Abounding Grace (5)
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord… 2 Peter 1.2
…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.18
Grace, peace, and joy
The grace of God is the only reliable source of peace. In our text, Peter links the two. The peace people in our day so urgently desire – in relationships, among races, between nations, and in the hearts of every person – is an elusive state. People everywhere continue to cry, “Peace! Peace.” But there is no peace. The desire for peace indicates the grace of God at work in the souls of all people, wooing and enticing them to a greater sense of wellbeing and safety. The continuing lack of peace reminds us that the peace we need cannot be obtained by material things or changes in circumstances. It must begin in the soul, where the grace of God is multiplied to all who know and love Him.
As God communicates His grace to us – supremely by His love for us in Jesus Christ, and by extending the horizons of our experience of His infinite goodness, loving kindness, and power – we realize that inward sense of assurance and wellbeing that allows us to say, “It is well with my soul.” This peace passes understanding (Phil. 4.6, 7), because people who try to explain it by material causes or conditions simply cannot make sense of it. It’s a peace that persists through adversity, loss, setbacks, and suffering. No one can understand that peace apart from the grace of God.
Grace and peace are the hallmarks and privilege of those who have eternal life, that is, of those who have come to the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ (Jn. 17.3). Peter indicates that we may increase in grace and peace by increasing in the knowledge of God and Christ. Increasing in grace fits us for service, so that we may channel the grace of God to the people around us in words and deeds of love. Increasing in peace brings that inward assurance which leads to joy, and which endures regardless of outward circumstances.
Increasing in grace and peace leads to increased joy. Since we can grow in the knowledge of the Lord, and thus in grace and peace, and it would seem to be a sin, at least a mark of folly, not to do so. We may think we can shortcut our way to joy by surrounding ourselves with adoring friends, material things, or favorable circumstances. But these are not where lasting joy is found. Lasting joy comes only from dwelling in the presence of God, increasing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Ps. 16.11). And the way to that joy is not through things or experiences, but through increasing in God’s grace and peace.
But what precisely does it mean to increase in grace?
Grace is not a commodity, like protein or vitamin C, that we build up in our body to strengthen it. All the grace we’ll ever need is available to us at all times; it is infinite grace, that brings greater peace and joy to every area of our lives. This is because God is continually and infinitely disposed toward us by grace, and He never ceases to communicate that love to us. The daily patterns of the world and the mere fact of its many creatures and glories declare the goodness, wisdom, power, and kindness of God – all aspects of His overarching disposition of grace toward His creatures. That we breathe, that blood courses through our veins, that our cells continue to renew themselves, and that we can know how to live in this world because of its orderly and bountiful nature – these are all tokens of the grace of God.
Even more pointedly and effectually, God reminds us of and expounds the broad scope of His grace in His Word, where everything points us to Jesus, into Whose image we are transformed from glory to glory by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
So the grace is there. We do not have to go up to heaven to obtain it, and we don’t need messengers from that realm to bring it down to us. Jesus both embodies all the riches of God’s grace, and has opened the ears and hearts of all who believe in Him, that we might better know the grace of God around, within, and toward us day by day. Like the rays of the sun that perpetually pervade the space around us, grace is always there, always accessible, and always amenable to increasing in and through us.
The way to increased grace
Peter links increasing in grace, peace, and joy with growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is more than just going to church, being active with Christian friends, or beginning your day with Bible reading and prayer. John the Baptist put it succinctly: Jesus must increase in us – all His attitudes, understandings, priorities, practices, and skills – and those which we have previously looked to for joy must decrease (Jn. 3.30). Paul said the same thing. We must learn Jesus by setting aside everything we have ever hoped in or held precious for achieving peace and joy, and we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ in all aspects of our thoughts, feelings, values, words, and deeds (Eph. 4.17-24). The old hymn “More about Jesus” says it well:
More about Jesus I would learn,
More of His holy will discern:
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.
We must increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. The more we know Him, the more we will become like Him: think what He thinks, desire what He desires, value what He values, and say and do what He says and does. We cannot increase in the knowledge of the Lord, and thus have access to more of His infinite grace, apart from being with the Lord to hear Him, see Him, converse with Him, learn from Him, and submit to His Spirit for being remade in His image.
Don’t just read your Bible: Seek the Lord Jesus there (Jn. 5.39):
More about Jesus in His Word,
holding communion with my Lord,
hearing His voice in every line,
making each faithful saying mine.
Ponder your reading, saying to the Father that you want to see Jesus throughout the Bible. Pray to Jesus, describing, as John does in Revelation 1, His glory and His many excellencies, reviewing with thanksgiving all His goodness to you, and praising Him for all His saving and reconciling work.
Make this your daily prayer:
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show,
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love, Who died for me!
More, more about Jesus!
Because as you increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, you will find grace, peace, and joy increasing and overflowing from you to bring God’s infinite grace to bear on others through all your words and deeds.
1. Is it possible to be faithful in going to church, reading the Bible, and praying each day, and still fail to increase in the grace of God? Explain.
2. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ? Write a brief prayer to the Spirit, to remind you of your daily need for Him (Phil. 2.13).
3. What’s the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus? Can you increase in each of these? Can you increase in knowing Jesus without knowing about Him? Can you increase in knowing about Him but still not know Him? How can we make sure to gain the maximum benefit of each of these – knowing Jesus and knowing about Him?
Next Steps – Transformation: What can you do to seek Jesus more intently in your time in Scripture and prayer? Ask a few Christian friends what they do. Adopt some practices – like learning to sing the entire hymn, “More about Jesus” – and begin keeping a journal of your experience of seeking to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.