Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Our God Who Restrains (2 Peter 2:14-16)

“[false prophets] having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Peter 2:14–16, NASB95)

Balaam is most well known in Deuteronomy chapter 22-24 for the incident when Balak the king of Moab had called upon Balaam who practiced divination or was a false prophet (Joshua 13:22) who God confronted to be His worker of blessing on the people of Israel. It was on the way to this first encounter with Balak that the angel of the Lord (or a manifestation of the Lord Himself) appeared to Balaam’s donkey, even speaking through the donkey to get Balaam’s attention. Balaam was incensed and repeated struck it when his donkey would not move past the angel of the Lord with sword in hand. Even when the donkey spoke Balaam did not figure out that something bigger was going on. We read, “And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”” (Numbers 22:28–30, NASB95)

It was not until the next verse that he gets the real picture. “Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.” (Numbers 22:31, NASB95) In showing Himself to Balaam, the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.” (Numbers 22:32, NASB95) In response to this Balaam admitted his sin. Through the next couple of chapters, the king of Moab instructed Balaam several times to curse the people of Israel only to have Balaam bless them instead. The encounter afterward went like this each time: “Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!” He replied, “Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”” (Numbers 23:11–12, NASB95; see also 23:25-26; 24:10-14). With each we have recorded for us an oracle given by Balaam. After the last one we read, “Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way.” (Numbers 24:25, NASB95)

At this point we would think that Balaam, who had been a false prophet, might have seen the light and changed his ways. But with the very next verse we read, “While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel.” (Numbers 25:1–3, NASB95) So, what did this have to do with Balaam? This is where the history and context of Scripture helps to fill in some of the blanks.

As we begin Deuteronomy chapter 31 Moses was instructed by the Lord to avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. In verse 8 we see part of the list of those who were slain. “They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.” (Numbers 31:8, NASB95) And verse 9 tells us who they let live. “The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered.” (Numbers 31:9, NASB95) This sounded like a merciful thing to do, but there was more to the story. Moses would confront his officers for not doing as they were instructed with these words, “Have you spared all the women? “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord.”” (Numbers 31:15–16, NASB95) Evidently Balaam’s encouragement was at the heart of their turning. Balaam had been used by God, but Balaam’s heart had not been changed and he returned to his false ways which ended not only in his death by the death of many others.

Just as we read in the verses that Balaam never ceased from sin, so it is true for other false prophets who entice unstable or easily swayed people to walk in their ways. In Acts 13:6-11 we read of another false prophet Bar-Jesus:

“When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? “Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.” (Acts 13:6–11, NASB95)

Bar-Jesus and Paul were going head-to-head in speaking to the Sergius Paulus. Paul was presenting the word of God and the magician tried to turn him away. Then we read that Paul turned his attention to Bar-Jesus, rebuked him for his deceitful and fraudulent ways, and spoke a judgment from the Lord that he would lose his sight or a season, which is exactly what happened. The good news found in verse 12 is, “Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.” (Acts 13:12, NASB95)

The presence of evil is real. False prophets are abundant. But God’s Word is the best response and His Spirit makes it effective to restrain evil and open eyes and change hearts such that men are amazed and people believe and are saved.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Revel in the Truth (2 Peter 2:12-13)

When working through a book of the Bible there are some passages you might want to blaze right though. But as we look around us it is easy to see that what Peter warned the church leaders of 2000 years ago we are seeing in full force today. Nothing has changed in the heart of man. Only the truth of Christ makes the difference. Let us be people who are wholly of His Word and not pay heed to the voices of anything less.

“But these [false prophets], like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you,” (2 Peter 2:12–13, NASB95)

This passage is not politically correct, nor is it the best way to enter a conversation with someone in opposition. But Peter makes the comparison concerning those false teachers who live to indulge their desires. These false prophets and those who revel with them are so intent on seeking their own way and their own pleasure that they are blind to the dangers that surround them. Those who promote agendas contrary to God’s will and His Word do so like animals who without reason race to their own destruction.

They revel in their license and they tear down those who stand for right. To clear the way for their own cause, they revile those who point out their wrong. These men, living without a standard of truth, put down any who take a firm stand for the truth of God’s Word. Jude wrote of them, “But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.” (Jude 10, NASB95) God’s Word makes it very clear that these false prophets will incur His judgment for what they have done, and He will not be slack in doing so. He will justly deal with them as the only true and righteous judge. What they glory in today will be their standard for judgment. Living according to their unbridled passions will end with them incurring the fully bridled wrath of God.

These men who live in defiance of God will incur the judgment of God. “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:17–19, NASB95) This is the message of the gospel, but these false teachers’ actions and words declare something quite different. The way they live is not consistent with the ways of Christ, and the words they speak point in a different direction. And, as we’ve seen in the previous verses, they attract the ears of many others and lead them astray to their own destruction.

In an elder meeting earlier today we discussed how churches handle God’s Word or what is termed “hermeneutics.” Biblical Hermeneutics is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the Bible. This is not something left to seminary students and pastors alone. Using sound study principles is important for all believers. The Bible tells us that each one of is us to be a good steward of the Word of God and that we are to handle it properly. This is something that we are to teach our children when they are young as is common in programs such as AWANA whose theme verse is 2 Timothy 2:15. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB95) And, it is something that we are to practice when we get old.

Essential to a sound hermeneutic is a sound approach to the principles of study. A sample statement in support of such an approach is found in the identitiy document of an association in which my home church is a part. It reads: “We believe the Bible is God’s absolute, objective truth for all people for all times. It is without error in concept or detail in the original writings. It is breathed out in its entirety by God, divinely preserved, and, therefore, trustworthy. We believe the Holy Spirit superintended human authors so that, through their individual personalities and literary styles, they composed and recorded God’s Word. It is God’s written revelation complete in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. It is the supreme authority in all matters to which it speaks and is sufficient for life, conduct, and practice – understandable by every believer. We believe Scripture must be understood through the literal, contextual, grammatical, and historical method of interpretation, and applied under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” (Conservative Baptist Northwest Identity Document)

Let’s take a look at the last sentence and the elements that play into this hermeneutic. First, the Bible is literal. Contrast this to the position I found on the web site of one church where I read, “encourages thoughtful inquiry; takes the Bible seriously, but not literally.” There is a huge difference between a church that holds the Word of God to be the literal Word of God and one that views it as an advisory, but not authoritative commentary on life. One recognizes God as the author of truth from which man learns and lives, while the other thinks it is a good book that is to be blended and even subjected to other thoughts and concerns of life. The Bible does not leave this door open to man, though false prophets and liberal theologians have declared otherwise. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB95)

The Word of God is contextual. Every passage of the Bible is written in the context of other passages and is consistent with the whole. It is very easy to take things out of context, but a proper study of the Word of God requires that it be studied in the fullness of its context. And to properly understand context we also have to recognize that the Word of God is grammatical. There are rules of grammar, and these rules are to be taken into account in the study of the Bible. The language of the Bible is not to be twisted to suit one’s own end. Words have meaning, and sentences and paragraphs have structure that reinforce that meaning. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB95)

Lastly, the Word of God is historical, not cultural. The events of the Bible are historical. These authors lived in a historical setting, and having an understanding of that setting, the people and even the culture is helpful for a better understanding of the Word. But the Bible is not changeable relevant to culture. God’s Word endures forever. Its authoritative truth does not change according to the changing times. It is not a fluid document that can be altered according to the life choices of man, but it is a document that is alive and powerful in its enduring and unchanging truth and ability to expose the lies. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12–13, NASB95)

But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:25, NASB95) The contrast is clear. The Word of God is what Peter had preached. It is the enduring Word that we have today. In it is God’s honest truth. These false prophets, who are racing to their own destruction, despise the truth and will suffer the consequence of their lies. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:7–9, NASB95) Unlike these false prophets who revel in their lies, we are called by God to hide His Word in our hearts and revel in His enduring truth.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread (2 Peter 2:10-11)

“and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” (2 Peter 2:10–11, NASB95)

Alexander Pope, who is regarded as a master of the heroic couplet form of poetry, wrote “An Essay on Criticism” in 1709, and it has subsequently influenced many others in their writing. From the over 7,500 words in the poem we have such famous phases as:

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”

“Some valuing those of their own side or mind, Still make themselves the measure of mankind; Fondly we think we honour merit then, When we but praise ourselves in other men.”

“Good nature and good sense must ever join; To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

“Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation, And taught more pleasant methods of salvation; Where Heav'n's free subjects might their rights dispute, Lest God himself should seem too absolute:”

And, “Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead: For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

In his poem, Pope went after many issues of man and his pride, particularly those in leadership. Among them were those in the pulpits who he chastised as not knowing God, but professing strongly to proclaim His words. We see this in the last couple of quotes that specifically refer to “unbelieving priests” teaching “more pleasant methods of salvation” and in the words just before probably the most famous quote in the poem. It was these men standing in the pulpit proclaiming whatever it was that offended him that he referred to as “fools” rushing in “where angels fear to tread.”

Peter had been writing about false teachers coming into the church in verses 1-3, who would lead many people astray. In the next verses, Peter wrote about the certainty and the severity of God’s judgment toward those who lived opposed to him. Here in these two verses Peter speaks to the foolishness of these men who are so bold as even to revile heavenly authority. People such as this have no regard for God or His angels. They speak and do as they please, and some even do it from the pulpits in so-called churches of God. Pope wrote of people who made themselves the measure of mankind and subsequently valued only those who were on their own side or who supported their own way of thinking. This is a very dangerous place to be when man lives as if he is god.

They might outwardly identity themselves with God and Christ, but their hearts, their words, and their actions declare that they are about themselves. Verse 10 identifies some distinguishing features of such people. The first is their lustful or sensual desires. They are driven by what they want and manipulating people and situations in order to achieve it. For them right gives way to want, and they will go after it with their whole hearts as they fully indulge themselves in their twisted or corrupted desires. For them, lines give way to favor license.

These men also despise authority. Not regarding the authority of God as anything to be reckoned with they also despise the authority of man. They become their own self-rule in their hearts and as much as they are able to live it out in their actions. Using similar examples as Peter just did, Jude wrote:

“just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 7–13, NASB95)

It is easy to look out into the world, and particularly our own country with the great amount of discord and the tensions existing on many extremes to see they type of things of which Peter and Jude wrote. But, both men were not as focused on the outside world as much as they were in the church. Jude’s said that, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feat with you without fear, caring for themselves.” What we have here is a strong warning against those who come among us as Christians and who boldly proclaim other things. Those who do such things have no reservations about it. They live without fear, and in the words of Pope, these “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Even the angels know better. While these men revile angelic majesties (Jude 8), we read that even the archangel, Michael, refused to go there. In Jude 9 we read, “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil [Satan] and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”” Michael recognized clearly in the midst of a dispute with Satan that it was not in his power to judge or even rebuke him. He entrusted it to God with the words, “The Lord rebuke you!” And if God’s angels recognize this authority belonging to god, then how much more should we realize in the midst of supernatural spiritual warfare that we should respond the same.

It is incumbent on us and particularly the leadership of our churches to be on the guard against and to reject false teachers, but even in this we are also to realize that it is God who stands as their standard and their judge. We have no authority over them, but Christ has all authority given to Him by the Father. The reality is that if they will not listen to God, then why should we expect that they will listen to us. What we are better served to do is to guard ourselves against falsehood and anything that turns our attention from Him so that we don’t become prideful ourselves as we build up and encourage one another to do likewise in the worship of our great God.

Jude ended his short letter with these words: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25, NASB95)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

God’s Judgment is Exact (2 Peter 2:4-10a)

"(4) For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; (5) and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (6) and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; (7) and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (8) (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), (9) then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, (10) and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” (2 Peter 2:4–10a, NASB95)

There is a lot packed into this sentence! We have here three specific instances of God acting in the past against evil as a loud statement of His power to exact judgment and even rescue others in the process. Having done this, God has declared that He will continue to do so reliably in the future which all points to His final judgment for which the world still awaits. This is something that His righteousness demands as we read in passages such as 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9. "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:6–9, NASB95)

Starting with verse 4 we read that He did not even spare angels when they sinned against Him. This includes the foremost of them, the one we know as Lucifer as was translated in the King James Bible, but who is referred to in most modern translations as the star of the morning, the son of the dawn (Isaiah 14:12). Isaiah went on to record for us that Lucifer who we know more commonly as the Devil or Satan, sinned against God in this way: “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. (14) ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13–14, NASB95) His ego and pride led to his great fall and judgment as we also read, “Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.” … “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15, NASB95) And, it is the same judgment for all of the other angels who rebelled with him.

But here it verse 4 it seems like there were some angels who judgment was more immediate and which may be a reference to Genesis 6:1-4 where we read, “Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:1–4, NASB95)

In Job we find these “sons of God” mentioned again, and from the context it appears that with Satan included in the context that these sons of God are angels. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6, NASB95) … “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7, NASB95)

Evidently these fallen angels had taken on the form of men and were seen as giants who then took for themselves wives from among men. The next words of Genesis paint a drastic picture for us of the condition of the earth at that time which led to the second picture of God’s judgment in our passage for today. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5–8, NASB95)

Reading on we know that all of mankind perished, and presumably even these sons of God were sent directly to Hell through the flood. Only Noah, his sons and their wives along with the animals on the ark survived. From all of humanity their numbers were brought down to eight from which God began anew. Following this, God made a covenant with Noah and He placed His bow in the sky as a reminder of that promise that that He would not destroy all of mankind with a flood in this way again. But that did not mean that God was finished with His judgment. Man was not cleansed and man continued to sin.

Moving to the next example in this passage we see that He did indeed exact his judgment on a people and bring about their total destruction, again except for some that He removed in advance. In verses 6-8 we continue to read, “and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds) ….

Lot is spoken of like Noah as a righteous man who lived in the oppression of evil. And just as God removed Noah and his family from the face of the earth through the ark prior to the flood, so did he remove Lot. This time rather than a flood on the whole world, it was by incinerating two cities because of the “sensual conduct of unprincipled men.”

Each of these examples point to the power of God to judge, but more than that to His power to execute judgment exactly. We find through them the words “if God” or “if he.” What comes next in verse 9 is the “then” that accompanies the “if.” If God can exact His exact judgment exactly as He intends then He surely can rescue as well. This is what we read in verse 9, “If God” … “(9) then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment….” Simply put, God is just as perfect in His judgment as He is in His rescuing. He knows how to do both perfectly, and because of that we can trust ourselves fully in His just and righteous hands. He can do both without limitation. He can keep the godly from temptation so that we can live victoriously in Him, and He can keep the unrighteous under punishment until such time that His judgment is fully exacted.

God had referred to these men of old who he rescued as righteous. Scripture declares that when we trust in Christ that we receive His righteousness put upon us. This means that there really are two camps. There are those who are declared righteous by faith and those who are unrighteous apart from it. God holds both and He can deal exactly right with each. For the righteous there is eternal life in the light of His presence and for the unrighteous there is forever darkness in Hell which has been reserved by God for them. The only thing that moves a person from one to another is the blood of Christ through faith.

Judgment is coming, and verse 10 tells us this is true, “especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” This is seen in the examples spoken through Peter. In each of them the judged disregarded the authority of God and the ways of God to seek after their own desires and to please their own flesh. Rebellion against God only has one end, which is judgment. But as long as those who are in the camp are taking breath there remains hope that God will open their eyes to His truth, they will turn from their wicked ways, and trust in His Son to receive His gift of forgiveness.

Knowing the difference, we are to live as those who have been saved and set apart for righteousness, even rejecting the voices of evil as they clamor for our attention.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Don’t Drink the Poison (2 Peter 2:2-3)

“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:2–3, NASB95)

Wikipedia says the following about Jim Jones, the founder of the Peoples Temple: James Warren Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978) was an American cult leader, mass murderer and communist. Jones was ordained as a Disciples of Christ pastor, and he achieved notoriety as the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, which was often described as having cult-like qualities. In 1978, media reports surfaced that human rights abuses were taking place in Peoples Temple's Jonestown, Guyana headquarters. United States Congressman Leo Ryan led a delegation into the commune to investigate what was going on; Ryan and others were murdered by gunfire while boarding a return flight with defectors. Jones subsequently committed a mass murder-suicide of 918 of his followers in Jonestown, Guyana. Nearly three hundred children were murdered, almost all of them by cyanide poisoning via a Flavor Aid mix. This historical episode gave rise to the ubiquitous American-English expression "drinking the Kool-Aid".

This is probably one of the most notorious cases of a large number of people being led astray by a false teacher. Jim Jones grew in popularity and following as he preached a message of respect across racial lines during a volatile period in our nation’s history. As his movement grew and he further embraced the communist movement he secured a piece of property in Guyana where nearly 1,000 people moved with him to their awaiting paradise. But paradise was not what it was promoted to be, and his message of universal acceptance ended in his own death through an apparent suicide after his followers were encouraged to give the poisonous concoction to their children and then to drink it themselves. I reality they didn’t really drink Kool-Aid (which is a particular brand), but they did to a large degree knowingly consume a flavored blend of poisonous ingredients at the urging of their leader who led them so far astray that this seemed the right thing to do. They had become so detached from reality that the attachment they had with this one man led to this evil end.

Not all deception is so obviously drastic, though some of it has been far more reaching. Deception maligns and distorts truth as people are encouraged to reject it for other messages being preached. People are led astray as these false teachers receive the satisfaction of whatever motive might be driving them. They tell you what they want you to hear and exploit you with their false words. The list of such people is seemingly endless, and the end for each of them is eventually the same, as they crumble under their own false temples. Their greed seems to push them further and further, and when they fall the devastation is often widespread as they take many with them.

When the disregard for God’s Word as inerrant truth becomes the acceptable, then the abnormal becomes more and more tolerable and even “right.” We don’t have to look too far to see where these lines have been crossed and things have become more and more contentious in our society. And sadly, some of our churches have become some of the strongest advocates of this just as Peter said would be the case in the previous verse.

Where we are today did not occur overnight. It took time as those teaching false words gained a voice and people began to drink their poison. Peter warned of these things, and he also told us that the answer for us was to become people of God’s Word who hide it in our hearts, accept it as God’s standard for life, and follow it fully whether this be in the big things or the little ones that we think much less harmful. The reality is that any compromise from the truth is exactly that, a move away from the truth. We read in God’s Word that we are to be constantly alert to these things as we are also alert to those who come along to falsely teach them as right and proper. God is the standard setter, and there is no end that is right apart from Him. In response, we are instructed to align our lives with His standard as we hide His Word in our heart and seek after Him with the entirety of our lives.

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” (Proverbs 19:5, NASB95)

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” … “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9, 11, NASB95)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

There is Only One Christ (2 Peter 2:1)

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1, NASB95)

It’s a whole lot easier to detect a lie when you know the truth, and nothing has changed in this regard over time. Looking back to the prophets, Peter stated that they were not alone. As they spoke so did the false prophets, and people had to discern the difference. Nothing had changed in this regard. As Peter was writing to them there was the present threat that false teachers would even come into the midst and seek to lead them astray. False prophets and teachers were nothing new, and neither are they anything new today. They have been and will continue to be around. It is for that reason that Peter turns his attention from those who spoke truth from God to those who would be speaking lies.

Looking back to Deuteronomy we find that God spoke though Moses on this very issue. In a longer passage on the issue we read this short excerpt, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Deuteronomy 13:1–4, NASB95)

Even then it was known that there were people who were out to sell a false, though very appealing and even convincing “bill of goods.” What they said might even have been backed by signs and wonders, but it was not backed by truth. God laid out for them a standard which was to follow Him, to do as He said, to listen to His voice and serve Him, and to cling to Him. They were to seek after God with their whole hearts, to hide His word in their hearts, and to obey it fully. They were not to allow any room in them for anyone who might attempt to lead them down any other path. In fact, what followed in this passage is the strong instruction for what was to happen to these false prophets and others who might seek to lead them astray.

Putting away false teachers was important enough to God that He instituted a death penalty among the people. They were to be responsible to purge evil from their midst for their own preservation as a nation. This penalty is not enacted in Israel today, but the purging in other ways is a broader principle that even the church is to observe. We see this in 1 Corinthians when it comes to the blatant sin of a person in the church where we read, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Corinthians 5:11–13, NASB95) In the English Standard Version we read in this last verse, “God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”” (1 Corinthians 5:13, ESV), which is a quote from the passage Deuteronomy 13:5.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–20, ESV) The standard hasn’t changed. These false prophets will show themselves by what they say and do, and by knowing what God has said and what He calls us to do we will be enabled to know the difference.

We know they will come. They have always come, and there is no reason to believe that they will cease until such time as Jesus returns and shuts them down. In their coming, they are also very deceptive. What they have to say may sound close, and they might look and act right in their approach. But they will show themselves, and we are to be on our guard. We are not to live in fear of them, but we are to live aware that they are there while being even more aware that our God holds us firmly in His hands.

As Paul was preparing to go to Jerusalem and on to Rome, after he had left Ephesus for the last time he called the Ephesian elders to him and shared this, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:29–32, ESV) There was no doubt that evil would try to devour the church and to lead even its leaders astray. Paul knew this without a doubt, and he also knew that he would not be with them to help them see the difference. His instruction to them was to be alert and to remember what they had seen and heard. They knew the teaching they had received from Paul and they knew the heart of Paul and how he lived before them. They were to remember his example as they looked at all who would follow, and they were to measure everyone carefully to the sake of the church. But more than that, Paul encouraged them with the constant presence of Christ and the hope that they had in Him that He would continue to grow them into His image as they walked according to His ways.

We have a standard given to us by our God. It is found in His inerrant word and it is to be evidenced before us in those who God has given us as our leadership. Any who march to a different drum are to be drummed right out. God will deal with them. He is their judge, and He will not fail. Our task is to keep looking to Him and using His standard as our standard for life and godliness. The responsibility of our church leaders is to oversee the flock and to guard it by the same standard by which He has also called us. We only have one Master.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

God’s Word is Not Man’s Invention (2 Peter 1:20-21)

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20–21, NASB95)

The Bible is not just the “good book.” It is the Word of God and it is His truth shared with us through those chosen by Him. I own a lot of books, and in them there are a lot of opinions. Many of those opinions are right and good based upon correct understandings, while others (even in the same book) are not quite as reliable. The problem with all of these books is that they are based upon man’s best understanding or possibly even his desires in relation to those understandings. This is how it is with the non-fiction ones. I won’t even go there to discuss the fiction books (historical of not) and the foundations of thought that are behind them.

Man writes from the basis of information or speculation that he has, but this is not how it is with God. God has no limit in information and He does not have to speculate about anything. He knows everything perfectly. He always had and He always will. He is infinite in all ways. God has always existed just as He is, and everything else that exists does so because He is the Creator. He created time and space. He created the heavens and the earth and He placed them exactly where they needed to be with every detail necessary for their proper function. He created the waters and the land, and He created everything that lives in or on them. He created man and He breathed into man the breath of life that makes him distinct from everything else. He created woman and He even established the union that they would share. He did all of this with perfect knowledge of how things would go, how man would rebel, and even how He would draw man back to Himself. He created everything with perfect knowledge of its goodness and even evil that would interrupt it. There is absolutely nothing in which God is limited, and there is no boundary through which He cannot break or no avenue through which He cannot work or speak.

It is from this foundation that God has given and preserved His Word. Peter wrote of God’s Word as a foundational principle of truth saying, “first of all….” In the face of all that others might say after the apostles left Peter affirmed that the Word of God is to be their rock. It is absolutely trustworthy. It is the standard against which everything else is measured. If man wavers on this then there is nothing to bar him from believing anything else. When truth is rejected then man is put on the slippery slope of his desires. But this is not to be the case. The Word of God is authoritatively truthful and accurate.

It is not the collective thoughts of a bunch of likeminded people over a long period of time, who wrote as they wished or who added to the composite what they felt they might like to add. The Bible is not the combined work of people putting in their “two cents worth.” Peter wrote that the Bible, or the writings (Greek: graphÄ“s) of Scripture, are the words given to men by the Spirit of God. This is true of both Old and New Testament writers. Peter tells us that these authors did not figure these things out on their own. They did not unravel the mysteries and record them for us as they understood them. They did not figure out their own interpretation of their deeper hidden meanings.

NO! The Bible is not a mystery book unveiled to us by men who had shared their own special insights. Rather, Peter assures us that what we have recorded for us is what men have recorded as they were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak from God. That’s a pretty bold statement. Saying that these men heard from God and what we have is “God’s honest truth” is astounding. And, we don’t have to look too far to see that many have refused to acknowledge this in their own lives. Sadly, we don’t even have to look too far to see that many churches have also done likewise. This is why Peter say it was a “first of all” issue. Apart from the Word of God being first of all the true and accurate Word of God then it really doesn’t amount to more than just the opinions of man who can interpret as they wish and take or leave it as they so desire. Peter did not leave this as an option. He stated it without equivocation.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 the apostle Paul wrote that all Scripture is “inspired by God” (New American Standard). In the New International Version we read that it is “God-breathed,” and in the English Standard we read that it is “breathed out by God.” All of these translations point to the central truth that the Word of God is not something of man’s doing, but men being moved by God wrote His truth. The Greek word at the heart of these translations is “theopneustos,” which itself is composed of two words. The later part of it (pneustos) might sound familiar to us, especially to mechanics. This word “pneustos” is where we get our word “pneumatic.” Pneumatic tools are tools that are powered by air pressure. Compressors build up pressure to a certain point such that when the trigger is pulled power is then released to accomplish the purpose for which the tool is designed.

I love my pneumatic tools. They have really enhanced my ability to do certain projects as they bring more power to projects than my simple electric motors might otherwise have done. And, in Greek the word “pneustos” simply means to breathe, blow or even move as with the wind. But God’s Word is not subject to the “winds of change” or to “whatever way the wind might blow.” Our God does not change. He is infinitely consistent. When King Saul had rebelled against God and the prophet Samuel came to tell him that he had been rejected by God as king, Samuel told Saul the following: “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”” (1 Samuel 15:27–29, NASB95) God is “not a man that He should change His mind.” This who our God is. Jesus Himself said and Peter would later quote Him just a few verses later in this chapter, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, NASB95) It is this foundational consistency of God that is added in front of the word “pneustos.” “Theopneustos” means that this breath comes from “theos.” It comes from God. Our God who cannot lie and who cannot change or change His mind moved through His Spirit these men to record these things. They are His inspired words and they are accurate.

In looking to the doctrinal statements of prospective churches it is foundational that we look to how they view this thing of first importance—the Word of God. This is what the local church I am a member of holds on this important issue, and appropriately enough it is the first point in our Doctrinal Statement of Faith. “The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired Word of God without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of mankind, and the divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life.” But more than just holding that position, it has been the practice both from the pulpit and in its dealings to stand on the Word of God for what it is, the final and truthful authority. And being quite honest, standing on this foundation has made our lives much easier. Sure, we have to struggle with growing in our knowledge and understanding. But, we never have to grow in keeping up with its changes.

God’s Word is just as true today as it was when these men were moved to write it because it came from our God who is absolute truth and absolutely truthful. His Word is alive because His Spirit works in and through it, but it is not evolving because God has nowhere to evolve. The world might not like this, but the world is not to be our standard. Our standard is the inerrant Word of God given to us through men who were moved by the Spirit to speak for Him.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB95)

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB95)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shining in the Dark with the Light of Truth (2 Peter 1:19)

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19, NASB95)

On the mountain Peter, James and John had seen Jesus with Moses and Elijah. The presence of Christ had been linked before their eyes with two key figures who had gone before them to point them to His coming. The words the prophets had heard and hoped to see realized, were now made even more sure in front of these disciples.

This event is set up against what follows next in Peter’s letter, which is a warning of the false prophets to come as the return of Christ draws ever near. Peter was personal witness to the truth and now as he was preparing to leave he was bracing them to stand against the lies. By pointing to Jesus’ encounter with Moses and Elijah, Peter linked the prophets of the Old Testament with the coming of Christ. They were inseparably linked in the fulfillment of God’s promised Redeemer. There was no division in them. What the prophets had foretold Jesus was bringing to pass. God was keeping His Word, which is the absolute truth.

There were going to be may coming forward who said that they had the truth or a special insight or new revelation concerning it. But with each insight or supposed revelation what they put forward would resemble less and less that truth that the prophets and apostles had taught. This is why Peter repeated himself. It is that important that they know the truth.

In response, the objection “What is truth?” has been raised throughout time. It was even rhetorically posed to Jesus on the day of His crucifixion as He stood before Pilate. Pilate had asked Jesus if He was a king, to which Jesus responded, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”” (John 18:37, NASB95) And, it was in response to this that Pilate came off with what was probably that same flippant response, “What is truth?” It appears that Pilate held truth as something less than absolute and possibly even not to be grasped. Jesus’ words had no impact on him, and Pilate did not take seriously Jesus’ affirming that He was indeed a king just as He was purposed to be through His birth. Pilate didn’t see it. He did not grasp the significance of truth, and he was ready to set Jesus free because His opinion really didn’t matter. And, were it not for the cries of the crowd, Jesus likely would have been released.

But God’s standard is different. He sent His Son as the truth. Truth is more than what Jesus said. He is the embodiment of truth. It was through Him that all things came into being and it is through Him that truth was spoken. Truth is inseparable from Him, and it doesn’t matter how strongly someone might believe or even proclaim something else, there is no truth apart from Him.

When Peter wrote, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure,” he meant just that. What they had been told had been affirmed in Christ and they were right there when it happened. Sure, there is an aspect to this in which we are all going to have to trust, but even in that our trust today is not empty or blind. We have the words of the prophets. We have eyewitness testimony of the apostles. We have the Words of Christ preserved for us, and we have the Spirit of God working in us to make it even more sure. We have a great hope because we have a great God who has made great promises which He has fulfilled and will continue to fulfill until such time that we enter the presence of our Lord or He first returns.

The world doesn’t see the light. But neither did we until God opened our eyes. We have been placed in this interim time by God as vessels through which His light is to shine. We live with great hope because of His great assurance, and we have much to share as we are Him ambassadors to those who only know darkness and no understanding of the real truth found in Christ and God’s inerrant Word.

“Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:8–12, NASB95)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Affirmed from Above (2 Peter 1:17-18)

“For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17–18, NASB95)

Peter probably could have cited a great number of proofs of the risen Christ and the veracity of the message that he and the other disciples had been teaching. But this particular example has a surpassing authority to it. In Matthew chapter 17 we read, “Six days later [after Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, but had tried to deny His impending death] Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”” (Matthew 17:1–9, NASB95)

Peter and the rest had seen Jesus do many incredible things. And, just a few verses before this incident when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, Peter had responded to a direct question about who the disciples themselves though He was by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16, NASB95) Jesus followed this by affirming Peter and telling him and the others that they only way he could have known this is that the Father had revealed it to him. “And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17, NASB95)

It was with this backdrop that Jesus led Peter, James and John up onto a high mountain by themselves where the most amazing thing happened. Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. The Greek word used here is a form “metamorphoo.” It is the word from when we get the word metamorphosis, or the process of change that so miraculously transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly or a tadpole into a frog. It is an incredible and dramatic change. We read that Jesus changed before their eyes, and the way that He changed was “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” He took on a heavenly form. They saw Him as they would one day see Him and their living and glorified Lord.

But seeing Jesus changed was not all that happened. Two others then appeared and spoke with Jesus with these three men standing right there as witnesses. “And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” And while the three of them were there talking, it seems that Peter injected himself into the conversation offering to do something for them. “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But before he could finish his words, we read that another amazing affirmation came. We continue to read, “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

Jesus was changed into a heavenly form before their eyes. Moses and Elijah appeared to speak with Him. And then, the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Peter had already testified that Jesus was the Son of the living God, and now the living God spoke clearly for Himself to say the exact same thing. There could be no mistaking what had happened. Peter was not having a dream in which he alone could come forward telling what he had seen. He was there with two others who could testify to the same thing or even correct him if he got it wrong. But, the story stood, and it is recorded for us also in the gospels of Mark (Mark 9:2-8) and Luke (Luke 9:28-36). Not one of these three writers was there, but each one of them had been told of it and recorded it for us just as it was affirmed by Peter in the words we have here.

Jesus who is the Son of God was approved by the Father before men, and the men were further instructed to “listen to Him!” Peter, as an apostle of Christ had been saying these things and he was going to continue to say them until he was unable to speak any longer. This was the message given to Him by Christ, and he attested faithfully to all that he had seen and heard. It is up to us to listen as well, and not allow the truth to be twisted by those not speaking from God who boast of their own fanciful tales.

Jesus told Peter, James and John to hold back on sharing what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. And sure enough, once Jesus had risen and ascended to the Father, the truth came forth and it has changed countless lives through salvation in God’s Son sent for us.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth (2 Peter 1:16)

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16, NASB95)

Have you ever heard a story that seemed more and more preposterous the deeper the person got into giving you the details? It’s as if one statement was being added to another to build a picture that was too unbelievable to be believable. Sir Walter Scott was a famous Scottish novelist, playwright and poet. Among his writings is probably most famously “Ivanhoe,” but among his words that have stuck there is probably none more famous that those from his poem, “Marmion” (published in 1808) in which he wrote: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we [practice] to deceive!” (Spelling of “practice” changed) It seems that “spinning a yarn” is a propensity of man when he wishes to present something as much more grand and glorious than it might otherwise have been. This is true of fishing stories as it is with thoughts and beliefs.

Peter wrote here that what he was sharing with them was not some fanciful or cleverly devised tale. They didn’t put their heads together to come up with a new “religion” to lure in a vast number of followers.  They weren’t seeking their own glory as spiritual giants with special insight. No, what he and the rest of the disciples who were with Jesus wrote was what they had personally seen and been taught by Him. They were firsthand witnesses and they were giving a firsthand account of the true details without any embellishment.

There were many gods known to the people at the time, and each one of them had a history and a system of belief or worship surrounding it. This is true of the pagans or non-Jews and as we read in Titus 1:14 the Jews had their own for which believers were to steer clear of. “not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” (Titus 1:14, NASB95) Paul had written to Timothy to stay focused on the truth and to let the truth and only the truth direct His steps. “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;” (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB95)

When Paul was preparing to leave for Jerusalem prior to going to Rome he paused to call the Ephesian elders together and give them some last instructions. In encouraging them in the work set before them he also cautioned them saying, "(28) “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (29) “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (31) “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (32) “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:28–32, NASB95)

Here Peter was also commending his readers to God with a similar instruction to be on guard for teaching that would seek to tickle their ears and lead them astray. There was no question that there where those who were going to try. They could not prevent them from making the effort, but what they could do was guard themselves from listening. They had been given the real truth from eyewitness to Jesus Christ who is the real deal. And, heeding Peter’s words they were to do so knowing that they had been given the absolute truth through him and those with him from God.

Peter was chosen by Christ. He walked with Christ. He was personally loved, nurtured, and taught by Christ. He was reprimanded and even restored by Christ. He saw Christ go to the cross and he raced to see His empty tomb when Jesus rose from the dead. He spent time with the resurrected Christ. He ate breakfast with Him, and he even saw Him as the Son translated into heaven to return to the presence of the Father all before his eyes. He was there for this incredible scene in Acts 1:9-11, “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:9–11, NASB95)

There are no holes to poke in their story because their story is the absolute truth. It was testified to by many and verified by the personal and visible resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ who we read appeared to over five hundred people at one time. This is what we read from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Corinthians 15:1–8, NASB95)

It’s the truth and nothing but the truth. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Last Words to be Lasting Words (2 Peter 1:12-15)

"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” (2 Peter 1:12–15, NASB95)

Peter re-shared in these verses truths that he had previously shared and was committed to continue sharing until such time that his earthly tent was laid aside. Knowing the importance of repetition in learning, Peter was committed to repeating these essential truths until such time that he was unable to speak the words any more. Observing the important of repetition in learning, Zig Ziglar made popular the phrase, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” It is firmly established that there is great value in learning through repetition. It is through repetition that we solidly learn, and it is as we apply what has been deeply planted in our minds that we then move to accomplish things as a result. Real learning leads to action which has outcomes.

Robert Bjork of UCLA has done extensive research on human learning, particularly as it pertains to students and their performance both in the short and long term. In these excerpts, he explained: “Cramming can actually be a good thing to do from the standpoint of your getting a grade. If you don’t know the material and haven’t appropriately spaced your study across the term, … if you stay up all night, study, cram whatever and walk into the exam, you can actually perform pretty well on that exam… You know what’s coming though, right? It’s what you’ve been waiting for. The “but.”” “But the problem is not too long after that, this massed practice will lead to …very poor retention. So as far as the material in that course carrying over to other courses, to your life in general, it’s an awful thing to do.” He continued, “…The more things are massed together, the more you will see apparent benefits on the short term, the more they’re spread apart, the more you’ll see real benefits on the long term. It is possible to space too much. In some ways that’s just intuitive. If I let extraordinary time go by between when I first study something and when I restudy it, it’ll be almost like that restudy is the first time. … there is an optimal spacing interval. It tends to be very long, but there’s a peak that performance, as I increase that spacing, performance will increase a lot to some point and then gradually I get too much space.” (Source:

What these modern individuals have reaffirmed is the enduring truth that Peter made an important part of his teaching. Repetition is important for learning and for establishing a firm foundation of trust in God and instruction for life. These may be his last words, but he wanted them to be lasting words, and it is for that reason that he spoke them time and time again. His readers who knew him had heard this before. Peter knew these truths to be critical, and he was determined to keep them on the front of his tongue, even to the point that after he left they would continue to hear them.

I think most of us can relate to the enduring nature of words. We have things we’ve heard from someone close to us who has passed through our lives, but has marked our minds in an indelible way. This is true whether those words were for good or for evil. In fact, it is probably easier to remember some of the harsh words than the kinds ones because of how deeply they may have marked us. Peter was determined to make his last words stick in them for good.

He continued by saying that he knew that his time with them was almost done, saying, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” Years earlier, after being recharged to the ministry of tending Jesus’ sheep, Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”” (John 21:18–19, NASB95)

It is estimated that Peter wrote this letter about A.D. 67–68, which would have been shortly before his death. He knew his time had come, and the circumstances surrounding him at the time of his writing must have clearly signaled to Him possibly even with the affirming of the Spirit in him that he was soon to be taken away to his death “where [he did] not wish to go.” Jesus, Himself, had told His disciples that following Him would come at the cost of their physical lives, but that the gain would also be so much more than they could ever imagine. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, NASB95) And for Peter, Church tradition holds that “Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (ca. A.D. 67–68), being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.” (MacArthur Study Bible)

Foxe’s Book of Martyr records for us: “In this persecution, among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit other some, and not without cause, do doubt thereof; concerning whose life and history, because it is sufficiently described in the text of the Gospel, and in the Acts of the Apostles, I need not here to make any great repetition thereof. As touching the cause and maimer of his death, divers there be which make relation, as Hierom, Egesippus, Eusebius, Abdias, and others, although they do not all precisely agree in the time. The words of Hierom be these: Simon Peter, the son of Jona, of the province of Galilee, and of the town of Bethsaida, the brother of Andrew, &c., after he had been bishop of the church of Antioch, and had preached to the dispersion of them that believed, of the circumcision, in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in the second year of Claudius the emperor, (which was the year of our Lord forty and four,) came to Rome to withstand Simon Magus, and there kept the priestly chair the space of five and twenty years, until the last year of the aforesaid Nero, which was the fourteenth year of his reign, of whom he was crucified, his head being down, and his feet upward; himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord….”

We don’t know what actually happened, but what we do know is that Jesus told Peter that his life would be taken from him, and at the writing of these words Peter knew the time was near. It was important to him to repeat what he had just shared as well as that which he was about to share. He was imparting to them the truth of God, and he knew it was important for them to implant it firmly in their minds, their hearts and in the actions of their lives. And, because these words of Peter have been preserved for us we have the same encouragement, the same truth, and the same responsibility in response which is to hide God’s Word in our hearts, to think on it throughout the day, and to stand on it as we live out our lives. This was Peter’s encouragement for them, and it is his encouragement for us as one chosen by Christ to tend His sheep.