Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Be on the Lookout!

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

(2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV)

We live in a society where many messages are given to us. We live in a time when many people claim to speak for God. They have their holy book, which they present to us. They have their book, which they have written, interpreting the Bible. They have their “truth” which they seek to proclaim.

Many of these messengers profess to be Christian. And they claim that their messages come from the Bible. However, as we evaluate their words, we see that nothing could be further from the truth.

This is not unique to us, nor is it unique to our time. As we see above, the same was true even in the time of the apostles.

Peter had reminded the people of the truth of his message. He had reminded them of the reason they knew it to be true. And, now, he unpacks for them why this is so important.

Just as there were false prophets among the people in the past, there would also be false prophets among them. And the messages, brought by these false prophets, would not be insignificant. They would contain destructive heresies. They would even deny Christ himself.

Yet, even though their message would be very different than the one given by the apostles, many would follow them. Many would be deceived by their words. And this would lead to the truth being blasphemed.

These messengers would be self-serving. They would be greedy. They would be seeking to exploit the people for their own gain.

This is very different than the apostles, who had nothing to gain from their ministry. They sought the gain of others. They desired only that those who heard the message would receive it in faith, that they might receive the salvation of the Lord.

Peter is warning his readers that they might be on the look out for these false teachers. They were to remember the truth, and those who had brought it to them, that they might not be deceived. He did not want them to be led astray from the gospel, causing them to miss out on the blessing of God.

We, too, must heed his warning. We must be on the lookout for these false teachers who will come, not only into society, but the church as well. We must do so that we might not be deceived. We must remember the Word which has been proclaimed to us. And we must do so, knowing its truth and those who delivered it to us.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Truth of the Gospel, Part 2

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

(2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV)

As I mentioned in my prior post, many people now view the gospel as nothing more than myth. They believe the account of Jesus to be nothing more than a man-made story. They believe it to be a story that was propagated to either comfort the distraught or to gain control of society.

However, as we saw, the account of Jesus was attested to by eyewitnesses. Men who were there, who saw and heard what had taken place, shared this message. In fact, they even went to their death for this message.

And, as we see above, there is something even more compelling that reveals to us the truth of the gospel. In addition to eyewitness testimony, we have the prophetic word. We have the message of the prophets, which spoke of the coming Savior. In fact, these prophets spoke of the Savior long before he was born into the world.

As we look to Scripture, we see the Savior foretold from the very beginning. The first promise of the Savior was given in Genesis 3, immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve and the entrance of sin into the world. And these promises continue to come throughout the Old Testament.

God also pointed the people to the coming Savior through his acts of salvation performed on behalf of his people. He pointed them to the Savior through his law. And he pointed the people to the Savior through the sacrificial system and the holidays he ordained. Everything in Scripture, from beginning to end, points us to Jesus.

This word, Peter tells us, was not produced by the will of man. It’s not something that men decided to write. Nor is it a message produced in the mind of men. This message is the very Word of God. It’s the Word of God because these men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. In other words, they recorded for us a Word given to them by God himself.

Many people, today, downplay this truth. They downplay it, knowing men to be imperfect and sinful. And for this reason, they tell us, their message contains mistakes. Imperfect men are incapable of bringing to us a perfect word.

In saying this, they discount the inspiration of God. Apart from him, their message was sure to be flawed. But because this message was given by the perfect, omniscient, omnipotent God, it is flawless.

We, then, can take comfort in this Word knowing it to be true. We can take comfort in the gospel knowing that it was delivered to us by eyewitnesses.  And we can take comfort in it knowing that it’s confirmed through the prophetic Word, which was inspired by God himself.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Truth of the Gospel, Part 1

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”

(2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV)

Eyewitness testimony is crucial in the court system. When someone is being tried, circumstantial evidence is typically not enough to convict. What’s needed is the testimony of one who was there, who saw and heard what had taken place.

The same was true in Old Testament times. In order to convict someone of a crime, they needed the testimony of at least two people. They needed multiple witnesses who were able to attest to what had taken place.

There are many, today, who equate the gospel with myth. They put it at the level of the accounts of the Greek gods. It’s just a story, they say, with no confirmation of its truth.

What they fail to realize is that the accounts, recorded in Scripture, are given by eyewitness testimony. It’s recorded by those who were actually there. They had seen for themselves the events that had taken place.

This is what Peter tells us in the above passage. What they were teaching to the people were not myths. They were proclaiming what they had seen and heard.

He goes on to describe the events that took place on the Mount of Transfiguration. He recalls how the voice of God rang out from heaven, telling them of Jesus’ identity. They heard him proclaim that Jesus is his beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased.

History tells us, in fact, that Peter went to his death for his testimony. The early Christian writer Hegesippus tells us that, when Peter was old, Emperor Nero planned to put him to death.  And although the believers in Rome begged him to leave the city, he remained and was crucified. At his request, he was crucified upside down, because he did not count himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

It was men like this who recorded the words and actions of Jesus. It was men like this who continued to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom. They were not men greedy for wealth and power. They were not men looking to their own interests. They were not men looking to upset the system. These were men who were so convinced of the truth that they were willing to testify to it no matter the cost.

As we read Scripture, this is how we must read it. We must read it not as a story, but as eyewitness testimony. We must understand their words as those of men who are passing along what they had received from the Lord himself.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

Where Do We Serve the Lord?

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

(Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)

There’s a mistake we often make in the Christian life. What I’m referring to is our tendency to believe that we serve God only through the ministry of the church. We think that we only serve God by becoming a pastor or missionary. We think that we serve God only by teaching Sunday School or serving on the church council. However, in reality, we serve God in every aspect of our life.

This truth is brought out in the above passage. Paul leads up to this statement by telling us how we’re to live as wives, husbands, children, and even slaves. He then tells us that we’re to work with all our heart in everything we do. He tells us that, in everything, we are to work with all of our heart, as for the Lord and not for men.

In all of our worldly duties, and in all of our worldly relationships, we are serving God. Others will be blessed in the process, of course. But, ultimately, we are serving him.

Keeping this in mind helps us to work with all of our heart. When we’re called to serve someone who’s offended us, when we’re called to serve someone who’s hateful or ungrateful, it gives us the motivation we need. Thoughts of retaliation, thoughts of returning evil with evil, are replaced by a desire to glorify God.

When we’re tired, and even when we’re struggling with selfishness, it gives us the motivation we need. It takes our focus off of ourselves and places it where it belongs. It causes us to fix our eyes upon the Lord.

This also makes our day-to-day duties seem less monotonous. It turns our duties, which seem less than spiritual, into a response of faith. Doing the dishes becomes a response of faith. Doing the laundry becomes a response of faith. Cleaning the kitchen or the bathroom, paying the bills, mowing the lawn, and making household repairs all become a response of faith. It does so because, in even these small ways, we’re serving the Lord.

Martin Luther once said this: “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” In other words, we serve God by doing our job well. We glorify him by performing our duties to the best of our ability.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Forgetful People

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”

(2 Peter 1:12-15 ESV)

I can be a rather forgetful person. This is especially true if what I’m to do is not part of my regular routine.  Two weeks ago, for example, I was scheduled to lead worship at the nursing home on Sunday afternoon. I remembered this obligation all week, when I woke on Sunday morning, and even during fellowship after our congregational worship. But then I went home and forgot all about it. My wife left to see a movie with the older children, and I was relaxing at home until the alarm on my phone sounded. I was reminded that, in ten minutes, this service was to start.

I raced upstairs to change clothes, telling the younger kids to put on their shoes. We loaded in the car, stopped by the church to gather my Bible and sermon notes, and arrived at the nursing home with two minutes to spare. I don’t think anyone at the nursing home knows that I’d forgotten (unless they’re reading this now).

The same forgetfulness can plague my life of faith. I know the gospel and I believe it but, at times, I need to hear it again. In the same way, I know how God has called me to live my life but, at times, I need to be reminded. With God’s leading, I need to search my heart to see whether I’m unintentionally harboring a sinful attitude or behaving in a sinful matter.

This is true for all of us. It was true of the early believers. And I believe this is why Peter speaks of his intention to remind the people of the fruit of faith that’s to be expressed in their lives. It was his intention to give them that little reminder that they might search their heart and, if necessary, repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

This was especially true as Christ had made clear to him that the end of his time in this world was approaching. He wanted to make an impact on their lives while he still could. He wanted them to remember these things even after he was gone. And, through his epistle, we’re enabled to remember them as well.

In the same way, we can be an encouragement to one another. As we share God’s Word and interact with it, both personally and corporately, we’re able to receive this reminder and to share it with one another. We’re able to encourage one another in the faith and we’re able to encourage one another to walk in that faith. No matter how well we know Scripture, and no matter how long we’ve trusted in Christ, these reminders are necessary.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Confirmation of Faith

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

(2 Peter 1:10-11 ESV)

We are encouraged, today, to separate our faith from our daily life. Faith, we’re told, is personal. It’s a private matter. It’s something to be kept to ourselves.

And we’ve become pretty skilled at doing so. We express our faith on Sunday, if we make it to church. Perhaps we express it during a pre-meal prayer before our family Christmas or Easter dinner. However, we keep the rest of our life separate. We do all that we can to keep our faith out of our day to day relationships and activities.

However, as we see above, we are to be diligent, or eager, to express our faith. Peter isn’t suggesting that we put our faith in our efforts. He’s saying, rather, that our faith is to be expressed in the qualities discussed previously. It’s to be expressed in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.

This makes complete sense. As a people who have been redeemed from sin, we should no longer pursue our wicked desires. Knowing the great extent to which God went that we might be saved from sin and death, namely the sacrifice of his only Son, we naturally love him in return. And, as a result, we long to live for him. We long to glorify him.

Our works do not save us. But the expression of our faith, through these qualities, confirms our faith. It reveals our faith to be genuine and indisputable.

If we practice these qualities, Peter says, we will never fall. He’s not suggesting that we’ll be free from sin. But, so long as we’re pursuing the things of God and not those of our sinful nature, we will not fall from grace.

In this way, through the power of God which supplies all that pertains to life and godliness (verse 3), there will be provided to us entrance into the kingdom of God. By possessing a true and genuine faith, we are saved. And a true and genuine faith is not one that’s separated from our day to day life, but one that is expressed in it.

Monday, August 13, 2018

An Expression of Faith

“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”

(2 Peter 1:9 ESV)

Christians are not perfect, and they will never be perfect this side of eternity. We will not be perfect until we meet the Lord face to face and we’re transformed into his image. We are in continual need of the grace and mercy of God.

However, when we’re brought to faith in the Lord, it does bring change to our life. No longer do we desire to live in sin. We understand our guilt and the punishment we deserve. We understand what Jesus did to save us from sin and its consequences. And, for this reason, we long to live for the Lord.

The qualities that Peter mentions in verses 5-8 become a part of our life, and grow as he continues his work. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love increase in our life and are used by God to bless others. As we live in a state of daily repentance and faith, these virtues enable us to be effective and fruitful for the kingdom of God.

If this is not true of us, it indicates a serious problem. If we lack these qualities, Peter says, we are so nearsighted that we are blind. Even though we’ve heard the gospel and professed it, it’s become useless in our life. We’ve forgotten that we were cleansed from our former sins.

Instead of living in the grace of God, we revert back to our former life of sin. Instead of living in the freedom God has provided us, we allow ourselves to be enslaved all over again. We live not for the Lord, but for our sinful nature. And this is inconsistent with the salvation we’ve been granted.

The solution to this problem is not to try harder. It’s not to add these qualities to our life by our own efforts. They are the fruit of faith. They flow naturally from our faith.

The solution, then, is to remember what Christ has done for us. The solution is to, once again, look to him in faith. And, as we do so, he will be at work in our life.