************ Sermon on 2 Peter 1:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 6, 2009
2 Peter 1:1-11
2 Peter 1:4
Our text for this evening's preparatory sermon tells us to escape corruption. Here in America, when we hear that word "corruption" we think politics. And, we have lots of political corruption to choose from, don't we?!
Let's start with corruption in Louisiana. A couple of months ago, an obscure New Orleans tax assessor was ticketed for using flashing blue police lights, illegally mounted on his car, to weave his way through a traffic jam. A former governor has been keeping a federal prison cell warm for more than six years for extortion, racketeering and fraud. A former congressman is about to go on trial for allegedly stashing $90,000 in loot in his kitchen freezer. And a suburban New Orleans mayor is under scrutiny for receiving gift cards, a hunting bow and a gun cabinet purchased with donations to a Toys for Tots Christmas fund.
Or, think of corruption in Illinois. Governor Rod Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat. And he tried to force the newly bankrupt Tribune Co. to fire editorial staff members who were critical of him. And it's possible he traded favors for campaign contributions. Reach as far back into Illinois history as you like and your hands will likely come out dirty. Blagojevich is the sixth Illinois governor to be subjected to arrest or indictment.
We also need to consider corruption in New Jersey. A recent wide-ranging, 10-year probe of New Jersey corruption led to charges against 44 people. We are told that politicians willingly put themselves up for sale and corruption was a way of life. They existed in an ethics-free zone. In the same probe, Rabbis were also arrested and charged with laundering $3 million through religious non-profit organizations.
But none of these can hold a candle against the corrupt municipal politics of New York City in the 1930s. At that time, bids were rigged for city construction projects, the city hired lifeguards who could not swim, positions were invented for party hacks, inaccessible piers were built for ships, innocent teenagers were jailed in the hope that their parents would bribe the presiding judge, and policemen paid for promotion to sergeant.
Be that as it may be, do you know who is the main carrier and example of corruption. Human nature. You and me. The Bible's message is that human nature is corrupt.
A On this Preparatory Sunday, Peter tells us to "escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Pet 1:4). I have mentioned "corruption" often enough but I have yet to explain what it is. So what is corruption?
Corruption is part of original sin – the sin we are born with, the sin everyone inherits through their parents from Adam and Eve. What does it do? It is the source from which arises all that is wicked, evil, and sinful in the life of man. There are many today who like to think of sin as a disease – something you catch, something you are not responsible for, something that makes you a victim. I hear this kind of language for drug addiction, alcoholism, homosexualism, and even temper tantrums. But sin is not a disease that invades our body after we are born; no, it is part of our nature, part of our makeup, part of our being as fallen human creatures, something we are born with.
B Corruption includes two things. First, it includes the absence of righteousness. Remember how Paul puts this?
(Rom 3:10-12) "There is no one righteous, not even one; (11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."Paul describes the absence of whatever is good and upright and righteous.
Secondly, corruption includes the presence of evil. Remember how Paul puts this in the same passage?
(Rom 3:13-18) "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." (14) "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." (15) "Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery mark their ways, (17) and the way of peace they do not know." (18) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."Do you hear all the acts of evil: deceit, cursing, bitterness, bloodshed, ruin, misery, fighting, no fear of God? Or, as our text from Peter puts it, "corruption ... caused by evil desires" (2 Pet 1:4).
Corruption means I am not righteous and it means I am filled with evil desires that pursue sin.
One of the guys I was cycling with this past week said to me, "It is my 35th birthday today." I congratulated him. Then he said, "I never thought I would live to be 20, and then I never thought I would live to be 25, and I didn't think I would hit 30 either." I wanted to know why he said this. "I was young and dumb and foolish. I really messed up time after time." His final comment, "It is a puzzle why God would love me." Eric maybe did not use the theological language, but he certainly understands the theological concept – that he is corrupt and unworthy of God's love.
C Corruption has two consequences. The first is total depravity. Which means that man's corruption extends to every part of man's existence and every facet of his being. There is not a single part of human life about which we can say, "Look, it is untouched by sin." Pick what you want. Pick who you want. Pick where and when you want. You will find nothing that has not been polluted by sin. Look at the list of positive virtues in verse 5: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love – even all of these have been touched by sin.
The second consequence is total inability – a total inability, that is, to do any saving good; and, a total inability to stop loving sin and evil and wickedness.
D Corruption, then, is much more than a particular sin. Rather, it is the multiplying power of all sin in its bid to spoil God's creation. Corruption is a spiritual AIDS – it is a mysterious, systemic, infectious, and ever-present reality that produces the evil desires that keep popping up within us in this world.
Various Catechisms and Confessions of the Reformed faith offer a number of images to help us understand corruption: a despoiled nature, a diseased root, a contaminated spring, a foul heart. According to these images, we are rotten at the core. The result is that we sin with ease, we sin universally, we sin across the entire spectrum of human life.
I like to use the word "hygiene" here. Corruption means we lack proper hygiene. We are dirty, smelly, disease-ridden, contagious.
This coming week, you are asked to prepare your heart for the Lord's Supper. Like my friend, Eric, do you know you are a sinner? Do you admit your corruption? Do you realize your helplessness? Do you know that within you is something much worse than AIDS?
II Great and Precious Promises
A Our text also tells us about the promises of God. Listen to how our text puts this:
(2Pt 1:4) ... 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.
Did you catch that? God makes promises – plural, not singular. Well, how many? 100? 1000? 10,000? Dr. Reginald Dunlap estimates that there are approximately 30,000 promises in the Bible!
B Notice how Peter describes the promises? Peter calls them "great and precious promises" (2 Pet 1:4). In the book, "The Lord of the Ring," a sad creature named "Gollum" had possession of the ring. He would stroke it and hold it and call it "precious, precious." The ring was the most important thing in his miserable life and controlled his body and mind.
Like Gollum, Peter uses the word "precious" a lot – at least 5 times in his two letters: precious faith (1 Pet 1:7, 2 Pet 1:1), precious blood (1 Pet 1:19), precious stone (1 Pet 2:4-6), precious Lord (1 Pet 2:7) and precious promises (2 Pet 1:4). Anything to do with Jesus was precious to Peter. That is what he valued.
What is it that makes God's promises so great and precious? First of all, because they arise from the "glory and goodness" (2 Pet 1:3) of God. God gives promises because He loves us and cares for us and wants the best for us. Secondly, because of their size. Our English Bible says the promises are "very great." That is, exceedingly great. Think mind-boggling, awesome, and unbelievable. God's promises are immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20-21). Thirdly, because God keeps His promises.
Here's an interesting story: A man named Russell Edward Herman left trillions of dollars to thousands of people he'd never met. For instance, in his will he gave $2.41 billion to the tiny Ohio River town of Cave-In-Rock. What was the catch? Russell Edward Herman didn't have trillions of dollars. He was just a simple, poor carpenter. Russell Edward Herman had great intentions, but he lacked the resources needed to make them a reality.In sharp contrast to this is God. God keeps the promises He makes and turns them into reality.
C What promises of God does Peter have in mind? Two promises, especially. The first promise: the coming of the Savior. The second promise: the coming of the Spirit. And what is the result? Through the realization of these great and precious promises we escape corruption. Listen to how Peter puts this:
(2Pt 1:4) ... he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may ... escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Man has two problems. The first problem: guilt. We are guilty in God's sight. We are guilty of breaking God's law. We are guilty of not loving God above all. We are guilty of not loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Therefore, we deserve judgment and punishment. The second problem: corruption.
What is God's answer to the first problem? As He promised, God washes us with Christ's blood so that my sins, by grace, are forgiven because of Christ's sacrifice upon the cross. What happens? On the cross Jesus took my place and my punishment. So it is as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. His "righteousness" (2 Pet 1:1) became mine.
What is God's answer to the second problem? As He promised, God washes us with Christ's Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus works in us, renewing us, sanctifying us, purifying us, making us dead to sin, so that someday we will be whiter than snow. Again, His "righteousness" (2 Pet 1:1) becomes mine.
I want you to notice something here. Peter uses the word "escape." "So that you may escape corruption." This makes it sound like it is something you and I do. We escape corruption like a criminal escapes from prison. In actual fact, though, it is not something we do, it is not something we can do; it is something only God can do. It is the realization of God's promises – being washed by Christ's blood and Christ's Spirit – that allows us to escape. In other words, it is all of grace and not of works.
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper, think of God's promise regarding Christ and the Spirit. As you prepare for the Lord's Supper, think of the blood and Spirit of Christ. As you prepare for the Lord's Supper, think of God's grace.
D God's grace allows us to escape corruption. What does that look like? What should it look like? Look at verses 5-7:
(2Pt 1:5-7) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; (6) and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; (7) and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.I like to use the word "hygiene" again. By God's grace, we become hygienic – we are clean, have a pleasing aroma, and no longer are contagious. We are people who long for God and the beauty of God. We are people who long for Christ and Christlikeness. We are people who keep in step with the desires of the Spirit. In other words, we love God. But we are also a people who love and are loved by other people. Those who, by grace, escape corruption discipline their lives by such spiritual exercises as prayer, Bible reading, confession, worship, and fellowship.
My brothers and sisters, as you prepare for the Lord's Supper, think on this: God has given us great and precious promises so that through them you may escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
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