33. Be on your Guard

Meditations in 2 Peter : 33:  Be on your Guard

2 Pet  3:17,18    Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Twice in his first letter and now four times in his second letter, Peter calls his readers, “dear friends.” (3:1,8,14,17) He comes with a gentle concern for his readers, coming as a pastor and not an overlord. His language appeals for familiarity, and in that familiarity he hopes to persuade them by this gentle friendship. How often would we persuade people by gentleness rather than forceful argument!

In a second way he also appeals to them: “since you already know this.” Earlier in the letter he had said the same sort of thing: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” (1:12). We like being told we know something; it makes us feel good about ourselves – especially when it is true. What now is the ‘this’ he has just referred to? It must be the fact of critics, sceptics and doubters in the world who deny the Lord’s coming again, men who hold such a position, not because they have intellectual doubts, but because it is more convenient to hold it, allowing them to live godless and unrighteous lives without having to answer to a Supreme Being, and thus denying the truth.

How are we to deal with such people? “Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away.”   This means be aware of them – as you are – and don’t lose sight of what they are, and so resist the efforts of the enemy through them to change your thinking to be like theirs, and thus get carried away into unrighteousness like that have been. These people are in error and as a result they are lawless and have no respect for God’s laws and deny he is the designer of the world and therefore knows best about how to live.

His fear is that they might “fall from your secure position.” I have the picture of a boat being moored. It is tied firmly to the dock or to a buoy. What is this secure position? It is being tied to the truth, living in Christ and blessed of God. It is the same sort of idea that Paul was conveying to the Ephesians when he said, “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then.” (Eph 6:13,14) He told them to stand their ground. The picture there is that, as Christians, we have inherited a piece of ground and all we have to do is hold on to it and not allow the enemy to scare us off it, or deceive us off it. What is this ‘ground’?  It is a place of truth, living in Christ and receiving the blessings of God. Both Peter and Paul say the same thing to us: be careful to hold on to what you have received – the truth that Peter spoke about earlier in his letter, first heard through the prophets in the Old Testament period, then fulfilled in Christ and now attested to by the apostles. As we have received that so we have been adopted by God and been given forgiveness and His own Holy Spirit. Hold on to all this is the message!

But, we might say, that is all negative. It is right that we don’t fall away from what we have received but there is also a positive side to come. Don’t just keep looking over your should to ward off the lies of the enemy. No, there is a more positive approach to live that we are to adopt:grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”   The Christian life is all about change, about growing up, about coming into maturity. Grace, we have said, is the resource of God Himself in the form of His Holy Spirit, being all we need to live out our life as God’s children. Thus we are to grow in the experience of knowing His provision in and through us; we are to grow in the experience of learning to receive from Him and use what He gives us. This is what grace is all about. But is not an impersonal thing, for our calling is to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, hence, growing in the “knowledge of our Lord. In the language above we said, “knowing His provision” and “receive from Him.” There is a growth in this knowledge as we realise more and more that everything we have that is good, has come from Him. As we live out our lives daily as His children, the relationship is expressed as we turn to Him, know Him, and receive from Him.

So our life isn’t merely to be defensive, it is to be positive as we grow in these things. Yes, we must ward off the lies of the enemy and his deception, we must be aware of it and take steps to resist them, but it is all about growing “in God”. That is what this letter is all about. May it be the experience of each of us.

 

32. Establishing Scriptures

Meditations in 2 Peter : 32:  Establishing Scriptures

2 Pet  3: 15,16    Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

The marvel of the Bible – and something I suspect that we take for granted – is that it comprises 66 books with a lot of writers. Sometimes we don’t know who those writers are but that makes even more amazing the unity that is found in Scripture. Critics focus on unclear passages of Scripture or where harmony takes a while to find, but the truth is that there is staggering unity in the Bible. The Old Testament flows like a history book and if you knew nothing of its origins you might think it was written by one person, even though they vary the style from time to time. Yes there is an historical gap of some four hundred years between Old and New Testaments, but the flow is still about a little country in what we call the Middle East, and the amazing things that went on in it. The more you read the Bible you more you come to see this unity. God is NOT portrayed in a variety of ways; He is there in the background the whole time and again and again He reiterates His love for His world.

As Peter draws near the end of this letter and particularly his argument to persuade believers to live holy lives, he appeals to the writing of the apostle Paul. In many ways Peter and Paul stand as the two human giants in the New Testament. They were both Jews but they had very different backgrounds. They both responded to Jesus’ call but Peter was largely called to the Jews while Paul was largely called to the Gentiles.

Peter’s finishing point to his own argument is Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.”  That was the conclusion to what he had been saying: be patient, be faithful, hold to the truth and live holy lives and realise, as we have now noted a number of times, that every day the Lord delays in coming back means a further opportunity for people to be saved. Then he adds, presumably as a means of adding authority to what he has been saying, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you.” Do you see that – “just as” – i.e. in the same way as Paul has been teaching.

In 1 Thessalonians Paul had spoken of Jesus’ return (1 Thess 4:13-) Moving into chapter 5 he had written, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5:1,2) and then a bit later “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled…. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” ( Thess 5:6,8)

So there we find exactly the same teaching that Peter has been bringing – Jesus will return, so be prepared and remain faithful and true.  Peter upholds Paul’s writing in a remarkable way. He confirms it is in line with his own teaching, but he also adds that he recognizes that Paul’s writing came with the wisdom that God gave him.”  But even more than that, he puts Paul’s writings alongside the other Scriptures.”  Peter recognizes that hand of God on Paul’s writings which declare it revelation equivalent to that of the Old Testament. That is quite a remarkable attestation.

But Peter is an honest pastor: His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”   Look, he seems to be saying, he’s a bit of an intellect and so sometimes the things he writes need some thinking about; they are not always that easy to take in – BUT that doesn’t make them any the less the wisdom and inspiration of God!

There is a simple challenge here that comes out of this: if Scripture isn’t always clear and easy to understand, that doesn’t mean it’s not from God. You just have to take more time thinking and praying over it to see what God would say to you through it. If you haven’t seen the unity we’ve referred to, then read and read and read the Bible and you soon will. If you stumble over passages, pause up and ask the Lord to help you understand it. In fact, the wise always pray before they read the Bible because it is a spiritual book and needs help of the Holy Spirit sometimes to understand. Ask Him for that help!

31. A Goal

Meditations in 2 Peter : 31:  A Goal

2 Pet  3:14,15    So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation,

THIS IS the climax of Peter’s argument. Everything else has worked towards this. Hence his “So then,” which is a shortened way of saying, “So, as a result of all that I have been saying….”  Again and again in the epistles we find doctrine laid down first and then comes the practical aspects of living that flow out of the doctrine. We are called to live like we do because of all that has gone before, because of all that God has done through Jesus.

Note also his gentle and pastoral approach: “dear friends”. This is not formal language and it is not artificial; Peter doesn’t do that. This is the way Peter views those to whom he is writing, Christians wherever they may be. It may appear a small thing but it is a far call from what is often the reality of Christian leaders and their flocks. At one end of the spectrum we have ‘great men’, big leaders of big churches who are so removed from the flock that they just seems like supermen, high and lifted up and distant. At the other end of the spectrum are small flocks who employ a leader but they see him as a professional who is different from them, and ‘friend’ is rarely a word that they would think of in respect of him. Regrettably it is a sign of the nature of the modern church that leaders don’t see their flocks as friends and the flock certainly doesn’t view the leader as a friend. Thus the role of leader is often very lonely.

But then he focuses back on all he has been saying, “since you are looking forward to this”. What is the ‘this’? It is the Lord’s return and the judgment that will come on the unrighteous and the new world that the Lord will bring in for his children. This is what we are looking forward to. This is purely speculation but I wonder sometimes if when we die (and we die before Jesus returns and all this happens) the Lord will transport us forward to be part of the new heaven and new earth. But the point is that with that in mind, the fact of God going to judge the unrighteous and bless the righteous, we should, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”  Because of what we know is coming in the future, this is how we should live now. The promised future will impact and should determine how we live in the present.

The writer to the Hebrews presents us with this same principle in respect of Jesus: “Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) Jesus knew what the outcome of his suffering would be, what he would achieve through it and therefore it was that sure hope that helped carry him through the awfulness of those ‘Easter days’. He endured the Cross and didn’t mind what it appeared to say to so many about him, because he knew his Father would raise him from the dead and then take him back to heaven where he would sit in triumph.

Again and again, we need to hold onto this principle, that God promises blessing on us if we remain faithful to Him, that he will bless our steadfastness and our faithfulness and although we may not know the detail of how He will work it out, we know that He will work it out for good and for our blessing. The worst that can ever happen to us is that we die and go to heaven – and that is glorious. What some of us fear is the way we might die, and in that we must trust Him that His grace will be sufficient for us in the hour of trial. But the end will always be glorious for us, for so He has promised.

But Peter hasn’t finished yet: Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.” Remember, if the Lord appears to delay returning and we ourselves don’t see his return in our lifetime, it is that He has granted a longer opportunity for people to repent and be saved. Every minute He delays is another minute of opportunity for people to turn back to Him. Put as a general principle, we might say that the longer He appears to delay, the more He is wanting to achieve.

We have said it before when considering these things, but if you are still waiting for the Lord to turn up in some particular way and your patience is being stretched, it is because the Lord wants to use the ensuing time in some way. It may be to teach you things, it may be to bring about other things for good and for the salvation of others. We may not know His purposes until after He comes or after He moves, or maybe even after we enter heaven, but I believe He will eventually show us something of His purposes behind His apparent inactivity. Be patient, remain faithful, look to the future when He turns up and things are changed – and hold on with the grace He gives you. Amen.

30. Day of the Lord

Meditations in 2 Peter : 30:  The Day of the Lord

2 Pet  3:10    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare

Peter returns to the point that there WILL be a day of judgment, however long we have to wait for it. In Old Testament prophecies there are many references to coming days but the phrase “day of the Lord” first came through Amos: “Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD?” (Amos 5:18). Obadiah also then used it: The day of the LORD is near for all nations.” (Ob 1:15) but it seemed a more near fulfilment being referred to.  Zephaniah used it similarly: “The great day of the LORD is near– near and coming quickly.” (Zeph1:14)

In the New Testament Paul spoke of it indirectly: “because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom 2:5) but also very specifically: “you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5:2) and “we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” (2 Thess 2:1,2) and Peter now uses it.  Whenever it is used, it is clearly of a day of great judgment, a final ‘winding-up’ day.

In the present context, Peter summarizes the many indirect Old Testament references to that day as a day of destruction, a day when fire will burn and destroy which, he said earlier, will be a “day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (3:7).  It will be, clearly, a day of endings, endings all unrighteous things on the earth. Whether it is a day of literal fire or of the fire and destruction by God’s word may be debatable. In the picture in Rev 19 of Jesus returning, we see him as a warrior on a horse going to battle but “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” (Rev 19:15) Whether it is a totally convicting word that destroys ‘self’, or a destructive word that literally destroys individuals is open for discussion!

Having made this point, Peter than applies it. If this is true, he says, what sort of people should we be? If we are living in the knowledge that one day God will deal with all unrighteousness, then surely we should do all we can in the present to ensure that we are not unrighteous, but that we “live holy and godly lives,” and as we “ wait eagerly for the day of God  to come.” (alt. rendering v.12)

And then he reiterates it, but for a different reason: That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”  Yes, he continues, that is how it will be and yet, in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (v.13) In other words, this end time destruction is NOT the end but will open up a way for that which God has promised, a new heaven and a new earth.

Now once we are moving in this realm, as we have already sought to indicate, we are moving in an area where it is NOT totally clear. If it was there would not be a variety of interpretations as to what will happen at that time. It is only the unwise and insecure who feel they need to be dogmatic about how it will all happen. All we can do, in reality, is make generalizations and we’ve seen them already above, but perhaps for clarity’s sake we need to reiterate them.

First, this world will not go on for ever and ever. God has a plan and part of that recognizes the foolishness of sin and knows that there will always be unrighteousness on the earth in the present dispensation. However, second, there will come a time when God in His wisdom, sees that the wisest thing is to step back onto the earth and bring an end to the reign of evil that exists at the present where unrighteousness is the expression of rebellious mankind. But, third, that doesn’t include everyone for there will always be a faithful remnant and so when that time of winding things up comes, it will be to destroy unrighteousness but it will also be a time of reconstituting a new heaven and a new earth for the children of God in which to live throughout eternity.

This should come as a warning and therefore bring fear in the unrighteous that should be followed by repentance (in the wise), and hope in the children of God. There is a wonderful future ahead for those who will heed these words. May we each be part of that, responding to the condition that enables it to come about!

29. Understand Waiting

Meditations in 2 Peter : 29:  Understand Waiting 

2 Pet  3:8,9    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

We’re not at the climax of Peter’s argument yet, but we are getting near it.  Let’s recap the whole picture because it is important that we hold on to it: Peter is reminding his readers again, of the basics of salvation, of the fact of it being prophesied in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in Jesus and testified to by the apostles. These basics we need to hold on to especially in the face of sceptics who, for personal rather than intellectual reasons, look at something like the second coming of Jesus and deny it and use that to undermine all of the Gospel.

So Peter has arrived at this part where he is arguing against those who might say, “Well God isn’t turning up, Jesus clearly isn’t coming back, so that casts doubt on all you say.” He has just pointed out that history clearly shows that God takes His time when He wants to and linked the facts of the past Flood with the end time judgment. Now he caps that with this principle laid down in these two verses, a principle which is vital for us to remember. In fact Peter starts out these verses with that exhortation: “Do not forget this one thing.” He wants us to really hang on to this particular principle. If you ever memorize Bible verses, these are two worth memorising.

Let’s break these verses down. He starts with a basic fact about God:With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” The Lord is outside of time and perhaps a helpful picture used by someone in the past is of him looking down on a time line from above. He does step into it when it suits Him but mostly it is like He looks down on it and so He sees it all. From His perspective a day is the same as a thousand years, He sees it all and, implied from that, He is under no pressure to act for He sees the whole picture and knows exactly what is best and how it will work out. What rather stretches our minds is that He also steps into this time line constantly and involves Himself with the affairs of mankind to bring about His purposes. He will not force the free will of human beings but He will work in and around them to help us along, even if we are being resistant and remain resistant.

But then comes a statement of understanding: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” If we think He is slow in turning up, it simply means we don’t understand Him, we haven’t got the big picture and we haven’t understood His purposes. Then comes the crucial climax to these two verses (not to the whole argument though): He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Yes, that is the truth of it. If God wasn’t patient with us, He would judge us straight away and destroy us without waiting – but He does wait. He waits to give us time to come to our senses to realise the truth and to turn to Him. That is His objective!  And that is why He waits and that is why He appears to be doing nothing. Always remember what the Lord said through Ezekiel: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32) He doesn’t want to kill us, He wants us to turn back to Him and live, and for that to happen, He knows that often He must give us time. So He waits, and He waits and He waits. This is not the picture of an impotent God who cannot do things on this earth, who cannot deal with the humans on it. No, this is the picture of a gracious and merciful God who wants to give as much time as possible so that human beings will come to their senses and turn to Him.

So when silly people say that Jesus second coming clearly won’t happen, explain that anything that they consider a delay is simply God giving His world a chance to repent. Be under no illusions: Jesus will return and that will be a time of the judgment of all things. If God gives you another day and you are not a believer, it is an opportunity for you to reconsider and turn to Him. It may be you only have one more day, because all this applies not only to Jesus’ return, but also to how many days you have on this earth, for that too is an unknown time. Don’t waste it! Your time is limited!

For others of us struggling with waiting for something to happen, realise that sometimes the Lord purposely delays so that we will have a longer learning opportunity. Every time we have to wait for something is an opportunity to think and learn about God’s ways and to establish our faith more deeply. So if you are feeling frustrated over something, pray, “Lord, give me the gift of perseverance, but may it also be grounded in understanding. Please find in me a teachable heart and help me to have one.”

28. Deliberately Forgetting

Meditations in 2 Peter : 28:  Deliberately Forgetting

2 Pet  3:5-7    But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Because we are going verse by verse, we perhaps need to remind ourselves who the “they” are who are referred to here by Peter. They are “scoffers” who are “following their own evil desires” (v.3). In other words he is referring to a group of people who are sceptics but they are sceptics not because they have intellectual difficulties with the Gospel but simply it is inconvenient to believe it because it runs counter to their self-centred lives based upon desire. They do what they want because they are godless and they are godless because they want to do what they want! We should remember that because often that is how it is with people. I once discussed the Gospel for five hours with someone and at the end they said, “I agree with all you have said. Intellectually I understand it and agree with it, but I like the life of sinning that I’m living and that’s it,” and they got up and left. Often people will choose not to believe because it is inconvenient and goes against their self-centred desires.

Now we say all this because Peter now says “they deliberately forgot”. The truth is that there is a tremendous volume of evidence for the existence of God, the coming of Jesus and for the outworking of the Gospel, but for some people it is purely inconvenient; they really don’t want to believe it because they know that if they do then there will have to be changes in their lives and they don’t want to do that. Self prevails over intellect!

It is probable that these people are Jews that Peter is referring to and as such will have been taught from childhood the basics of Jewish belief in what we call the Old Testament. They would have known the Genesis account of the Creation, when God spoke words and the world came into being. They are choosing to forget that He is first and foremost the all-powerful Creator of all things. But they would also have been taught about the Flood and so they choose to forget that God is able to intervene in His world as and when He wants. But there was something else about that: there had been plenty of time of warning of the coming flood but most people chose to deride Noah when he started building the ark and when time passed and no rain appeared they mocked him. That is also there in the background which Peter is later going to refer to.

But after the Flood the Lord determined never to flood the world again, but the Old Testament prophetic teaching said that there would come a time of final judgment when the existing world would be burnt up and the unrighteous destroyed. All of that teaching they would have heard, but now they chose to forget it, because it was more convenient to do so. Forgetting all these things, they become scoffers who mock the thought of Jesus returning because years have passed and it hadn’t yet happened.

But the point of Peter’s three illustrations is that time does pass when God’s will is involved. From outside of time, God came and created the world of time. We don’t know whether it was a literal six days or six periods. It was possibly a long time. Then a long time passed and God needed to intervene in the affairs of the earth and so warned of a flood. Time passed before that eventually happened – and yes, there were scoffers in that time mocking the thought of a flood – but it came. But then God gave us a second chance through Noah but along the way warned that for those who ignored Him and turned to their own sinful, godless, unrighteous ways, they would eventually come a time of destruction. So that end time hasn’t happened yet and time has passed. So what?

Peter is going on to make a point about God and time but for the moment, can we reiterate the point we made in the previous mediation? If we have to wait for the Lord’s word to be fulfilled, and it seems we have to wait for a long time, and we’re still waiting, can we remain faithful and true in that time of waiting? Will the Lord find us still faithful and true when he comes? That is the big issue that surrounds all of these thoughts about him coming back and about people around us being skeptical. Can we stand against the skepticism that so often surrounds us in the world, skepticism that comes through the press, through books that atheist crusaders write, through the publicity that TV gives them? Their words are hot air that will evaporate with time. God’s word is true and will endure. Amen? Amen!

27. No Judgement?

Meditations in 2 Peter : 27:  No Judgment?

2 Pet  3:3,4  First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this `coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Have you ever noticed that you can have complete confidence in a whole range of Scriptural truths, but when there is one thing you don’t understand, it nags at you and can spread doubt over everything. Peter has been reiterating the truths about prophecy and Jesus Christ as foundation stones for belief but he is aware that there is a vulnerable area of belief that will allow people to question and subsequently doubt, and that is to do with Jesus’ second coming.

To the unknowing, Peter’s phrase ‘the last days’ might be thought to refer to the days just before Jesus returns again, but actually on the day of Pentecost, inspired by the Spirit, Peter referred to Old Testament prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) which declared, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people,” (Acts 2:17) and clearly meant that it was then being fulfilled. The ‘last days’ are indeed those before Jesus returns but that may be a very long time. References to “the end times”, indeed, does refer to those days immediately before he comes.

The trouble with the return of Jesus is that we don’t know when it will be. When the disciples asked about when he would return and set up his kingdom on earth he replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7). We know how he will return because the disciples were told by two angels as they watched Jesus ascend, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) but we still don’t know and won’t know until it happens.  Jesus himself warned against imposters: “At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!’ or, `There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible.” (Mt 24:23,24)

Now all that we have said is very important and it becomes an issue of faith. We are told that Jesus WILL return but not when he will return and so every generation has wondered, “Will he come in my time?”  When I was a young Christian I remember preachers saying he would be coming soon but forty years later he hasn’t come. The best I can say today is that when I look at the prophetic things spoken of as happening in the end times in the book of Revelation, I can see that they are now easily possible – we do have the means to destroy a third or a quarter of the earth’s population and we do have the means to pollute vast areas of the earth’s oceans. The means are there, but whether it will be in my lifetime or in another two thousand years, only the Lord knows.

At the end of a parable Jesus laid down a simple principle for us: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)  That is the crucial issue, not when the Lord will come but what he will find us doing when he comes. We may have to wait and wait but the crucial thing is that we remain faithful throughout however long a period that will turn out to be. That applies over everything we have to wait for, whether it be for the Lord’s return, for healing or for the righting of injustice, will we remain faithful and true however long we have to wait?

Now that waiting will be made hard because of the scoffers around us who say, “He won’t return,” or “He won’t heal,” or “He is powerless to deal with evil.” No, if He’s said it, He will do it. As we said earlier, this thus becomes an issue of faith. Will I believe God or will I believe the scoffers and doubters stirred on by the enemy? And even more, when it comes to a question of waiting for something will I not let that waiting cast doubts on the enormous field of sure beliefs that we do have – the beliefs that were stated in the Old Testament through the prophets, the beliefs that were brought into being when Jesus came, and which have now been passed on by the apostles who witnessed it all. Hold firm!

26. Wholesome Thinking

Meditations in 2 Peter : 26 :  Wholesome Thinking 

2 Pet  3:1,2    Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.  

In the previous meditation we reflected on the fact that this was Peter’s second reminder letter. Now we need to think some more on why he wrote it. This has come through clearly a number of times, especially in the early part of it, but the fact that he repeats it means he wants us to think about it even more. He didn’t write just because he thought it was a good idea; he wrote because he was aware that his time was limited and he had a burden to ensure that he had done everything possible to ensure that he left the early church with good foundations that would stand in the face of the various forms of opposition that was coming from the enemy. It was a time of great battle for the truth. Satan had failed in his attempts to halt or distract Jesus and the Great Work had been accomplished; there was no taking that back.  But he could try to lead the church astray so that they forgot the basic truths of what had happened and what it meant, and distort the way they saw it,  so they lived lives of struggle just like the rest of the world. Peter is going to do all he can to counter these things.

And so he says now that he has written both these letters first as reminder, and then as prompts to help us to have wholesome thinking. We’ve covered in an earlier meditation our need to be regularly reminded but now he says he wants to stimulate or prompt or stir us to have wholesome thinking. Whatever ‘wholesome thinking’ is, it doesn’t come automatically; we need to be stirred up to reach it. But isn’t this true of all learning – and the Christian faith, as we’ve noted previously, is one big learning curve – that we need stimulating to think. That’s what good teachers are doing constantly, trying to get their students to think for themselves – to think, to reason and to work things out. One of the enemy’s strategies is to get us to focus on the problems and stresses of life from a purely human and godless viewpoint.

So Peter says, I want to stir you to ‘wholesome thinking’. Now those two words are, of course, the words of translators trying to record best what the original meant. The Message version ducks the issue with, “to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention,” which would suggest that distractions prevent wholesome thinking. J.B.Phillips did, we believe, a slightly better job with “minds uncontaminated by error”.  The NKJV simple speaks of “I stir up your pure minds”.

So ‘wholesome’ thinking is good thinking, healthy thinking, sound thinking, complete or full thinking. But then, thankfully, Peter gives us some help: I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.”   In other words, the sort of thinking that he has in mind is that which focuses on the very basics or foundational truths that he has already in this letter referred to – the revelation of Jesus Christ brought throughout the Old Testament by God’s prophets, spurred on by Him, the revelation of what had happened and who Jesus was, seen in the fulfilment of those prophecies, and attested to by the many witnesses who saw and heard Jesus and so who were also able to pass on his words.

It is the same flow, the same unity, that we have observed previously  but being reiterated by Peter to ensure we take it in – God’s will declared by His prophets, God’s will fulfilled through His Son, God’s will attested to by the apostles and God’s will now passed down to us through His written word.

When we focus on and hold on to, and meditate on these truths and live them out in daily practice, then we may be described as having a ‘wholesome mind’. It is a mind that holds the truths conveyed by God, and it is a mind committed to those truths. It is also a mind that is sufficiently clear about those truths and understands the importance of those truths, that it will also be committed to passing them on to the next generation.

We may also add this sort of mind filters everything in the world through the truth thus received that we have been describing. When we hold the Bible up and let it shine on modern life, it will reveal the failures and foolishness of much modern life. It will also show us the way ahead, the way to live out our lives in accord with God’s design. When we allow it to do that, it will transform us and the world around us as we act as salt and light. THAT is why Peter keeps on repeating these same things in different ways; it is because he knows the potential of the truth to change the world, as long as we hang on to it and live it out! May it be so!

25. A Second Reminder

Meditations in 2 Peter : 25 :  A Second Reminder

2 Pet  3:1,2    Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

There are those who question whether 1 Peter is in fact Peter’s first letter referred to here, but we would suggest the links are very strong. Peter says he has written them as reminders. At the beginning of this letter he stated, “I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body.” (1:12,13)

Yes, they were established Christians but he was going to keep on reminding them of the basics, which is exactly what we find in 1 Peter: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet 1:3-5) There were the basics – God our father, Jesus our Saviour who brought us through the new birth to be receivers of an inheritance, lived out today and reassured by his death and resurrection, and kept for eternity. They are all there.

But he’s gone to some trouble in this present letter to remind us that the truth is assured because he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of that which the prophets of old had spoken and which was now fulfilled. He had spoken of this in his previous letter: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (1 Pet 1:10,11)

In this letter he has instructed, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” (1:10). In the former letter, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” (1 Pet 1:13,14)  In both there is a call to hold on to that which we have been given. In both there is the recognition that we live in a world with opposition.

In the first letter he said, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” (1 Pet 4:3,4) referring to the past ways of the world. In this present letter he aims more specifically at those who were once believer but have now fallen into that life of licentiousness (2 Pet 2) In both cases there is a reminder to what we have been called so that we might avoid the ways of the world which are so contrary to God’s ways. It is in both a calling to a holy lifestyle.

In many ways Peter’s first letter had been a more practical one where he worked out specific issues for different people in living out the Christian life. Yet the same call under girds his teaching in this second lesson. We would not expect him to repeat the same things in the second letter that he had said in the first. We would expect him to have the same overview and so it does. Certainly it goes on to encourage people even more to hold to their faith, especially in the light of people questioning about Jesus coming again (which we’ll see later in the letter), but it is still another letter that reminds of the basics, reminds of the origins of those basics as seen in the Lord Jesus Christ and previously spoken about by the prophets.

A firm grasp on these things should then lead us to be more secure in our daily walk with the Lord, avoiding being led away by deception or temptation. The first letter lays out details and the second letter reiterates the general thrust that we have just described. We’ll see more in the next meditation of what he wants to achieve in us.

24. Condemnation (2)

Meditations in 2 Peter : 24 :  Condemnation (2)

2 Pet  2:13  They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.

I have recently been reading an account of how the West was won, and of the people who trekked the thousands of miles across the States to find gold or even just somewhere new to settle. One particularly memorable bit was how they came down one particular pass only to find they were into a desert that stretched sixty five miles infront of them. I’m afraid I feel this a bit about this part of Peter’s second letter, that appears like a desert in the midst of a green and pleasant land! He is warning his Christian readers against a group of people who appear at times to have a spirituality and yet are very far from spiritual.

We don’t know if Peter has any one people group in mind when he writes these words because he doesn’t say, but obviously he has in his mind clearly a group of people who have really got under his skin. He is really outspoken about them. Already in verses 10 and 12 we have seen him describe them: “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings… They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” Strong language!

Let’s note first of all the things he says they have done, “the harm they have done” (v.13a). They “carouse in broad daylight” (v.13b), With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed,”  (v.14) “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son,” (v.15) “they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error,” (v.18) “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (v.18)

How do we summarise all that? They teach a licentious freedom that brings destruction and they live it out! Listen to how he describes them: “They are blots and blemishes,” (v.13b) “an accursed brood,” (v.14) “springs without water and mists driven by a storm,” (v.17) But will they get away with it? No! “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done,” (v.13) “Blackest darkness is reserved for them,” (v.17).

But then comes the clearest condemnation: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (v.20) These were believers who have gone off the rails!  Listen more to his condemnation and explanation of what they have done: “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (v.21) And he uses a proverb to describe their actions: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (v.22)

These are people who once knew Christ, who lived the Christian life but who have now fallen prey to deception and temptation. They have been deceived by the enemy into believing lies – that as a Christian you can do anything and it will be all right. They have fallen to the temptation to live profligate lives. In every way, these people who were once clearly people of God are now clearly people of the world.

This is what this ‘desert’ in Peter’s letter is all about, It is a warning to avoid failing to deception and therefore, by implication, a call to hold firmly to the truth. It is a warning not to give way to temptations to live just like the world lives but, by implication, to live holy lives.  Yet the bigger warning that comes with it is that if you do you will end up being destroyed by it. It is a terrible condemnation and a terrible warning.

This may not be a gloriously edifying piece of scripture but it is there as a clear warning to us. Very simply the warning comes: don’t let anything or anyone seduce you away from the truths of the Gospel that are so clearly laid out in the New Testament. Don’t let anyone lead you into the lifestyle that is shown in these verses. Hold firmly to the truth and live the holy, Christ-like life. May it be so!