My twelve year-old still believes in the sanctity of the pinky-swear, in which we lock our fingers in solemn promise. I don’t blame her: most promises need some kind of reinforcement. Promises are not very good currency these days. In nearly every area of life, promises, it seems, really were made to be broken. In business, politics, marriage, and the innocence of childhood the promises we hear (and the promises we speak) are not worth the paper they’re written on. In modern life we have trained ourselves to discount promises as nothing more that echoes in the wind.
That’s why this passage from Second Peter is so arresting. Apparently there is someone capable of keeping promises, and more than that, these promises are capable of lifting us into eternity. See if you can catch what Peter says about promises, and what they can do:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
Take note: God’s promises are a pathway to sharing in His divine nature. I don’t even know what the phrase means, “participate in the divine nature,” but whatever it means, it’s got to be good!
Note, too, the strange connection: God makes promises to us, and His promises lift us up to participate in His nature.
Have you ever taken inventory of God’s promises? My personal inventory includes two kinds of promises from God: those I find in the scripture, and those He has spoken to me directly. Let’s look at both.
From Genesis to Revelation, the scripture is filled with promise. The Creator stakes His relationships and reputation on His promises. Through His promises nature is protected, families pack up and move, nations are birthed: all upon the promises of God. Through the scripture our Lord promises His presence, sends His Spirit, and etches each of our names forever in the white stone of eternity. Through His promises each child of God is born into a family older than any nobility, wealthier than a Gates or a Buffett.
The promises are written plain for us all, why should we be ignorant of our heritage? Nor can any list here do justice to the bounty of His promises: His goodness and mercy endures forever; that same mercy triumphs over judgment; it’s His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom; He will never leave us or forsake us. Seriously, how could any follower of Jesus get through life without such treasures? And this list is the merest start.
“But these are at-large Bible promises,” you protest. “They are generalizations, abstractions meant to describe the Almighty, little more than church words spoken into the air as comfort from a distant God.”
I suppose you could say so. I’ve certainly been tempted to think such thoughts. What has saved me from ignoring them are the times His Spirit has visited me up close and whispered promises so intimate and specific they could only be meant for me. This is the second aspect of God’s promises: His words are not confined to the inspired scripture; He speaks to you and me, personally.
What personal promises have you received from God? The same One who created you body-and-soul in the secret place of your mother’s womb has spoken promises to you—just to you. Have you heard them? Sometime I should share what God has promised me, and how His words have been fulfilled—or in which promises I’m still waiting and trusting. But enough about me: it’s vital that each one of us hears his voice and discovers his promises.
Finally, the reason they are promises and not prophesies is because a promise is an invitation. He invites us into deeper trust and relationship with each promise. What we hear and how we respond shape our spiritual formation. He uses his promises to transform us into his likeness.
I’m finished, but before you go, consider:
Can I hear his promises?
Will I remember his promises?
How can I live into his promises?
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