June 10, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forevermore. AMEN. (2 Peter 3.17-18)
Peter urges the community of faith in Jesus Christ to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” This would seem to be sage advice and perhaps another way of understanding “wisdom.” If wisdom is what allows us to not only embrace the authentic life but mature in it to the full measure of who we are meant to be, then Jesus’ grace and knowledge would be critical. What might it mean to “grow in the grace of Jesus” and to “grow in the knowledge of Jesus”?
Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ would certainly direct us in our calling to be His disciples. As we saw in the time of preparation when Jesus was with His disciples (three years and forty days), He opened their minds to the understanding and application of scripture, the revealed word of God. He was seen as a rabbi even though He did not have the rabbinic training as other rabbis. Of course, He is the
Son of the Living God who inspired the word and directed its transcription by the Holy Spirit. It would not be unreasonable to believe that such “inside” knowledge as to the heart and mind and will of God would more than qualify Him to be on par, if not exceed, contemporary rabbis. In part, this was the threat felt by the Temple leadership. Not only was there the claim of sonship to God but authoritative knowledge of the word of God. In today’s terms, He graduated with an alternative certification. So, too, did His disciples. By extension, so do we. But, Jesus manifested lifelong learning. For this reason, the promise of the Holy Spirit was given. To more fully understand God’s word it must be lived in, with and through. Practical application of the word is a critical element in the instruction of the Word.
So, the knowledge of Jesus Christ is not only identifying and owning His identity and purpose but also receiving what Jesus knew about God, righteousness, life, death and the meaning and purpose of all people. The apostle John clarified this for his community of faith when he introduced his gospel saying, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, indeed the Word was God. The Word became flesh.” In others “words,” the truth of God became real, tangible and grasp-able. Not only was Jesus Immanuel, God with us, He was us with God. He demonstrated how God dwells with us in spirit and in truth. He also demonstrated how we can dwell with God in faith, hope and love in spirit and in truth. It is a lifelong journey of becoming all we are intended to be. In tech language, we have received the downloaded information but we get updates to the information all the time. In the words of one pastor, David Jeremiah, “Jesus is in the business of making all things new…especially us!” He does this by continuing the reveal to us the living Word of God. When we engage it with study, prayer and application (even when we get it wrong), Jesus is living with us, in us and through us. This seems to be a good way of understanding Peter’s call for us to “grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
That brings us to growing in the grace of Jesus Christ. Wise counsel informs us that living in toxic environments does not foster healing. Even if we believe we have overcome physical, emotion, psychological and even spiritual challenges, returning to our “home” environment which has not changed may lead us back to where we were. Think of the story of Jesus about the man who “cleaned” his house and made it holy again. When the spirit that was cast out of it returned with a gang of like spirits, the house was empty and the fate of that house became far worse. Now consider the reverse telling of that same story. A man went away and cleaned up himself with refuge and counseling and the grace of God. He returns to the same house which he left along with family, friends and “stained” possessions. His continuing recovery will be far more difficult to maintain in such an environment. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to do. We are no different than the Gadarene demonic or the one of ten lepers who was healed but stopped in mid-stride and turned back to Jesus to give thanks. They were both sent on their way home to broadcast the good news. The disciples, too, were similarly commissioned to go into all the world to make other disciples. We know their worldly fate. Most were tortured and killed for the sake of the gospel in Jesus’ name. The witness of Paul who was chained, imprisoned, tortured and eventually beheaded because of his fealty to the call of Christ challenges us to acknowledge “our purpose is not without cost.” But, by grace we have received the prize that the world cannot take away. It is beyond the grasp even of the “Master Criminal,” Satan- the Cast Out and Fallen Lucifer. (Read Job and see God’s prohibition as it concerns Satan, the Accuser, and Job, the accused. Job’s soul belongs to God because Job had already given it to God. It was not for Satan to take but for Job to surrender.) If not for grace, many would surrender their soul to Satan. Many already have. Yet, grace and the opportunity to grow in Christ still is extended this side of the Last Day.
It also alludes to growing in the grace of opportunity beyond the environment of His presence, Immanuel. We are not seeking the Kingdom of God as if it is a faraway place. Jesus said it is in the midst of us, in this very moment and in this very room. Paul declares “nothing can separate us from God’s abiding presence.” David sang “No matter where I am or where I go, there is no place where God has not been and continues to be.” The grace of Jesus Christ is always present with us. It guides us in our maturing as disciples. It strengthens and encourages us in our learning how to be better disciples. It reminds us we are forgiven and nothing can take that away. It teaches us how to overcome and move beyond our errors in judgment even if there were not merely “with good intention.” Sometimes, we are weak and fall short. Christians still sin. They should sin less but they are not sinless. They should abide in grace and extend grace to others. They should do that with the purpose of “making disciples and broadcasting the good news of our salvation in Christ alone.” What is the saying “But for grace, there go I.” We are on a journey growing in the midst of the grace of God extended to us by, in and through Jesus Christ.
Following Peter’s urging, we will become wise and wiser. This is the work and the definition of living in the “Age of the Church,” the “Age of Wisdom.” It is time, as Paul said to those in Corinth and us by default, “Put away childish things and grow up.” We are called to grow into the full measure and stature of Christ. We can’t do this well if we do not seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ before and above all else.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER: Father God, maker of Heaven and earth, we bow before You and give thanks. You are seeking to make us wise in the ways of Your Kingdom through the knowledge and grace of Your Son, Jesus who is the Christ. We are seeking to be wise by embracing Your word and Your revelation in Him. Thank You for honoring His request to share His Spirit with us. As we believe more, we find the depth of grace and the fullness of knowledge to be exhilarating and motivating. We will take it with us today and each day into the world knowing it is the new environment by which and in which we live. It is the Kingdom of God on earth. We will seek to be in the world to do Your will and not be of the world doing our own. Come with us, Lord, we pray. AMEN.