Where There Is Smoke…
Text: 2 Peter 1: 1-8
Proposition: The knowledge of God sets hearts and lives on fire with a compounding grace, a confounding gift and a conceiving mind.
Introduction: There is an old adage that goes, “Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire”, meaning that the obvious presence of the one precedes and almost promises that the other will soon be there as well. If you’ve ever seen a peat bog or muskeg bog on fire all you will see for weeks is just a wisp of smoke here and there but underneath there is a great fire working it’s way underground. When the Spirit of God comes into a person there is an igniting of life into them. That ignition is sometimes so strong that people are described as ‘being on fire for Christ’. In fact it was John the Baptist who prepared the people saying that he would baptize with water but when Jesus came He would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Yet sometimes Christians have drifted away from God to the extent that the fire of God in them seems to almost have gone out, if that were possible. Yet still there is within them a burning ember of faith. Jesus Christ knows those who are His and He will not forget them, He will not abandon them. In Matthew 12:20 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 42 says, “A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking flax He shall not quench till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name Gentiles will trust.” This verse speaks about the persevering gentleness of Christ to those who feel they are just about done, ready to give up. Today you may be one of those who feel like their faith is just a tiny wisp of smoke, it’s there but there is hardly any substance to it all. This morning let me give you three good reasons why you should never quit smoking, why you should never let the burning ember of faith in you be quenched, why you should rise up and pursue God until the flame of faith in you is kindled into a fire that consumes fear and shame. This morning we are going to read the last words that Peter wrote before he was executed in Rome, words that were meant to fan smoke into fire. This is my thesis statement to us this morning, this is what we are about to prove: The knowledge of God sets hearts and lives on fire with a compounding grace, a confounding gift and a conceiving mind. Turn to 2 Peter 1: 1-8.
I. It’s A Compounding Grace, It Comes From a Precious Obtained Faith.
Have you obtained ‘a like precious faith’, that is a faith like Peter’s? It’s a faith that drew Peter to follow Jesus, it drew out of him a faith that surprised even Peter. Never in a million years had he thought he would stand on the edge of a boat in middle of the Sea of Galilee and say, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” When Jesus asked the disciples ‘Who do you say that I am’, it was Peter who said, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God”. Faith starts out like a wisp of smoke, barely willing to believe and barely willing to step forwards. It’s a faith that comes from God to you, a faith that is built upon the righteousness of Jesus. It’s a faith that sees Jesus and says, ‘Savior’. You obtained a precious faith, precious because of what it cost and precious because of what it does. Once that faith is obtained by you there is a compounding grace that begins to work in your heart and soul. Peter says that grace and peace are multiplied or compounded to us in the knowledge of God. It’s a knowledge that is factual in the written Word of God and then experiential in living Word, Jesus Christ. The knowledge of God begins by knowing about Him and then by knowing Him up close. We speak to God about Who He is even as we are aware of our own failings in sin. He alone is God and yet we are invited to be candid and genuine with Him. What has happened in my life is that as I seek to grow in this relationship with Jesus I recognize more and more that His sense of faithfulness, patience, generosity, sacrifice and purpose so far exceeds mine that I’m embarrassed and humbled by what little I offer to the relationship in comparison. The impact of that realization draws me forward to trust Him more, to risk more, to love better. Perhaps you might be wondering the ‘Why” question. Why would God move with such forbearing, such undeserved patience and gentleness and love? The answer is that He is taking what He created out of turmoil and darkness, wiping it off, shaping it and using it and taking great pleasure in us. Phil. 2:13 says, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” When He gives you by His divine power everything that you need for life and godliness it is not only a supply that is equal to the task, it is a compounding grace. If you need wisdom, if you need hope, if you need patience, if you need courage… whatever you will need for life and godliness comes through this knowledge of His presence as grace and peace are multiplied to you. God is asking that you come close enough to Him that He can work not only in you but through you. That ought to set your heart on fire!
II. It’s A Confounding Gift, It Exceeds Our Imagination.
One of the great traits of mankind is the ability to take knowledge and then to create with it. The key component in being able to use knowledge in such a way is what we call imagination. Children are masters at it, perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Jesus invites us to come close with childlike faith. God invites us to use our imagination to tap into ‘wonder’ and to create goodness from it. The opposite is also true. A writer once said, “Fear is the wrong use of imagination. It anticipates the worst, not the best. Fear squanders imagination. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So what is it that God intends we particularly focus our imaginations on, what is it that will cause us to use knowledge in a lasting and good way? The answer is in verses 3,4. In essence it says that God has by His glory and virtue given us exceedingly great and precious promises. The grasping of these promises by the right use of knowledge, a knowledge that begins as information that then leads into a knowing, trusting relationship, will create an effect in you that will confound you, it will exceed your imagination. Look at what it says. “that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” What was the greatest promise of God, an exceedingly great and precious promise…it was the incarnation of Jesus Christ that by His body and blood sacrifice for sin would be offered and forgiveness, redemption and salvation would be there for mankind to enter into by faith. Note that Peter says we will be partakers of the divine nature, not the divine being. That doesn’t mean that we will become gods but rather that we will be able to share in His nature, to grow in holiness. John Calvin put it in a most extraordinary way, “Let us then mark that the end of the gospel is to render us eventually conformable to God and, if we may so speak, to deify us.” To make us like God, being a more complete image bearer, that’s what it means to be a partaker of the divine nature. It will be to such an extent that the fear based corruption that is in the world through lust will not cripple and distract us. The promises of God to us are knowledge based, that is they are revealed to us directly in His word and the study of that directed by the Holy Spirit moves our knowledge of God to a growing awareness of His presence and a growing trust in His will. This partaking of the divine nature will push our imagination past its limits. It is a confounding gift that will set fire to your heart!
III. It’s A Conceiving Mind, Grasping the Transformation of Forgiveness.
In the Bible there is an ongoing balance between faith and works. Here are the works that will proclaim the presence of faith, look at verses 5 to 8. It goes like this: Faith will demonstrate its presence by evident virtue (doing what’s right) and such virtue is itself guided by knowledge of God (factual and experiential). It is a knowledge that has the power of self control over it and that very self control is something that perseveres, it doesn’t quit. The perseverance itself is governed by godliness, a willingness to prefer God’s will over your own, add to this a brotherly kindness that grows and has at its very root… the love of God. Look what Paul says in verse 8, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If this is what your faith is beginning to look like more and more, then know without a doubt that your heart and mind are growing in their ability to conceive, to fruitfully receive the word of God implanted.
James 1:21 says, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”
When our hearts and minds are fruitful, when they not only grasp the content but they take the next step and produce fruit, then the mind conceives the Word and will of God. There is change, there is life, there is godliness. It begins with a compounding grace that brings with it a confounding gift through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, a gift that brings forgiveness of all sin and redemption in His blood. It’s a gift that would actually enable us to become partakers of the divine nature. It leads to a conceiving mind that knows the Word of God factually and then to the knowledge of the very real up close presence of Christ in you, the hope of glory. The smoking ember that once felt like it was about to be extinguished receives fresh wind… and smoke turns into fire.