Wednesday after Laetare - 2 Peter 1:2-11 - March 9, 2016

Order of Matins - Pg. 32
Hymn #426 The Lord My Shepherd Is
Hymn #297 The Gospel Shows the Father's Grace
Hymn #425 All Depends on Our Possessing

Readings
2 Peter 1:2-11
John 6:36-51

Collect for Laetare, the 4th Sunday in Lent

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Sermon 2 Peter 1:2-11

 Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


1)         The Lord has given you everything you need. There is nothing you lack. You possess it all if you possess the Gospel. So says St. Peter in today’s New Testament reading. He writes, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) He is talking about the spiritual life, not the carnal life in the flesh, not the life we live in the world. We often believe the opposite. “If only God gave me more faith.” “If only God would give me a sign, then I would know His will and the direction I am to go.” “If only God would give me more strength to fight this temptation which clings to my flesh.” “If only God would give me more peace of mind.” “If only God would make life easier, then I would be in a better place with Him.” The human mind, tainted by sin until we are laid in the earth, always assumes that the Lord has not given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. The reason is twofold. It is either from despair or ingratitude. Despair, because the sinful mind thinks that God has not given it enough things pertaining to life and godliness. We despair when we think that God is withholding gifts from us that would help us kick that pet sin out of the house of our heart. We despair when we think that God has drawn back His generosity and does not give us the faith we need to seek him in prayer. When we look at our piety and see that it is not what it ought to be, the sinful flesh seizes the opportunity and sows the seed of discontent and despair in our hearts, so that we think surely God must be withholding something from us. The other reason the sinful mind does not think God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness is ingratitude. The flesh easily grows tired of the Gospel. This is seen in “churches” across our great land who have abandoned preaching Christ for the forgiveness of sins and instead preach a false gospel of “what can you do for God,” and “how you can be a better Christian.” They want the Christianity without the Christ. But we see this in ourselves as well when we tire of our hearing of the Gospel, when we are ungrateful about receiving the absolution, or worse yet, when we think, “Are we really going to hear about this justification thing yet again?”

2)         But this is what the Lord gives us. St. Peter writes that the Lord has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, “through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) How do we receive knowledge of “Him,” that is, Christ? Through the gospel. And it is in Christ alone that we receive knowledge of God the Father, as Jesus says in our lesson from St. John’s Gospel. “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.” (John 6:46) The Holy Gospel contains all of the “exceedingly great and precious promises” of God. The Gospel is the “power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” (Romans 1:16) There is no knowledge of God the Father outside of Christ Jesus. All spiritual roads do not lead to Rome. There are no shortcuts to the Father. There is no other way to true life with God the Lord except through faith in Christ, for faith in Christ alone justifies the sinner before God. And that’s what the Gospel teaches us over and over and over again because we need to hear it over again every week and every day. We are not saved today because of yesterday’s faith or a so-called decision made years ago. We sin daily and so need absolution daily. We fall daily and so need to be picked up by Christ daily. The Devil, the world, and our sinful flesh war against our souls daily so we need Christ as our defense and shield daily. All of this is given in the Gospel if faith but receives the Gospel daily and uses the Gospel daily. In the gospel the Father has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness. There is no other book we need. There is no other word from God. He speaks through His Word and through His Word alone.

3)         The result is that we become partakers in the divine nature. We are not absorbed into the Godhead, being transformed into God so that we share His essence. Nor is this a Buddhist alignment of the soul with a greater power or energy of the universe. To become a partaker in the divine nature means to become a partaker in the life which God has by His very nature. Jesus speaks of this several times in the Gospel lesson heard a moment ago. He says, “This is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:39). Human life is by nature transient. Every descendant of Adam and Eve must “pay the debt of nature” because in Adam all have sinned and all keep sinning because of the inborn sinful nature and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:34) Faith in Christ puts us ‘in Christ’ so that though a Christian die, He lives. Faith gives true life which death cannot extinguish. Jesus says in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Divinity, by nature, does not die. Faith puts you “in Christ.” St. Paul writes that “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) Faith in the Gospel, given in preaching and Baptism, connects you to Christ so that you partake of His divine life, so that though you die, you pass through death into life immortal. This brings us back to what Christ said in today’s reading. “I will raise him up on the last day.” To fully participate in the divine nature is to be rid of the human flesh and raised to new life with new, radiant flesh on the Last Day. Since Christ cannot die, those who belong to Him are unable to truly die.

4)         St. Peter then writes, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8) Since we already participate in the divine nature, that is, true life, by faith, and we will one day by sight, Peter adds that we should give all diligence to how we live as partakers of the divine nature. To this faith which justifies, enlivens, and vivifies, we are to add virtue. Virtue consists in conforming your actions to your beliefs. If you have divine life in you, and share in the divine nature, you ought not to live in the lust of the world for fleshly pleasures, creature comforts, ambition, avarice and wealth. To virtue we are to add knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us ever and always the “great and precious promises” given to us in Christ Jesus. We grow in the knowledge of His will which is our sanctification, our holiness, and our endurance under temptation and persecution.

5)         To this knowledge we are to add self-control. Since the will of God is our sanctification, this requires the control of the sinful self. Jesus bids us to control our sinful selves and master our desires in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” We are, as partakers of the divine nature, to fight sin in our mortal body since lust wars against our soul to lead us away from Christ into willful sin, death, and into the bondage of the Devil. The Christian who neglects self-control lets the sinful self run wild and unchecked, rushing headlong into all sorts of sins, damaging faith and salvation. To this self-control perseverance must be added. For it is one thing to have self-control for a moment of temptation, but the Devil does not sleep and waits for a more opportune time to return and attack with his subtleties. To perseverance one must add godliness, brotherly kindness, and finally love.

6)         This is the aim of the mature Christian. In his first epistle St. Peter encourages his hearers, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) In this, his second epistle, he encourages us to mature in the faith and grow in our piety towards God. All of these virtues flow from faith in Christ and participating in the divine nature through the Word and Sacraments. St. Peter concludes, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:9-11) We are to do these things, making them our aim, lest we fall back into our former sins and lose our salvation. All of these virtues are rooted in faith in Christ and edify and build up faith in Christ as He is given in the Gospel. We must not grow tired of hearing that good news, for in the hearing, reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting of His Holy Gospel do we grow in our knowledge of His will and our piety towards God. The goal of all of this is our “entrance” into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe and live as ones who are partakers in Christ’s everlasting life and as those who are heading for His everlasting kingdom of righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. He has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness in His Holy Gospel. May be we thankful for “great and precious promises of God” and always hold them dear in our hearts so that God may grant us an increase in faith and all of these gifts which He has taught us about today. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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