Monday, December 31, 2018

Avoiding Speculation

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”

 (1 Timothy 1:3-4 ESV)

Although we confess the gospel of Christ, and although we claim that our task is to spread this message, we often get side-tracked. We get caught up in things that do nothing to instill God’s Word within us or others.  If anything, they distract us from the Lord.

We get caught up in works of fiction, penned by believers, which we believe illustrate the truth of God’s Word. In fact, we get more excited about them than we do the gospel.  We get caught up in speculation about politics, world events, and the end times.  We invent theories about how things will play out.  And these become the things into which we invest our time and energy. 

Books are written to promote these theories. “Bible studies” are taught, which focus on this speculation rather than Scripture. Classes are taught that attempt to force these ideas onto the Bible.

This is the very thing Paul was warning Timothy about in the above passage. Timothy was to allow no other doctrine to be taught, other than the one Paul had proclaimed to them. He was to ensure that the Word of God was rightly taught.  And he was to command that the people not devote themselves to myths and speculation.

We can’t be exactly sure what Paul is referring to.  It seems, however, that they may have been looking at the genealogies in Scripture and speculating about them. Perhaps they were even inventing allegorical tales that were replacing the gospel in the minds of some.

Whatever the case, Paul was telling them that, instead of investing into these things, they were to invest their time and energy into the proclamation of the gospel. They were to invest their time and energy into the teaching of sound doctrine.  They were to ensure that nothing else became the focus of their instruction.

May this also be the case with us.  Let’s not get caught up with every fad that takes over the Church.  Let’s not get swept away by the speculation offered by some.  Let’s keep our focus where it belongs.  Let’s keep our focus on the Word of God.  Let’s keep our focus upon Christ.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Rightly Regarding God's Word

“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
(2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

Although they confess that the Bible is the Word of God, and although they tell us that it’s the standard for our faith and life, many people feel free to twist and distort it. They do so that they might place upon it the meaning they desire. Instead of allowing God’s Word to speak to them and direct their life, they alter it to fit their desires.

This can’t be done with all of Scripture. Much of the Bible is very clear. As we read it, it’s easy to understand. It’s so clear, in fact, that there’s no disputing its meaning.

However, not all of Scripture is so easy. At times, we run into passages that are difficult. And, instead of interpreting Scripture with Scripture, instead of using the more clear passages to understand the more difficult, these are the passages of which people will take advantage.

According to Peter, it’s the ignorant and unstable who do so.  It’s those who are untaught and weak who do so. They fail to regard God’s Word as they ought.

They don’t truly regard God’s Word as holy. They don’t truly regard the Scriptures as sacred. They see them, instead, as a means to their own end. And this, he points out, is no small matter.

They do so, Peter says, to their own destruction. In other words, as they do so, they make themselves deserving of judgment. They are not able to twist the Word of God and get away with it.

We, of course, must avoid such people. We must not subject ourselves to their teaching. We must, instead, sit under those who are knowledgeable and who have themselves been instructed in God’s Word.

However, we must also take care that we don’t fall into the same practice. We must take care that we don’t begin to twist or distort God’s Word in any way. We must take care that we are allowing God’s Word to teach us and lead us rather than using it to our own ends.

We must regard the Word of God as holy. We must regard the Scriptures as sacred. We must do nothing that would tarnish them in any way. We must do nothing that would lead ourselves and even others into judgment.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Blessing of God's Patience

“And count the patience of the Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him…”

(2 Peter 3:15)

The fact that Christ has not yet returned is often used in an effort to discredit him. We tell ourselves that this is a promise he’s failed to keep. The fact that we remain in this world, full of evil and sin, is our justification for unbelief.

Peter, in the above passage, says something very different. He tells us to count that patience of the Lord as salvation. In other words, the fact that Christ has not yet returned is a display of his grace.

God is patient with us. And this is a tremendous blessing. If he were not patient, we would have suffered his judgment long ago. If he were not patient, mankind would have been destroyed in centuries past.

If God were not patient, he would’ve destroyed Adam and Eve when they first sinned. If  he were not patient, he would not have spared the world through Noah at the time of the flood. If he were not patient, he would have destroyed Israel when they first grumbled against him in the desert. If he were not patient, he never would've sent Jesus into the world to save us from our sin. If he were not patient, he would have given up on us before we had the opportunity to repent and to receive his promise in faith.

Although we long for the return of Christ, and although we know the blessing this will mean for us, we also gratefully welcome his patience. We recognize that, without it, we would not have received his grace. We recognize that, without it, we would be forever lost.

Knowing the great blessing his patience has been in our life, we also welcome it for others. We are gladdened because others have a continued opportunity to receive the grace of God. We are content to await his return, rejoicing in the fact that others are still afforded the prospect of his salvation.

Yes, the patience of God means that we must continue to live in this world of sin and death. It means facing the ongoing suffering of this life. However, in light of the blessing the patience of God means for us and others, we welcome it gladly.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Soon and Very Soon

“He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” 
(Revelation 22:20 ESV)

The season of Advent is now upon us.  And, as most of you know, it’s a season of anticipation, as we look forward to our celebration of Christ’s birth.  But, at the same time, it’s a season of expectation as we await his return.

Throughout the Old Testament, God had spoken to his people of the coming Savior.  And these promises caused them to live in anticipation.  They lived from day to day, watching and hoping for the Savior’s arrival.

We see this with the ministry of John the Baptist, and also as the ministry of Jesus took shape.  We see that the people were questioning if this was it.  They wondered, initially, if John was the Christ (something that he dismissed).  They also wondered, rightfully so, if Jesus was the promised Savior.

For us, the coming of the Savior is something that happened in the past.  It’s this that we celebrate at Christmas.  We remember the Son of God, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who was born into the world.

We remember that he was born into this world that he might save us from our sin.  He came that he might give his life on the cross on our behalf.  He came that, through faith in him, we might receive the blessing of life everlasting.

And here’s where our season of anticipation comes in.  Although Jesus has come, we know that he’s coming again.  We see this in the above verse.  So, like the Israelites of the past, we live lives of watchful anticipation, longing for his arrival.

We long for his arrival because, even though the end will be a dreadful time, it means deliverance from this world of sin and death. It means the final judgment, when the people of God will be separated from those who are condemned.  And it means that we’ll be transformed so that sin and its consequences become a thing of the past.

Even though most of us like our lives in this world, for the most part, and are reluctant to leave them behind, this is something worth anticipating. It’s worth our hopeful expectation.  As the old spiritual declares: “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!”

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

An Expression of Hope

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”

(2 Peter 3:14 ESV)

When it comes to our salvation, our tendency is to place our hope in ourselves. We tend to place our hope in our own performance. We tend to think that, if we live a good enough life, we just might make it into heaven. We focus our efforts that we might have a chance to be saved.

The problem with this mindset is that we never know if we’ve done enough. We never know if we’ve been good enough. Even if we believe we have a shot at gaining salvation, we know there’s also a chance that we may not.

An even greater problem with this mindset is that nothing we do could ever merit salvation. Even if we could perfectly keep the law of God from this point on, it would not be enough. The simple fact of the matter is that we are sinners. And, because we’re sinners, we deserve only judgment.

Peter has been sharing with us about our great hope, as believers in Jesus. He’s been discussing the return of Christ and the end of this present age. And his encouragement, in this passage, flows from this hope.

Because we are waiting for these great blessings, he says, we’re to be diligent, we’re to make every effort, to be found by him without spot or blemish. We live for the Lord not that we might have hope. We live for him because we have hope.

Our lives are to reflect the hope that we have in Christ. Because we’ve been saved by him from sin, death, and the devil, we are to live in that freedom. We are to live for the Lord because of his salvation.

When we live this way, we recognize that our salvation is found only in him. And by living for him, we are expressing this faith. We are rejecting our sinful desires and tendencies, we are abandoning all efforts to save ourselves, and surrendering ourselves to him.

We are also called, by Peter, to be found at peace. And this is where that peace is found. We are able to be found at peace because of what Christ has done for us. We are able to live with confidence in the fact that we are saved. And this puts all of the questions and doubts, when it comes to our eternal destiny, to rest.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hasten the Day

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

(2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV)

Even though we have the promise of Christ, and even though we live with the hope of his coming, it seems that we would rather put it off.  We would rather he not come, at least not for a while. We would rather he not come because we’re not yet ready to let go of the things of this life.

When we consider what he’s promised us, this seems absolutely crazy. He’s promised us eternal life in his kingdom. He’s promised us eternal life in his presence. He’s promised us eternal life where sin and its consequences are no more.

In the kingdom of God, we will not struggle with temptation and our sinful nature. In the kingdom of God, we will not suffer. In the kingdom of God, we will not die. All of these will be a thing of the past.

Yet, we would rather put it off for a while. We would rather continue on in this present world. We would rather enjoy more time with our family. We’d rather spend more time enjoying our home. We’d rather spend more time traveling or enjoying our hobbies. Even knowing that the blessings God has in store for us are so much greater, we would rather enjoy the pleasures of this life a while longer.

Often, we would rather put it off for a while that we might indulge our sinful nature a bit more. We would rather pander to our sinful longings. Instead of hating our sin and longing to be free of it, we enjoy it. And, frankly, we’re disappointed that we won’t be able to forever satisfy our lusts.

Peter tells us that, realizing these things are to be dissolved, we should live lives of holiness and godliness. As people of faith, we must turn from our sinful desires in a spirit of repentance. As people of faith, we must value the Lord and his blessings even more than the people and things we love most in this life.

Realizing these things will be dissolved, we should be waiting for the coming of the day of God. In fact, he says that we should hasten the day. We should long for the day of his coming, and we should long for it to come quickly.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Don't Grow Impatient

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be.”

(2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV)

As we anticipate the return of Jesus, it’s easy for us to grow impatient.  After all, who wouldn’t want to be free of this world of evil? Who wouldn’t want to be free of these bodies of sin and death?

As time drags on, we want it to be over.  As we watch the wickedness of man on display each and every day, we want it to end. And as we struggle with sin and temptation, we long for this to become a thing of the past.

However, in the above passage, Peter calls on us to take God’s perspective into consideration. For the Lord, time doesn’t share the same meaning, the same framework, as it does with us. Even though we’re told that these things are soon to take place, from the Lord’s perspective, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.

No matter how it seems to us, God is not slow to fulfill his promise. He is being patient with mankind. And this patience is yet another example of his grace.

It’s an example of his grace because he doesn’t want anyone to perish. Even though the final judgment and hell itself are realities, they are not God’s desire for anyone. His desire is for the salvation of all.

For this reason, he’s displaying his patience. He’s providing time for the gospel to go forth. And he’s providing opportunity for the lost to look to him in faith that they might be saved.

The grace of God, given to us, fills us with the same desire. We long for the salvation of our fellow men. And, for this reason, we patiently endure our time in this world.

Yet we’re assured that the end will come. Even if our waiting has led us to question this, it is his promise.  And, as we know, our God is faithful.

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.

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.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Embracing Our Guilt

“Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
(Romans 1:32 ESV)

We live in a time when sin is not only accepted, but celebrated. We’re encouraged to embrace our own sinful desires and live in them. And, in the same way, we’re expected to endorse the sinful decisions and activities of others.

As we look to Scripture, we find that these are things we must not do. We must not embrace our own sinful desires. We must not seek to live in them.  And, in the same way, we must not give approval to the sinful activity of those around us.

We must not do this because, as we see above, sin leads to death. Physical, as well as eternal death, is the consequence of sin. And I think it’s safe to say that we don’t desire our own death nor that of others.

This, then, creates a tension when it comes to our interaction with one another. It does so because we’re called to reach out to mankind with the gospel message. And, if people feel condemned by us, if they feel we’re looking down upon them, they have little desire to listen to us.

How do we bridge that gap? How do we reach out to others and, at the same time, reject sin? The key, I believe, is to avoid the “us” versus “them” mentality.

Our tendency is to focus on the sin of others while ignoring our own. Our tendency is to count our own sin as insignificant while, at the same time, we count the sin of others to be major. And we must recognize, first and foremost, that we’re just as sinful as everyone else. We must recognize that our sin condemns us to death and eternal judgment.

We must openly live a life of confession and faith. We must willingly acknowledge to ourselves and others our guilt and our need for a Savior. We must embrace Jesus personally and publicly because he atoned for the penalty of our sin.

As we reject the sin of others, we must ensure that we’re just as vocally rejecting our own. As we condemn the sin of others, we must ensure that we’re just as vocally condemning our own. We must make it clear that we are not better than anyone else. We must make it clear that we are not less sinful or more deserving of God’s blessing. We must make it clear that, apart from Jesus’ sacrifice, and apart from faith in him, we are equally lost.

Like the apostle Paul, we must count ourselves to be the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16). We must see and understand the miracle of his salvation in our own life. And we must communicate this as we reach out to those around us.  We must communicate the gospel in this way: If Jesus can save a sinner like me, then he can certainly save a sinner like you.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Living in God’s Grace

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In America, we often complain about those who fail to enjoy or make use of the freedoms and opportunities available to them. We see so many who lazily neglect these great blessings. And we become frustrated as they squander them away.

They have the chance to receive a great education. They have the chance to work and to gradually increase their income. They have the chance to advance as new and better opportunities come their way.

They’re able to make use of the tremendous medical care available in this nation. They’re able to live and raise a family in relative peace. They are able to provide for their children more opportunities than even they have enjoyed.

They have all of this and so much more, yet they remain idle. Perhaps they try to attain the things they desire through corrupt means. And, for this reason, they are completely ineffective.

Even though this frustrates us, so many of us do the same thing spiritually. We fail to receive the blessings God has made available to us, or we try to attain them by corrupt means. And, in this way, we become ineffective and unfruitful.

So many of us in the church profess faith in Christ, and we talk about our hope of salvation, yet all evidence of it is absent from our life. We are not living in the grace of God. In fact, our life looks no different than that of the unbelievers who surround us on a daily basis.

God’s grace has been provided to us, yet we fail to receive it. We reject it in favor of worldly desires. Even if we do so without recognizing it, we squander these blessings he’s graciously provided to us.

As we saw in our look at the prior verses of this chapter, God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. None of this is attained on our own. It’s the gift of God, received by faith.

For this reason, as we see above, we’re called to live in this grace. We’re called to supplement our faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with steadfastness, steadfastness with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

This doesn’t suggest that we gain these qualities or grow in them by our own effort. Again, it’s God’s power that supplies all we need for life and godliness. However, we are receptive of these gifts that God has graciously made available to us, and we walk in them.

If these qualities are ours, Peter says, and if they’re growing, they will keep us from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ. Our faith will not only receive the blessings God has provided to us, but will enable us to be a blessing to others. It will enable us to point others to Christ and to the blessings found in him.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Granted by God

“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, 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.”

(2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

Our tendency is to believe that we have it all together. We believe that we are good people. We believe that we are deserving of every blessing. We believe that we’ve gained for ourselves everything that we need for life. And we think that, by our goodness and effort, we can gain all things that pertain to godliness.

Scripture, however, tells us the exact opposite. It tells us that we are not good. It tells us that we deserve nothing other than death and hell. It tells us that life has been granted to us by God. And it tells us that godliness is not something we can attain on our own.

This is also something that we see very clearly if we take an honest look at ourselves. When we do so, we see our constant failure. We see our inability to do what is right. We see the darkness inside of us.

On the surface, this is discouraging. It’s discouraging because we see the futility of our situation. However, Scripture also gives to us hope. It gives to us hope such as that seen in the above passage.

Even though we cannot attain these things for ourselves, Peter tells us that God has provided them for us. God’s divine power has given to us all that we need for both life and godliness. He’s enabled our life in this world and in eternity. And, by his power, we are transformed into his image.

This is possible through the knowledge of God, who called us. It’s possible by knowing Jesus, through faith. In this way, he’s granted to us his promises so that, through them, we can become partakers in the divine nature.

This doesn’t mean that we’ll be gods ourselves. Through faith in Christ, God dwells within us. And, as we trust in his promises, we are saved from sin and its consequences.

This passage, then, reminds us to trust in Christ and in him alone. We must not look to ourselves, we must not look to our goodness or effort, for any blessing we need or desire. We must look to him knowing that we receive these things only by his power.