“The knowledge of the glory of God must be promising if it is to carry power. We must know it and believe that we are included—that the promises are ours, that the call is to us (cf. Ephesians 1:19).” (John Piper)
This past weekend I had the privilege and responsibility of preaching on 2 Peter 1:3-4. One thing that stood out to me was Peter’s emphasis on how the power for being godly in any situation comes to us through the knowledge of God and the promises of God. Or, more specifically, the type of knowledge of God needed is of the God who gives and keeps promises. As those in Christ, all the promises of God are given to us through our union with Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). Whenever God acts on our behalf or strengthens us for any good work he calls us to do, he does so through his promises. They are the very means by which God, his resources, and his provision come through to us and our lives.
As I thought about God’s promises I began thinking about some of the reasons we might need to know them and walk in them in our day-to-day Christian lives. As a starting point, here are four reasons why we need God’s promises.
First, our default mode is to try and prove ourselves to God, to others, or even to ourselves. Even if we’re not trying to prove or justify ourselves, we attempt to pay God back or earn things from Him through our little efforts. As you surely know by experience, that never pays off. The gospel redirects from a life driven by our performance to a life of resting in God’s promises. Promises remind us that through Christ we already have everything we need as a free gift and that we are fully and forever accepted by our Father. As we live by promises we’re confronted with not only our inability to perform but that’s completely unnecessary. We live by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone not just at salvation but daily as we receive and cling to God’s promises for life. The more we hold onto promises as a rhythm of life the more our fingers begin loosening from their grip on performance-based living as the means by which our communion with God stands or falls.
Second, we regularly face our temptations and trials thinking we operate from a position of lack or insufficiency, but promises remind us we live out of Christ’s sufficiency and fullness for us. We face a struggle, a recurring temptation, or an unwelcome trial and all we see is our own emptiness, helplessness, and an awareness of what we lack. Promises get our eyes off of self and get our eyes looking upwards so that we see that we live through the power of God, the resources of God, the blessings of God, and under the care of God. Promises fill up any lack we have and they change the very vantage point from which we live.
Third, we all too often believe that God could not love us or be for us as we are today, and we need promises convincing us that God’s great love is fully set on us for who we are in Christ. The nagging thought in our mind is that we’re too messy, too sinful, too stubborn, too slow to grow and therefore surely God cannot love or be happy with us now in this moment. We think he might love and approve of some future version of us, maybe the one that finally gets their act together or maybe the one who eventually is glorified and made whole. Most of the time I’m not even happy with where I’m at spiritually so I assume there’s no way God can be pleased with me. For many of us, those are the pesky, soul-sapping thoughts that cause us to pull away from God rather than drawing near.
However, when you read your New Testament, it becomes clear again and again that while God does want us to grow and mature, the promise is that in Christ we are forgiven, cleansed, embraced, favored, adopted, and loved by our Father. And that’s the today me; the struggling, embarrassing, slow to grow, messed up me that isn’t all that lovable. Throughout the NT God goes out of his way to convince us that in Christ we are completely and powerfully loved by God, out of his grace not our goodness. God isn’t waiting for you on the other side of whatever you’re going through today or in this season. He is with you. He cares for you. His love is set upon you right where you are. Promises reassure us of these truths when our way of thinking leads us astray.
Fourth, we listen to the condemning lies of our Accuser when we should listen to the life-giving promises of our Advocate. Even since the Garden, Satan has whispered into our ears things about God. “God did not actually say this.” Or “God is trying to limit you and keep you from becoming happy or becoming like Him.” Satan not only whispers lies about God but he holds out empty, false promises to us. “You will become like God.” “You’ll be happy or fulfilled if you do this.” His promise always fail, and then after we’ve fallen for them (again) he quickly returns with condemning lies. “God could not accept you. Look at what you’ve done. You’ll never change. Everyone is disappointed in you.” Even though it only leads to our destruction we listen to the lies of our Accuser.
Promises help us silence those lies and instead we hear the true, burden-lifting and life-giving promises of our great Advocate. Jesus only tells us what is true and so we need to let his truth silence the lies. Jesus tells us all the blessings and promises we have in him. Jesus assures us that he will never leave us and that in him we have what we need. The Accuser seeks our harm with his empty threats but the Advocates seeks our good with his strong promises. The Accuser wants to think about the “what if’s,” the “what could be,” the way we feel or how thing “seem.” The Advocate pushes the theoretical to the side so that we plant our feet on what is true, on who God is and will be, and on the promises that are unchanging.
In the dark places of our weakness, fears, and unbelief we need the light of God’s good, abounding, soul-sustaining, and life-giving promises. Through God’s promises we know both who God is and what He’s told us He will do for us. God sustains and strengthens us in every situation by his promises. Get in the Word to look for them, treasure them, and live on them.
“The Christian life is a battle of promises. Living by future grace means that we believe the promises of God over the promises of what the world, the flesh, and the devil offer us. This kind of faith in the promises of God has a sanctifying effect. It is how we grow. We grow increasingly in our belief in the promises of God, our trust in the promises of God, and ordering our lives by the promises of God. This is the life of faith!” (Mark Vroegop)