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Apr 13, 2024

A few years ago I published a YouVersion reading plan entitled Buckling the belt of truth. In this podcast I’m reissuing the first episode of that reading plan.

Here I am at 72. I'm beginning to not be so surprised at my own age. Being so very elderly, perhaps it is time to share some grandfatherly advice.

Maybe I have some of you fooled. Some of you may think that an elder missionary like me has it all together and that I don't ever sin. You might think that I have conquered all weaknesses and no longer have episodes of sinful thoughts. You would be wrong. And I suspect that I don’t fool everyone. People who really know me have seen my weaknesses.

However, if I am working with the right information, a lot of you have struggles with sin the same way I do. So let me start by calling our attention again to these frequently quoted verses:

2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT'15
3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV:
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Those are great verses, but they leave me asking, even crying out, “Which promises?! I don't think I have “escaped the world's corruption” yet! Have I been overlooking a key promise somewhere?!”

Peter follows verses 3-4 by urging his readers to take steps for spiritual maturity found in verses 5-8. While Peter gives great advice in those verses (which I hope you will study), I still keep coming back to verses 3-4 and asking, “How do I put golden promises found somewhere in the Bible into effect?— so that through them, I can ‘share in God’s divine nature’ and truly ‘escape’ from bondage to sinful desires. What are the practical steps to do that?” Where can I find the promises that unlock moral excellence and self-control?

Just like any college curriculum, before you start advanced courses, you need to take the prerequisites. So also, for you to get the most from this study, here are the prerequisites.

  • This study is for true believers in Christ who are mature enough in following Jesus to have experienced the frustration I just explained above.
  • The 5-7 studies I am starting with this session won’t be much help to you if you are living in gross disobedience to basic commands in God’s Word. Using an extreme example, if you make your living by stealing packages, you need to get an honest job before taking this course. This course is for those seeking spiritual maturity. The first step in becoming a maturing follower of Jesus is for you to repent of all openly disobedient life-styles.
  • Another foundational step toward maturity is being a member of a local Bible-believing church, being baptized, and taking part in the Lord’s supper with your fellow believers. I can imagine some readers complaining about my saying this. I urge you to understand that membership in an organized fellowship of believers is a baked-in part of how God designed humans to live. The picture of community life starts in Genesis and goes through the whole Bible. You will not be successful in your quest for spiritual maturity if you are attempting to live as a Lone Ranger Christian. Other readers will say, “I don’t want to be a lone ranger, but there isn’t a Bible believing church near me.” I recognize that finding a church that is faithfully teaching the Bible will become increasingly difficult at this time— especially in some countries, but also anywhere in the increasingly post-Christian world. Look for a home fellowship that you can join.
  • Finally, an important foundational prerequisite step is to cultivate a scheduled Bible reading habit.

If you fit this profile, please continue to listen/read.

1. My first step to finding the golden promises Peter mentioned and escaping moral corruption is to Put on the belt of truth. This is one of seven parts to the Christian’s armor found in Ephesians 6. But I suggest that we make this clarification: Buckle the belt of truth by believing what God says about you in the Bible.

NLT'07 Ephesians 6:14:
14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth …

If you are a Christian, you believe a lot of true things already about Christ and the Bible. (You believe Christ came to earth to save us. You believe the Bible is God’s message to us.) But do you reject believing other things the Bible says about you? If you do, it is like putting on a belt— putting it through your belt loops, but not buckling it. So let’s learn how to buckle the belt of truth.

In this lesson, I want to sensitize you to realize when you don’t actually believe it when the Bible says incredibly awesome things about YOU as a believer in Christ.

Having the realization is often the hardest part. After that, ask God to renew your mind to fully accept the new truth.

Let’s make one thing clear about believing. Believing isn’t something that just sort of happens. Believing is an act of the will. You decide if you believe something or believe in Somebody, or not. This is why in Scripture we read that God commanded people to believe and do what He told them, and He punished them for a stubborn refusal to believe His commands.

Just look at the people of Israel who followed Moses all the way from Egypt and through the wilderness. They got all the way to the border of the promised land, knowing all the time what they would have to do. But when the Lord, “Now it’s time to enter and conquer that land,” they said, “Surely you couldn’t mean us!”

Let’s go back to where we started. Peter said, “he (God) has given us great and precious promises. These are the  promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

Here’s the basic principle I hope you will learn: When you encounter ‘great and precious promises’ in your Bible reading, telling you about wonderful things God has done for you or given to you, ask God to make those things real to you. Ask him to open your mind to receive that truth about you, and help you live in the light of that truth. You will need to pray asking God for such help, because for your whole life, Satan and his friends have been feeding lies to you.

Now let’s turn to Ephesians 1. You might want to follow the episode notes so that you can see the words I have highlighted.

NLT'15 Ephesians 1:1-23:
1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

This letter written to the normal believers in Ephesus, is therefore written to us too. For now let’s skip the idea that Paul called them ‘holy people’, because Paul comes back to that idea more than once below.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

This paragraph turns our normal understanding upside down. I think that most people think of God as the angry judge that will destroy us. But these verses have God as the actor doing all these wonderful things, which are too many for me to comment on now. Let me highlight just two of them: God loves us and called us in advance. Change what you think about God and yourself: Tell this truth to yourself: God loves even me. God called me long ago, before I was born (amazingly, before He made the world).

Let’s claim another truth here: As a believer in Christ, you are united with Christ. A literal translation will say, ‘in Christ’. Jesus spoke of this unity when He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” (John 15:5)

NLT'07 John 15:4:
4 Remain in me (joined to me), and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

This idea of being ‘joined’ to Christ (or ‘in Christ) is spoken of in many places in Paul’s writing, and it becomes one of the themes of this letter. But, dear friend, it’s time for you to start believing this idea about yourself! This is a key concept in believing that you are accepted as ‘holy’ in God’s sight. If you see yourself as separate from Christ, sadly, you will act like you are not connected to Christ.

Now with this connection, we also have the reason we are holy. It’s not that we are in any natural sense ‘saints’, but we have been made holy by Christ. We have received his holiness.

Out of the incredible richness of this paragraph, I want to pull out one more gem. God has adopted you and me into his family. In the Greek Paul used a legal term here which means you have been given ‘sonship’ or ‘legally adopted as a son’. In Roman law, the adoption of a son could not be undone. It was permanent. (Ladies, in this spiritual reality, don’t let the male gender of this term rob you from considering yourself permanently adopted.) Dear friend, it's time to revise how you think of yourself. You’re not a nobody. You’re not unloved. You are a permanent member of the most powerful royal family!

Let’s skip down to the middle of v.13.

And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Think about this: God has given you a guarantee that he is going to give you a wonderful inheritance. Stop saying, “Well, as long as I get to heaven I don’t need an inheritance.” God wants us to think about that inheritance. It is healthy for us to think longingly for our inheritance in heaven.

Our guarantee is not some flimsy card that we will misplace. Our guarantee is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts! Our text says, “when you believed in Christ, he (God) identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit,”

It is crucial that you have a sense of belonging to God given by the Holy Spirit. Think of how personal and intimate is this bond we now have with God. I think you will find that this intimate bond is something you want to keep. This is one of our main motivations in seeking to live a holy life in God’s sight.

NLT'07 Romans 8:9:
9 … (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)

It’s no wonder that in the John 15 passage we quoted about Jesus being the vine and we the branches, He mentions prayer:

NLT'07 John 15:7:
7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

If we aren’t praying, then we aren’t believing the truths I just listed for you.

Power points:

  • God is for us and loves us. God is the actor for most of this chapter. This love from God the Father is counter-intuitive for us. We won’t believe it unless we realize our lack of belief and pray to God asking Him to make it real to us.
  • God went to great lengths to put his plan into action. This gives us great confidence that we have really been called by Him. We are one with Him, joined to Him.
  • We are united to Christ, so much so that He considers us actually part of his body.
  • We have a powerful guarantee, the Holy Spirit, which is not an external thing, but an inward witness that we are joined to Christ.
  • We are God’s holy people, not because we have the power to be holy. But God has made us holy by our unity with Christ. This is our identity! Take this identity. Believe and preserve this identity by taking care of the unity you have with the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul wants us to understand all these things so that we understand that God will use his power to help us.