We mightn’t like others invading our space, but we plead with you to invade now the space in us that you prepared already. Make yourself known to us in ways we can’t ignore, as you fill us with your wisdom and the desire to come closer and closer to you. May my words come only from you, and our thoughts be your thoughts, as your Holy Spirit works within us. Lead and guide us, Faithful God, so that we may further become teachable and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, in whose Name we pray,
Readings: Ps 139:1-18; 2 Peter 1:1-11
Tomorrow we’re into August, the month in which as a church we commit again to our vision, mission and goals. Only a few of us (well I hope there’s more than one!) are still struggling to finish our reports which along with vision and mission statements from all our groups and ministry teams will inform and spark discussion at our Annual Meeting at the end of August. Of even more importance however is the prayer that accompanies all these goals – especially our overwhelming heartfelt desire to be doing God’s will, as we hear God’s voice calling to us and put God’s plans for this church into action. Therefore I’m excited about our weekend of prayer for discernment throughout that last weekend in August, wrapping up our annual meeting, all our human dynamics, plans, and hopes, in prayer
Our draft mission statement is ‘to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ and help them grow to spiritual maturity so that together we form a worshipping community that reaches out to the world in loving service and with the good news of God’s grace.’
Great stuff. Increasingly we can see that, with God’s grace, we are well on with the formation of such an active community of faith.
But what is of far more importance and interest is how God views our progress. What goals does the Creator of the Universe have for us? It’s one thing for us to be pleased with ourselves when we have all our goals, mission and vision statements prepared, but it’s a completely different dimension of Christian and church life when we submit ourselves to God’s guidance, leadership and direction. This is just one of many areas of life when Christian and secular values diverge widely. We, as God’s people, long solely to please Him, and to be led by his plans for our life. In doing so we are emboldened by God’s presence in us rather than by our own confidence, guided by God’s wisdom rather than our own ideas, and seek God’s large vision for our lives rather than our own human, and hence limited goals for ourselves.
Our readings from God’s Word today speak into our lives and our world of God’s huge picture, rather than the tiny corner of a picture we can glimpse on our own.
David, the Psalmist, assures us in Psalm 139 that God’s knowledge of us is complete and wonderful – there is nowhere that we can go where God is not with us, nor is there anything that we are thinking, saying or planning with which God is unfamiliar.
Therefore, this psalm reminds us that we can have confidence in God’s delight in us, and in God’s intimate knowledge and protection of us. We are not alone. There is Someone,- God’s infinite goodness and wisdom surrounding us, leading us on into larger and brighter spaces than we are aware of in our human limitations. God is All – Present, All – Seeing and All -Creative.
David wants us to know that our appropriate response to such awesome care and limitless presence is delight and praise. Verse 4 is another verse like Jesus’ reminder to Martha in Luke 10 that we heard last week that could well grace our fridge doors or our computer home screens and especially our hearts to remind us of God’s perfect creation of us – especially when there is so much in the wold around us that conspires to make us forget this awesome truth:
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139: 14)
This is nothing to do with being clever people with resources who can navigate life’s turns with resilience that we might read about in life style magazines or on self-improvement blogs. This is the way that our Creator God has made us and our whole world, with laws of nature, and nurture, with love and power that is absolute and infinite.
This way, God’s Way, works smoothly and lasts for ever, as we understand our place in the universe and our goal to worship and enjoy God for ever.
Ps 111: 10 which you have on your notice sheet this morning, and which might accompany you in your car, back pack, or handbag this week or sit on your office desk or window sill reminds us where true wisdom resides. It’s as we trust and revere God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of all good gifts, so much that we obey his life-giving laws, that our way lights up with God’s wisdom. This famous saying ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever’ is the recurring motto of the Wisdom Writings where it appears in various forms, for example, in Job 28: 28 “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding,” and in Ecclesiastes 12: 13 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.”
You see it’s not the wisdom that we’re honouring and obeying but the giver of Wisdom, our life-giving God in whom we live and trust, who we worship and obey.
Peter’s second letter to God’s chosen people describes the important purpose of Scripture as Jesus himself calls us, incredibly, to be part of God’s very nature. This is a vital and life changing privilege as it protects us from the evil in the world that our natural evil human desires cause. God’s promises often come in the form of laws, to keep us safe, from the evil that permeates our world, as any news broadcast witnesses to, every day it seems.
2 Peter 1: 4 “And because of his glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share in his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
As we can see, these laws, wrapped in God’s promises, invite us to go further with God. Not only are we to be kept safe from our own and others’ evil desires, but we are amazingly called to actively participate in Jesus’ mission of redemption. What an incredible privilege.
How to be effective and productive for Jesus
Peter writes to those disenfranchised and scattered believers, many of them slaves, in Africa, Asia and Europe and what we now know as the Middle East, to encourage them but also to equip them to be effective and productive for Jesus.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control; and to self-control (add) perseverance and to perseverance (add) godliness, and to godliness add mutual affection (or brotherly and sisterly love as some translations have it) and to mutual affection (add) love.”
These qualities, if we have them in increasing abundance, Peter tells us, will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What relevant advice for us too as we prepare our goals for our year ahead, but also build up our fellowship with one another. So let’s major on these godly characteristics that the Holy Spirit produces in us. Let’s pray for them as we thank God for all his goodness to us over this past year, and as we look to the year ahead.
The main verb used in verse 5 of 2 Peter 1, and then assumed in the next two verses is the verb ‘to add’ which is short in English but longer in the Greek word ‘epichorego’. This verb has a much more interesting origin than our verb ‘to add’. It comes from the popular drama festivals in Athens, where a rich sponsor called a ‘choregus’ joined with the poet and the state in putting on the plays. This could become an expensive business (there were obviously no Arts Council grants to be applied for then) but there always seemed to be plenty of these funders, the ‘choregi’ competing to outdo one another in acts of cultural and civic benevolence. Therefore this word that is usually translated as ‘add to’ in this text from 2 Peter really has a deeper sense of ‘generous and costly co-operation.’ (2 Peter and Jude, by Michael Green, Revised Edition, IVP, 1987)
‘Generous and costly co-operation’ – now isn’t that a great description of how God works with us, entering into the reality of our lives with compassion and sacrificial love.
Such a costly and generous gift implores us to be sure of our salvation, and confident in our call from God.
“Therefore brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.
For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”
This is what we yearn for. This is our destiny and our longing – to be with Jesus for ever. So let’s be certain of our high calling confirming it with our Father in heaven who longs even more to welcome us home.
Psalm 139: 23, 24
For God knows us and nourishes us with his love, desiring our honesty and humility before him, as his chosen daughters and sons.
Therefore we can do more than just be aware of God’s thorough knowledge of us, but actively welcome the Creator of the Universe knowing everything about us but still probing us and saving us, leading us to everlasting life.
Let’s draw near to God in prayer as together we pray for God’s wisdom.
Prayer for Wisdom