A Gracious New Year

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2Pet 1 2 Gracious New Year.mp3

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” 1 Peter 1:2

 When we greet friends at this time of year,

we say Happy New Year, because we desire the very best of what life has to offer to them.

 Here the Apostle wishes his readers a similar thing

but from a Christian point of view, he desires to offer the very best of what the Kingdom of God has to offer. There is no greater blessing than to say, “may grace and peace be multiplied to you”.

 People may think we are a little odd

if we say that for a new year greeting, but we ought to give some thought as to why such a greeting is appropriate. This is a blessing bestowed on those who are the favourites of heaven.

 Notice if you would, the connection in the order of the words.

(1)  The way to have peace is to first have grace;

(2)  grace is the precursor of peace;

(3)  grace is like the root and peace is like the flower.

(4)  Peace is the perfume that arises from a gracious heart.

(5)  Grace and peace are like sisters — but grace is the older sister;

and the Biblical pattern is to prefer the elder before the younger.

 And this is how we want to approach this.

As we focus upon grace, and give ourselves over to the teaching of grace, the effect will be, our hearts & minds will be refreshed with peace, and so grace & peace will be multiplied to us.

 1. Let us think about the MEANING of grace.

It has various meanings and uses in Scripture:

(1)  Sometimes it refers to the favor of God.

Gen. 6:8: “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Meaning he was cherished as a favourite of the Lord.

(2)  Grace is sometimes taken for beauty,

as when we say someone has a graceful appearance. James applies that to a flower. (1:11) “The flower withers, and the grace of its fashion perishes.”

(3)  However the Bible focuses more on inward grace.

The usual understanding of grace refers to what is given freely, and unmerited.

(a) You may know the acrostic

– God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense – spells grace. Christ has purchased the bountiful riches of God, for those who don’t deserve it. In fact we deserve the exact opposite. We deserve God’s wrath & curse. But in place of that, we receive this free unmerited grace of God at Christ’s expense. And this applies to every aspect of grace

(b) We are called by grace.

This is what Paul says about his own conversion. “God separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace.” He says of all Christians, ‘God saved us and called us according to His own purpose and grace.’ None of it is earned. There is nothing of which to boast. Grace is God’s free unmerited favour. That is the meaning.

 2. Let us think about The MANNER of the greeting.

“Grace …. be multiplied to you.” Can you see how this differs from a normal worldly greeting. People often say, ‘you can have too much of a good thing.’

(1)  Imagine how dangerous it would be for us to have worldly riches multiplied to us?

The wise Agur, in the book of Proverbs said, “give me not poverty or riches…!”

There are not many people who pray that prayer. How many people have been ruined when they have suddenly come into unexpected riches. They have won a lottery, and it has turned into a curse.

(2)  Or perhaps, it is not riches, but power.

Philosophers have coined the phrase – ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Ordinary people, who have come into great power, have been changed into monsters. If we remember various dictators such as Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Idi Amin – if they never had power, they would likely have been the normal law abiding citizen – not perfect, but certainly, not the monsters they became. So to wish worldly riches & power & blessings to be multiplied to someone, is to actually curse them.

(3)  But not so, in the Kingdom of God.

When our Lord gives His blessing, He adds, “not as the world gives, do I give you.” He does not curse us, when He multiplies blessings to us.

You cannot have too much of a good thing, with grace. If it is multiplied to us, there is room for it to be multiplied again. If that happened every day of our life, at the end of our life we have only begun.

Think of what Moses said, shortly before he departed this world – “Lord now you have begun to show your servant your greatness.” Once we are finished with this life, the real experience of grace only begins

As Paul says in Eph.2:7 “God will show the riches of His grace in the ages to come.” It will be one age after another, and each age will only show us there is more yet to discover of the grace of God. It is always free. He delights to heap it upon His children. That is the manner of this blessing.

 3. Let us progress, and think about our capacity for such a blessing.

(1)  How is it possible for us to have grace multiplied to us?

How are we able to receive it? Is there not a limit? I am sure there is, because we are not infinite. But there is far more to us, than we can understand.

You know what they say of the human brain. The most brilliant person alive, only uses the tiniest portion of what their brain is capable of.

Let me give you one of the most amazing Scriptural examples of our capacity to receive blessing. It is in the form of a benediction – Eph.3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do – (exceedingly – abundantly – above – all) – what we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” I haven’t actually quoted that correctly have I?…. If you know your Scriptures I still haven’t said all….! etc.

(2)  What is our capacity for blessing?

It is all bound up with how God has made us & transformed us – there is a “power that works in us”. We are not just flesh and blood. We are spiritual beings. The Word of God says, “We are made just a little lower than the angels.” Yet most of us dismiss the wonder of what we are.

(3)  Augustine was a great Christian scholar, who lived about 400AD.

He said, ““People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. ” Isn’t that true? We miss the wonder of what we are.

God has made us in His own image. And until our minds, & hearts & imaginations & will are saturated with God, we will be disillusioned; we will be like stars wandering off course.

(4)  Let me give you the example of one of the greatest believers who ever lived.

You know him well. His name was Abraham. He had faithfully obeyed God. He left his home, and went out not knowing where he was going – he trusted God to guide him. God had promised him a massive offspring of descendants. But it wasn’t happening. He and Sarah were getting older & older. His nephew Lot had gone off the rails & become careless, and needed rescuing. The only heir Abraham had to his fortune, was his chief servant, and Abraham was discouraged. Then God appeared to him and said, “”Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

Abram seemed to ignore what God said, as if he couldn’t hear it. He proceeded to ask where his descendants were. This is what we are all like. We fix our affections on something in this world, and can’t tear ourselves away. We forget to consider why God made us – “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” God Himself is our “shield, and our exceeding great reward.” To quote Augustine again. I love how he put it – “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.”

(5)  What is our capacity for spiritual blessing?

It is as great as God Himself. It is “according to the power that works in us”. God Himself is our eternal destiny. This life is only the precursor. As we move from one age to the next, we will find “grace & peace is multiplied to us.”

So far we talked about the meaning grace; the manner of the blessing; our capacity to receive such a blessing;

 Finally – The Means of benefitting from such a blessing.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”.

(1)  How is this increase and multiplying to come to us?

Do we expect it to just happen? No No. It is brought about “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

At the end of this letter Peter says, (2Pe 3:18) “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Grace and knowledge go together.

(2)  God expects His people to grow in knowledge, and to be instructed in knowledge.

This was true of Israel in the OT – “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate therein, day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein.” That was God’s vision for Israel.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, and learn of Me, and you will find rest for your souls.” His followers were called disciples, which is the normal word for “learners”. Our Lord’s vision for His disciples, was that they would be just that – learners; Learning & being instructed about Himself, and the ways of God.

The early church had a vision. “Grow in grace & in the knowledge …! – Grace & peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge…!” The word for instruction in the NT is the Greek word for Catechising.

The early Christians, for the first 4 centuries had their catechetical schools. They learned by heart, the answers to difficult theological questions. If they did not like the answer they had to learn, they were obliged to come up with a better one. If they couldn’t, they had to learn it. This was why early Christians were so unmovable & solid in their faith. As the Apostle said, they were ‘steadfast, and unmoved from the hope of the gospel.’ They were always ready with an answer.

(3)  They grew in knowledge, and that opened the door to meditate on the grace and peace that knowledge revealed.

So the Romans could rob them of their wealth, their homes, their freedom and their lives, but they could not rob them of their knowledge – the things they had learned. When they suffered for their faith, they were not moved; they sang hymns in the face of death.

(4)  Do you know what was restored to the church at the reformation?

It was not only the teaching of grace, and justification by faith alone, but it was the early church method of instruction. It was catechizing.

(5)  I am sometimes asked, ‘what is your vision, and what are your goals for the church.

And with that comes the next question – “what are you doing to meet them?” I feel a little irked by the question, because I am sure they expect me to say, ‘I want to tear down this old building, and build a new complex and establish great outreach programs, and put Lyndoch Baptist Church on the map’ – but that is not my vision. If it happens, all well and good, but my vision is to simply impart instruction. To see that you, as God’s people learn the teaching of the Bible. To see that you grow in knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus Christ & remain steadfast.

Thinking as I do of this practice of catechizing, you will pardon me, if I urge this on everyone here. Unless you have another, and better method – make this a year that counts. This is the means to grace and peace. This is how it will be multiplied in our souls. It does not matter how old you are. No one is too young or too old to begin learning. No one is too young or too old to be blessed by God. Are you with me? May God not forget us – may He cause a great stir among us, for His own glory. Amen.