Thursday, November 08, 2018

Don't Get too Comfortable

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

(2 Peter 3:1-7 ESV)

It’s easy for us to get comfortable. As we live life, as we go from day to day, nothing seems to change. Everything seems rather routine. And this can lead us into the false belief that nothing will ever change.

Eventually, things do change. We get married. We have children. We lose a job. We move to a different city. A child moves away from home. We lose a loved one. And we’re rattled, we’re caught off guard, by the sudden change to our existence.

The same sense of comfort finds itself into our life of faith as well. Because the world continues to go on as it always has, we believe that it always will.  Because God has not yet judged the world, we begin to think that he never will.

Regardless of what Scripture tells us about the end of this age and the coming judgment, we dismiss it. We begin to think and act as if this is an unreliable teaching. We begin to think and act as if the nature of God differs from the way he’s revealed it to us in his Word.

We must recognize that, just because God hasn’t yet brought about the end, this doesn’t prove that he never will. Because God has not yet judged the world doesn’t mean that he never will. We must bear in mind that God is faithful to his Word.

When we doubt the coming judgment, we must remember a simple truth. In the beginning, everything was created by the Word of God. And, in the same way, the world was, at one time, destroyed by God’s Word.  In the days of Noah, the world that then existed was brought to an end. Knowing this, we can believe that, by that same Word of God, the world is being kept for the day of judgment.

Realizing this, we must not grow comfortable with the world in which we now live. We must not lose our hope of eternal life in the presence of God. We must not doubt or dismiss God’s Word when he speaks of his judgment or the end of this age. We must live our days knowing that the end will soon come upon us, and that everything he has promised will come to pass.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Danger of Falling Away

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire."”

(2 Peter 2:20-22 ESV)

The dangers of being lured away from Christ are very real. As Peter has been telling us, false teachers will come among us seeking to lure us astray. It was already happening in his day.  And these false teachers will do so through destructive heresies and seductive passions.

As we look around the church of our day, we see this playing out before our very eyes. We see individual believers and entire congregations who are falling prey to false doctrine. They forsake the truth for the lie that’s given to them.

We also see many who allow themselves to be seduced. Wanting to believe that they can be forgiven and, at the same time, gratify their sinful desires, they give in to temptation. As it’s commonly said, they seek to have their cake and eat it too.

Peter compares such people to a dog returning to its vomit. He compares them to a pig who, after being washed, returns to the mire. They return to the filth that once characterized their life.

As we see in the above passage, the consequences of falling away are severe. Peter tells us that, if we’re once again entangled in sin after being saved from it, our condition is worse than it was in the beginning. It’s worse because we’ve rejected the salvation provided for us by Jesus.

He goes on to say that it would’ve been better if we’d never known the way of righteousness. The heart that was once enlightened has now become hardened against the truth by which we are saved. And this makes it much more difficult for us to return to Christ.

As believers, we are called by God to leave behind the old life in favor of the new. As Paul tells us in Romans 6, we have died to sin.  We’ve been united with Christ that we might walk in newness of life.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Recognizing False Teachers, Part 3

“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

(2 Peter 2:17-19 ESV)

As Peter continues to describe false teachers, he elaborates upon their deceptive practices. He tells us that they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping those who live in error. What he’s saying is that these false teachers target young believers, or immature believers, with the passions of the flesh.

They seek to convince these young believers that they can receive the salvation of God while, at the same time, they live in sin. They distort the freedom we have in Christ, they distort the grace of God, into a license to sin. They convince others that, because they are saved, it doesn’t matter how they live.

There are many who bring a similar idea into the church today. Because our salvation is in no way dependent upon our actions, because it is a free gift of God, they tell us that our actions don’t matter. They tell us that, because God is a loving God, because he’s a forgiving God, it doesn’t matter what we do.

However, these people are not living in the freedom won by Christ on the cross. Peter tells us that, even though they hold out this freedom, they are slaves. They are enslaved by the sin which has overcome them.

While we will not be sinless on this side of eternity, we cannot live in sin. We cannot be saved from sin while, at the same time, we surrender ourselves to it. As believers, we are called to a life of repentance.

We are called to recognize our sin for what it is and to turn from it. We are called to turn from our sin to Jesus. As our hearts are transformed by the grace and mercy of Christ, we no longer desire to indulge our sinful desires, but to follow the Lord.

For this reason, we must watch for those proclaiming cheap grace. We must be on the lookout for those attempting to entice us by sin. We must reject their message and faithfully proclaim the true gospel, which delivers us from sin and its consequences. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Recognizing False Teachers, Part 2

“They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.”

(2 Peter 2:13-16 ESV)

As Peter continues his description of false teachers, we see another characteristic by which they may be known. In verse 10, of this chapter, he tells us that they indulge in the lust of defiling passion. And, in the above verses, he defines this in more detail.

These false teachers love to indulge the passions of the flesh. And, they don’t even seek to hide their indiscretions. We’re told that they count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They do so in broad daylight.

They celebrate their actions while, at the same time, they fellowship with the church. Although their rebellion is clearly seen, they join with the church. They participate as the faithful come together in a spirit of brotherhood.

They do so that they might entice unsteady souls. They lure those who are wavering. They seduce those who are not firm in faith.

Everything they do is for their own gain. Their actions flow from a heart of greed. Instead of living the life of sacrifice and unconditional love that was modeled by Christ and to which we are called, they seek only their benefit.

As we listen to Peter’s description of these false teachers, the danger they pose is clear. Even if we think they present little risk to us, the danger is very real. Like wolves, they prey on the weak, drawing them away from the salvation that’s found in Christ.

Knowing that none of us are immune to temptation, and knowing that we all have moments of weakness, we must be on the lookout for these individuals. We must not be arrogant enough to believe that we could never be deceived or lured into sin. As the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

But we must also be on the lookout for the sake of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Out of our love for Christ and our neighbor, we must stand against those who seek the destruction of souls. Knowing that they prey on the weak, we must seek to protect and to edify those who are targets.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Recognizing False Teachers, Part 1

“Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.”

(2 Peter 2:10-13 ESV)

False teachers are abundant. They’re sometimes found outside of the church, promoting a faith that is very different than our own. But, quite often, they are found inside of the church. They take the name “Christian.” And we must be able to identify them.

As we continue our look at the second epistle of Peter, he’s been talking about false teachers. He now begins to describe them for us.  And he does so that we might recognize them.

In the first half of verse 10, he tells us that they indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. And it’s the second part of this that he dives into in the above verses. They hate submitting themselves to those who are over them. In fact, they’re unwilling to do so.

Peter describes them as bold and willful. They are presumptuous and daring. They are arrogant and self-willed. In other words, they count themselves as the supreme authority, and claim this role for themselves.

This is demonstrated by their blasphemy of the glorious ones. They speak against the angels and the things of God. They speak against those who are more powerful than they. They speak about things of which they’re ignorant.

Even though they are more powerful than man, not even the angels do this. They don’t even speak against those who are fallen. They leave this to God, as it is his place to condemn.

We see many examples of this today. We see those who speak against the Word of God and stand in judgment of it. We see those who speak against God’s servants (angels and men) who carry out his will. We see those who speak against God himself, accusing him of child abuse, for sending his Son to die in the place of mankind.

In this way, they refuse to submit to God. In this way, they put themselves in the place of God. In this way, they despise authority.

We must have nothing to do with such people. We must not listen to their teaching. And we dare not submit ourselves to them, as doing so will lead only to our own harm.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Peace in the Face of False Teaching

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”

 (2 Peter 2:4-10 ESV)

As believers, we often become alarmed as we see threats gathering around us. We become worried and distressed. We fear that the work of the Lord might be brought to an end. We fear that his Word might be lost. We fear that the proclamation of the gospel might be stopped. We fear that the Church itself might become extinct.

This is a fear that often comes upon us as we begin to notice the false teachers in our midst. It comes upon us as we become aware of the false teachings to which our people hold. We fear that this might be it, and that the enemy might secure his victory.

And this fear multiplies as we see the prevalence of false teaching today. It multiplies as we see the continued rejection of God’s Word by society, by individual believers, and by the Church as a whole. We see it not only in false religions. We see it in society. We see entire church bodies that have been swept up by a false gospel. And we see false teaching creeping in to even conservative, Bible-believing, congregations.

We are right to be concerned about false teachers and their teaching. We must be on the lookout for it and resist it to the bitter end. However, as we see in the above passage, we need not fear for the Lord, his Church, nor his work.

No matter how things may seem, the Lord is not in danger of succumbing to the forces of evil. His Word is not in danger of destruction. And the proclamation of his Word will never cease.

The false teachers and their teachings do not have a chance of prevailing against the Lord. Their judgment is certain. Their condemnation will come.

God is also able to rescue and preserve his people. He’s able to preserve his gospel and continue sending it forth. He’s demonstrated this time and again throughout history, and will continue to do so even now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Don't Tolerate False Teaching

“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)

When it comes to false teaching, we tend to be very dismissive. We think of it as no big deal. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, after all. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. And we certainly don’t have to agree with him.

This causes us to be very tolerant of teaching that contradicts the Word of God. It causes us to remain silent when we encounter it. We say and do nothing when we encounter it in society.  And, worse yet, we say and do nothing when we encounter it in the church.

However, false teaching is a very big deal. It’s a big deal because many are led astray by it. We are told, in the above passage, that many will follow the sensuality of these false teachers. We’re told that, because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Because of these false teachers, people will be led away from a saving faith in Christ and they will embrace their sinful desires. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be vilified and regarded as evil.  Because of their desire to lure people from the gospel to themselves, they will manipulate others with their false message.

We also see, very clearly, that it’s a big deal to God. He does not sit idly by and tolerate it. These false teachers stand condemned by God, and their destruction will soon come.

Knowing this, we must not tolerate false teaching. We see in Revelation 2 that the church at Thyatira was reprimanded by Jesus for doing so. We must ensure that only the pure gospel is proclaimed.

We are limited in what we can do in society. We live in a nation where the freedom of religion is guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to Christian and non-Christian alike. And, for this reason, all faiths are able to share their message. We can only expose the false teaching being proclaimed and share the truth.

In the church, however, we can do much more. We must insist that only the truth is proclaimed. We can refrain from giving false teachers a pulpit and an audience. And we can remove from our congregation those seeking to lead others astray.