Stop the Train! (Part 2)

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Biblical Basis

In my previous post, I likened the current onslaught of human trafficking to a runaway freight train gaining speed, power and momentum until it becomes Unstoppable.  Like the train in movie that bears that title, the unstoppable train of trafficking needs someone who can overcome all odds, face down every adversary, survive every deadly pitfall and bring it to a stop.  The movie has the advantage of an omnipotent author who can create such a character out of his own imagination.  Those who fight human trafficking aren’t so fortunate – we lack the omnipotence.  But God does not, and if we call on Him and use the tools He has given us, I believe that we can stop this train.

The key that unlocks the power of God is His Word, where we find everything we need for life and true success.  In 2 Peter 1:3-8, we read about “His divine power … [that will] render us neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NASB)

We started to look at that passage in “Stop the Train, Part 1;” lets dig a little deeper this time.  Let’s start at the end – a little bit backwards, I know, but it helps to know where you are going.  The goal of this brief Bible study is to discover how we can be useful and fruitful in the fight against human trafficking.  But wait!  Isn’t Peter talking about being useful and fruitful “in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”?  And doesn’t the rest of this letter deal with the problem of false teachers?  Indeed he is, and indeed it does.  But I think we are still showing respect to Peter by applying his teaching to our situation.  Can we agree that fighting injustice in all its forms, including human trafficking, flows naturally and necessarily from “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?”  Hearing no objections, I’ll take that as a “yes.”  (Feel free to comment below if you want to discuss this further.)

So, if we are to be useful and fruitful in the fight against injustice which the knowledge of Christ leads us to, what is the key?  Well, Peter says that “these qualities” need to be ours.  What qualities?  He lists them in verses 5 through 7.  But let’s not go there quite yet, because if we look at verse 5, it starts with “Now for this reason … .”  What reason? That pushes us back to verse 4 which starts, “For by these [things]… .”  What things?  Now, we are back to verse 3.  We’ll pick it up from there:

“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,”.  Whoa!  Life and godliness.  That’s pretty much covers it, doesn’t it.  There’s not much, at least not much that matters, that doesn’t have to do with life and/or godliness. It’s like saying that God’s power gives us everything we need for, well, everything.   I just checked the Powerball.  Wouldn’t you know it, I missed that $338.3 million jackpot on Saturday.  That would have covered everything I need!  Nope.  Not according to God’s Word.  The jackpot is worthless.  It’s God’s divine power that gives me all that I need.  Period.  End of story.  So, how do I get it?  Moving on …

“through the true knowledge of Him who called us… .”   Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.  We just saw that in our fast forward to verse 8:  “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Bible study geeks call this an “inclusio;” I think of them as bookends that prop up a small library of ideas that deliver a lesson.  The phrase in verse 3 is the left bookend, and the same (or almost the same) phrase in verse 8 is the other bookend.  The stuff in the middle is the library of ideas that deliver one very powerful lesson!

The first idea is right there in the next three words:  “who called us.”  Have you been called?  I’ve been to seminary, so somebody must have thought I was called, or they probably wouldn’t have let me in.  And I’ve been a pastor.  I’m not employed as one now, but I’ve been told, “Once a pastor, always a pastor.”  I like that.  But I think what’s really true is, “Once you’ve been called by God, you are always called by God.”  Fighting the urge to launch into a long digression about being called, let me just say that if you are reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that you have been called – called into the fight for justice, the fight for the oppressed and the poor, the fight against the trafficking of men, women, little boys and little girls. If you have, then the next phrase will light your fire!

“by His own glory and excellence.” Now get this:  Your calling that brought you here, your calling to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, your calling to take a stand for justice and righteousness, for love and restoration came from the very core of God’s being: two things that we lack, but God possesses completely: Glory and Excellence. I don’t know about you, but when I think of things I would call “glorious,” I think of mountains and waterfalls, or beautiful music, or my granddaughters in my arms and my grandson praying with me.  But I know that all of these things are imperfect; they are but weak reflections of God’s glory.  The same goes for excellence.  There are things that I look at and say, “that’s excellent,” but I know they are just pale reflections of God’s excellence.

But your calling is crystal clear.  It is like God reached into Himself and gave you His glory and His excellence.  Now that doesn’t mean that everything you do with that calling will be perfectly glorious and excellent; it won’t be.  But there will be moments when you step back and you say, “What just happened?  That couldn’t have been me!  That was God, plain and simple.”  If you haven’t had those moments yet, you will. And here’s how:

“For by these [that is, by His glory and excellence] He has granted to us [this is grace; a grant given without consideration of merit] His precious and magnificent promises[of  God’s divine power that comes through the knowledge of Him who called you], so that …Stop there.  “So that … .”  There is a reason God has given us all of these things.  There is a purpose in His grace.  There is a so that.  I confess to having grown irreversibly weary of those who seem to suggest that God’s grace has no expectations; that all He wants is for us to gobble up the benefits of grace and wait for more.  It’s as if all of the “so that’s,” the “in order that’s” and the “Therefore’s” that are followed by commands and plans and expectations matter only to the degree that they ask nothing of us.  But then, you know that, or you wouldn’t be here.  You wouldn’t have asked the question, “Now that I’m Aware… What do I do about it?”  That question is so central to the Gospel.  It’s not just being aware of what is happening in the world, and the needs of persecuted, abused, oppressed, enslaved, hungry, dying and trafficked people.  At its core, it’s about being aware of what God has done for us in Christ, and asking, “Now that I’m aware of His mercy, grace and forgiveness, How am I to live?”  The next phrases answer that question.

 “so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature,”  What does it mean to be “partakers of the divine nature?  There is no universal agreement here, but I see that as a reference to the Holy Spirit; that by all that we have seen thus far, God has given us a piece of His own divine nature to dwell within us.  This we know to be the Holy Spirit.  It makes sense because of the next phrase:  “having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”   There is only one way to have escaped the corruption that is in the world, and that is through receiving Christ’s salvation.  And once we receive His salvation, He immediately comes to dwell in us.  Therefore, Peter is telling us that the first result of God’s power on us is that we have been set free from our own slavery to this corrupt world and its lusts, and have received the Holy Spirit.

But there’s more:  “Now for this reason, also…”.  Again, Now that I’m aware of all that God has given me in His all-sufficient power that comes through knowledge of Him, and carries with it a calling that proceeds, and carries the stamp of, His own glory and excellence; now that I’m aware that Christ has set me free from the corruption and lust of this world, and has given me His Holy Spirit … Are you ready for this? …

“applying all diligence …”  It’s time to get to work.  Knowing what God has done for me, and knowing that He has given me a calling to make a difference in the war against injustice, particularly human trafficking, it’s time to apply some effort.  I don’t like that.  I shun anything that looks like it might be difficult.  I was spoiled as a child, and I have spoiled myself as an adult.  I don’t want to work.   I rather like the easy, pleasy sit-and-soak message of Gospel Lite.  On one hand, I want the joy that comes from making a difference, but I don’t want to “apply all diligence.”

But, there’s still some good news. “in your faith supply…”  In other words, even in the pursuit of due diligence, my faith – and its byproducts – remain active. God has called us to action, but He has not left us to work alone. My work is to be done “in my faith.”  In other words, God’s power, driven by the turbines of His Glory and Excellence, the same power that delivers us from the sinful world and into the presence of His Holy Spirit, will also give us all we need to pursue the following eight qualities:

  1.      Faith
  2.      Moral Excellence
  3.      Knowledge
  4.      Self-control
  5.      Perseverance
  6.      Godliness
  7.      Kindness
  8.      Love

And that brings us to our goal: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” A discussion of these qualities could take another 2,000 words.  Depending on response to this study, I might follow this up with one more just for that purpose. But for now, I will end with these thoughts:

It is not my purpose here to denigrate secular organizations or individuals who pour their lives out for people in bondage to slavery and other gross injustices.  I deeply appreciate all efforts of everyone involved in this fight.  I only want those of us who come from a Christ-centered approach to comprehend the significance of that legacy, and to remember the difference it makes in the way we approach, overpower, and ultimately defeat this enemy.

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Comments
  1. […] NEXT: How do we receive God’s power, and what comes with it?  Stop the Train, Part 2 […]

  2. Betsy Meenk says:

    Please, please, please…write part 3. Thank you for sharing the teaching gift God has given you.

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