One of the demanding, continuing responsibilities we each struggle with every day is balance. Daily there are situations that demand each of us answer two questions over and over. The two questions: "When should I respond to a relationship situation?" "How should I respond to a relationship situation?"

None of us answer either question well. With question one, "When should we respond to a relationship situation?" we often struggle as three answers betray us. Either we do not respond when we should, or we inappropriately respond at the wrong time, or we exaggerate our response.

Question two, "How should I respond to a relationship situation?" includes in its foundation the issue of balance. Appropriate responses always are balanced responses that consider all relevant matters in the situation. God responds with balance because God knows hearts and motives. Commonly, ignorance keeps us from responding with balance.

Knowing when to respond to situations and how to respond with balance is extremely important in all relationships. Every relationship situation continually calls for a response. The essence of kindness, fairness, and love is balance. If I respond with anger when I should respond with encouragement, the relationship is in trouble. If I respond by being inattentive when I should respond with concern, the relationship is in trouble. If I respond by judging when I should respond with compassion, the relationship is in trouble. Anytime one of my relationships is in trouble, I am in trouble.

In all relationships, God pursues a course of action we humans too rarely follow. In fact, when we humans learn to imitate God's course of action, we do so only because of devotion to God. God constantly holds all people accountable for their individual choices and decisions, but God always stands ready to forgive and encourage. Not even Christians do that. We all struggle to imitate God's balance.

The last Sunday evening I studied with you, we focused on 1 Peter. We noted Peter assured struggling, imperfect Christians that God gave them a living hope and an indestructible inheritance. With all their imperfections, Peter assured them this hope and this inheritance was theirs.

This evening I want us to focus on Peter's second letter to the same people. I want to focus our study by beginning with a reading of 2 Peter 1:2-11.

2 Peter 1:2-11 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

  1. In this reading, I call your attention to a number of Peter's emphases.
    1. Consider:
      1. When a person knows God and knows the Lord Jesus, that person's awareness and understanding of grace and peace is constantly expanding.
      2. God's power in Jesus Christ has granted us everything we need to be spiritually alive and to exist as godly people.
      3. The avenue through which God's power is granted to us is through knowing God, the God who called us to Himself through His glory and excellence.
      4. That God grants us incredible promises.
        1. As God keeps those promises, those promises make possible two things:
        2. By His promise we can take part in His divine nature.
        3. We can escape the death of our perverted physical natures that are ruled by physical desire.
      5. We want to take part in God's nature; we want to escape perverted physical natures ruled by physical desires.
        1. We are very serious about our commitment to this desire; we apply all diligence.
        2. We are committed to grow.
        3. It is not enough to have trust in what God did and does in Christ:
        4. We grow from faith to moral excellence, from moral excellence to knowledge, from knowledge to self control, from self control to perseverance, from perseverance to godliness, from godliness to brotherly kindness, and from brotherly kindness to love.
        5. I cannot love others properly unless I love myself properly, and I cannot love God properly unless I love others properly.
        6. Changing my relationship with others requires of me the responsibility to embrace God's nature. God gives me the opportunity to pursue the divine nature; I must accept the responsibility to pursue it.
    2. As a Christian, I must understand the pros and cons of a committed pursuit of the divine nature.
      1. The pros:
        1. If I am growing in these qualities, I am by choice useful to God's purposes.
        2. I permit my knowledge of Jesus to make me fruitful in my devotion to God's purposes.
      2. The cons:
        1. If I refuse to grow in these qualities, I am either blind (I do not see my commitment and responsibility) or I am short sighted (my vision of commitment and responsibility is distorted).
        2. I do not understand forgiveness and the purification from sin.
    3. If I accept responsibility and commitment to pursuing the divine nature, three things will be true of me in my relationship with God.
      1. I will be increasingly committed to God's calling and choice: I grow in my understanding of and trust in what God did and does for me in Jesus Christ.
      2. I will not stumble: I will be pursuing the divine nature until I die; I will persevere.
      3. My entrance into Jesus' eternal kingdom constantly gets bigger and bigger, or, in Peter's words, is "abundantly supplied" to me.

  2. In this letter Peter makes it quite clear that each Christian faces a choice, a decision.
    1. My choice or decision:
      1. Is to pursue with diligence and commitment God's nature by developing these qualities that will result in living in Jesus' eternal kingdom.
      2. Is to pursue with diligence and commitment the physical nature that is ruled by my physical desires that will result in death.
    2. I can forfeit what God promised me and gave me in Jesus Christ, but if I do, it is my choice, not God's.
      1. The bulk of the rest of the letter gives examples of those who chose not to devote themselves to the divine nature.
      2. I can choose to be:
        1. Daring, self-willed, without respect, animalistic, deserving of destruction (2:10-12).
        2. A person with eyes full of adultery that constantly sin; a person who lures other people away from God; a person whose heart is trained in greed (2:14).
        3. A waterless spring that promises refreshing life but gives nothing but emptiness and dust (2:17).
        4. A storm full of mist but no rain that gives life and refreshing (2:17).
    3. I can choose to pursue the physical nature that produces death instead of God's nature that promises eternal existence in Jesus' eternal kingdom.
      1. It is my choice.
      2. But I want you to listen to what happens to me if, as a Christian, I turn away from God's certain promise of grace and peace that results in living in Jesus' eternal kingdom.

      2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."

In Christ there is no way that you can fail to receive the full promises of God. God's grace and peace will preserve you and God's promise will not fail you. Everything that is necessary for you to succeed spiritually already is in place by God's power. All each of us has to do is trust what God did and does in Jesus and grow toward the divine nature. At our own pace and ability, all we have to do is grow.

But I must want it. My baptism is only the first step to my commitment to grow in God's nature. God forgives. God sustains. God promises. I trust and I grow. I cannot do what God does. God cannot do what I must do. God gives. In confident trust, I grow.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 17 February 2002

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