Hearts Strengthened By Grace (Part Three)- 2 Peter 1:3-8

In our previous two posts, we have seen that our hearts are to be strengthened by grace, not by religious ritual but through a growing intimacy with Jesus Christ. The word translated strengthen literally means “to stabilize, make steadfast”, and it is our hearts which are stabilized. The heart, in the Bible, is the seat of mind, desire, emotion and will, it controls the affective, cognitive and volitional dimensions of our lives. It is the heart which determines the way in which we think (cognitive), act (volitional), feel and desire (affective), and this post will examine how the affective (emotions and desires) dimensions of our hearts are stabilized. We will turn to 1 Peter 2:3-8 to see how this takes place. Peter begins, in verse 3, by telling us that God has “given us everything we need for life and godliness”. The word given here is the perfect participle of doreomai, to “give as a free gift”. The use of the perfect tense here means this has been done once in the past and stands done in the present. God has already given us “everything we need for life and godliness”, we have all we need to live the life He has called us to live (life) and do what He has created us to do (godliness). We have been given all we need to do what He has created and called us to do, but how do we make this a reality? “Through our knowledge of Him”. The Greek word knowledge here is epignosis, which normally refers to relational knowledge, the knowledge of another person through a growing personal relationship, and this relationship grows as we grow to know and live by His “very great and precious promises”. We grow to know the living word as we study and live by the written word, and by doing this we escape the “corruption of the world caused by evil desires”. The world here is characterized by corruption (decay, a gradual deterioration), and this takes place because of “evil desires”. The word desires here is epithumia, defined as “inordinate passion, desire out of control”. It is built on the Greek root thumos (desire) and adds the prefix epi, which is an intensifier, it describes intensified desire, and is often translated as “lust”. Desire is a neutral word, neither good nor bad, while lust is always used negatively, lust is always bad. So when does desire become lust? The difference in the two is the matter of control. Simply put, it is desire when we control it, but lust when it controls us. According to Peter, this is primarily what characterizes the world, being controlled by desires, passions and emotions, and this is what Peter calls the believer to escape from. Peter then goes on to tell us how to go about doing this by providing a list of qualities that we are to “make every effort” to bring about in our lives. The relationship we have with Christ (like any relationship) is a two way street and requires effort on our parts for the relationship to grow. We begin with faith, for without faith there is no relationship, and first add to our faith “goodness”. The word good here means intrinsically good, that all is as it should be, as it is meant to be, and we are meant to live as Jesus did, that everything we do and say is the Father doing and saying it through us (John 14:10). It is learning how to let God (who is the only one who is good- Mt 19:17) be good through us. We also (through being “good”) add knowledge, gnosis here, relational knowledge. As we learn to let God live through us, we grow to know Him better, grow to know His heart and mind, how He sees things and what He desires. This knowledge and goodness go hand in hand and work concurrently, they happen together and at the same time, one does not “precede” the other but they both grow together. As these grow (this is the how) they will produce a list of characteristics (the what), the first (most important) of which is self-control. There are two Greek words translated self-control in the NT, one (sophroneo) related primarily to the mind and thinking and the other (enkrateia) related to the emotions and passions. The Greek word here is enkrateia, from a root meaning “to master”, and Peter is telling us here that the first step in growing in this process is learning to master our emotions, rather than letting them master us, which is what characterizes the world in this passage. As we grow to know Jesus, as we study His promises and live according to them, we will begin to master our emotions, no longer living on an emotional roller coaster, no longer reacting according to emotions but acting according to truth. Our desires and emotions will be “stabilized”, and our part in all of this is simply to learn and live by “His precious promises” (the Word of God), growing in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, learning to let the Father live through us, and through these living the life He calls us to live and doing what He has created us to do.

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