal things and one eye on eternal things. The challenge, the goal, is to attend to the temporal things of our lives our eyes and minds fixed on eternal things. Jesus did this while He took on human form and walked this earth.
II Peter 1:3-4 is a mouthful. This is one of the most dense passages in Scripture. One sentence, 69 words, five powerful propositions, one staggering reality, the power of God in us. Remember, Peter is an uneducated, Galilean fisherman. How did he write something like this? Where did he get this level of spiritual insight? John 16:13a When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. Two weeks ago, we said we have a faith of equal standing with the apostles themselves. We have the same Gospel is grounded in and rests on the foundation of Christ’s righteousness. Last week I said that having this faith, we are called to multiply it, grow it, or actually to look to God to multiply it, to give us greater grace and peace through knowledge of God. So, the result of believing in the Gospel is greater grace and peace. Verses 3-8 explain how this happens, how our faith grows and increases. There are two parts. What God does for us and what we do in response.
With the exception of Hebrews and James, every letter in the NT begins with an opening salutation or blessing. This is not just come old worn out custom or formality, like “Hi, How are ya?” This is not a throwaway line to be rushed past or skipped over on our way to the important stuff. This is not even a kind wish or hope. These blessings are a genuine prayer addresses to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. These are Spirit-inspired blessings upon the Church of Jesus Christ. They are an expression of warm affection and love flowing out of the hearts of the apostles for the recipients of these letters. Peter really wants this for these Christians. So much so, in fact, that he doesn’t just begin this way but he ends his letter with the same desire.
People don’t write letters anymore. They are going the way of the pocket calendar, the checkbook and the flip phone. Some of you may have collections of letters written by relatives, a few of you get letters from Holland yet, maybe some of you still have a stash of love letters somewhere you hope the kids never find. Letters are being replaced by e-mails, texts or tweets. Thank God Jesus came in the first century and not the twenty first century. What a privilege we have of reading Peter’s mail, which of course is also God’s mail. As we study this letter we are reading the very words of God, they have full and complete divine authority. Receive this as God’s truth for you. Take it seriously and take it to heart. Having heard these words we will be accountable for what we do with them. This is God’s revelation, God’s truth. You can say you don’t understand it, but you cannot say you don’t believe it or you disagree with it. That you do at the peril of your soul. This was written late in Peter’s life around 67 AD when he was in prison in Rome, just before he was martyred for his faith in Jesus. It has some marks of being a last will and testament. What a debt we owe to apostles who poured out their faith and teaching and their own blood from prisons in Rome. Both Peter and Paul were martyred for their faith under the persecution of Emperor Nero. Peter wrote this out of a pastor’s heart, out of a genuine love for these Christian brothers and sisters. He wrote it to comfort and encourage and to strengthen their faith in difficult and challenging times. Our world is different from theirs in terms of material possessions, advances in inventions, what we are able to do because of changes in transportation, medicine and technology. But from a spiritual point of view, from the perspective of our hearts and souls there is no difference, no change. The superficial aspects of life have changed dramatically but we have the same fears and doubts and problems and struggles with unbelief. Where is God, what is He doing, why doesn’t He answer my prayers, why do things seem to be getting worse, why are there problems in the church? Unbelief can sneak up on us when we are tired or frustrated, when we are grieving or in pain, when things seem to be falling apart. This letter is almost 2000 years old and yet every word of it is just as true and relevant today as it was when it was read in those churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. If we will open our hearts to it and ask God to speak to us through it, He will and we will receive food for our souls. If we will saturate our hearts and minds with the power and truth of God’s Word it will change our lives and fill us with grace and peace. This is God’s Word for us today.
Have you ever heard God’s voice? Peter, James and John heard it. What must it have been like up there on that Mount of Transfiguration to hear the booming voice of God? What did it sound like? Deep baritone or bass? Did it have an accent? Did it sound like Charlton Heston or Morgan Freeman or Liam Neeson? Was it terrifying, did it bring them to their knees? Have you ever heard God’s voice? I have, just this morning in fact, here in our text, the very words of God brought by the Holy Spirit from heaven to the apostle Peter and written down and given to us. God wrote a book.