Tag Archives: Peter

Spiritual Persecution

3 Nov


You can listen to the podcast here.

Today we observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church or IDOP. 100 million of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Why does God allow persecution? Why is the church growing fastest in countries where persecution is most severe?

The book of Acts opens with the very last moments of Christ’s physical presence on earth. Jesus gave His apostles one last instruction to witness to the city of Jerusalem, the area of Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth and then Jesus was, “lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) And so the apostles did just that. The early church was growing by huge numbers. Peter preached his very first message at Pentecost where 3000 souls recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Those 3000 people didn’t know any better and so they began, “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

Over the next couple of chapters in Acts we see something extraordinary take place. Opposition began to grow against this loving bunch of guys that walked and lived by faith in a passionate, authentic way. Peter had just healed the lame man and he, the lame man, and the apostles went together to Herod’s temple and find themselves inundated by the people in the portico of Solomon. Peter gives his second message where 5000 men were saved. The priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees were, “greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2) As a result, these religious leaders toss Peter and his colleagues into jail. They hold a trial and question Peter as to what authority he had to speak of such things. Peter lays it on them by answering the question of the ages by concluding that, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given my men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The apostles were released with the warning that they would not preach in the name of Jesus again.

A short while later, perhaps the next day or two, we find Peter and the apostles back at the portico of Solomon teaching in the name of Jesus, the very thing they were told not to do. Back to jail they go for the night, but this night would be different. An angel of the Lord opens the gates of the prison and tells them to go back to the temple and teach the whole message of this life. They arrived back at the temple about daybreak and began to teach. That brings us to our passage in Acts 5:27-42. I hope you’ll take the time to read this great passage.

To be sure, biblical persecution results because of our position in Christ. For those of us that follow Jesus, can we expect persecution? 2 Tim. 3:12 says, “Indeed all who desire to live godly will be persecuted.” While we may not suffer the same type of persecution here as in those top 50 countries, I think our persecution may take a different form. Satan is our enemy, our adversary and he knows and understands how things work. Our enemy can use most anything as a trip wire to get our focus away from God. Satan is not so concerned with lost people. He seeks to destroy you, to deceive you, to discourage you. Why? When people watch us, we serve as an example of Jesus Christ in the flesh. We are not Christ, but we have His DNA. While I believe the tortuous persecution will come to these United States, for now religious persecution is not tolerated . . . unless you’re a Christian. The church has taken a defensive position and has fallen back on her heals under cultural screams of intolerance and judgment. In America I believe we are spiritually persecuted. We’re told by society how we’re supposed to act and many Christians have become introverted in their faith. We become unwitting pawns in Satan’s plan.

The enemy of Jesus Christ is real. I think one of the top attacks of the enemy is confusing us with things that aren’t bad in themselves, but they misprioritze life even if for a moment. How does he do this? He attacks us. He is on the offensive. He attacks our marriages, one of the principle foundations of society. He attacks relationships pitting friends against friends. He leads us to think about ourselves rather than others. We are deceived about the truth because we form opinions of  the Bible without ever looking at the Bible. When C4 first started in 2007, our leadership was committed to keeping things simple. Some of us were particularly weary of church busyness so we committed to not have activities and things every day or night of the week. Christians were so busy with church activities that there wasn’t an abundance of time to do actual ministry. Now it seems that we’re too busy for church. We have the freedom to worship the One and only true God and yet we fall in the trap of our enemy. We’ve bought the lie that we can have casual, shallow associations with believers. We’ve bought the lie that we don’t need the fellowship the early believers had. They were together continuously and we find it nearly impossible to spend an hour or two a week with believers.

I think we’re persecuted with the mind games of the devil. At least our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world can see the tools Satan uses against them. Those that oppress and persecute are visible. The enemy can be seen. Christians are fighting among themselves and attacking one another when Satan is the enemy! The world desperately needs to see the power of God that was evident in Peter’s life in us. The world needs to see that we’re confident in Christ, that we’re bold in Christ, and most of all that we’re loving in Christ. After the disciples were flogged in Acts 5:40, we come to vs. 41-42:

“So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

In their time of greatest need, they continued in what they knew; they were not deterred. The time we’re supposed to draw close to Christ, we actually withdraw and blame God for abandoning us in our time of need. The principles of prayer, trust, hope that once grounded us in faith are cast aside and traded for doubt, anxiety, and fear.

These all fall right into our enemy’s plan. Shifting the focus from God to ourselves and we’re lost in a sea of despair with no way out. Will you allow your circumstances to control your faith? Or will you allow the power of Christ to shine in your life regardless of what’s going on? We often ask the question, if faced with adversity, would you deny Christ? That’s a difficult question to answer and probably the wrong one to ask. Maybe a better question is, if faced with life, would you deny Christ? Isn’t that, in essence, what we do when we abandon the fundamental principles of the faith?

Dear Christian

16 Sep

LetterYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we closed out Peter’s second letter. He challenged us to be on guard so we don’t get carried away by the nonsense of the false teachers and mockers. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ – it’s not an option. This morning, we shift over to the short letter of Jude. Some have called this brief letter the most neglected in the New Testament with 2 and 3 John being close behind. There is a reason we are following Peter’s letters with Jude.

Jude is sometimes overlooked because it is so short, just 25 verses. It’s found just before Revelation and maybe people come to this letter and see Revelation next to it and simply skip it. Since it’s in the Bible, it stands to reason that God wants us to read it, learn from it, and apply the truths that are found therein. Like Peter, the message of the coming judgment have led many to conclude the letter is intolerant and contrary to the love of God taught extensively throughout the Scriptures. So why does this letter exist? Are there any applications to be made? What truths does it contain that help us glorify Christ? We’ll answer these questions and more as we dig into the epistle of Jude.

Jude 1-2 says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

Here’s some history about the human author. Verse 1 indicates the author to be none other than Jude. Who was he? We know a lot about Peter, James and John. We have tons of information about Paul and Timothy. In N.T. writings, no human author seems to be more mysterious than Jude. Little information is found in Scripture so let’s concentrate on what we do know. He calls himself, “A bond servant of Jesus Christ.” This is significant because of what the word means. It comes from the Greek word doulos meaning slave. It means pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something. Slavery played a divisive yet important role in America’s history. This is not the same thing. Jude willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ.

Jude identified himself as the, “Brother of James.” Jude’s readers must know who James is because no other identifier is used. Who was James? Identifying him is a little tricky because surnames were not prevalent in those days. People were typically identified by their home region, occupation, or whose son they were. Of course the best example is Jesus of Nazareth. Don’t forget Saul of Tarsus. The famous Mary Magdalene from Magdala. Simon bar Jonah – son of John. Remember Alexander the coppersmith that did Paul such harm. So in answering who is James, we need to use the Bible to interpret itself.

I encourage you to study this for yourself and when you do you’ll see James is a fairly common name in Scripture. James is mentioned in numerous places in Acts as a prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him one of the pillars of the church in Galatians. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James in 1 Cor. 15:7 and according to Matt. 13:55, he was the brother of the Son of the carpenter. Who was the Son of the carpenter? Jesus. So James is the brother of Jesus and Jude is the brother of James so Jude is also the brother of Jesus. So it’s interesting that Jude prefers to call himself a slave of Jesus and brother of James rather than identifying himself as the Lord’s brother. It’s also important to note that even though we know that Jude spent his life with Jesus the Messiah, Mark 3 and John 7:5 says that while Jesus was engaged in His earthly ministry, “Not even His brothers were believing in Him.” So when Jesus was alive, his brothers did not accept Him as Savior. It was at some point after His death that they believed. Jude writes with the authority of being a slave to Christ and a brother to James.

Who does Jude write to? We have seen in other studies where the author writes to a specific people. We studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, his letters to the Thessalonians. He also wrote to other local churches. Peter wrote to Christians that were scattered due to severe persecution. Jude doesn’t identify a church, but simply writes to, Those who are the called, the beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” We need to break this verse into three parts to see just who Jude writes to because if we miss that, the purpose of the letter is lost. First is, “Those who are the called.” Some have used this phrase to prove that God will only save certain people He predetermined or predestined to save. I would conclude that saying that is a gross mishandling of Scripture. “Called” here is an adjective that describes the pronoun, “those”. Remember back just 6 weeks ago, Peter told us, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9) God’s desire is for everyone to respond to the Gospel and choose to accept the forgiveness for sin Christ offered on the cross. That’s His desire, but that’s not what actually happens.

Second is the phrase, “The beloved in God.” While we recognize that God loved the world and gave His Son (Jo. 3:16), this phrase describes, “those who are the called.”  The reason believers are called is because God first loved us. (1 Jo. 4:19) God loves us even if we don’t love Him back.

Finally, Jude writes to those that are, “Kept for Jesus Christ.” Peter said Christians, “Are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:5) Peter and Jude are conveying the same meaning. Let’s put together who Jude is writing to. Called. Beloved. Kept. This trifecta indicates that Jude is writing to Christians in general – the universal church. He finishes his introduction with another trifecta: “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Don’t overlook this simple greeting. God’s mercy means He doesn’t give us what we deserve – death. Mercy affords us the opportunity to receive salvation through accepting the forgiveness offered by Christ. That leads to peace with God because we have been reconciled through Christ. That reconciliation is manifested by love in the spirit of 1 Jo. 4:7-8 that says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

I’ve set it up this way to ensure you understand this brief letter. The things Jude is getting ready to say are not particular to a local assembly of believers like in other Bible books.  This message is for us and we need to pay close attention in the coming weeks. I guarantee this letter is going to knock your socks off.

Guard and Grow

9 Sep

GrowYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter reminded us of a couple of things that Paul wrote. We are to be, “found at peace in Him, blameless and spotless,” and we are to, “Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” We are diligently pursuing (present tense) a life of holiness because the power of God resides within us giving us not just a desire to be blameless and spotless, but the power to be blameless and spotless. It’s easy to say, but not as easy to do. We’re to be careful of those that twist or distort the Scriptures to make God something He is not. This morning, Peter closes his letter with a very important conclusion that includes one of Peter’s favorite tools . . . a contrast.

2 Peter 3:17-18 says, You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

We get to Peter’s conclusion in this first verse. We’ve been on this journey through Peter for a while and it’s interesting that he can package everything up so neatly. He reminds his readers of what they know. They know the second coming of Jesus Christ is still to occur and that should motivate them to live lives that exemplify the power of God. They know that mockers and false teachers are in their midst. These people are intentionally trying to deceive believers and push them off of, “The way of truth” Peter mentioned in 2 Pet. 2:2. Since Peter’s readers know these things, he tells them to, “Be on your guard.” This is a very serious warning. It’s a verb in the imperative mood meaning it is a command. 2 Thes. 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” These are not contradictory verses. This is along the same lines when Jesus said, Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15) If we heed the warnings Peter has given us throughout this letter, we’ll be okay. If you ignore the warnings, trouble will likely come. When you get in your car, you buckle up. It doesn’t guarantee no one will crash into you, but the damage probably won’t be as bad. Peter’s warning is far more serious. If we are not on guard, are not vigilant, are not watchful we’ll be, “Carried away by the error of unprincipled men.” When you think of the phrase carried away, think about being swept down a river. The longer you’re in it, the farther away you get. So how do we be on guard? When we’re in the car, we look ahead. We wear our seat belts, we use our mirrors; we don’t text. In our walk with Christ, we maintain our alert status by keeping up with what the holy prophets and apostles wrote. We keep alert by diligently pursuing our faith. Peter tells us to heed this warning so we won’t, “fall from our own steadfastness.” Remember Peter is combating the notion of the false teachers and mockers who are intentionally deceiving believers by saying that Jesus is not coming back and since He’s not, it doesn’t matter how you live. Peter has consistently argued that how we live does matter. It matters to Christ, it matters to the church, it matters to our community; it matters to our families. It should be difficult to knock us off of our beliefs. When we allow ourselves to be deceived by those unprincipled men, it’s not a testament of how deceptive they are, but of how ungrounded we are.

Now Peter turns from guarding to growing in his last verse. He begins it with a contrast to v. 17. When we heed the warnings, we aren’t going to be carried away by unprincipled men and we aren’t going to fall from our steadfastness. Instead of falling, we’re going to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We don’t just ward off the onslaught of false teaching and false doctrine out there. In the midst of all that we’re supposed to grow, specifically grow in grace. When we look at the complete letter, Peter opened it by saying that grace was instrumental in our saving faith through the righteousness of God. He prayed that grace would be multiplied in our lives. He said that God’s grace granted us everything we need to live a life of godliness. Grace is the foundation of our lives in Christ, it is given as a gift of God through unmerited favor yet we are commanded to grow in grace. Grace is not static; it is a dynamic force that should be growing from the moment of salvation until the day we die. Peter’s expectation is not just growing in grace, but we grow in knowledge of Jesus. Growing in knowledge is essential for living the Christian life. (2 Pet. 1:5-7) Authenticity as a Christian means we are progressing in the godly virtues Peter says we have and should be increasing. Those virtues indicate our relationship with Christ is fruitful according to 2 Pet. 1:8. Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is not an elective of an authentic relationship with Jesus. It’s not an offering on the spiritual buffet that you can pass by because you don’t like it, you don’t think it applies to you, or you have wrongly concluded you’re too busy. It is essential for eternal life and that’s why Peter puts it as a concluding exhortation of the letter.

Peter assumes that we will follow the principles, guidance, and direction provided in the Bible and the end result is, “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.” Whatever good things happen in our life is because of God. When eternity is impacted because of our life, God gets the glory. When we boldly share the Gospel in love, God gets the glory. When we unashamedly live our life as an example of the power of God in our lives, God gets the glory. When people are drawn to God because of us, God gets the glory. When we choose to allow God to use us in His unfolding plan, He gets the glory.

Paul said we are to, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10) May our goal be to walk with Christ today and bear fruit that glorifies Him.

Expected Intentionality

26 Aug

Expect ResultsYou can listen to this message here.

Last week Peter looked to new things. He instructed us to be excited about the coming of the Lord as the heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire allowing God to usher in a new heaven and a new earth. It is a place of righteousness where authentic believers can be wholeheartedly sold out for Jesus without the negative influence of the false teachers and the mocking of the mockers. This morning, Peter draws a conclusion.

2 Pet. 3:14 says, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”

Conclusions are sometimes easy to spot in Scripture. Peter is on his initial approach to land this letter by saying, “Therefore, beloved.” The conclusion is based on what he has said in v. 1113. The new heavens and the new earth are what we are hastening to. Remember from last week, “looking for and hastening” means an eager anticipation, a hope to move quickly. We eagerly anticipate our new home, but we can’t sit around looking at the sky. We must zealously be about the work of the Lord and that means telling others about the hope we have. We ought to be known for our holy conduct and our godliness. Since we look for these things, God tells us through Peter, “Be diligent.” It means careful and conscientious. Be intentional about what we are doing as it relates to Christ. Paul gave us the mandate that in, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for man.” (Col. 3:23) In context Paul was talking about the relationship between slaves and their masters, but the application for us is still there. Employee/employer. Student/teacher. Child/parent. Athlete/coach. You can make many applications for this, but the truth remains we do things to please the Lord, not other people.

We sometimes forget that God is concerned with what happens in our daily lives. How we react to circumstances reflect the power of the Holy Spirit that we claim has taken residence in our lives. In his book Forgotten God, Frances Chan says on pages 32-33, 

Rom. 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” According to this verse, if I am a believer, the Spirit of God dwells in me. Paul reiterates that truth in 1 Cor. 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV). Our bodies are the Spirit’s temple. Later we will delve more into what that means for us; but essentially, it’s that the Holy Spirit makes His home in our bodies. We are His place of dwelling. And this is the question I just can’t get around: If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? This may be a silly illustration, but if I told you I had an encounter with God where He entered my body and gave me a supernatural ability to play basketball, wouldn’t you expect to see an amazing improvement in my jump shot, my defense, and my speed on the court? After all, this is God we’re talking about. And if you saw no change in my athleticism, wouldn’t you question the validity of my “encounter”? Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them a supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the church. Christians talk about being born again and say that they were dead but now have come to life. We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them?”

We have bought the lie that profession without transformation is okay. Since someone may claim to be a Christian, that’s seems to be good enough. Even though there may be no evidence of Christ, no fruit, no desire to be like Christ; they’ve said it, so that settles it. I acknowledge that we’re all at different places. Instead of engaging in real discipleship as a matter of pursuing Christ, it seems like it’s not even welcomed in the lives of many professing believers. Everything is cool as long as we agree, but don’t rock the boat. Everything is awesome as long as we don’t have any expectations of anyone. But the second that changes, we’re outta here. We have Christians that are zealously pursuing the American dream of safety and security here; laying up treasures here, participating in activities that have no bearing on eternity because we’ve taken the gift we’ve been given for granted, we’ve taken our destination for granted. Our attitude has become, “Well, I know I’m going there.” Many people in the church have forgotten the important truth Paul gave us in Phil. 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We’re to be intentional in our walk with Christ. We’re intentional in so many areas of our lives. We make sure to check the tide chart before going fishing. We get our cooler ready for the beach. We lay our kid’s school clothes out the night before. We study all the material so we can pass the test with the best possible grade. Unfortunately, many of us don’t practice that same intentionality with Jesus. We find it difficult to find the time to read our Bible. Since it’s hard to find time to read, we certainly can’t find the time to study it. We’re so busy with our lives during the week, that Sunday has become catch up day. We have become a people with little to no time management skills and misguided prioritization. We have fallen into Satan’s trap with frightening ease.

We’re to, “be diligent.” Diligent means conscientious in one’s work or duties; it means to hurry. People all over are on the grace bus that preaches it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’ve made a profession. Grace covers it all! NO! Peter says be diligent. What are we to be diligent about? We’re to hurry up; make every effort, “To be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” Peter already said we’re to be holy and godly in our conduct in v. 11. Keep in mind the false teaching that Peter is refuting. The false teachers denied the second coming of Christ and therefore lived a life of liberty following after their own lusts and sensuality. That liberty presented a huge stumbling block to other believers because they intentionally led others astray from the truth of God’s Word and the Way of Truth through salvation. Peter continues to hammer the coming of Christ in an effort to show his readers that living in a certain manner today is reflective of the glory of God that exists within each authentic believer. This due diligence here hinges on the foundation Peter established in 2 Pet. 1:5-7 where he said, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” His incredible conclusion to that is found in v. 10, Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” The key is in the verb tense. Practice is present tense and never stumble is future. It is conditional based on what we do.

Believers are, “To be found in peace, spotless and blameless.” Found is a judicial term that indicates a judgment – we find the defendant not guilty. We see this in other Scripture as well. In 1 Cor. 4:2 Paul says as stewards, we are to found trustworthy. John wept when no one was found worthy to open the book in Rev. 5:4. Peace here means completeness or well being. Don’t miss the significance; the only way to have true peace is to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. When that reconciliation is accomplished, it is not just possible; it is expected for us to be, “blameless and spotless.” This expectation is a contrast to the false teachers that were described in 2 Pet. 2:13 as, “stains and blemishes.” Again, we see this idea throughout Scripture. This doesn’t mean we are morally perfect or sinless. We should be progressing to look and act more and more like Christ because of the work He is doing on our lives. The expectation is that we live lives of holiness and godliness because of God’s influence in our lives. When you put it all together Peter is saying Christians will be found to be at peace with God because we’ve trusted in the finished work of Christ. As a result, we are righteous because He is righteous.

1 Thes. 5:23 says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”We are at peace because of Christ’s sacrifice and we enter into His presence with joy. This joy in Christ motivates us to share the unfathomable gift of grace through Jesus Christ. Let’s quit talking about it and do it.



New Expectations

19 Aug

NewYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us what was going to happen when Jesus returned on the Day of Judgment. He doesn’t waiver from the fact that Jesus’ return is going to happen despite what the false teachers and the mockers say. Mass destruction will occur and it will affect the heavens and the earth. This destruction is for the ungodly; as Christians, we will be protected. The best way to offer protection from the impending destruction is to tell people about Jesus so they can make a decision to follow Christ. This morning, Peter looks to new things.

2 Pet. 3:11-13 says, Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

Before he gets going, Peter offers a quick recap. Peter is very methodical in his arguments and would have made a great lawyer. In vs. 5-7, he presented three arguments against the mockers and why they’re incorrect in their conclusions. In vs. 8-9 he gave us the key to understanding the timeline of Jesus’ return. In v. 10 he explained what would happen to the heavens and the earth. After presenting all that evidence, he arrives at a conclusion in vs. 11-12. Since all these things are going to pass, Peter reiterates his expectations from 1:5-7. The delay in the return of Christ gives us more opportunities to live the life that is expected of us in order for the Holy Spirit to draw more people to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter says we ought to be a certain way. We ought to have holiness and godliness as a routine essence of our lives. There are too many people that profess a relationship with Christ that do not have any attributes of Christ. Over and over Peter, as well as others in Scripture, says it does matter how we act and what we look like and what we engage in and what we spend our time and money on. Notice in this verse Peter is referring to our conduct. Our conduct is a barometer of our spiritual lives. If we act ungodly, the reasonable conclusion is we are ungodly. 1 Tim. 6:11, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” The only way we can truly be godly is because of what Christ has done and what He does in our lives. The only way we can be holy is because God is holy. 1 Pet. 1:15, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” Holy means being dedicated to God; morally and spiritually excellent. Our standard is not the world or our friends. It’s not even others in the church; our standard is God; it is Jesus and we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live a life that glorifies God in all we think, say, and do. This is not some unattainable, lofty, pie in the sky idea. Every Christian must be pursuing godliness and holiness.

There’s something else we need to be doing so what’s next? Peter continues looking at the future by telling us what to do right now. In verse 12 Peter says, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!We must be looking to the future coming of the Lord, but it should affect us in the days that we live. Since Jesus is coming back and since we don’t know exactly when, we don’t have the luxury to sit on a mountain top somewhere staring at the clouds. The Thessalonians were confused about the second coming and Paul took some time in his letters to explain it. They thought they missed it and it affected their thinking and as a result, their behavior. We need to be, “Looking for and hastening for the day of God.” To help you understand what he saying, think about something you’re looking forward to. It could be the end of the work day, the arrival of a loved one, an upcoming birth, Christmas, something you’re anticipating. It affects your behavior: you look at the clock, you look out the window, you look at your watch. You just can’t wait and maybe you get butterflies in your stomach; you may not be able to sleep; there’s an excited nervousness because you just can’t wait. That’s the way we should be about the Lord’s return. Since we’re so excited and eagerly anticipating His return, our excitement should be infectious. The gravity of the second coming should push us to tell others about Christ and our lives should exemplify His transforming power so that others would be drawn to us and listen to us when we open our mouths and be engaged in true discipleship in the spirit of Matt. 28:19 as a church and 1 Pet. 3:15 as individuals.

Why be excited? Peter tells us in v. 13, But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” This is the new heavens and the new earth. These will be uncorrupted by a sinful humanity. Is. 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” We won’t long for our old earth. In Rev. 21:1 John said, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” What an incredible sight to behold. All the anticipation of eternity coming to pass in this moment. The awesomeness is found in Rev. 21:27, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This is a perfect place reserved for those that have made a decision for Christ.

We get so excited when our children make the honor roll or our team wins. We put such high emphasis on these things that are so temporary, but we are so blasé about the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven with the Trinity. We need to stop taking God for granted in all that He does for us and in us and through us. It’s time to take back the world.

Peter’s Analogy

5 Aug

TimeYou can catch the podcast here.

Last week Peter gave us a science lesson as he made three arguments that support the fact that God is involved in the day to day lives of us and the world. His three arguments were that God was involved at creation; involved in judgment at the flood, and He will be involved when judgment comes by fire in the future. This morning, Peter explains why his readers should press on regardless of the delay in Christ’s return.

2 Pet. 3:8-9 says, But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Peter provides a key to understanding God’s time in relation to our time. Some have used this verse as a secret decoder key to determine precisely the date of the Lord’s return. Others have used it in an attempt to prove the earth was created not in literal days, but over thousands of years. Peter uses the same verb, “forget” in v. 8 that he used in v. 5. He says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved.” Notice the contrast from the mockers. They forgot the facts and it colored their worldview. When you allow anything other than the Bible to establish and maintain your worldview, you’re in trouble. The mockers forgot the implications of a God created existence and subsequent involvement and wrongly concluded that Jesus would not return and no judgment would come. They ignored the holy prophets and the apostles much like many people in the church today. A recent Barna survey reported about 46% of people attending church said their life had not changed as a result. 88% of Americans own a Bible and 80% think it’s sacred, yet 61% said they wished they read it more. Of course, reading the bible at all would be included in that 61% statistic. Get started today and begin your journey getting to know the one and only true God. When we allow the Bible to develop our worldview, we won’t think like the world.

So what aren’t we supposed to forget? Peter says, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” The reality is that the passing of time for God is not the same as the passing of time for us. The false teachers and the mockers forgot this valuable truth and concluded the Lord wasn’t coming again. This notion isn’t new because Peter refers to Ps. 90:4 says, For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.” As I get older, I notice my energy level is going down, my injuries don’t heal as quickly as they used to. The years have taken a toll on my body. But no matter how much time passes on earth, God has no birthdays; God does not get old; He doesn’t get weak or frail. So when we complain about God’s timing or His apparent lack of response to us, we have to remember that He is not on our time schedule. God does not wear a watch or refer to a calendar – He is beyond time. So if time doesn’t affect God, we shouldn’t get too excited about an apparent delay in the coming of Christ or any other perceived delay in His operations. Rest on the truth that He is coming again. Remember the words of the holy prophets and your apostles. This verse clearly indicates a comparison of God’s time used to refute the false teachers. It would be a gross injustice to Genesis and to God to use this text to say that it took God 6000 years to complete His creation. It also wouldn’t make sense for the Day of Judgment in v. 7 to last 1000 years. Peter is using an analogy.

So why is there an apparent delay? Hasn’t everything progressed to the point that God will send Jesus back? Are there any prophecies yet to be fulfilled? The short answer is yes, there are some things that still must occur, but 2 Peter is not a book of prophecy, it’s a letter encouraging his readers to live a life of authenticity, to hold the Scriptures as our guiding light, to persevere against false teaching and mocking from within the church and out. So what gives? Peter’s reasoning in v. 9. The promise is from v. 4 and is the promise of His coming. God’s ultimate desire is to reconcile His creation with Himself. Since time is not a factor for God like it is for us, He is not slow like we think of slow. He is patient and His patience is directed at you and me. People often talk about God as a vengeful and angry God, but really He is not. Many Scriptures tell us that He is slow to anger. The idea of God on His throne waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us isn’t consistent with His desire to see us enter into a relationship with Him through Jesus. Peter says that God does not want, “Any to perish” and He wants, “All to come to repentance.” There is a ton of debate about what this verse means. Well, what does it say? Perish refers to eternal judgment and repentance refers to what is necessary for eternal life. God’s desire is for no one to face eternal judgment and for everyone to do what is necessary for eternal life. That does not mean that all will escape judgment and it doesn’t mean that all will do what is necessary for eternal life. Peter is referring to what God desires, not what actually happens.

I wonder if the last person on earth has heard the Gospel yet. Is God delaying so we have more time to tell people about Jesus? I know for sure He is not delaying His return so we can be busy with the things of the world and ignore His desires. We all need to be about God’s business because eternity cannot bear our disobedience.

Peter’s Science Lesson

29 Jul

ScienceYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us that mockers would come. People that follow after their own sensuality and criticized the return of Jesus Christ. This morning, Peter explains to us what happens when mockers (and really anyone) hold to a view that maintains that God is not involved in the day to day lives of humanity and the affairs of His creation.

2 Peter 3:5-7 says, “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Peter offers three arguments to support God’s creation. I love the way Peter quickly reviews Genesis. “When they maintain this” refers back to v. 4. This is the worldview that God is a hands off God; that He set the world in motion and then stepped away. The premise of the mockers is a contradictory statement in itself. Gen. 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” When God created the world, it was uninhabitable for man, beasts, and plants. Are you wondering why God created a world that couldn’t sustain life? He did it to show His level of care and concern for His ultimate creation. He would use His creation to point men to Him. Rom. 1:20 says, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” If it wasn’t for God’s involvement after the world was created, we couldn’t be here. That’s why Peter reminds us of the words of the prophets and apostles. When we forget what they wrote, say in Genesis, you come up with all sorts of nonsense like the big bang theory, atheistic or theistic evolution, the gap theory and so on.

When you read the words of the holy prophets and the apostles, you’ve got to remember your science classes. The 1st Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed only altered in form. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that things left on their own will tend toward more disorder, entropy increases. I tell you this because it’s consistent with Scripture and contradicts the very argument the mockers are making. If it weren’t for God’s continual involvement, the world would naturally tend to chaos and disorder. Bill Nye the Science Guy said, “If we raise a generation of students who don’t believe in the process of science, who think everything that we’ve come to know about nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you’re not going to continue to innovate.” A recent YouGov poll revealed that 37% believe God created us in our present form. But most Amercans fall into the same belief system as the mockers. 21% of Americans believe in strict evolution. 25% believe God controlled the evolution process. To that I say nonsense. It was nonsense to mathematician Blaise Pascal, to astronomer Johannes Kepler, chemist Robert Boyle, physicist Isaac Newton, and mathematical physicist Lord Kelvin all who staunchly believed in a biblical creation and are credited with developing modern science. How much time and money could we save if we simply remembered the words of the holy prophets and apostles? When these mockers maintain that unbiblical account of the world, “It escapes their notice.” The phrase literally means to forget or lose sight of its significance. When you deny a literal creation, you deny the significance of God’s love, care, and involvement in His creation.

How did the earth happen? It didn’t just happen. In his first argument Peter says, “By the word of God, the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” The mockers believed in creation, but their thoughts and conclusions following that were wrong. On the History Channel show Mountain Men, the narrator stated the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains were once the same size, but 100 million years of erosion had worn down the Appalachians – I wonder why the Rockies didn’t erode. Ps. 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.” Heb. 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” The phrase, “Was formed out of water and by water” is an interesting one. If we go back to Gen. 1:2, we’re reminded that, “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Without God’s involvement, earth was in chaos and disorder. As we learned from the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, things just can’t get organized on their own. So look what happens in vs. 6-10. All this was accomplished by God speaking.

Peter continues his debunking of the mockers who say God is hands off. God was involved at the beginning and continues to be involved. Out of the water and back into the water is the essence of Peter’s second argument. Through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” Peter mentioned the flood in the last chapter and he mentions it again here. For a time reference, the flood occurred about 1320 years after Adam died. The waters in which the dry land was formed and the land that was flooded both occurred through God’s word. The flood was not just the most cataclysmic natural disaster ever known, it was judgment from God because the wickedness of man was great. God is not a hands off God – He will always judge evil.

Peter’s third argument is about what is coming. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” False teachers may be here with their false teaching and mockers may be here doing their mocking, but the Word of God is true. Judgment is coming because God is involved. God does care about humanity and part of that caring is giving people every opportunity to repent and turn to Him before judgment comes. The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah was limited to those cities. Even the flood affected only the earth. This future judgment will be like creation; it will affect the heavens and the earth. It will be accomplished by the power of God’s word. But it won’t be accomplished with water. God will use fire because of His promise in Gen. 9. The rainbows we see are a reminder of this promise. Destruction is being held at bay by the power of God. Remember things will move to disorder without God’s involvement. The fire of God’s judgment against the ungodly is coming.

What does this have to do with you? You can be ready with an answer for people that say God doesn’t care what goes on here. He does care, and we have to trust that He has His finger on the pulse of all humanity. We need to tell people the hope that we have. We need to tell people the answer they need to hear. We need to live by what we know.

The Truth about Mockers

22 Jul

MockerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter fired up his readers by reminding them of what they knew. It’s good to be reminded of what we know. Specifically Peter was reminding them of the O.T. holy prophets and the apostles of the N.T. – he’s talking about the Bible. This morning, Peter tells his readers why they need to know what the prophets and apostles have said and gives us a modern day warning.

2 Pet. 3:3-4 says, Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

First things first. He fired up his readers by reminding them of what they knew in the Bible. We should remind people of what the Bible says. It is our standard, it is our compass, but if we don’t look at it, or don’t refer to it, it can’t help us. That’s why I continually encourage and challenge you to get in the Word for yourself so you can be confident in who God is and what He has done and continues to do in your life. Peter sets it up by saying, “Know this first of all.” A better translation would be, “You understand or recall.” You go back in your mind and recall something you have known. He’s bringing back their current situation to what was spoken of by the holy prophets and apostles. Here’s the time identifier: “In the last days.” Throughout history people have tried to identify when the last days will arrive and there’s lots of confusion. The phrase “last days” is pretty common in Scripture appearing in the Old and New Testaments. Luke seemed to think the last days began when Christ was crucified, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended to heaven. Acts 2:17 reminds us, “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.’”

So what’s going to happen in the last days? Peter says, “Mockers will come with their mocking.” Paul warned of the same thing Acts 20:29-30, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Peter believed the last days had arrived because of the presence of false teachers in the church. Jesus also warned of this in Matt. 24:11, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” So our current events should come as no surprise to us. The troubling thing is that we’re seeing mocking from within the church walls. We’ve shifted from churches that equip people for ministry to churches that entertain. We’ve shifted from sanctified believers in the church to seekers and attenders. We’ve moved from churches with purpose to churches with programs. We’ve diverted from pure biblical doctrine to sentimental feelings. We’ve distorted the character of God. We’ve reduced the transforming power of the Gospel to simple profession. Mockers are here and they’re doing just as Jesus, Peter, and the others promised. They are, “following after their own lusts.” They had no moral restraint, no values, no sense of propriety. They did as they pleased regardless of the roadblocks that God put in front of them. As Children of God, we’re to follow Christ; His standards, His goals, His desires. God replaces our desires with His desires and because we love Him, we keep His commandments. We don’t redefine God’s standards. We don’t throw away His Word in favor of what we believe to be a more modern, relevant, situational or circumstantial type value system. Right is right and wrong is wrong and it’s been that way since the beginning.

It gets worse. Not only do they follow after their own lusts, but they’re saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” You can hear skepticism and mocking in their tone. Each day that goes by without the Lord’s return brings more mocking. It happened back in Ezekiel’s day too: Ez. 12:22, “Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days are long and  every vision fails’?” How many people wrongly conclude that since judgment is not immediate that God must be okay with what’s going on in the world today? You probably won’t get many people to admit that it’s okay to live immorally or with a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture, but research indicates that’s exactly what people believe. A Barna study concluded last month discovered that the biblical absolute against same sex relationships have changed over the past 10 years. 70% of practicing Christians define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. 50 % of Catholics hold to the same definition. Why the shift? Even in the church, we’re sometimes unwilling to stand with God and because we don’t know the Word, we get duped. We have church leaders engaged in adulterous affairs, white collar crime, and all sorts of other ungodly behavior. Would it be different if God acted quickly? Eccl. 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” That’s why we stick the unchanging truth of God’s Word to determine our morality. The false teacher’s reasoning is that, “Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning.” In other words, God created everything then took a hands off approach. Whatever happens, happens because God’s not involved in our lives. The false teachers reasoned that the judgment that was supposed to be coming never arrived, so they wrongly concluded that Jesus isn’t coming back. Jesus spoke of His return in John 14, Matt. 24, and Luke 12 just to name a few places. Paul spoke of Jesus’ return in 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thes. 4. The triumphant conclusion comes in Rev. 1:7-8 that says, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him even those who pierced Him and all the tribes of earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. I am the Alpha and Omega says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus is coming back, but don’t wait until then to start living for Christ because by then, it is too late.

Ignore the people that proclaim a gospel that does not transform you. Ignore the people that say it doesn’t matter how you live. Ignore the people that deviate from biblical truth. Stand with purity, stand with morality, stand with biblical truth; stand with God.

Get Fired Up!

15 Jul

ReplyYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us that true freedom is found in Jesus Christ. The false teachers are entangled in the defilements of the world because they were never really transformed by the power of God. This morning, Peter shifts from the false teachers to encourage, challenge and fire up his readers.

2 Pet. 3:1-2 says, This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”

Peter has hit the reply button. He says it’s the second letter he’s written to them to do roughly the same thing. He has concluded his arguments against the false teachers and what they do in and to the church. He turns his attention back to his readers. He sets off the new section by calling them, “Beloved.” His readers are not like the false teachers that claimed a relationship with Christ, but had no redeeming qualities indicating such. His readers were the real thing. They were genuine believers, but they were not without fault.

So why the second letter? Let’s break it down. He says, “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.” While this comes across as good encouragement, we have to read it with purpose. He says, “This is now the second letter I am writing to you.” It’s almost like he is gently rebuking them because they didn’t heed the instructions and warnings of the first letter. What is the first letter? Most commentators believe there is strong evidence that it is 1 Peter, but there are some critics. If we recall his first letter, a primary theme was persevering in the faith regardless of circumstances. Specifically, the people he wrote to were undergoing significant persecution. Peter said that the proof of our faith is more precious than gold or silver. What proof do you need? The proof of our faith is in praise and honor and glory in Jesus no matter what. We persevere; we don’t quit or give up. It’s interesting that we’ll persevere in everything except our walk with Christ. Communication was difficult in those days often taking weeks and months for new communication to be received. So Peter did what was necessary back in the day; he wrote again.

He says, “I am stirring up.” What is neat about this is Peter is doing the stirring – it’s present tense. Who is Peter? An apostle of Christ, an elder, a shepherd. Do you think you can live a life of authenticity away from the church, away from godly leadership? Don’t tell me you don’t need me to help you get motivated. Yes, you should be passionate about Christ, more passionate about Him than working out, or school, or going to the beach, or sports, or music, or your family. Here’s a reality check. Do you want to be known for what you do in this world or in eternity? The proof is in your life. Stir comes from the word that means wake up. Could it be that his readers had become lethargic in their walk? Could it be that they were easy prey for the false teachers because they got lazy? Could it be that they were more involved in other things? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that Peter feels the need to remind them of some things.

Sp Peter offers up a reminder. He wants to stir, “up their sincere mind.” A mind is a terrible thing to waste and Peter is giving them the jolt they need. So he goes back to 2 Pet. 1:12-15 where he was ready to remind them about what they already knew. They had a, “sincere mind.” It means wholesome thinking. Peter is reminding them to think about what is right, pure, and good. Phil 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” As followers of Christ, we need to be reminded about what we know because that helps our mind which helps our body which helps our behavior which helps our impact on others which helps Jesus which impacts eternity!

He’s stirring them up by reminding them. What does he remind them about?    It’s in v. 2:“Remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” He wanted to stir them up to what they knew, to the foundation that was laid by the prophets and apostles and he circles back to the end of Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, Peter spoke of the dead end path of the false teachers encouraging his readers to avoid that path. Remember the underlying denial of Christ’s return is being debunked by Peter. He points back to the prophets – the Old Testament – that pointed to the Day of the Lord. He speaks of, “The commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by the apostles.” Jesus and Savior have one article in Greek indicating the same person. The apostles are speaking the word of Jesus so we better pay attention to what they say.

Everything we need to live a life devoted to Christ is summed up in the commands of God and Jesus. Our relationship is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s about living an authentic, passionate life for Christ that exemplifies His transforming power. The false teachers are a contrast to what we are supposed to be. If you belong to Jesus, your life should reflect it.

What If?

8 Jul

What IfCheck out the podcast for this message here.

Last week we saw the empty promises of the false teachers. They promised freedom, but were themselves enslaved by greed. Their lives were a contradiction of their message. This morning, Peter enters what if land and provides a more beneficial scenario.

2 Pet. 2:20-22 says, For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

Look where true freedom is found. Peter says true freedom is found in knowledge of Jesus Christ. “For if, after they had escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome.” The first thing we have to determine is who Peter is referring to. It’s either the false teachers or the recent converts. There are a couple of clues and if we read too fast, we might miss them. The first is the word “for.” This refers back to v. 18 and the people that were caught in the trap set by the false teachers. The second clue is the phrase, “have escaped” in v. 20. Who recently escaped from the ones that live in error? It’s the recent converts of the church. Given these clues and the fact the entire chapter is devoted to the false teachers, it’s reasonable to conclude Peter is talking about the false teachers in v. 20.

Why does it matter? Let’s break down the verse. It contains two phrases and if we take out the parenthetical phrase we’re left with, “For if they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” It is Jesus Christ and the knowledge of Him that sets us free. Take a look at John 8:31-36. If you have a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and claim a relationship with Him, then there are expectations that result. Look at 1 Jo. 2:3-6. Peter’s argument is that if they had the knowledge of Jesus Christ and fell back to their old ways, they’re worse off.

There is a difficulty in the church today. This is a bit conditional clause and I want to clear up any misconceptions you may be having. People will use this verse as a proof text that one can lose his salvation. If they’re once again entangled in the, “defilements of the world” then how can they be saved? Verse 20 is talking about a true, conversion experience. It’s set off by the knowledge that Peter loves to talk about. Remember back in 2 Pet.1:2 in Peter’s opening remarks he said, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” This is a clear indicator that he’s writing to people that have experienced that authentic transformation that only Jesus can make happen. Grace and peace are multiplied through the knowledge of God and Jesus. God’s, “Divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Pet. 1:3) So Peter is clear that he’s talking to true believers because he talks about having escaped from the world in the past tense. What about the false teachers? These false teachers had escaped the pull of the world only to return to the world. The gospel they once confessed they now deny. The One they called Savior, they now reject.

So here’s the difficult part. V. 21 says, “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” It sounds like Peter is saying it would be better for them to have never heard the truth of the Gospel to begin with. It sounds like he’s saying forget about evangelism and missions because there must be some special caveat for people that have never heard the name of Jesus. It sounds like he’s saying you can walk away if you want to. We could apply it to many situations today too. You see people that are church goers, but are not converts. You see people that are church members that are not miraculously transformed. Peter is saying that they knew the truth and still turned away from God. Way back in the first verse of this letter, Peter said righteousness in our lives is an indication of God’s transforming power. If there is no transformation, there is no conversion. If there is no conversion, there is death. Pro. 12:28 says, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” I encourage you to challenge people that profess a relationship with Christ, but have no evidence in their lives. If they’re really saved, they’ll welcome the opportunity. If they’re truly saved, they won’t be offended, but grateful you talked to them. There are too many people that teach and preach a Gospel that that does not change people. There are too many people in the church today that have a profession of faith and no resultant transformation.

Peter illustrates what he’s talking about in a very graphic manner. There are two illustrations in v. 22 to help us understand. The first is, “A dog returns to its own vomit.” The second illustration is, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” These phrases should be taken together because they mean roughly the same thing. Dogs and pigs are unclean animals. People are sometimes called dogs as a derogatory term in Scripture. These animals go to what they know. Remember Peter called the false teachers unreasoning animals in 2:12. Regardless of how you dress them up, dogs and pigs are just dogs and pigs that act upon their instinct. Pro. 26:11, “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Is Peter saying that these false teachers were saved and then renounced Jesus? The quick answer is absolutely not. The Bible does not teach walk the aisle, say a prayer, or become a church member to be saved. At the same time there are people that anchor their salvation to an event like that. Making a decision to be a disciple of Christ will necessarily mean things in your life. Peter laid them out in the first chapter of this letter. In 1 Pet. 1:5 he said believers, “Are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” You can clean up a pig on the outside, but inside he’s still a pig. These false teachers can be clean on the outside, but on the inside, they’re the same as always. They’re just like the Pharisees when Jesus when said, “You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead man’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matt. 23:27) Only Jesus can truly transform the inside of a person – the soul of a person. So what of Peter’s statement that they’d be better off not knowing the truth? Because these false teachers were still in the church, Peter addressed them with Christian type language. They had the appearance of faith, but Peter did not consider them to be Christians not because they lost their salvation, but because they never had a faith to begin with. It doesn’t make much sense to say they’d be better off not knowing if they were truly saved.

1 Jo. 2:19 is very clear that people who have a genuine faith will never walk away from Jesus. The only possibility for walking away means there was no salvation. These false teachers seemed to change, but they are just like the pigs that were washed on the outside only to return to the mud. They were always unclean.