Back to what Caleb was talking about a few minutes ago, we all have those methods, whether it’s our phone, alarm. Let me tell you one that I use, and it’s to the point where I don’t think about it anymore, but I automatically do it. So, I guess it’s working, but it’s kind of corny. But it came from way back when I used to climb cliffs with Jim, and he, as an experienced climber, taught us to always have three points of contact. So, when I’m walking out of the house at any time, I have three points of contact — phone, keys, wallet. Phone, keys, wallet — life-saving memory technique. It’s deadly when you park outside, and you walk outside, and you realize I forgot my keys. So, I can’t get in my car. I can’t get back in the house. You’re caught in the middle. So, very simple. Three points of contact. I don’t have to think about it, just a memory technique every time I walk out the door. So, some of you are going to think that’s stupid. I don’t need to do that. Well, you’re probably not as old as me. No, no. Each of us has our memory things that we tend to forget, or we find helpful to have a technique so that we can remember. But we all vary in what we need to be reminded of.
What we’re going to look at in 2 Peter 1 is something every one of us as followers of Jesus need to be reminded of. And Peter covers it in chapter 1, but he slows down in verses 12-15 and steps back. And that’s why we’re slowing down and stepping back so that we can answer the question “why the reminders? Why do I need reminders and specifically these reminders?” So, three reasons.
Number 1, to keep growing, to keep growing. Verse 12. And if you’re just joining us, we’re in a study through 2 Peter. We’re coming this week to 2 Peter 1:12.
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.”
Now, this is a stunning statement. You can know something and even be established, strengthened in it, and still need a reminder of it. Hear me. You can never out-know or outgrow the need for reminders, never, especially this kind of reminder. Well, you ask, “well, what are we being reminded of?” Let me help you remember.
If you go back to verses 3-4, we were told he has given us everything.
“His divine power has granted to us all things,”
Everything, everything we need for life and godliness. He has poured out through his promises in Jesus everything we need. And in light of this extravagant provision, we are called in verse 5 to continue to supplement our faith with certain qualities, qualities like virtue, knowledge, self-control. And as we do that in verses 8-11, we reap a harvest of abundance, assurance, and ultimately entrance into the kingdom. Now, the flow of that is really significant. Notice, Peter moves from promise to supplement.
Everyone in this room, everyone in the world is going in one of two directions. They’re either working from promise or working to earn promise, for promise. What Peter is describing here is the flow of the Christian life is not trying to earn something we hope to achieve but working from something we’ve been given through Christ by faith. “His divine power has granted to you everything.” You say, “Well, what does that include?” Everything. He died to pay for our sin, yes. But it wasn’t just covering the negative. He poured in millions and millions and millions of dollars of righteousness into our bank account. We are filthy rich spiritually. We have everything we need for life and godliness. Therefore, when he calls us to supplement our faith, he’s not saying, “Now you work harder to produce something or God’s going to zap you.” He’s saying, “Look what you’ve been given. Now supplement your faith with what you’ve been given.”
So, what does this look like practically? Let’s review. Last week, we ended with a major study that was done on 678 nuns from the time they were seventy-five years old till they died, and then they donated their brains to science. During their lives, they went for regular checkups and cognitive tests, and then when their brains went under an autopsy, they discovered some things in some of the nuns that surprised them. Some of the nuns’ brains had all the physiological symptoms of Alzheimer’s. And yet when these nuns were alive, they did not exhibit the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Confusing. Why? We’re not sure. But neuroscientists are theorizing that what seems to be happening is they have more functional synapses than the average brain.
Now, I know of exceptions to this. It’s just a theory, but it is true. Dr. Genova, neuroscientist, said they seem to have a redundancy of neural connections. And we talked about at the end of the message, trying to bring this down to our level, a bridge illustration. Do you remember that? If you’re driving to work and you encounter a bridge that’s out, you have a couple of options. You can start honking your horn for a couple of months until they fix the bridge. That’s always helpful. You can bang your steering wheel, yell, scream, cuss. You can take a nap and wait a couple of months. Or you can find an alternate route.
And what Peter seems to be suggesting here is that as we go through life, we are going to encounter bridges that are out every day. This week you’re going to encounter a number of different bridges that are out — expectations that are not met, circumstances beyond your control, plans that tend to change, temptation to give in to fleshly desires. And just imagine for a moment that you’re not a growing Christian. You’re a one-bridge Christian. In your little Christian town, you have one road, one bridge that gets to work, and the bridge is out. What are you going to do? You have no redundancy of neural connections, to go back to the brain illustration, and this seems to be Peter’s concern — some of you Christians are living as though you’re spiritual paupers, one-bridge Christians. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. In other words, he’s given us everything we need to get to where he’s calling us to go. And you say, “Well, the bridge is out! There are no options!” And Peter is saying, “How about we supplement our faith?” It’s just another way of saying maybe there are alternate routes like virtue. Add to your faith the back road of virtue or knowledge or self-control or steadfastness or godliness. And if some of you are looking at me like “okay, still feels a little ethereal, mysterious. Can we bring it down?”
Let me tell you what helps me. When I think of something like virtue, I think of the opposite, which helps me understand more of what it is. Virtue, that word for virtue is “moral beauty” or “moral excellence.” So, you come to a weak moment this week, and you have an option. Am I going to go the way toward moral beauty or the way toward porn or objectivizing someone, treating someone like an object for my own lust or gratification? Toward beauty, moral beauty or vulgarity or profanity … is the opposite route.
Take the next one, knowledge. Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge. Knowledge, okay? The lies are telling me Jesus is always angry with me. That’s the way I’ve felt my whole Christian life. And if I’m a one-bridge Christian, that’s my reality. That’s the truth I live in. I feel stuck. I’m not changing. It never has changed. It never will change. What Peter’s saying is what if we’re growing in knowledge? Which means we begin to learn that what I’ve assumed to be true and the lies that are speaking to my heart and head are not telling me the truth. And I get to grow in the knowledge of who Jesus really is and what he really thinks of me and the love that he is constantly pouring out toward me — nothing but love, nothing but grace toward me. Grow in knowledge.
Add your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control. So, I come to this bridge that’s out, this weak moment where I could go and just be stuck in this rut that I’ve always been stuck in, that’s always taken me down this path of giving in to whatever the latest desire or craving is within my heart and mind. And Peter’s saying, ‘”Well, what if the Spirit desires to bear out his fruit of self-control?” You don’t have to believe every lie that pops in your mind, that right in the middle of church, you’re going to hear voices and think thoughts that aren’t true all the time, that you can grow in the knowledge of who Jesus is and what he really says through his Word, and then out of that, the Spirit can produce self control. Do you see the point? By looking at the opposite, you begin to see “Wow, God, you’ve done that in my life.” But the point he’s making in chapter 1 is he will continue to do that. He’s going to continue to produce in you a redundancy of neural connections, growing in so many different ways that when you encounter the bridge that’s out (which if you didn’t last week, you will next week; you will), your first response is “well, I’ve never done well with that, or I’ve never understood that, or I’m never going to change … No, Lord! Lord, you’ve given me everything I need for life and godliness.”
Puritan Richard Sibbes explains how this works.
“Let us remember that grace is increased, in exercise of it.”
Now, stop and think about that for a second. If you have ten chocolate chip cookies and you eat eight, how many chocolate chip cookies do you have? Whoo! That was quick! Lots of neural connections over in this section! So, if you have ten pieces of grace and you eat eight of them, how many do you have? Yeah, there’s sharp group over here as well! Look, you see, the math doesn’t work, but he’s saying when you exercise grace, you actually get more of it. God pours out kindness, his favor on you. You feast on that favor, and from that favor, fruit begins to be produced, and you end up with more. The more grace you consume, the more grace you have. You can have your cake and eat it!
“let us remember that grace is increased in the exercise of it, not by virtue of the exercise itself.”
How does that happen then? So, it’s not just this supplementing as if this is a work of the flesh.
“But as Christ by his Spirit, flows into the soul and brings us nearer to himself, the fountain, so instilling such comfort that the heart is further enlarged.”
So, we’re using bridges and brains to illustrate. But what Sibbes is saying here, what Peter is saying in 2 Peter 1 is that the more you grow, the more you see your need for grace, the more grace is exercised, the more the one who is the source of everything moves into every part of our lives nearer and nearer. And so, the heart becomes … When we talk about growing, it’s not just the volume of external fruit, it’s the heart becomes more and more full of and aware of the presence of Jesus, who is the source of everything, which is the very thing we need. We become, as he said earlier, partakers of the divine nature.
So, reminders are calls to keep doing this, keep growing in this experience. Don’t level off and think “I’ve got this. I’ve been a Christian for a long time. There’s nothing you can tell me that I don’t already know.” Okay, maybe. Peter’s saying, “Well, let me remind you again.”
Secondly, reminders are calls to keep growing, but secondly, to stay awake. Verse 13, “I think it right, as long as I’m in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder.” So, Peter here is writing this to stir us up, and to stir us up, this form of that word means “to awaken, to arouse.” It can mean “to agitate,” and actually the root (I can’t go into this now, but it’s so fascinating) and the root of it means “to resurrect.” Very cool! We get to awaken.
So, many, many years ago, we bought our first church van from a church that was ready to throw it away. It was old. And then we took a road trip to New Hampshire with a number of our teenagers to take to camp. On the way back, we drove all night, straight through the night. We were all exhausted. The next morning, one of our teenagers named Matt (sorry!) was driving. I was in the back catching some sleep, trying. And my wife was in shotgun chatting away because her job was to keep the driver awake. And she noticed that the van was starting to go off the road. And so, she looked over, and Matt was in prayer, head bowed. And I think this was before … We didn’t have a hands-off vehicle yet. It was an eyes-off vehicle. And so, my wife started screaming (because I was in the back and sat up quickly), “Matt! Matt! Matt!” And he just calmly looked up, brought us back on course, and we are alive today.
I tell you that story because the sense of urgency you feel — that’s what Peter is communicating. We’ve all had those moments. I used to do those all-nighters all the time. I can’t do them anymore. But that moment where you start nodding off and then realize my life is at risk in this moment. Peter is saying, “I think it right as long as I’m in this body to call you to wake up, to awaken you.”
This is why we call what is happening in Kentucky at Asbury “an awakening.” It’s when God’s Spirit does what Peter’s talking about here — this stirring up on an individual level — and it begins to affect the church and then it goes beyond that. We call it an awakening. A number of people from our church have gone to it. It started a week and a half ago when a number of students at the end of chapel lingered, praying, confessing, singing, and it went through the night and continues to today.
Monday evening, I was on my way to an elder meeting, and a friend called me and said, “Hey, I’m flying up tomorrow to Asbury. I have an extra seat on my plane. Do you want to come?” And I looked at my schedule, and it was packed. But I thought, when your schedule’s too crowded to go visit an awakening, your schedule needs to change. So, my poor assistant did that. But the next morning, I came to the hangar where his plane was out there, and I was watching him as he was trying to get the plane started and struggling. He was winding something, jumping. So, I began to wonder are we go into a revival in Kentucky or a revival in heaven? Either way, it’s a win. But it actually started and actually ran amazing. Richard, a pilot in our church, piloted it.
And a lot I could say. Let me just try to summarize it. Two thoughts — one was, when we walked in the auditorium, I was struck by how ordinary it was. There really wasn’t anything extraordinary in the sense of there was no big band, no light show, no smoke machines, no dancing girls. It was very subdued in the sense of just a guy and a guitar. So, in that sense, there was no hype, no manipulation. I appreciated that. But it was not just ordinary; it was extraordinary in the sense of the Spirit’s presence, the love of Jesus. And for me, it was very encouraging to go without any agenda. I wasn’t inspecting. I wasn’t leading anything. It was just to spend several hours praying and worshiping and feasting on the love of Jesus. It was just super encouraging.
But what Peter’s talking about here includes that. There will be times where awakenings spread, and we pray, as the president of Asbury said … He distinguished between an awakening and a revival. I hadn’t heard that distinction before. But he said, “Clearly we’re experiencing an awakening. If it continues and lives are really transformed” He was talking about the fact that if people are really living differently by the power of the Spirit, he would call it a revival, and we pray for that. Does our country not need this? Yes! We can clap for that. Our nation, far more than a particular candidate or a particular legal whatever, we need revival because if we don’t change the heart, we don’t work from inside out. It’s all duct tape. It’s superficial. It will never last, and it certainly will create more problems than it solves.
And this is what this is what Peter is talking about. “I think it right as long as I’m in the body to stir you up.” Peter is not … he’s been following Jesus for a long time, but he is not satisfied with somebody just saying, “I’m going to follow Jesus,” and they’re done. No, we need to keep being reminded, to keep growing, and to keep staying awake. And so, in a sense, he is normalizing awakenings. Does that make sense? Not trivializing, normalizing, like in Hebrews 3:13,
“Exhort one another [how often?] every day lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Or Hebrews 10:24,
“And let us consider how to stir up one another.”
Different Greek word. The accent on this Greek word is not so much awakening, but “provoking,” that when we gather on Sunday, part of what we’re doing (and in life groups and in Re:Engage, in Re:Gen, in Women’s Bible Study, and Men’s Bible Study, and all the other ministries, we are
“stirring up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing here.”
You see the “all the more.” This is why we need reminders. It’s not “I did that. I did the church thing, got disappointed, wasn’t appreciated, and I’m done.” No, Peter, along with the author of Hebrews, is saying we need to continually be reminded to keep growing, to stay awake, and then third, to continue on.
Look at verse 14, to continue on.
“Since I know that the putting off of my tent, my body, will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
So, Peter … The word “to recall” there is very interesting. If you trace it back to its root, it’s the same word is that “mindfulness” we talked about in our study of 1 Peter. He’s talking about a durable Christian mindfulness that extends well beyond Peter’s life span. You notice he’s saying, “I want you to be growing and to continue on in such a way that even when I’m dead and gone,” which he’s predicting as Jesus told him he’s going to die as a martyr soon. “When I’m gone, you will recall these things. So, the kind of thing I’m calling you to is not a short-term awakening or a momentary excitement, but an ongoing.” Because Peter is not like Hezekiah.
Do you remember a month or so ago we talked about Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:19, when he was told that there’s going to be peace and security in your day, Hezekiah, but afterward judgment. And he was good with that! And Peter is saying the opposite — that’s diminishing. Peter is a multiplier. In other words, he’s concerned that the investment he pours into people will continue long after he’s gone. It’s not a celebrity-driven thing. It’s not dependent on a particular leader.
Now, how does that happen? And don’t miss this. He is writing to ensure that people in Taylors, South Carolina, two thousand years later will remember what he wrote. Isn’t that amazing? We’re reading his reminder two thousand years later! He could have — and this can come across wrong because I really am not minimizing this at all — but he could have said, “Hey, listen to the Spirit’s impressions on your heart. Learn how to tune in to what God is going to say to you personally.” Is that important? Yes. The Spirit is continually revealing, manifesting himself, bearing witness with my spirit that I am his, interceding on my behalf. The Spirit’s ongoing ministry is absolutely vital! But that’s not what Peter is talking about here. He’s talking about the fact that, as an apostle, he is inspired by the Spirit to record reminders that people will listen to and test all other revelations against because they bear the authority of the apostolic revelation.
And so, whatever impressions we all have today are tested against this book, God’s Word. And he is saying, Peter is saying, “I want you to remember this long after I’m gone because my life will come and go. God’s Word abides forever. Remember, recall these things so that you will continue on.” And I am deeply concerned because I think many Christians today are far more interested in the momentary impression than we are in the book of Romans or Ephesians or 2 Peter. “That’s okay. Yeah, I read that. I’ve read that many times before. I need to hear something new!” What if today your greatest need is not hearing something new, but hearing something very old, but hearing it and really hearing it? That’s what Peter’s talking about with this reminder.
Let me illustrate how important this is. When we flew into Kentucky, we got an Uber. That poor Uber driver! It’s so easy when you’re around something like what’s happening at Asbury, because you don’t have to work hard to find a transition — “Hey, have you heard about the awakening at Asbury?” “No, what’s happening there?” “Funny you should ask.” It ended up Daniel, our driver, is a believer. But he quickly qualified. He said, “Yeah, I am.” When we asked him, he said, “I am a Christian, but I’m a sinner. And I’ve done some really bad things.” And you could just feel the weight on him. “Well, tell us about it, Daniel.” And he went on to describe time in prison, drug addiction. He was going to kill someone when the Lord saved him. But the tragedy was the more he talked, the more you realized God really has done a miracle in his life, but it’s like he doesn’t know. He’s forgotten the size of the miracle. And so, as we began to share, and we only had a few minutes and we got to the campus. He’s dropping us off in the parking lot, and he says to us, “Hey, can you can you pray that will be true of me?” like we were describing. His sense of himself and his salvation is far more shaped by his feelings and failure than it is by God’s promises. And so, we’re standing out in the parking lot praying over Daniel. And you could just see his face beaming when you realize he has given you everything, and it’s just the beginning.
How are we defining and viewing ourselves? Are we seeing ourselves through the lens of what God says or the feelings and failure? This is why we need to be reminded because if you’re anything like me, I can hear something multiple times and it still not really sink in. I’ve got to go over and over. I’ve got to illustrate it. I’ve got to pray into it before it really begins to bear fruit.
So, I believe the Spirit of God is saying something very important to all of us today — “I’ve given you everything.” And I’m calling you into a life of continual growth, to continue growing, to continue to stay awake, to continue on even long after a particular leader or a person who has influenced your life is long gone because your view of yourself and your view of the call of God is tethered, not to your emotions and your experience, but to God’s promises. You are working out of His promise, not trying to earn it.
And I believe the reason Peter, after explaining this extravagant gift from the Lord and this call into ongoing growth, slows down and uses the word “remind” in verse 12, and “reminder” in verse 13, and “recall” in verse 15 to slow us down and say, “This is why we need reminders.”
And so, we’re not in any hurry right now. I want us to do a couple of things. Number one, if a few of you, I haven’t picked anybody out, feel led to pray for us as a church, that God will awaken our hearts to his extravagant promises, that God would set people free who feel very stuck, honking the horn at the bridge, or following pathways that are leading to more bondage, that God would set us free, that we would continue to grow and experience all that God has for us. If a couple of you would just come up and lead us in prayer in a moment, and then as we respond, and I’ll explain this more in a minute, but I hope we can use this time of singing to do much more than just rifle through a bunch of songs. Are you hearing God’s Spirit say to you, “Let’s wake up. Let’s keep growing. Let’s tether our consciences and hearts to God’s promises”?
Father, we thank you for speaking to us this morning. We want everything you have for us. Forgive me when I feel like I’ve got to somehow prove myself or earn this extravagant kindness. Forgive me when I try to work for your promises rather than from them to your glory. Spirit, we pray that you would fall on us in very specific ways, stirring us up, renewing our desire to grow. I pray for some who are sluggish, have nodded off spiritually that this would be a day of awakening. We just hand it all over to you, Lord. You do what you desire to do in our hearts. We thank you in Jesus’ name.