Monday, December 11, 2006

Claiming the Promises of God

Text: 2 Peter 1:3-4
2PE 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

God’s divine power enables us to know Him. Knowledge of God means knowledge of His promises given to us. By claiming these promises, we are led into the path of Godliness and better able to withstand the temptations of the world and of our own sinful nature.

I. Introduction
Jesus told Peter that he would make Peter, the fisherman, a “fisher of man”. That he did. In Acts 2, when Peter preached 3,000 people accepted Christ. In Acts 4, when Peter preached 5,000 people believed. Jesus always keep His promise.

There had been a remarkable transformation in Peter. From a brash young man, we followed his character transformation in the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and later in the epistles. 1 Peter and 2 Peter are often attributed to him. These two epistles revealed the pastoral heart of Peter-how he cared for his flocks or people under his care. However, unlike the epistles written by Paul, Peter’s epistles are not so well organized and logical in its structure. Nevertheless, it revealed the spiritual wisdom Peter has acquired in his long life. Like Paul, Peter acknowledges the spiritual life as consisting of two parts: Knowing God and Becoming like God.

II. Knowledge of God
a. Given by divine power (v.3a)
Eph. 1: 18-21
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come

The knowledge of God is not something we can study for. There is not a course in any school or seminary that will help you to know God. These courses can help you to know about God. We can only know God if God reveals Himself to us by His divine power. Otherwise it is all head knowledge. The divine power is the power that raised Jesus from the dead and in time will redeem the whole of creation.

b. Everything we need for life and godliness (v.3b)

This knowledge of God will give us everything we need for life and godliness. In the Christian faith, we start with knowledge, then experience. That is why the Paul taught us to renew our minds in Rom 2:28 first before we renew our spiritual life. It is dangerous to start with experiences, especially spiritual experiences. Experiences are subjective and are often vulnerable to manipulation.

We should always test our spiritual experiences by the Word of God and not the Word of God by our experiences.

c. To those who are called by His own glory and goodness (v.3c)

True knowledge of God is only available to those who are called by God. Only those who are called by God will be able to know Him. Why? That is because he or she will have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach.

What is more important is that knowledge of God will reveal the promises of God in the Bible. Without the knowledge of God, you will not know about the very great and precious promises God has given us and is waiting for us to claim.

III. Promises of God
a. Very great and precious promises (v.4a)

What are some of the very great and precious promises that God has given us?

i. Jesus Christ
1 Cor.1:20
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

All of God’s promises can be summarized in one Person- Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfilled of all the promises God has made in the Old and New Testament. We are currently in the Christian calendar of Advent. Advent is the time when we look forward to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. It is in these two comings that all God’s promises to us are and will be fulfilled. God promised that He will become man-an incarnation. An obscure event when God came as a helpless baby boy. That is the first coming that happened two thousand years ago. The second coming is yet to be. This time, Jesus will come in power and glory and all the world will know.

ii. Forgiveness
Heb. 10:15-17
HEB 10:15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
HEB 10:16 "This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds."
HEB 10:17 Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."

Another promise we can claim is forgiveness from God. As the Holy Spirit has testified, God has forgiven us and will remember our sins no more. This is true forgiveness.

iii. Become children of God

Gal. 3:22
22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

This promise of God is a wonderful promise. Not only do God love us but also he wants to adopt us! He wants us to be His sons and daughters. It is common in many cultures to have godchildren. These means we accept these children into our families. Yet, they do not enjoy the same status as our own children. Here God adopt us as His children. This means we are all co-heirs of His kingdom.

iv. Gift of the Holy Spirit
14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Eph.1 13
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

One of the incredible promises of God is that the Holy Spirit is given to us. He indwells us. Imagine God Himself coming to stay in your body! I remember when I was young; my mother will spend a lot of time cleaning up the room whenever any of my relatives will come for a visit. When I was young, my family was very poor so the whole family will stay in a rented room on top of a shop house in Brickfield, KL. Yet, whenever we have visitors, my mother will spend hours cleaning up the small room. God promise that He will come and stay with us. I wonder whether we can really understand such a privilege.

v. Guidance of the Holy Spirit
John 14:26
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

If we are ever worried about living a Christian life, don’t. God’s promise of the Holy Spirit who is also a mentor to us. He will lead us into a life of godliness.

vi. Power of the Holy Spirit
Acts 1:8
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The Holy Spirit will empower us. He will also give us spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts are to help us in our own internal growth and to build up the body of Christ or the church. God promised us power. It is up to us to claim this power.

vii. The Blessed Hope
Heb. 9:15
HEB 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

The Blessed Hope is that we shall all enjoy eternal life in New Jerusalem in the new heaven and earth.

This is not a comprehensive list and there are more in the Bible. This list highlights the important promises of God.

b. Participation in divine nature (v.4b)

The very great and precious promises of God will help us to participate in the divine nature. Participation in the divine nature does not mean we become gods. What it means is that we become like God or like Christ. We do not become the fourth member of the Trinity. It means we become godly, restoring the original image of God that we have inside of us.

c. Escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (v.4c)

2 Cor. 7:1
2CO 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

This promises also help us to resist the temptations of the world and to fight our old nature that tempts us to sin.

IV. Claiming the Promises of God

These promises are given to us and we have a right to claim them. Claiming these promises is easy. Just pray to God and say, “Thank you, Lord. I claim these promises you made given me.” That’s all. There are no ritual formula words that you have to day. No special deeds you must perform to prove yourself worthy.

However, there are a few comments I want to make about claiming promises.

a. Claim only promises made to you

This may sound funny but sometimes it may cause confusion in a church.
Judges 6:36-40
JDG 6:36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised-- 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew--a bowlful of water.

JDG 6:39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Is this promise made to Gideon or to all of us? Yet how many of us use this method for decision-making? Anyone for drawing lots to select elders?

b. Claim to get what is already here and not those whose time is not yet
Heb. 11:13
HEB 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that some of God promises have already being fulfilled but some is yet to be. Hence, when we claim God’s promises, God will not give us what is yet to be fulfilled. Hence, you cannot claim to be in be in New Jerusalem now, even though God has promised it to you.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her children about heaven. “How do you get to heaven?” she asked. “By bus?” “No!” the children shouted. “By train?” “No!”. Expecting the answer, “Jesus’, she asked a young boy. “How do you get to heaven?” “You have to die first,” came a quiet reply.

c. Claim only what God has promised

We can only claim what God has promised, not what He has not promised. Hence, no matter how much we want to, Jesus Christ remains the only way between man and God. We cannot claim the love of love and say that everyone will be saved.

d. Follow God

Heb 10:36
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

One of the most important preconditions of claiming God’s promise is that you must be a child of God. And then these promises will help you to grow in your spiritual life.

V. Lessons for us: Promises and Requests

God have given us these promises and He will not take it back. God is fully able to honor His promises. This is where the Knowledge of God and the knowledge of the Bible come in. Study the Bible to discover the promises made to you. Then claim it, it is yours.

However, what about these areas, which He did not cover in His promises, like our health, work, family or church. This is where prayers come in. Where God does not promise, He leaves it to us to request and ask Him. Hence we can ask Him for healing of our sicknesses, our family problems, our workplace problems, our financial problems and even our lack of faith.

For what He has promised, there is not need to ask. For what He has not promised, we are to ask. And I believe, He wants us to ask. When Jesus was asked to teach people how to pray, He taught them to ask, “…give us this day our daily bread..” And God does answer prayers.

VI. Conclusion

God’s divine power enables us to know Him. Knowledge of God means knowledge of His promises given to us. By claiming these promises, we are led into the path of Godliness and better able to withstand the temptations of the world and of our own sinful nature.

Soli Deo Gloria

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