The Antiques Roadshow has been running for 40 years. I’m not an avid follower, but you’re probably familiar with the format. They travel around different British towns with antiques experts, so members of the public can bring things to have valued.
There are inevitable disappointments. Something the owner thought was priceless turned out to be worthless. But then there’s the reverse, as someone’s jaw drops when something is worth vastly more than they’d dreamt.
In 1991, someone brought a plant pot to the Roadshow in Cleethorpes. It had just been in their living room, with a plant in it. It turned out it was from France in 1874, and worth £560,000.
The charm of the show is exactly that. As you watch it, you wonder: Wouldn’t it be amazing if I was sat on something worth half a million, and didn’t even realise it.
This autumn we’re going to work out way through a little letter tucked away at the back of the New Testament, the letter of 2 Peter. As our first verse tells us, it was written by Peter, one of Jesus’ first disciples. He wrote it right at the end of his life, so probably around the mid 60s AD. It was written to a group of Christians, but we don’t know where, possibly in modern Turkey.
As we work our way through, we’ll discover they’re facing some issues. Chapter 2, verse 1, there are false teachers among them that are unsettling them. The fake Rembrandt is the reverse of the priceless treasure you never knew you had. These false teachers were peddling a fake version of Christianity. The issues they faced will feel very contemporary to us. The fact Peter will die soon makes this all the more urgent.
But as he starts, he simply wants them to know how enormously privileged they are. As Christians, they’re sitting on amazing wealth, and it’s possible they don’t even realise it. The first antidote to many of their problems is to grasp the wealth they have.
And we need to do this, too. We Christians often don’t realise how privileged we are. We treat our faith as a bit like a plant pot in the corner of the living room. And those who are not Christians have no idea what riches they’re missing out on.
It’s a short Bible reading. Let me tell you where we’re going. I’m going to show us two things God has given us, and then how we come to receive all this.
All we need for a godly life
The first thing God has given us is all we need for a godly life. All we need for a godly life.
It’s so easy to envy the lives of others. It’s not hard to find things that aren’t right about your own life. It’s full of struggles. Others seem to be having a good time. It’s a depressing time of year, as other people’s holiday photos appear. A model family, on a model beach, in Mediterranean weather. Then there’s their back to school photos. Immaculate smiling kids. Then your mind flicks to your own life. So much less Instagram.
The Bible’s clear. We’re never more alive than when we are rightly related to the God who made us. When we’re forgiven for everything we’ve ever done wrong. When we’re adopted as his sons and daughters, members of the royal family. That’s life with a capital L, life in 4D.
And our verse says that God has done all the work. Verse 3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life”, or literally “for life and godliness”. This is a gift. We can have this technicolour life, and we can have it for free. Other Scriptures tell us that it’s free for us because God has paid in full. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, he paid for our sins and unlocked this wonderful life that he wants us to have.
But God hasn’t just given us all we need to be fully alive. He’s also given us all we need for godliness. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”, they come as a pair.
God wants to transform us, to change us. To be people who reflect God’s wonderful character.
In the sermon on the mount, Matthew chapter 5, Jesus said this: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were impossibly good. They were really lovely people, and Jesus says that’s not enough. He wants to capture our thought life, too, our innermost thoughts and attitudes. To the core of our being, he wants us to be truthful, considerate, patient, kind, merciful, forgiving, faithful. Like God our loving heavenly Father.
The danger is that such high expectations leave us feeling crushed. We could never be like that. Which is why these verses in 2 Peter are such good news. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”. God’s wonderful character is not an impossible target. It’s a gift. God has done everything we need.
He hasn’t just sent his Son to die and rise again. He’s sent his Spirit to live in our hearts, to change us from within. That’s not to say we instantly become sinless. We all fail often, we know that all too well. But little by little, over the course of a lifetime, God is at work to change us.
God has done all that is needed for a godly life. For life and godliness.
All of this is a contrast to the false teachers who were ravaging the church Peter wrote to. As we’ll see, they were not interested in changing how they lived at all. To them, God’s grace and loving kindness was an excuse to indulge themselves.
And yet we have something really precious, as a gift from God. He’s given us all we need for a godly life.
Promises of a godlike future
The second thing God has given us are promises of a godlike future. Promises of a godlike future.
This is verse 4. “Through these [Jesus’ glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”
He’s given us promises that we’ll “participate in the divine nature”.
Let’s hear clearly what he’s saying. He’s not saying we’ll all become part of God. Peter’s not some new-age hippy, teaching a form of pantheism, that one day everything will become part of God again. This is not Avatar, if you’ve seen the film, where when you die you are absorbed back into Eywa.
Now we’ll “participate in the divine nature”. We won’t become God, or part of God, we’ll become like God.
What is God like? Well he’s not marked out by corruption. The verse goes on, we need to escape the corruption to become godlike in this way.
We are corrupt, in the sense that we break down. We decay. We get old. Our bones get brittle.
In the middle of a punnet of peaches this week was one that had been bashed, and a large chunk of the fruit had become soggy and would rot quickly. The other peaches needed removing, or they’d rot too, but left long enough they’d rot anyway. And so do we. If it’s not illness it’s old age.
But God is not like that. He may be old but he doesn’t get old. He never gets ill. There’s not a single flaw in him. And one day, says Peter, we’ll be like that too. God’s promised it.
Some Greek thinkers taught that the material world is bad. Your body is a bad thing. So the great aim is to escape a physical body. This is not the Bible’s view; it’s not Jesus’ view. In Genesis chapter 1, when the creation of the world is described, we’re told time and again that everything God made was good. Good, good, and very good.
So Peter does not say we need to escape the corruption in the world caused by our physical bodies. We need to escape the corruption in the world caused by our sin. Look at the end of verse 4: “… having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”.
It’s our sin that causes all the problems. We’re not the people we were made to be, so our bodies are broken; they break down and die. And the world is broken.
But God has promised that our own destructiveness will not have the last word. For example, listen to these words from Isaiah chapter 65: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. … Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. … They will not labour in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.”
One day, we’ll be like God. We’ll be immortal. We’ll be incorruptible. We’ll be perfectly sinless. Spotless. Perfect. Renewed bodies. Like God. Peter will go on to explain this will all happen on the day Jesus returns to this world.
Again, this is a contrast to the false teachers ravaging this church. Well see that they taught God has no future plans for his people, that this is as good as it gets, that there is no second coming.
Not so, says Peter. Here’s God’s second great gift for us: Promises of a godlike future.
No wonder he calls these promises “very great and precious”.
The question is: How do we get there? How do we come to receive all we need for life and godliness? How do we come to receive these promises of a godlike future?
All this comes through knowing Jesus
And the answer is: All this comes through knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus.
So, look at verse 2. Other New Testament letters start very similarly, with a greeting something like: “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. But look here: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”. It’s not just that God’s grace and peace come from Jesus, but from knowing Jesus.
Or verse 3. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him…”
Some languages have two different words for “know”. German has wissen and kennen. French has savoir and connaître. It’s a different thing to know a fact than it is to know a person. In English, it’s the same word, whether you’re saying you know your wife or that you know the capital of Turkey.
Greek has two words for “know” as well. The difference isn’t as hard and fast as it is in French. They can be interchangeable, but Peter uses them quite distinctly in this letter.
While we were in France I was having trouble finding bread one day. The supermarket was shut because it was a half a public holiday, and the bakery was shut for August, so I stopped to ask someone. She told me where I might try, to which I replied that I know the place.
Only I got my words mixed up. She could see I was English, and we joked about it. What I’d told her was that I had a personal relationship with a shop, when I meant to say I knew where it was.
Let me reassure you I haven’t gone mad. I don’t have an imaginary friendship with a French supermarket.
The word here is the word for knowing a person. This is connaître, not savoir.
All these great blessings, all we need for a godly life, precious promises for a godlike future – they come to us through knowing Jesus. Not just knowing about him. Not knowing facts about God. But knowing him. A relationship.
Just notice how much these verse are all about Jesus. Verse 1, our faith comes through his righteousness. Verse 2, it’s knowledge of him. Verse 3, it’s his divine power. It’s he who called us. It’s his glory and goodness. Verse 4, it’s his promises.
And notice the titles for Jesus. Peter has the highest possible view of the person of Jesus. Jesus is at the centre of Peter’s universe, at the centre of his way of thinking.
There are 3 titles for Jesus in these verses.
Firstly, verse 1, he’s called “our God”. “… through the righteousness of our God… Jesus Christ” Maybe we’re so used to the idea Jesus is God that this doesn’t stand out. All Jews of Peter’s day believed there was only one God. And so there is. To point to Jesus and say: “There is your God”, is a staggering claim. It’s the claim he makes here.
Then, second, verse 1 again, Jesus is called “our Saviour”. He’s the one who rescues us, who saves us. From sin, from selfishness, from evil desires, from the judgement to come, from corruption, from decay, from mortality, from pain and suffering.
“Our God”, “Our Saviour”, then thirdly, verse 2, he’s “Jesus our Lord”. He is our Lord and Master. Not the Roman emperor. Not our government. Not your boss at work. You serve them loyally if you can, but we have one true Lord and master, and he’s in heaven.
Jesus: Our God. Our Saviour. Our Lord.
He is the one we must know.
All these blessings come to us in one way only: By knowing him.
What does all this mean for us?
Well, if you’re here as someone who is not yet a Christian, it means that there is one thing you need. You need to know Jesus. Do that, and you’ll have all you need for life and godliness, and you’ll have promises of a future when you’ll become like God in all his perfection.
Not know about him. Actually know him.
There are a very large number of people who are well-informed non-Christians. Over a lifetime of going to church, on and off, and living a culture with lots of Christian influence, you’ve built up quite a store of knowledge about Jesus. Maybe you just know the basics – the story of the first Christmas, the first Easter, and a few miracles. Maybe you know a lot more than that. Maybe you always get the Bible rounds right in a pub quiz. Maybe you know the Bible inside out. Maybe you impress your friends with how much you know.
You can have all that, and not have life, godliness or any of God’s promises for the future. Because you can have all that, and not actually know the Lord Jesus for yourself. Never decided to get acquainted. Never decided that Jesus our God will be your God. That Jesus our Saviour will be your Saviour. That Jesus our Lord will be your Lord.
If that’s you, get to know him. There’s nothing more important.
For those of us who do know him, we need to see just how precious this is.
The first disciples were Jews, and they saw and heard Jesus for themselves. Most of us here are not Jews, and none of us are apostles. And yet, verse 1, Peter says that our faith is as precious as theirs. Just let that soak in. If you’re a Christian today, you’re no worse off than if you were Peter, James or John.
Because you have the real thing. You know the real Jesus. So you have all you need for a godly life, and you have a certain promise that you’ll be like God in the future.
This is so precious, and yet we easily undervalue it. It’s more precious than your family, your home, or your career. It’s more precious than anything else you have. It’s more precious than the most valuable plant pot or work of art.
And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.