Read 2 Peter 1:1-11

If we want to know how to progress in our Christian walk, Peter gives us a clear blueprint here. If we want to guage our progress to this point, this is also a measuring stick. It’s a “how-to” and a “how am I doing?” — all in 11 verses. It doesn’t take much time to read it, but it takes a lifetime to do it.

First, Peter makes it clear that we can know God. He’s not referring to knowing about God, although that is a very important study, but actually knowing God because we relate to and with Him on every level. We know Him because He’s as near as our breath, and just as vital.

I came to faith at 19, but for several years I didn’t understand what people meant when they talked about a personal relationship with Jesus. I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around it; the God of the universe relating to me as an individual? I believed I was saved, but only as part of the larger body of believers. I thought God might speak directly to other people — those much better and more loveable — but not me. Why would He?

If I had searched for the answer in Scripture (back then, I was only scratching the surface) I would have discovered that Jesus related personally to everyone who was honest in approaching Him. It didn’t matter how unworthy or unlovable they might feel or others may have judged them to be. He taught, He preached, He healed, He delivered, and He did it personally. In His human flesh He was limited by time and space, but He had face-to-face interactions with as many people as God placed in His earthly path.

Those limitations no longer exist. In His glory at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus can and does relate personally with each believer who seeks Him.

When we move from knowing about God to knowing God personally, Peter assures us we have all the knowledge we need to live a godly life. We have the necessary tools to take hold of God’s promises and turn away from the world’s corruption. Incredibly, we’re able to “participate in the divine nature,” to reflect Jesus from the inside out.

This doesn’t just happen, though. It’s not a magical transformation. It takes effort, and it keeps on taking effort. The rewards far outstrips the work for those who persist.

The first step of course is faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and equally impossible to know God. Many today seem to have a very warped idea of what faith is. Some say confidently “I believe in God,” never pausing to consider that Satan and his demons believe in God. Others may affirm that they don’t pursue Christian fellowship or read Scripture, but they are “very spiritual.” They may equate “being spiritual” as yoga meditation or “getting in touch with the universe,” or a hundred other philosophical approaches, but sadly that kind of knowledge is counterproductive.

The writer of Hebrews describes faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (11:1) We may hope for many things, but for believers the ultimate hope is for eternal life spent in heaven with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We don’t see it in front of us, but we have the assurance of God’s Word that truly repentant believers who give their lives to Christ in faith will be with Him forever.

This too has got really fuzzy in much of our North American culture. Over and over again, in movies, stories, and personal conversations, people who have only a nodding acquaintance with Christianity speak of heaven as the destination of everyone who dies, even if the departed only mentioned God or Jesus as curse words. This is confidence seriously and dangerously misplaced.

On the other side of the coin are the Christians who still aren’t sure they’re “good enough” to go to heaven. They haven’t understood a basic truth of salvation: not one of us is good enough. If we could ever be good enough to save ourselves, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die in our place. It’s because we’re not good enough that we need a Savior. We can’t earn our way to heaven, but we can learn and keep on learning what God’s will is for us while we’re still here.

Faith, then, is confidence in who God is, what Jesus has done, and what has been promised to those who believe. It’s confidence — not a hope, not a wish — that God’s Word is true from first to last, that neither God nor His Word change in nature or nurture, that they can be completely relied on no matter what. It’s confidence that the God who created us knows the end from the beginning, that His ways are higher than our ways, and that His purposes are always for the ultimate good, regardless of what we may think. It’s confidence that God loves us, that we are worth dying for, that the God who made us can continue to shape and mold us into something beautiful and useful to Him as we put ourselves in His hands.

Faith is the assurance of all this, even though we don’t see Jesus in front us in human form, even though we don’t necessarily see how God is working in our circumstances, even though we don’t see our idealized life come to pass. Assurance is letting go of the “even though,” and staying tough because God is enough — enough for this moment, and for the next, and the next, and the next.

This is the faith that saves us here and now as well as for all eternity. It’s the faith that saves us from doubt, from futility, from feeling at the mercy of unpredictable circumstances. It’s the foundation of life as God intended it to be lived, and the first step in our progress.