Our culture doesn’t value self-restraint. Advertising slogans urge us to buy products from cars to cosmetics “because you’re worth it.” We’re told to “follow your bliss,” “just do it,” “have it your way,” and “you do you.” The limits on our wanting, taking, and having seem to be melting away.
Peter also lived in a culture pervaded by these messages, and this letter was written to warn the church to resist the siren call of false teachers of pleasure. While following the form of letters in his day, Peter modifies the traditional wish for good health into a prayer for a different kind of abundance: “grace and peace be yours in abundance” (v. 2). Throughout this letter Peter will remind his readers that the abundance promised by the world can’t compare to the riches promised to us by God.
The world—particularly our modern consumer culture—constantly says that we need more, more, more. In contrast, Peter affirms that God has already supplied what we need for a godly life. Through Jesus, we have faith in the Lord and His righteousness (v. 1). We are able to know God and be in a relationship with Him! And we have His promises, rooted in His own goodness and His own glory.
Some have misconstrued the phrase at the end of verse 4, “participate in the divine nature,” to mean that we either are or will become god-like humans. But Peter is not suggesting that at all. Rather, he says that we’re declared righteous before God and can live in a way that pleases the Lord. In other words, God has made it possible for us to reorient our desires away from the temptations that would destroy us and instead share in His promises for our future with Him.
Apply the Word
Scripture is not calling us to a life of asceticism in which we renounce all joys and pleasures. God is calling us to recognize—and desire—all His good gifts, which far surpass the temporary pleasure of the stuff we want. To think more about desire and the life of faith, you can read the book Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel.