2 Peter 1: 3-11: Make Yourself Readyby Ed de la Cour on November 17, 2013
2 Peter 1: 3 – 11 November 17, 2013
“MAKE YOURSELF READY”
I conducted a funeral on Veteran’s Day. There’s nothing like a funeral to make you stop and think. That’s one of many reasons we find funerals so hard to attend. We are forced to think about death and about coming to grips with our grief and our own mortality. Even more important than that, at a funeral we are challenged to think about how we are living our lives. We think about how much life we may have left to live. We think about making our remaining years count for something. We think about whether we’re prepared to die and the consequences we may face for continuing to live life as we are living it now.
In my devotions, I am nearing the end of reading the Bible through in a year. Recently, I read Revelation 19. I was reading along when suddenly some words in verse 7 jumped from the page. Here is what I read: “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” I don’t usually think of myself as a bride, but there it is, in black and white. You and I who comprise the church; we are the Bride of Christ. That’s not a secret; it is a well-documented Bible truth. What made me stop was that the great multitude shouting these words had noticed, not just a bride, but a bride made ready, a bride who is prepared to meet her Husband, to meet, greet and be embraced by the Savior, the Lord Jesus Himself, our Husband.
It was as if God was speaking to my heart and He asked me, “What are you doing to make yourself ready?” God understands and the Bible teaches that just as a bride and her attendants work hard and spare no effort to make the bride beautiful for her husband, the Christian will work hard and make every effort to prepare him or herself for the coming of the bridegroom, the Lord Jesus. In verse 8, the bride is given fine linen to wear, and we are told expressly, “Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.” As the saints of God, here we are – on display, clothed in righteousness because of our relationship to Jesus, and at the same time, we are also clothed in the good works God prepared for us to do in this life. The fine linen we wear on that day is woven together by the righteous acts, the good deeds, and the godly behaviors we have embraced since God in Christ saved us.
The question of making ourselves ready can come as a surprise, especially if we have been taught that all the prep work has already been done. That’s what many of us believe. We believe all we must do is repeat the “Sinner’s Prayer,” and we are magically transported into eternal life. That is a heinous heresy. It’s as if you wanted to paint your house and you decided no prep work was needed: no sanding, scraping, or caulking. Just grab a brush and start painting. The finished product may look good for a bit, but it won’t last. In the same way, your life in God won’t stand up to the tests of time, temptation, and hardship if you are not prepared and made ready. There is no place in the Bible that teaches, or even hints, that praying a rote prayer will change an eternal destiny.
It is by grace we are saved and God’s Word on that is clear. But grace of God does not remove us from the struggles of life, from the ebbs and flows and ups and downs we will face. The grace of God empowers us to rise above temptation, but we are not removed from it. Nor does grace remove us from having to grow up in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, or from making ourselves ready for His coming, or our passing from this life. It is tempting to think all we have to do is coast along with the current of the Holy Spirit and we will eventually arrive at our heavenly destination. That is why so few Christians have a daily devotional time. That is why so few make any effort to see a godly character develop. That is why so few make any serious effort to know Jesus or to live their lives exclusively for Him.
They think grace has removed us out of the struggle to live a godly life. They also begin to think that because life is so hard, they are failures. They think that either God has failed them or they have fallen from grace. None of that is true, but these ideas become ingrained in the poorly taught church person. Believers who are not making themselves ready find they easily and quickly become broken and beaten down believers.
Looking at our text, we begin with the doctrine of God’s sufficiency. Peter says God “has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Normally, people will quote the verse only as far as having everything we need. But God’s sufficiency is not complete apart from our knowledge of Him. Our knowledge of Him will include obedience to His commands. Our knowledge of God is not complete if it is only a philosophical knowledge. God wants us to know Him, even as He knows us: experientially, personally, deeply, and intimately.
It is God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s purpose for us to participate in and to take part in discovering the divine nature, learning who God is, what God is like, and embracing the power of God in our lives. It is through that participation we are enabled and empowered to “escape the corruption of the world.” We can’t defeat the power of sin by sitting in an armchair because our evil desires will always run roughshod over all our good intentions.
God’s provision is sufficient in that He has provided for us a partnership in which we get to participate every day. Imagine that – you and I are in a partnership with the Living God in which He helps us grow toward holiness! Through the regular intake of God’s Word and prayer, God moves powerfully in us. What we are called to do is neither mindless nor is it passive. We do not coast to glory. Those evil desires of which Peter speaks are very much and undeniably part of our being. We don’t get far by denying that reality, or by succumbing to it. We grow by agreeing with God. We grow by allowing God to work changes in the way we live, by refusing to stay the same. No, I will not respond the same way I have always responded. Yes, I will allow God to change me, to grow me so that I am making myself ready.
Beginning in verse 5, Peter lists nine character qualities that are not naturally found in humans: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. When people begin to think that the Christian life is a coast rather than a grueling marathon, these are the kind of Scripture verses that bring us back to reality. Peter says, “Make very effort.” We cannot assume just because we mouthed a sinner’s prayer that anything of an eternal nature happened in our lives, unless we also find ourselves responding to God’s Word in this way.
Peter says we are to make every effort to add these qualities to our faith and to possess these qualities “in increasing measure.” “Increasing measure,” means you are growing. “Increasing measure,” means little by slow, you are developing spiritual muscle, you are moving beyond where you used to be, and you are no longer where you were. “Increasing measure,” means you are making yourself ready for the Bridegroom. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but if you think for one minute you can coast into self-control, or slide into perseverance, fall into godliness or any of the other qualities, you are not living in the real world. We cannot grow in godliness without making every effort. Unless you and I are actively making ourselves ready, we will not have those fine linen garments to wear. We will live lives filled with unmitigated frustration, and we may not find ourselves at that wedding feast.
Peter is not the only Biblical writer who was impressed with our real need to grow up in our relationship with God. Paul used the figure of marriage to describe the Christians relationship to the Lord Jesus in Ephesians 5: 22 - 33. Allow me to point out that the object of our marriage; the object of our long-term relationship with Jesus is that we will be prepared to meet Him on that Day. In verse 27, Paul says Jesus’ bride will be radiant, which one reasonably expects to find in the face of a happy bride. But this bride also comes to her Lord with great added value, for she will be “without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish.” In other words, she will be a bride made ready.
For years, Christians were taught this preparation, this process of being made ready, would be miraculously accomplished at the end of our lives and that we have little or nothing to do with it. At the moment of our death, God would simply do the transforming work we should have done but failed to do in this life – poof! I have come to believe God would have us challenge that notion as false and dangerous.
In Matthew 24 – 25, Jesus brought a lengthy teaching on the end of the age. There are several teachings and parables there, each one aimed at one aspect or another of the coming of the Kingdom of God. He spoke of the signs of the end, the parables of the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats. These parables cannot be understood to say that eternal life is something that happens for which the believer bears no responsibility. The sheep and the goats were welcomed or judged based on how they related to people in need. The talents were given and judgment was rendered based on how those talents were used and invested. But let’s quickly look at the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25: 1 – 13, and see how this applies to our study today.
All ten virgins were called to be prepared, ready and waiting for the bridegroom whenever he would arrive. The problem was that five of them failed to make themselves ready. In verse 3, Jesus portrayed their failure as a conscious decision on their part. They apparently depended on the notion that any needed preparation would be miraculously and magically provided just in the nick of time, and that idea proved to be their undoing.
When the bridegroom was announced, they were not ready. The tragedy is they could easily have made the necessary preparations. They could have had oil in their lamps. Nothing prevented them from securing enough oil. Oil was not hard to find. They simply failed to do so. They waited too long. They did not make themselves ready and the consequence for their lives were drastic and damning. The bridegroom said, “I tell you the truth. I don’t know you.”
The fact that all ten became drowsy and fell asleep was not a problem. The problem was that half the group was not ready to meet Jesus, even though they were among a select group charged with readiness. That is the part of the parable we may find most disconcerting.
Besides the human desire to comfort and console those who grieve, the most important reason to attend a funeral is to give serious thought to the end of your own life. We cannot speak to the one who died or on his behalf, but we are able to consider where we are in our own relationship with God.
Now may be a good time to ask some hard questions for your honest reflection. Are you spiritually nearsighted or are you blind today because your life lacks goodness or self-control? Are you ineffective and unproductive in your Christian life because you are simply not loving or kind to your sisters and brothers? Are you unable to navigate through the minefields of life because you have found you cannot steer your way clear of disaster? Are you become insensitive to God’s work in your life? Have you been coming to church for years only to have the Word of God slip through your fingers each week? Are you increasingly worried you may be still in your sins because your life is unchanged and that you, as a person, are not qualitatively different today than years ago?
Those are hard questions, but how will you respond? Those are the questions the Spirit of God is asking today. That is why Peter raised the idea of making “your calling and election sure.” Doing those things, adding those qualities of godliness to our lives will pay rich dividends on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.
In the mind and heart of the believer in Jesus, the determination to grow spiritually is certainly counter-cultural. It’s subversive, but incredibly essential. Life is too short, and it is too easy to miss God, too easy to miss what God is doing. You and I need to be intentional about being ready to receive from God, ready to live for God, ready to serve God, ready to meet God. Listen, “our salvation is nearer now that when we first believed,”according to Romans 13: 11. You and I need to determine not to waste our lives. We need to decide firmly that whatever remaining time we may have on this earth, we will set aside and push way every thought, every activity, every ambition which only promises to drag us down.
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