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Author Archives: Gary Davenport

About Gary Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

Hungering for Hope…He that lives in hope dances without a fiddle


Sometimes in spite of all the positive thinking we can generate, life is really terrible. Simple optimism will not do. Genuine hope (“confident expectation”) must go beyond positive thinking. Genuine hope is not “Wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen.” It is not an idle wish at all.

Hope is a vigorous principle; it sets the head and heart to work and animates a man to do his utmost. [1]

I like the story about the boy and his father who were planning a fishing trip for the next day.  That evening as the father was putting his son to bed, the boy hugged his father’s neck and said, “Daddy, thank you for tomorrow.”

If there are two words that should be said in the same breath and said regularly to ventilate our hope, that should be flamed together, branded as a signature of our faith, they are the words “faith” and “courage.”  It takes courage to believe, and in order to have that courage, we must believe. [2]

This nation was built by the power of hope. No painter ever set brush to canvas, no writer ever set pen to paper, no builder ever set brick on brick, no enterpriser ever built an enterprise without having hope that he or she could do what they were dreaming of doing. We have not begun to fathom the power of hope in creating better lives for ourselves and our children. [3]

We benefit from the foresight of those who have gone before, who lived as if   they realized that vision is merely hope with a blueprint.

Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory. [4]

It’s the wise individual who can hope for the best, get ready for the worst, and take what God chooses to send.

Hope is also a powerful concept. Without hope in the future, we have no power in the present. Hope may keep us alive. Without hope there is no reason to live. It has been said, “Life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope.”

“As long as I actively attack a problem, I am confident that the situation can be improved,” says TV puppeteer Shari Lewis.

 “About a decade ago I was told I had breast cancer and would need radical surgery. Hopeful there was another path, I sought other opinions, keeping hope alive long enough to find another surgeon and other treatments that enabled me to avoid radical procedures. And I’ve been totally healthy for lo these many years!

“I find that it works both ways.  If you are hopeful, of course you can take action.  The miracle occurs when you don’t feel much hope, yet you push yourself into action anyway.  Perhaps it is the brain, stimulated by the action, that brings you back to hope.  I don’t know why it works.  I just know that it does.”

It seems reasonable to hope in the Lord, but exert ourselves to accomplish that which is possible. We usually promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears. God wants it to be lived in reverse!

I like the example of the hospice nurse, who had ministered to many as they faced death, trying to ease the transition. A minister asked her, “Do Christians die differently from others?” “Most definitely, yes,” she replied, “Christians really do die better.” Why do Christians die better? “They know it isn’t over.”

Hope is grief’s best music. [5] Hope is like the clouds: some pass by, others bring rain. Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.[6]

During World War I, a British commander was preparing to lead his soldiers back to battle. They’d been on furlough, and it was a cold, rainy, muddy day. Their shoulders sagged because they knew what lay ahead of them: mud, blood, possible death. Nobody talked, nobody sang. It was a heavy time.

As they marched along, the commander looked into a bombed-out church. Back in the church he saw the figure of Christ on the cross. At that moment, something happened to the commander. He remembered the One who suffered, died, and rose again. There was victory, and there was triumph.

As the troops marched along, he shouted out, “Eyes right, march!” Every eye turned to the right, and as the soldiers marched by, they saw Christ on the cross. Something happened to that company of men. Suddenly they saw triumph after suffering, and they took courage. With shoulders straightened, they began to smile as they went. You see, anything worthwhile in life will be a risk that demands courage. [7]

Our lives take a definite turn toward optimism when we live our lives this way! Hope looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst in them. Hope opens doors where despair closes them. Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot be done. Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God and the basic goodness of mankind. Hope “lights a candle” instead of “cursing the darkness.” Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities. Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.

The apostle Peter offered this counsel: “So, then, gird up the loins of your mind; be sober; come to a final decision to place your hope on the grace which is going to be brought to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13).

Peter has been talking about the greatness and the glory to which the Christian may look forward; but the Christian can never be lost in dreams of the future; he must always be virile in the battle of the present.  So Peter sends out three challenges to his people.

He tells them to gird up the loins of their mind.  This is a deliberately vivid phrase.  In the east men wore long flowing robes which hindered fast progress or strenuous action.  Round the waist they wore a broad belt or girdle; and when strenuous action was necessary they shortened the long robe by pulling it up within the belt in order to give them freedom of movement.  The English equivalent of the phrase would be to roll up one’s sleeves or to take off one’s jacket. 

Peter is telling his people that they must be ready for the most strenuous mental endeavor.  They must never be content with a flabby and unexamined faith; they must set to and think things out and think them through.  It may be that they will have to discard some things.  It may be that they will make mistakes.  But what they are left with will be theirs in such a way that nothing and nobody can ever take it away from them.

He tells them to be sober.  Peter is appealing to them to maintain the essential steadiness of the man who knows what he believes.

He tells them to set their hope on the grace which is going to be given to them when Jesus Christ comes.  It is the great characteristic of the Christian that he lives in hope; and because he lives in hope he can endure the trials of the present.  Any man can endure struggle and effort and toil, if he is certain that it is all leading somewhere.  That is why the athlete accepts his training and the student his study. 

For the Christian the best is always still to come.  He can live with gratitude for all the mercies of the past, with resolution to meet the challenge of the present and with the certain hope that in Christ the best is yet to be.[8]

We might be like the student athlete, who was contemplating the difficult height of the bar on the high jump. “I don’t think I can make it,” he said. “Think positive!” said a friend. “All right,” the athlete said boldly, “I’m positive I can’t make it.”

Many of us think fondly of that dismal, old grey donkey Eeyore in the Winnie-the-Pooh children’s books by A.A. Milne. While lovable and secretly goodhearted, he is usually gloomy and negative, always expecting the worst.

During my years as a minister, I’ve met many people like that. They never accept responsibility because they’re certain they’ll fail. Or, they serve “faithfully” in the church, but gloomily imagine critics in every pew and corner.

Picture for a moment the person who “never receives enough attention,” never initiates friendships, and assumes the church is really run by an inner circle where he or she will never be welcomed. Would you agree that person often sounds like Eeyore in this conversation with Rabbit?

“Nobody tells me,” said Eeyore, “nobody keeps me Informed. I make it seventeen days come Friday since anybody spoke to me.”

“It certainly isn’t seventeen days–“

“Come Friday,” explained Eeyore.

“And today’s Saturday,” said Rabbit. “So that would make it eleven days. And I was here myself a week ago.”

“Not conversing,” said Eeyore. “Not first one and then the other. You said ‘Hallo’ and Flashed Past. I saw your tail in the distance as I was meditating my reply. I had thought of saying ‘What?’–but, of course, it was then too late.”

“Well, I was in a hurry.”

“No Give and Take,” Eeyore went on. “No Exchange of Thought: ‘Hallo–What’–I mean, it gets you nowhere, particularly if the other person’s tail is only in sight for the second half of the conversation.”

“It’s your fault, Eeyore. You’ve never been to see any of us. You just stay here in this corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. Why don’t you go to them sometimes?”

Eeyore was silent for a little while, thinking. “There may be something in what you say, Rabbit,” he said at last. “I must move more. I must come and go.”

“That’s right, Eeyore. Drop in on any of us at any time, when you feel like it.”

“Thank-you, Rabbit. And if anybody says in a Loud Voice, ‘Bother, it’s Eeyore,’ I can drop out again.”

We’ve all known other Eeyores. But as I chuckled over this conversation, another thought stabbed me. How much like Eeyore am I? How often to I expect the worst?

Do I anticipate defeat? Do I let that Eeyore-ish gloom dominate my spiritual life or my expectations of my family? Am I prone to suspect there’s a hidden conspiracy in the church to “do things” without me?

In my little corner of God’s forest, have I forgotten Paul’s prayer? “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

How can I tolerate gloomy expectations when my Lord is Jesus, the God of creation? When my family is in his faithful care? When my church is his church, under his sovereign direction? And when every Eeyore I know in God’s congregation is his Eeyore–including me! [9]

My brother works with inner-city kids in Atlanta, and the society hasn’t beaten them down yet. They still believe in the future.   Ask them, “What are you going to do? What are you going to be?”  They say, “I’m going to be an astronaut” or “I’m going to be a surgeon.” They say, “I’m going to be a musician” or “I’m going to be a pro basketball player.” They believe in the future.

As they grow older, ugly realism might set in. Did you see the movie The Autobiography of Malcolm X? In one of the most painful scenes Malcolm X realizes the system will not allow him to be a lawyer, and his dream is shattered.

It is not the way we deal with our human situation that is the basis for hope–hope is the basis for how we deal with our human situation.

If ever you have the chance to visit the catacombs in Rome, those tunnels under the ancient city, where many of the early Christians were buried, you can see the symbols of faith on their tombs. Three common symbols appear: the dove, the fish, and the anchor. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The letters of the Greek word for “fish,” ichthus, stand for the words Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. The anchor came from the idea that as Christians were going through difficult, insecure times, their hope anchored their souls. [10]

In all things it is better to hope than to despair.   In his book, A Gift of Hope, author Robert Veninga describes this transforming experience, which took place in the life of a 41-year-old man after he prayed: I left work early after hearing that I would lose my job.  I got in my car and and went to my church.  Unfortunately the minister was not there.  But the chapel was open.  I went in and stared at the cross.  I started to cry.  I told God that I didn’t have the strength to get through this mess.  And I asked for help.  I must have sat there for a couple of hours.  I brushed away my tears.             Suddenly a whole load went off my shoulders.  I can’t explain it, but I went into that chapel crushed and I came out feeling strong.  I actually felt that I could make it.

In a recent sermon, Bill Hybels shared this story: “A friend of mine has a brain-damaged daughter. Sometimes the sadness she feels over her daughter’s condition overwhelms her, as it did recently. She wrote me this letter and gave me permission to quote from it: ” ‘… I can hardly bear it sometimes. My most recent wave of grief came just last year before her sixteenth birthday. As the day approached, I found myself brooding over all the things that she would never be able to do. What did I do? What I’ve learned to do again and again: I did what I believe is the only thing to do to conquer grief, and that is to embrace it. … I cried and cried and cried, and faced the truth of my grief head on.’

“People who face their feelings and express them freely begin the journey toward hope.”[11]

Here’s the good news of the gospel: we have a Jesus who creates dreams and visions for us. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope today. It is our assurance that we have a living Savior to help us live as we should now, and that when, in the end, we set forth on that last great jourrney, we shall not travel an uncharted course, but rather we shall go on a planned voyage—life to death to eternal living.[12]

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers have been “begotten again” to a living hope, and that hope includes the glory of God. But, what do we mean by “the glory of God”?

The glory of God means the sum total of all that God is and does. “Glory” is not a separate attribute or characteristic of God, such as His holiness, wisdom, or mercy. Everything that God is and does is characterized by glory. He is glorious in wisdom and power, so that everything He thinks and does is marked by glory. He reveals His glory in creation (Ps. 19), in His dealings with the people of Israel, and especially in His plan of salvation for lost sinners.[13]

I must insist that we take a few steps alongside the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) to make certain we see the other side of this difficult coin. The whole situation seemed to these two men to have no explanation. Their hopes and dreams were shattered.  There is all the poignant, wistful, bewildered regret in the world in their sorrowing words, “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel.” 

They were the words of men whose hopes were dead and buried.  Then Jesus came and talked with them, and the meaning of life became clear and the darkness became light. 

Life with Christ is an endless hope, without him a hopeless end.

A story-teller makes one of his characters say to the one with whom he has fallen in love, “I never knew what life meant until I saw it in your eyes.”  It is only in Jesus that, even in the bewildering times, we learn what life means.[14]

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your Keeper. He has kept you hitherto. Hold fast to his dear hand, and he will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, he will bear you in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or he will give you strength to bear it. [15]

In his book Dare to Believe, Dan Baumann illustrates the unique experience of knowing that something is ours, yet longing to enjoy it more fully. He explained that at Christmas time he would always do a lot of snooping, trying to find the gift –wrapped presents and figure out what was in them. One year he discovered a package with his name on it that was easy to identify. There was no way to disguise the golf clubs inside. Baumann then made this observation: “When Mom wasn’t around, I would go and feel the package, shake it, and pretend that I was on the golf course. The point is, I was already enjoying the pleasures of a future event; namely, the unveiling. It had my name on it. I knew what it was.” But only “Christmas would reveal it in its fullness.”

The glories that await the Christian defy our comprehension. What we can grasp about them, however, fills us with great anticipation. We look longingly to that day when we shall enjoy heaven in all its fullness.

Fay Inchfawn wrote,

“Sometimes, when everything goes wrong; When days are short and nights are long;

When wash-day brings so dull a sky That not a single thing will dry.

And when the kitchen chimney smokes, And when there’s naught so ‘queer’ as folks!

When friends deplore my faded youth, And when the baby cuts a tooth.

While John, the baby last but one, Clings round my skirts till day is done;

And fat, good-tempered Jane is glum, And butcher’s man forgets to come.

Sometimes I say on days like these, I get a sudden gleam of bliss.

Not on some sunny day of ease, He’ll come . . . but on a day like this!”

      

The Christian lives always and everywhere in a Christ-filled world.

Going down some old cement steps, I noticed an ant carrying a leaf on its back. The leaf was many times bigger than the ant. Then the ant came to a big crack in the cement that it couldn’t cross.  The ant stopped a moment. I wondered if the ant would turn back or proceed into the crack without the leaf. Instead, the ant put the leaf across the crack and then crossed the crack by walking across the leaf. On the other side, the ant picked up the leaf and continued on its journey.

It made me think that the burdens of today will be the bridges by which we will be able to cross the hard places in life in the future.[16]

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your keeper. He has kept you hitherto. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or He will give you strength to bear it. [17]

Two hundred years ago, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote out nine prerequisites for contented living.  Whether you’re the eighth wonder of the world or not, these are the things that really matter.

 1. Health enough to make work a pleasure

 2. Wealth enough to support your needs

 3. Strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them

 4. Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them

 5. Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished

 6. Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor

 7. Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others

 8. Faith enough to make real the things of God

 9. Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future

A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness called on her minister to plan her funeral. She had some ideas about what she hoped would happen, but she was insistent about one thing: “I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”

Her incredulous minister demanded an explanation. “Oh, it’s quite simple,” the woman said. “In all my years of attending church socials and potlucks, I always remember that, when they clear the dishes, someone will say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It’s my favorite part, because I know something better is coming. So I want people to see me there in that coffin with a fork in my hand and know: ‘Her best is still to come.’ ” [18]

   For the Christian, the dark shadow of death will be illuminated by the shining face of Jesus. Phoebe Cary wrote these words of hope:

One sweetly solemn thought comes to me o’er and o’er; I’m nearer to my home today than I’ve ever been before;

nearer my Father’s house, where the many mansions be; nearer the great white throne, nearer the jasper sea;

nearer the bound of life, where I lay my burden down;  nearer leaving my cross; nearer wearing my crown!

——————————————————-

[1] Jeremy Collier (1650–1726)

[2] Fay Angus in Running Around in Spiritual Circles. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 5.

[3] Lewis Smedes, “Keep Hope Alive,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 139.

[4] Henri J. Nouwen in The Wounded Healer.  Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 13.

[5] Henry George Bohn (1796–1884)

[6] Samuel Smiles (1812–1904)

[7] Gordon Johnson, “Finding Significance in Obscurity,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 82.

[8] The First Letter of Peter, The Daily Study Bible Series Revised Edition by William Barclay.

[9] Robert W. Harvey, Pastor, Bethel Presbyterian Church. Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 4.

[10] Stuart Briscoe, “Handling Your Insecurities,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 119.

[11] Preaching Today. Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 1.

[12] Raymond MacKendree

[13] Warren Wiersbe, BE Series – Be Hopeful, 1 Peter

[14] Ibid, William Barclay.

[15] Saint Francis of Sales (1567–1622)

 [16] Bernabe Spivey. Leadership, Vol. 20, no. 23.

[17] St. Francis of Sales, Virtue, Vol. 20, no. 7.

[18] Peachey, J. Lorne. The Mennonite, quoted in Christianity Today, “Reflections,” April 3, 2000, Vol. 44, No. 4, p. 72.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2022 in Encouragement

 

Ten Commandments show how impatience will cause us to break each and every one of them


Command 1: You shall have no other gods before me. Why would we want other gods? Because we are impatient with God, and we think that perhaps some other gods can give us more of what we want than God.

Command 2: no graven images. We make graven images because we are impatient with the way of worship which God commands of us in his Word, we impatiently want to make an image of Him that we caProverbs 14:29 (26 kb)n see. Remember how the Israelites were impatient when Moses was up on the mountain, so they made a golden calf.

Command 3: no taking God’s name in vain. We take His name in vain in cursing because we become impatient in reaction to something which has happened to us. Can you think of any instance where you would swear in anger when you are not being impatient?

Command 4: remember the Sabbath. We break Sabbath, doing unnecessary work because we are impatient to see that that work gets done. We can’t wait until Monday to do what we want to do.

Command 5: honor your parents. You do not show your parents the proper respect which God commands of you because you are impatient with their weaknesses.

Command 6: no killing. You show anger toward your neighbor, perhaps even going so far as killing them, because you believe that they did something wrong to you, and you are too impatient to leave it to God to avenge.

Command 7: no adultery. You lust after someone sexually, you commit some sexual sin, because you are too impatient with respect to having your physical desires satisfied in the proper context of marriage.

Command 8: no stealing. You steal from your neighbor, because you are too impatient to actually earn for yourself that which you stole. Someone steals a car to sell for money, they are too impatient to earn their money in a legitimate job.

Command 9: no bearing false witness. Someone lies about their neighbor, bearing false witness against them, because they are too impatient to let the truth takes its course.

Command 10: no coveting. You envy what belongs to your neighbor, because you impatiently believe that God has not given you enough. You are impatient with His providence, knowing that He has promised to take care of all your needs, but not believing that he is taking care of them fast enough.

I would dare say that there is hardly a sin which you could think of which somehow is not connected, if not directly, than at least indirectly, to impatience.

It should not be surprising then, that impatience is so completely contrary to the will of God. It should not surprise us that God commands his people to be patient. As Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

And Colossians 3:12 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”

We have been called by God to live as his chosen, redeemed people, and as redeemed people, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, we should be living as patient and humble people, putting up with one another as people who share a common bond of love.

This is not just simple moralism here. I am not just trying to promote a feel-good, let’s-all-try-to-get-along, sort of attitude. People of God, this is the will of God for His people. This is what redeemed people will be like, having the Holy Spirit live in their hearts, producing in them the fruit of patience. This is the will of our God for our entire lives.

We must be patient with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But now, consider this: if you are sitting there thinking, “Yeah, that’s right, that so-and-so over there, he sure has to be more patient”, then you yourself are being impatient with that brother or sister, and you had better look to your own heart to see where you yourself can be more patient.

In a crowded department store a young mother had the added difficulty of a small girl pulling and tugging at her side and whispering incessantly. Suddenly the harassed mother pleaded softly, “Quiet, Susan, just calm yourself, and take it easy.”

An admiring clerk commented on the mother’s psychology, then turned to the child, “So your name is Susan.”

“Oh, no,” interrupted the mother, “her name’s Joan. I’m Susan.”

     Harvey Mackay in his book Swim with the Sharks tells of the 88 year old President of Japan’s largest enterprise, Matsushita Electric, answering an interviewer’s questions on the future of his company. The interview went as follows:

   Question: “Mr. President, does your company have long-range goals?”

   Answer: “Yes.”

   Question: “How long are your long-range goals?”

   Answer: “Two hundred fifty years.”

   Question: “What do you need to carry them out?”

   Answer: “Patience.”

   A chaplain who was ministering to a seriously wounded soldier was requested by the dying man to write a letter to his former Sunday school teacher. “Tell her I died a Christian because of what she taught me in that class in church. The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to accept Jesus has stayed with me. Tell her I’ll meet her in Heaven.” The message was sent, and some time later the chaplain received this reply: “May God forgive me. Just last month I resigned my position and abandoned my Sunday school pupils because I felt my work had been fruitless. How I regret my impatience and lack of faith! I shall ask my minister to let me go back to teaching. I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blessed!”

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2022 in Doctrine

 

How do we develop patience?


The Fruit of the Spirit - PEACE — Be loved Beloved

The first suggestion is the same with every one of these virtues. “How do we develop love? How do we develop joy? How do we develop peace? How do we develop patience?” The answer is always the same, “Abide in Christ.”

Jesus, in John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in me & I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

So it is important to receive the nourishment that only Jesus Christ can give. We cannot produce patience unless we’re abiding in Christ, unless we’re walking in His steps, unless we’re reading His Word, unless we’re growing in our prayer life, unless we’re spending quality time worshiping & fellowshipping with brothers & sisters in Christ.

There are other things that we can do. For example, we can slow down.

The Lord came up with the idea of a sabbath day – a day to worship & rest. Our bodies need it, our minds need it, our spirits need it. We need time just to sit & reflect on God & what He’s doing, & absorb His teaching. So take a walk. Spend some time in the park. Watch children play, & listen to birds sing. Read a book. Plant a flower & watch it grow.

Thirdly, we need to overlook the little frustrations of life.

But what about the big things that we’re just not capable of dealing with? What do you do when the big stuff comes along? What do you do when you go to the doctor & he tells you that you have a serious illness? What do you do when you lose your job? What do you do when your children disappoint you? Or your spouse leaves, & life is empty? What do you do?

The Bible says that there are some things that we just can’t handle on our own, & that we’ll never be able to handle them without the Lord’s help.

There is a beautiful illustration of this in the 14th chapter of the Book of Exodus. Moses has led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage & they are standing on the bank of the Red Sea. Before them is this great body of water. Behind them they hear the hoofbeats & the chariot wheels of Pharaoh’s army. They are caught between a sea & an army. What do you do in a situation like that? They turned & cried out to Moses, “Moses, weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? You led us all the way out here to die in this God-forsaken place.”

Then Moses speaks in vs. 13, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm & you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” Now listen to vs. 14, it’s such an important verse.

Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

JESUS IS THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE

Once again, let’s turn to Jesus for the perfect example of patience. In the 26th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus coming to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Leaving the rest of the disciples by the gate, He takes Peter, James, & John with Him into the inner recesses of the garden, & says to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here & keep watch with me” [Matthew 26:38].

Then Jesus went on a little farther by Himself & prayed. Luke 22:44 says, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly; & His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Then when Jesus came back, He found Peter & James & John sound asleep. Now how would you react to that? Here Jesus was experiencing the most terrible night of His life upon this earth, & they fall asleep, not once, but 3 times. And yet Jesus treats them with love & patience & kindness.

Now there is just one more verse of scripture that I want you to see. It is 2 Peter 3:9, & it says, “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.”

Have you ever stopped & wondered why God hasn’t intervened? Why doesn’t God send a lightning bolt? Why doesn’t God knock Saddam Hussein off the face of the earth? Why doesn’t He intervene when injustice seems to run rampant?

For one reason, God is patient & He wants everybody to be saved. Every day that He waits is just one more day for people to repent & come to Him.

Cultivating patience

And so there’s Moses watching the people of God disgrace themselves. God had saved them from slavery by humbling the mighty king of Egypt. They were free and God was putting the finishing touches on the covenant agreement between him and his people. And how do they use that freedom? By becoming slaves to idolatry and disgracing themselves in ways that even their enemies would consider wicked.

God and Moses were mapping out a bright future for these people and the world, but once God heard them debasing themselves and acting like their oppressors, he thought about incinerating them and starting over with Moses, but Moses reminded him of his covenant and how it had lasted for centuries. Of course, God remained faithful.

And so there’s Moses who has just stood up for the people. He is holding the symbol of their covenant with God (the stone tablets). These people have spit in God’s face and challenged Moses’ leadership. No wonder Moses loses his temper and smashes the symbol of covenant. It was already broken before he left the mountaintop.

But the story doesn’t end there. Moses returns to the mountaintop. There’s going to be a second chance at covenant. And just so no one will assume that God isn’t present among his people, he agrees to draw even closer to Moses. God will reveal his glory to Moses. Moses will not see God’s face, but he will see his back as he passes by. And he does. And God draws even closer by telling Moses his name; and it isn’t so much as single name as it is a declaration of who God is …

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Patience is Rooted in the Character of God
How does Exodus 34 describe God? This is the covenant name of God that is remembered throughout the generations by God’s people. It describes God’s character especially in those moments when we, his people, shame him by disgracing ourselves with sin. This “name of God” that recalls how God is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger is repeated many times in the Bible.

The Psalmists sing in Psalms 86, 103, and 145 that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Prophets like Joel and Jonah affirm that God is compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. For leaders like Nehemiah and Ezra this was the cornerstone of their faith. In our wickedness, God did not abandon us! Why? “Because the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

This is another way of saying “The Lord, the Lord is patient.” And as much as it comforts us to know that about God, it challenges us when we know that we too must be patient as God is patient. The fruit of the Spirit is rooted in the character of God, and that is so true of patience. Bearing Fruit of the Spirit means adopting the character of God. How well are we wearing the name of God? If we are to be patient like God, then that means being compassionate and gracious—how are you doing on those?—slow to anger—how’s that going?—abounding in love and faithfulness – well, how’s that going? This is what it means to be patient …

Why are we so impatient? (Why is it difficult to cultivate patience?)
It’s difficult to be patient isn’t in an environment that is more suited to cultivating impatience than patience.

We are a culture of the quick fix rather than the long haul. We are the product of 200 years of the modern scientific age. A lot of good has come from that. But we have picked up some bad habits too. One of the most unfortunate results of the modern age is arrogance. We have assumed that we can solves any problem and along with advances in industrialization and transportation we assume that we can fix anything now. (If anything good is coming of post-modernism, it is that the consequences of our arrogance are now convicting us to be a bit more humble).

In every area of our lives we are often committed to the quick fix. Politics: “Why haven’t we rebuilt the Gulf Coast? It’s been weeks! Why haven’t we won the war on terror? It’s been years!” Health: “Do you want to lose weight instantly? Here’s the solution …” People seek out doctors to get the quick fix for what’s wrong with them, but they don’t realize that health is often the result of how they have been caring for themselves over the long haul. Faith: “I want to grow as a Christian and I want to do it now!” God saves us instantly, but salvation lasts for eternity. Some of us want to cultivate the fruit of the spirit right now, or at the end of this season. But cultivation is a lifelong process and in an impatient culture that is intimidating, but that’s the way the world really is.

When we cultivate patience we learn that the best things take time. Olive tree farmers know that. An olive tree will only start to bear fruit in its 5th or 6th year, and doesn’t reach maximum yield until it is 30 or 40 years old. When the olive growers in the Middle East plant an olive tree, they say a prayer: “God protect it and make it grow so that my children’s grandchildren will benefit from its abundance.” Once I heard a story that an olive tree farmer said that he harvests the trees his father planted and he plants the trees his son will harvest. That is patience.

We are obsessed with speed and productivity. Because of that obsession, some olive trees have been forced to yield maximum harvest in 5 to 6 years. Now think, is that so we can have better olives or is it to make more profit more quickly? Our obsession with speed and productivity is rooted in greed which is the antithesis to patience.

A few years ago I was in Silver Dollar City watching the knifesmith. He described our culture as a throwaway culture. That’s why his trade (which is really just a hobby for him) is no more. The way he makes knives is just for collectors and hobbyists, but it used to be for everday work. The knife smith worked in an inefficient and slow way to make a knife that would last for generations. But now knives are pressed on a machine that can turn out thousands in the time it takes the knife smith to make one. That makes the knives cheaper and easily replaceable. But are they better knives? Are they items that can be passed on to your children and maybe even grandchildren?

Our obsession with speed and productivity has put even our faith on the clock. We want to attend to all of our spiritual needs in one hour a week. And God help us the church has sometimes catered to this fixation with productivity. A church in Orange County, California has a slogan “Give us 90 minutes of your time and we will change your life.” Well, that is a step better than Jesus who asks us to take up our cross and follow him for the rest of our lives. But then we are so much more advanced than Jesus was back in the first century, yes?

We regard time as a commodity rather than a gift. One of the advancements since Jesus is the clock. (The concept of the “second” wasn’t invented until the 1700’s). People have always had means for gauging time, but the mechanical clock allowed us to standardize time. And now we feel that what started as a tool has become a master. We are now a tool of the tool. This is toxic to patience because Our lives have become ordered by an unnatural rhythm instead of the rhythms of God’s created order. God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Do you see how God built patience into the natural rhythm of the created order. He gave us the lights in the heavens to order the times and seasons. But we have invented artificial light and weather so that we can order time our way! And we are more impatient and stressed out than ever. Think about it, what is the most common response you get to the question “How are you doing?” – BUSY!

This busy-ness has changed the way we view time. It is a commodity, not a gift from God. We hoard it and sell it. The language we use with time is unique to our culture. We “spend” time. We “invest” time. We “waste” time. We “steal” time and “take-up” time. We have invented the concept of quality time as an excuse to spend less time with people. We are apologetic of intruding on one’s time and we are disturbed sometimes when others want to take some of our time. Why? Because we all have the sense that there is precious little time – but more because we regard time as “my time, my day.” It is mine! Now how does that make us patient? How does that help us cultivate the spirit among us that is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

How shall we cultivate patience? If we want to cultivate patience we must actively resist the powers that make us impatient.

Give away time in worship, fellowship and service. – Time is a gift from God. We are destined for an eternity, so time isn’t something scarce. Spend time with God in worship. Worship with others and let’s come to the table as if we are coming to a banquet not fast-food carry out. Let’s spend time with one another for no other reason than to know one another. (What I appreciate about our Care Groups and LIFE groups is that so many in our groups, especially our new ones, have said that they want to give up their “personal time” to spend it with others. They realize that there is a power of selfishness and impatience that needs to be challenged.) If we spend time in service with others, do it just to serve others not to be more productive.

Appreciate the journey as much as the destination. – Our impatient culture wants to convince us that the end product or the destination is all that matters. The quicker you arrive there or produce it the better. In 2001 my family took a trip in an RV to New York, my father’s home. The journey is as much a part of that trip as the destination. In some ways even more so. How will our children remember our faith? By the destination or the journey. When we read the stories of the patriarchs, we see that the journey is even more important than the destination, because the goals weren’t always achieved in one generation.

Trust the future to God. – Much of our impatience is rooted in the fact that we do not trust the future to God. We have forgotten the stories. God doesn’t abandon us. He doesn’t leave us with a set of Tinkertoys and Lego’s and say build it yourself. He is working in the details to accomplish all things in his own time and his own way.

Forgive others. (See Matthew 18:23-35) – If we truly want to be patient, then we need to be as patient with others as God is with us. This is the point of Jesus vivid parable about the unforgiving servant. You have been forgiven of so much by a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. How dare you not be forgiving of others. “But you don’t understand they did …!” This isn’t about them. It’s about God. It is about cultivating patience. It’s about being like God.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

Scoffers, the Second Coming, and Scripture – 2 Peter 3:1-13


We Americans do not handle delays very well as we saw in the recent airline attendants’ strike. When numerous flights were canceled and many others were delayed, no one found the delays pleasant. Our culture simply does not like to wait. Yet we wait less today than men have ever waited. We travel at high speed waiting less to arrive at a distant place.

Communications which formerly took months now are completed in seconds. Meals which used to take hours to cook are now done in minutes in microwave ovens. People used to have to wait until they had cash to purchase a new car or home. Now these things are bought on credit. We do not have to wait. Fewer and fewer people are willing to wait until marriage to enjoy the pleasures of sex. We Americans are not accustomed to waiting.

Men do not enjoy waiting for anything, or anyone, including God. But the trust is men have been waiting on God all through history. Noah waited a good 100 years or so for the flood to come upon the earth (compare Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 7:6). Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the birth of the son God had promised them (compare Genesis 12:4; 21:5).

Abraham did not even possess the promised land in his lifetime, and it was more than 400 years until his descendants took possession of it (compare Genesis 12:1-3; 15:12-16). Asaph felt for a time that he had waited too long for God’s promised blessings (Psalm 73).

From their constant questions about the coming of our Lord’s kingdom, it was evident the disciples were not excited about waiting either. When Jesus tarried three days before going to the place Lazarus had fallen sick and died, both Martha and Mary cautiously chided Jesus for coming too late (see John 11:21, 32).

God’s promises never come too late; in truth, they are never “late” at all. When the Scriptures indicate a time for God’s actions, the fulfillment is always precisely on time (see Exodus 12:40-41). When Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would be expelled from the land and held captive in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12), the fulfillment of this prophecy would take place precisely at the end of 70 years. Knowing this, Daniel prayed accordingly (Daniel 9:1-3ff.). Likewise, the birth of the Lord Jesus came about exactly on schedule (see Daniel 9:24-27; Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

God is never “late;” He is always “on time.” But there are mockers who seek to convince themselves and others that the promise of our Lord’s second coming is false based upon the passage of much time and compounded by no visible evidences that He will come at all. In the college classroom, students allow an instructor five minutes to arrive for class, and then they leave. A full professor, being more important, is given up to ten minutes to arrive after the bell has rung. Mockers believe they have given God plenty of time to fulfill His promise to return and thus have now concluded that His time is up. “If He hasn’t come by now,” they say, “He simply isn’t coming.”

In chapter 3 of his second epistle, Peter exposes these mockers, along with the folly of their denials. He does so by reiterating his commitment to remind his readers of the truths of the Scriptures as revealed through the Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus, and His apostles (3:1-2). Peter then describes the mockers of whom he warns his readers, both in terms of their lifestyle and their creed (3:3-4). Verses 5-7 he expose the folly of their thinking, especially as it relates to the role of the Word of God in Old Testament history and in prophecy.

Peter then turns his attention to the saints in verses 8-13. While mockers deny the Scriptures, true saints base their hope and their conduct on the promises of the Word of God. In verses 8 and 9, Peter gives a divine perspective of time and presents a very different explanation for the apparent delay of the Lord’s return. This he does by focusing on God’s attributes: His eternality, His omnipotence, and His mercy.

In verses 10-13, Peter explains why the nearness of the “day of the Lord” is not evident to unbelievers and how the Lord’s return should impact the saints who look forward to the “new heavens and a new earth.” Verses 14-18 conclude this chapter and the entire epistle with some final exhortations to the saints regarding their relationship to the Scriptures.

Peter’s Ministry of Stirring Up the Saints (3:1-2)

1 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, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

In his first chapter, Peter exhorted his readers to diligently pursue holiness (verses 1-11) and then conveyed his resolve to remind his readers of the truths of the inspired Scriptures:

12 Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you [already] know [them], and have been established in the truth which is present with [you.] 13 And I consider it right, as long as I am in this [earthly] dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my [earthly] dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind (2 Peter 1:12-15).

Peter reminds us in verses 16-21 of his certainty in turning our attention to the inspired Word of God. Because of the Father’s testimony concerning the identity of His Son at the transfiguration, we have the “prophetic word made more sure,” a word “to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (1:19).

Now, once again, Peter speaks of his intention to remind his readers of the truth of God. Here it is not the certainty of that Word but the source which seems to be in view. Peter strongly implies that no longer is new revelation needed and that what God has revealed is entirely sufficient. There once were “false prophets,” but now there are only “false teachers” (2:1). These false teachers do not communicate new revelation from God; rather they seek to deny and distort the Scriptures which have once for all been revealed (see 2 Peter 3:4, 16).

The natural man is always more interested in something “new” than in being reminded of that which is “old” (see Acts 17:19-21). Our technological age sees “old” as inferior and “new” as better. When I recently tried to order a laptop computer to take with me to India, laptops rated as “best buys” three months earlier were already obsolete! The “new” laptops were indeed superior. But we not find this so with respect to truth. Here, the “old wine” is better, and the new is the first to be forgotten.

Peter has little “new” for his readers. Like the rest of the apostles, he continually turns his readers to the truths of the Scriptures. There is a continuity and a climax to Scripture because God has progressively revealed His truth to men in the course of history. This revelation culminated in Christ, God’s “final word,” which was communicated to us by the apostles (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:1-4). The truth of God is therefore found in the writings of the “holy”62 Old Testament prophets, whose teachings are affirmed, clarified, and further explained by our Lord, whose teachings were recorded by the apostles. There is no need for any additional revelation (see Revelation 22:18-19).

Peter wants us to view the Scriptures as sufficient, as reliable, accurate, and true. He also wants us to see these Scriptures as authoritative. These are not merely words which claim to be true; they are the only absolute truth God has revealed. But they are not truths submitted to the bar of human judgment. They are not divine suggestions; they are divine “commands.” You will remember that in the so-called “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) of our Lord, He instructed His disciples to teach “all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). God spoke not just to inform us but to instruct us about what we are to believe, and thus how we are to behave. To disregard God’s word is to disobey Him.

Mockers: Their Lifestyle and Their Logic (3:3-4)

3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 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.”

It should come as no surprise that men would arise who deny the second coming of our Lord. One of the most common falsehoods referred to in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 15:32; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2), this false teaching had an adverse affect on some of the saints (2 Timothy 2:18). To deny the second coming is not only to deny the Christian’s future hope but also to deny the judgment of sinners at the return of Christ. No wonder these “mockers” denied the second coming. These were those who were “following after their own lusts” (verse 3). How much more comfortable it was to practice sin with the false assurance that they would not give account to God.

How ironic are Peter’s words. In the last days, mockers will come with their mocking. Dominated by their own lusts, they will deny the second coming. Yet their very existence is a fulfillment of Scripture and confirmation that indeed we are living in the last days. These mockers point to the nearness of the day of judgment by mocking it. In the last days there will be mockers. There are mockers. These are the last days.

The term “mockers” is found elsewhere only in Jude 18. I understand these “mockers” as the equivalent of the “scoffers” referred to in Proverbs. Proverbs speaks of those who are simple, naive, and easily led astray due to their youth, thus a lack of knowledge and experience. Some are fools, who are more willfully ignorant and morally stupid. But the scoffer is a hard-core fool, a fool who vehemently opposes truth and wisdom.

Peter wants us to “know” something first of all: expect “mockers” in the last days. We see that he believes we are living in the last days. These mockers were compelled to deny the second coming of Christ, not by the weight of the evidence, but due to the guilt and deceit produced by their sin. They are led astray by their impure lusts, not by pure logic.

Peter summarizes their argument in verse 4. Like so many heretics, their doctrine is posed in the form of a question. This use of a question well suits their character as mockers.

Their logic appears to be:

(1) The “day of the Lord” will entail a cataclysmic change.

(2) There has been no such change since the death of the patriarchs (“the fathers”), and there is no indication that there will be.

(3) Since the Lord has not returned for such a long time, and since there is no indication that He will, we must conclude He is not coming.

(4) Since the Lord promised to come to establish His kingdom on earth and He has not, we must conclude His promises are not reliable, and His word cannot be trusted.

This kind of logical process is not new. We see the same reasoning in Asaph’s description of the wicked in Psalm 73:

3 For I was envious of the arrogant, [As] I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death; And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble [as other] men; Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of [their] heart run riot. 8 They mock, and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place; And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased [in] wealth (Psalm 73:3-12).

The wicked may have gone about their sinful ways tentatively at first, but when they perceived that no punishment was meted out to them, they became arrogant and blasphemous. They publicly sinned and mockingly declared that God either did not exist or He did not care.

Notice the apparent piety of the language of denial in verses 3 and 4 of our text. These mockers have used all the right theological buzz words. They deny the faith with stained glass words. They speak of the “fathers,” of the “promise,” of the creation of the world, and they even speak of death as “sleep.” They use orthodox terminology, but they have created a heretical theology.67 Truly these are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). These are those who wish to appear orthodox, who will “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).

Peter is about to show the fallacy of these mockers’ theology in the following verses. But before moving on to consider his rebuttal, notice a very subtle but important inference contained in the statement of the mockers’ theology. No direct reference is made to the Lord Jesus Christ here. These heretics make a sweeping statement covering a large expanse of history going all the way back to the “beginning of creation.” They insist there is no evidence to support the Lord’s promised “coming,” but there is not so much as one word about the first “coming” of the Lord Jesus. “Nothing of any significance has happened,” they maintain, “which would support the biblical promise of the Lord’s coming.” The first coming is not even given so much as an honorable mention. Yet it was during this first coming that Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration and beheld the glory and splendor of His second coming. It was at this time that the Father testified to the identity of the Lord Jesus as the promised Messiah (2 Peter 1:16-19).

When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels spoke these words to the disciples:

10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; 11 and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).

The worst form of insult is ignored: the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, His miraculous birth, His sinless life, His mighty miracles, His amazing teaching, His death and resurrection from the grave; none of these seem to have any significance to the scoffers. Jesus does not even merit an “honorable mention.”

These scoffers daringly said nothing of significance had happened since the time of the creation to lend credence to the promise of God to come and establish His kingdom on the earth. They looked back to the beginning of time. But in so doing, they overlooked the coming of Christ just a few short years before. What an amazing oversight. In the following verses, Peter points out a number of biblical truths which must be overlooked (see verses 5 and 8) if one doubts or denies the certainty of the second coming.

Leaks in the Logic of the Mockers (3:5-7)

5 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, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men [emphasis mine].

If I understand Peter correctly, the false teachers of whom he wrote are unbelievers, whose fate is eternal destruction (2:1, 3-13, 17). While they represent themselves as true believers and even participate with the saints in worship (2:1, 13; Jude 12), they are not really believers. Jude tells us they are “devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 19). This being the case, false teachers lack saving faith.

The mockers’ lack of faith is evident in their response to our Lord’s apparent delay in coming to establish His kingdom on earth. If they had faith, they would believe not in what they see but in what God has said; they would believe God’s Word (see Hebrews 11:1-3). But lacking such faith, they live only on the basis of their interpretation of what they see and touch and smell. Worse yet, lacking experiential knowledge, they act purely on impulse, or as Peter says, “instinct” (2 Peter 2:12).

In contemporary terms, we might say these men do not live by faith but by the scientific method. Please do not misunderstand: I am not opposed to the scientific method as long as it is applied to scientific investigation. But I am opposed to the scientific method as the basis for one’s spiritual life. The Christian’s life is based solely on what God has said, on God’s Word. The scientific method looks only at what can be seen, analyzed, and tested. It is unwilling to take anything on faith.

We see much reliance today in Christian circles on the scientific method when dealing with the spiritual life. Their banner: “All truth is God’s truth.” “Christian experts,” whose training and experience is dominated by the secular world, speak with authority about matters of Christian living. All too often, they Christianize secular principles, using more spiritual labels and often sprinkling their words with a few biblical terms or concepts. Their listeners buy up their advice as though it came straight from God, when they might hear the same advice from an unsaved expert minus the spiritual verbiage.

Peter’s words in verses 5-7 dramatically demonstrate how different the Christian’s perspective is, based upon the Scriptures, from the perspective of the unbeliever who will believe only what he can see. In verses 5, 6, and 7, Peter concentrates on the “Word of God” in relation to creation and judgment.

Do these mockers doubt and even deny the Word of God? How can they claim to be orthodox in their doctrine and speak of the creation of the world without acknowledging that the world was created by the Word of God? In the seven-day creation account of Genesis 1, every step of the creation began with the spoken Word of God. Each day begins with the statement, “And God said … ” (see Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24), shortly followed by the statement, “And God called … ” (see Genesis 1:5, 8, 10).

The “beginning of creation” to which these apostate mockers refer was a dramatic demonstration of the power of God’s Word. When God spoke, He spoke creation into existence. God’s Word transformed the chaotic mass of land and water into a world that would sustain life. It is the same “Word of God” which reversed the process of creation at the flood so that the land was covered with water, destroying all life by those saved by the ark (2 Peter 3:6). The same expressions found in the creation account of Genesis 1 (“God said” and “God saw”) are now repeated in Genesis 6 (see Genesis 6:1-8). The Word of God which created all life was now the Word by which all life was destroyed.

Creation and the flood both involved “water.” The “promise of God’s coming,” which the scoffers deny, involves “fire.” In verse 7, Peter reminds us that the present heavens and earth are “being reserved for fire.” It will take but a word from God, and this judgment will take place. Until that time, it is the Word of God which sustains creation as it is.

Once again, scoffers miss the point the Word of God makes so clear. They point to the constancy of life on this planet as evidence of God’s lack of involvement and proof that His Word is not true. Peter points to this same continuity (sameness) as proof of the sustaining power of God’s Word. He is the living Word, who not only created this world but who also sustains it:

16 For by Him all things were created, [both] in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

What we “see” should not cast doubt on our trust in the promises of God and our hope of His coming. What we see, when interpreted in the light of God’s Word, is further evidence of the power of God’s Word. By His Word, the world as we know it was created. By His Word, the world was destroyed by the flood. And by His Word, the present heavens and earth are being preserved for the day of judgment which God promised.

The “promise of His coming” is the promise of Scripture.69 The promise of His coming is the word of God. Peter’s rebuttal in verses 5-7 focuses on the power and reliability of the word of God. From the scoffers’ perspective, history provides ample evidence the Word of God is impotent. From the perspective of the Scriptures, history provides ample evidence the Word of God is certain, because God is omnipotent.

The Word of God and the Character of God (3:8-9)

8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 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.

Verses 8 and 9 continue Peter’s argument against the scoffers’ contention that the second coming will not come to pass and that God’s promise and His Word are not trustworthy. Peter continues also to remind his readers of things which may have escaped their notice. But there is a clear and important change beginning at verse 8. Verses 3-7 focused on the mockers and their mocking the second coming. Now, beginning at verse 8, Peter focuses more on the saints than the scoffers. He changes pronouns from “they” and “their” to “you.”

The scoffers have rejected and ridiculed the Word of God, the very Word which could deliver them from the wrath to come by pointing them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since they have rejected the Word, there is nothing more that can be said to them or of them. And so Peter turns to the saints and to the Scriptures to explain biblically why the Lord’s return has taken so long and has not yet occurred.

In verses 8 and 9, Peter explains the Lord’s “delay” by reminding us of the character of God. Viewed from the divine perspective, what the scoffers see as a deficiency in God’s character is actually a display of His infinite wisdom, power, and grace. In verse 10, Peter refutes the error of the scoffers from the nature of divine judgment, especially the final judgment of the “day of the Lord.”

Peter challenges us in verse 8 to look at the “delay” in our Lord’s coming from a divine perspective rather than our very limited human perspective. From a human perspective, the mockers noted that considerable time had lapsed from the time of creation to their day, and yet the Lord had not come as promised. Worse yet, in their minds, there were no indications He would come. They thus concluded God was not coming and that His promises were untrue.

Peter challenges us to look at these same facts from a different perspective—the divine perspective. We must view the length of time God has tarried from the standpoint of who God is rather than from our own limited vantage point. God is eternal; we are mere mortals. God has no beginning and no end. If we live 70 years or perhaps a few more, we think we have had a full life. George Burns may make it to his 100th birthday, but what is 100 years compared to eternity?

Peter derives his theology from the Old Testament. Verse 8 draws heavily from the psalm written by Moses in which he meditates on the meaning of time and eternity:

1 (A Prayer of Moses the man of God.) Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. 3 Thou dost turn man back into dust, And dost say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or [as] a watch in the night. 5 Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Thine anger, And by Thy wrath we have been dismayed. 8 Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, Our secret [sins] in the light of Thy presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Thy fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is [but] labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of Thine anger, And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. 13 Do return, O LORD; how long [will it be]? And be sorry for Thy servants. 14 O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, [And] the years we have seen evil. 16 Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, And Thy majesty to their children. 17 And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands (Psalms 90:1-17).

One cannot help but wonder at what point in the life of Moses this psalm was written. I am inclined to think it was later in his life, when the first generation of Israelites were dying off in the wilderness. What a time to ponder the finiteness of man in contrast to the eternality of God.

Peter draws upon the meaning of time to the eternal God as described in verse 4: “For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or [as] a watch in the night.”

To God, who is eternal, there is no hurry. We are in a hurry for God to establish His kingdom on the earth because our time is running out. Our days are numbered; His are not. We are in a hurry to see things happen; He is not. For one who lives less than 100 years, a thousand years is a long period of time. But to God, a thousand years is but a drop in the bucket.

Time does not limit God in any way. A long period of time in the eyes of men is nothing in the eyes of God. Conversely, a very short period of time in our sight is not short in God’s sight. This truth is based not only upon God’s eternality, but also on His great power, His omnipotence.

Time and ability are very much related. Few of us can buy a new house and pay for it in cash. But given enough time, we can buy a home far beyond our immediate ability to pay. What we are not able to do in a short time, we can do over a longer period of time. Conversely, we may be able to do some things for a short period of time that we cannot do for a longer time. For example, we cannot go on vacation for 11 months of the year because we cannot afford it. We have to work. God can take all the time He pleases, because His resources are unlimited.

God has no need to hurry, because He is not only eternal, He is omnipotent. He can do in a very short time that which would take us forever. For example, God was able to “compress” an eternity of judgment into those few hours our Lord suffered on the cross of Calvary. Yet, God was also able to delay the fulfillment of His promises to the patriarchs for thousands of years so we and they might experience the fulfillment of God’s promise at the same time (see Hebrews 11:39-40).

Peter challenges us to view the length of time our Lord has tarried in terms of just who God is rather than in terms of who we are. When viewed from the standpoint of who God is—His attributes—the time He has apparently delayed is inconsequential. Only from a human perspective can it be deemed “too long.”

In the mockers view, this length of time reflected badly on God’s ability or unwillingness to bring His kingdom about. In truth, the delay reflects the opposite as Peter moves in verse 9 to another of God’s attributes directly relating to His apparent “delay”—the patience of God. The length of the Lord’s delay in coming to establish His kingdom is directly proportionate to His patience and longsuffering toward sinful men.

9 The Lord is not slow71 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 Peter 3:9).

The patience of God is toward His elect. In Peter’s words, He is “patient toward you (emphasis mine). God’s judgment will fall upon the wicked, but His grace is toward those hearts He opens, who therefore turn to Him in faith (see Acts 13:48; 16:14). The sovereignty of God in salvation may be difficult to accept for some, but it is certainly true, and it involves His longsuffering toward those who are doomed as well as toward the elect:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And [He did so] in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 [even] us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:19-24; see also Romans 3:25).

Our response toward the patience of God should be to regard the delay in terms of salvation (verse 15). The delay of God in judging sinners has made possible our salvation. It also provides the opportunity for others to be saved and for us to be instruments in their salvation by proclaiming the gospel. How beautiful the “delay” of God’s kingdom now appears in light of God’s patience and the salvation of lost sinners, including us.

These words of Peter in verse 9 are sometimes misinterpreted:

9 … not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9b).

Does this mean that for God “wishes” do not come true? Does this mean that God wants all men to be saved, but He is not able to do so? Some sincere Christians say so, but I believe they are wrong. What God purposes will take place. Period. Neither man’s unbelief, his apathy, his rebellion, or his weakness will prevent it from happening. God causes all things to “work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Even when men sin against Him, they achieve His purposes (see Acts 2:22-23; Romans 11).

God does as He pleases:

3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Psalms 115:3).

6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalms 135:6).

35 “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And [among] the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ (Daniel 4:35).

Peter shows in this text that God does not delight or take pleasure in the suffering of men but in their salvation (see Isaiah 28:21; Lamentations 3:33). Our Lord, in one sense, did not take pleasure in His death at Calvary, but He submitted to it as the Father’s will (see Matthew 26:39, 42). The Father surely did not delight in the suffering and torment of His Son. God’s sovereign will includes that which gives Him pleasure as well as that which does not. Peter is simply telling us that God does not desire (as a pleasurable thing) that any should perish in their sin, but He does purpose it (see Romans 9:1-23; 1 Peter 2:8; Revelation 13:8; 17:8).

God’s pleasure would be the salvation of every sinner, but Peter knows full well His purpose is to save some. The delay in the return of the Lord Jesus to subdue His enemies and rule over His kingdom is not so that someone might come, but so that He might draw His elect to Himself (see John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 16:14). Specifically, Peter says the Lord’s delay is so we (literally, “you”) might be saved (verse 9). God is patient toward us (“you”). Our salvation is the result of His patience and longsuffering. The unsaved may attempt to explain God’s delay as a flaw in His character, but the Christian can only praise Him for withholding His wrath until we are brought to faith. The “delay” of our Lord is not a pretext for accusing Him but another occasion to adore Him.

6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Exodus 34:6).

15 But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 86:15).

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22).

20 Who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through [the] water (1 Peter 3:20).

The Day of the Lord as a Day of Destruction (3:10-12)

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

The coming day of judgment is now called by its Old Testament name: the “Day of the Lord.” The day of the Lord is a day when destruction is dramatic and intense:

“He uses one very vivid phrase. He says that the heavens will pass away with a crackling roar (roizedon). That word is used for the whirring of a bird’s wings in the air, for the sound a spear makes as it hurtles through the air, for the crackling of the flames of a forest fire.”

It is a dramatic destruction, a destruction by fire involving great heat so intense it literally melts the earth and the elements (verse 11). And the passing away of the heavens is accompanied by a noise, a roar.

The “Day of the Lord” is a day of destruction such as has never been seen before. At first, verse 12 appears to be a mere repetition of verse 10 at first, but it is more than this for it describes a destruction unlike any ever before. It is not all that difficult to imagine an entire city like Sodom, for example, being burned up. But Peter says that while the destruction of the Day of the Lord will be by fire, this “fire” will destroy things which do not appear to be flammable. The heavens will be destroyed by burning and so will the elements of the earth. Peter describes a fire so intense that seemingly indestructible matter is completely destroyed.

We have no way of likening this fiery destruction to any previous “fire” of judgment. It is beyond demonstration, let alone human comprehension. We have only one reason to believe it will happen, and that is because God has said it would. Our belief in the coming Day of the Lord is based solely upon our confidence in God and His Word. No wonder those who do not trust in God or His Word mock the possibility of such a day of divine judgment.

God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord will come unexpectedly on a scale never before witnessed in the history of mankind. The flood destroyed all mankind (except those on the ark) and much of nature. But the earth remained, and when the waters subsided, life went on. Cities like Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, but life went on. But when the Day of the Lord comes, all God has created (as recorded in Genesis) will be destroyed. All of life, all of the elements, and even the heavens. Nothing will be spared. All previous judgments are examples of divine judgment, but none convey the magnitude of the judgment yet to come.

The Day of the Lord is a future day which will come upon an unsuspecting world “like a thief.”16 Life will be going on as usual with men going about their normal routines (see Matthew 24:37-39). Do mockers reject God’s Word because the world goes on as usual with no indications of impending doom? That is exactly as our Lord said it would be. Yet there is a warning message. Now, as in days of old, God has sent His messengers to proclaim a two-fold message of coming judgment and of salvation and deliverance. If men will be saved, they will be saved by believing in God’s Word, and not by signs and wonders (see Luke 16:27-31).

Peter’s words about the nature of the Day of the Lord are written to us, the saints. Apart from divine enlightenment, his words fall on deaf ears as far as the unsaved are concerned. But what do these words say to us? How can we apply them to our lives? Peter sums our responsibility in verses 11 and 12:

11 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, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

The first application for believers is godliness. Early in Peter’s first epistle, we were called to holiness, a theme Peter never ceases to emphasize:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe [them,] glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:9-12).

8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For, “LET HIM WHO MEANS TO LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING GUILE. 11 “AND LET HIM TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; LET HIM SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. 12 “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL” (1 Peter 3:8-12).

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in [your] moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in [your] knowledge, self-control, and in [your] self-control, perseverance, and in [your] perseverance, godliness; 7 and in [your] godliness, brotherly kindness, and in [your] brotherly kindness, love (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter points out in chapter 2 of 2 Peter the sharp contrast of the believer’s holiness to the fleshly indulgence of the false teachers. The one without hope beyond this life gives full indulgence to the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 15:32). But the one who lives in hope denies fleshly lusts, in light of the blessings God has promised in the life to come (1 Peter 2:11-12).

In verses 11 and 12, Peter is not talking about the blessings of the coming kingdom of God but the outpouring of God’s wrath upon sinners. He is speaking of the devastating consequences of sin and its corruption. Even though the Christian will not experience this judgment, he should learn from this. The Christian should be reminded of the holiness of God and His hatred of sin. If God deals with sin in His creation this way, how does God feel about sin in our lives? We must learn to hate what God hates. We must seek to be holy, as He is holy. We must flee from sin and its corruption and live godly and holy lives.

The horror of that day for sinners, and the finality of their judgment, should greatly motivate us to bear witness to our faith and seek to turn men from God’s wrath to His salvation:

22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling [them] out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23).

9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, emphasis mine).

A second application of the Day of the Lord should be “looking for and hastening” its coming. We believe that Day is coming because God’s Word tells us so. We need no “signs and wonders” to prove its imminence; we know because God’s description of the “last days” indicates the day is near. Let us not be caught by surprise when that great day arrives, for we know it is coming, and the time is near. Let us be watching for that great day, as our Lord and His apostles instructed us (Matthew 24:42-43; 25:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 3:2; 16:15).

We can more easily understand how we are to “look for” the “Day of the Lord,” but how do we “hasten its coming?” Before answering, let us also consider another question: “Why would the Christian want to hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord?” It is a horrible day for the wicked, a day of complete destruction. Why would we ever wish the hastening of this day?

The answer might best be found in the Psalms. That day is the day justice is accomplished on the earth, when wrongs will be made right, and evil-doers will receive just punishment.

1 O LORD, God of vengeance; God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud. 3 How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour forth [words], they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. 5 They crush Thy people, O LORD, And afflict Thy heritage. 6 They slay the widow and the stranger, And murder the orphans. 7 And they have said, “The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed” (Psalms 94:1-7; see also 6:3; 13:1-6; 35:17; 74:4-11).

The Book of Proverbs also explains why the righteous rejoice at the thought of the coming of the Day of the Lord, the day when the wicked are punished and our Lord Jesus Christ, the Righteous King, rules over all creation:

10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is glad shouting (Proverbs 11:10).

15 The execution of justice is joy for the righteous, But is terror to the workers of iniquity (Proverbs 21:15).2 When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

The New Testament Book of Revelation portrays the rejoicing of the righteous at the judgment of the wicked:

4 And the third [angel] poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it. “ 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments” (Revelation 16:4-7).

1 After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 2 BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER” (Revelation 19:1-2).

The saints rejoice at the thought of the coming Day of the Lord, for God will punish the wicked and establish His throne in righteousness. We may wish that day would come soon. Peter does not list how we may “hasten its coming,” but he expects us to know. Among the ways we can “hasten His coming” are these:

(1) By living righteously and suffering unjustly for doing so. The Lord hears and heeds the cries of His people, who suffer for living as saints.

4 Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 [This is] a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is [only] just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and [to give] relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:4-9, see also 1 Peter 2:12).

(2) By proclaiming the gospel to lost sinners.

14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14).

(3) By praying. Our Lord Himself instructed us to pray in this way:

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10 ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).

The Positive Side of the Day of the Lord (3:13)

13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Peter does not leave the subject of prophecy on the somewhat sour note of the destruction of creation. Instead, he turns once again in verse 13 to the “blessed hope” of the believer. We are not those who await judgment; we await God’s salvation. The destruction of this present creation is a necessary step in preparation for the “new heavens and a new earth” which are to come. The destruction of this creation in the Day of the Lord is like the demolition of an old building to make way for the construction of a new one in its place. Our hope is not just for God’s judgment but for the kingdom He will bring in which righteousness dwells. And since that kingdom is one characterized by righteousness, we should live in a manner consistent with our destiny (compare 1 Peter 3:8-12). We should live righteously.

Conclusion

Borrowing from the words of Francis Shaefer’s book, “How Then Shall We Live?”, how should the truths of this passage affect the way we think and the way we live out our lives on this earth? Consider how these implications might apply to your lives.

First, our text tells us a lot about false teachers so that we can more readily recognize them—and then avoid them. False teachers will certainly deny and distort the Scriptures. One doctrine they will attack is the believer’s future hope. They will emphasize the here and now, and minimize, if not deny, the hereafter. Rather than exhorting us to live now in the light of eternity, they will encourage us to live for the present, as though there were no eternity, and indulge the flesh. They will surely deny the Scriptural teaching of divine judgment. Their teaching is but a thinly veiled excuse for their own self-indulgent lifestyle. They are those who “follow after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3).

These false teachers seem to have far more questions than answers. And the very things which should cause them to trust God and praise Him are the things for which they accurse Him. Turning reality upside-down, when the Lord tarries graciously, giving men the opportunity to repent, these mockers accuse God of forsaking or at least failing to fulfill His promises. And when the world (and the universe) continues to function in the way it has since creation, they do not praise the Lord for sustaining it (see Colossians 1:16-17) but condemn Him for not giving any spectacular indications that the end is near. Ironically, even the presence of these false teachers is one of the indications that we are in the “last days” (see 3:3).

This text has so much to teach the Christian. Peter not only instructs us about false teachers, he also repeatedly reminds us of the truth. To Peter, as should be so for us, the Scriptures are foundational and fundamental. In both of his epistles, he turns our attention to the truths of the Word of God, truths which have been consistently taught by the Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus, and His apostles (3:1-2). It is the Word of God which false teachers attack and deny (3:3-7); if they cannot do this, they will attempt to distort them (3:14-16).

To Peter, the Scriptures are absolutely vital to Christian growth and stability. They are the source of divine revelation. They are the standard to which all teaching and practice must conform. They are absolutely sufficient, providing the believer with “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” They are the basis for our faith and hope and the believer’s sole source of revelation concerning the future. They speak of the Lord’s return to judge the wicked and destroy the existing creation. They speak as well of the glorious kingdom He will establish after this.

As the basis for our faith and hope, the Scriptures also give us a perspective which enables us to see through the distortions and deceptions of this world. We do not view the truths of the Word of God through the cloudy eyes of our culture or of this age. Indeed not! We view this age through the clear-eyed perspective of the Scriptures. The world is not as it seems; reality is revealed through the light of the Scriptures.

The prophecies of Scripture play a significant role in the life of the believer. They reveal all that we can now know about the future and assure us the Lord will return to this earth to judge the wicked and to establish His kingdom. The Scriptures stimulate us to godliness, knowing how God will deal with sin and its effects. Prophecy should also motivate us to evangelize, knowing the time is short and that sinners will suffer the eternal wrath of God. Prophecy informs us that materialism is folly, for all the things of this world will be burned up. Only God’s Word and people will endure for eternity, and these must be our priorities. Prophecy enables us to deny ourselves and to endure persecution for the sake of the gospel, for these cannot compare to the glory which lies ahead.

Our text also shows us the relationship between time and eternity. A long time may have passed, but it is put into its proper perspective when seen in the light of eternity. Time is our opportunity to enter into eternal life and to invest our lives for eternity. It is also our opportunity to tell others of the salvation God has provided through Christ.

This passage underscores the importance of viewing life from the vantage point of the character of God. The attributes of God are not abstract theological assertions of truth; they are the ultimate basis for our faith and hope. Prophecies (the promises of God) are of little value if God is not sovereign and omnipotent (all-powerful) and able to bring them to pass. Promises made centuries ago would have little value unless they were made by an eternal God, who is not bound by the limits of time. And a delay of centuries would seem to be cause for concern unless we view it from the standpoint of God’s patience, His mercy, and His grace.

Indeed, the attributes of God are no mere propositions; they are the description of the nature and character of the God whom we worship and serve. When life brings difficulties which seem to have no answers (even clear, biblical ones), we may rest confidently in who God is and what He is like. We see this often in the Psalms where the psalmist frequently cries out to God, presenting his problems, and lamenting no solution. But in the final analysis, the psalmist finds comfort and consolation in who God is, and thus he trusts in God and worships Him even though his immediate problems may remain. The great question in life is, “Whom do you trust?” We see from the attributes of God that we can only trust God.

The psalmists were not reticent to ask God questions. But we know from the Psalms they did not always receive a quick answer. This is why they based their trust and hope in God’s character. But there are different kinds of questions, and some should not be asked. Scoffers ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” The godly ask, “How long, Lord, how long?” A world of difference exists between these two questions. One is a question rooted in sin and unbelief. The other is founded on faith and hope.

I dare not conclude, my friend, without asking you about your eternal future. Do you look forward in hope to the “new heavens and a new earth,” or is your destiny eternal destruction? The difference between these two destinies lies in your response to Jesus Christ. He came to the earth and died on the cross of Calvary to die for sinners, to bear the penalty of God’s eternal wrath. Those who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins need not fear the coming “Day of the Lord,” but may look forward to it and even seek to hasten its coming. Those who have not received Jesus Christ as their Savior will face Him as their Judge when He comes to the earth again. Have you trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and as God’s provision for eternal life? I pray that you have. And if you have not, I pray that you will—even now.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2022 in Sermon

 

Effective and productive in…our Lord Jesus Christ – 2 Peter 1:8-9


For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (2 Peter 1:8-9)

A title for this text might be, “How to avoid the sand traps of the Christian life.” These verses go much further than a mere explanation of the steps to Christian maturity—they exhort us to exert ourselves in the pursuit of holiness. Contrary to the views of some (certainly not most Calvinists), the sovereignty of God is no excuse for laziness or inactivity. Indeed, inactivity is one of the evils from which we are to be delivered (see verse 8). The sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His provisions are the basis for our diligent pursuit of Christian character as laid out in verses 5-7.

What a wonderful incentive to godly living we find in verses 1-7. God has saved us from our sins through the righteousness of His Son. He has purposed for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. He has made every provision for us, as we strive by His grace, to attain the divine qualities of verses 5-7. Now, in verses 8-11, Peter provides even further motivation for us to apply all diligence in supplying what God requires of us and produces in us.

The Structure of Our Text

Our text falls into two main parts. Verses 8 and 9 outline the negative benefits of pursuing holiness as previously described in verses 5-7. Verses 10 and 11 are another exhortation to believers to pursue holiness, with a two-fold assurance: those who do so will never stumble (verse 10), and those who do so will have an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (verse 11).

Assumptions

Looking at our text more broadly will help before we begin a detailed study of verses 8-11.

(1) This text is a battlefield. No one can approach this text with a neutral frame of mind. Each of us has our own preferences and presuppositions based upon our desires, our experiences, our previous exposure to teaching, our own personal study, and our own theological persuasions. If we cannot set aside our biases, at least we should acknowledge them, and pray that God may, through His Spirit, use this text to reshape our theology rather than allow our theology (or just plain prejudice) to warp our interpretation of this text.

(2) Peter assumes his readers are saved. While every audience of believers may include some who are lost, Peter writes to this group of saints as if they were true believers. Consider these statements in verses 1-12:

“… to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, … ” (v. 1).

“ … in your faith supply… ” (verse 5).

“having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (verse 9).

“Therefore, brethren, … ” (verse 10).

“… to remind you of these things, even though you already know them and have been established in the truth which is present with you” (verse 12).

In our text, Peter is not seeking to create doubt in the minds of his readers about whether they are saved. Rather, he is writing to them as though they were saved.

(3) In these verses, Peter does not teach that a person must work to earn or obtain their salvation. Verses 1-4 emphasize that we have been saved solely on the basis of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We in no way contribute to our salvation through our own efforts or works. Verses 5-7 call upon every Christian to diligently strive to supply the virtues which the grace of God makes possible for the saint. We do not work to be saved; we work because we have been saved. A living faith works (see James 2). But that faith has been received (2 Peter 1:1).

(4) The list of dangers Peter enumerates does not include “losing one’s salvation.” Just as Peter, nor any other biblical author, does not teach that one is saved by works, neither does he teach that one stays saved by works. All things are of Him, through Him, and to Him (Romans 11:36). We possess nothing spiritually which we have not received from God (1 Corinthians 4:7). Our salvation is certain because He is faithful and does not change, and no one shall pluck us from His hand (see James 1:17; Philippians 1:6; John 10:27-30).

(5) The list of dangers Peter enumerates in this text does not include “doubting one’s faith.” In the current faith/works debate, both sides seem to agree that 2 Peter 1:8-11 is about assurance. Those who emphasize faith insist that the believer’s assurance is to be found in God, in His sovereignty, and in the sufficiency of His provisions. Those who stress the necessity for works (as an evidence of faith) insist that there is some measure of assurance to be gained by obedience and fruitfulness. As we see God at work in our lives, we are more confident that our faith is alive and well, they say. I see a measure of truth in both positions, but I do not see Peter emphasizing assurance in this text. It is not assurance that is so prominent, but what we attain (an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God, verse 11) and what we avoid (uselessness, unfruitfulness, blindness, short-sightedness, forgetfulness, stumbling).

The Benefits of Pursuing Holiness

In 1 Peter 1:13-21, Peter exhorted the saints to leave behind their former manner of thinking and conducting themselves and to pursue holiness, because God is holy (see especially verses 14-16). In that text, Peter did not spell out how holiness was to be pursued to the degree that he now does in 2 Peter 1:1-11. Here Peter informs us that the goal is to “become partakers of the divine nature”—becoming conformed to the image of Christ (see also Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 4:13). The basis for this is found in the redemptive work God has accomplished in Christ and the provision of His Word. The means by which this is accomplished is our diligent pursuit of holiness, as we depend upon God and His provisions for our growth and maturity.

All of this has been spelled out in verses 1-7. Now, in verses 8-11, Peter enumerates some of the personal benefits the Christian gains from the pursuit of holiness. These benefits are described both negatively and positively. Peter begins with the negative benefits in verses 8-9 and then urges us to “be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure,” with the assurance that “as long as you practice these things,” you will never stumble, and you will have an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Benefits of Being Blessed By What We Avoid

Salvation brings with it two-fold blessings. We are blessed by what we gain just as we are blessed by what we escape or leave behind. For example, we are blessed by being justified, declared righteous through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are also blessed by what we leave behind or escape: our sins are forgiven and forgotten. Those who are saved gain entrance into heaven; we are likewise blessed by escaping the horrors of hell. In Peter’s words, we not only “become partakers of the divine nature,” we also “escape the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). Let us consider those blessings which Peter lists that we experience by escaping evil and its consequences.

(1) The blessing of avoiding uselessness and unfruitfulness (verse 8). The term rendered “useless” may also mean “idle.” An “idle” person is unproductive and thus useless. One who is not diligently pursuing holiness, as Peter describes in verses 5-7, is idle and useless. One who diligently pursues holiness is being useful.

The “useless” or “idle” saint may not immediately appear to be either idle or useless. He or she may be very busy. They might be called “hard-working” or even a “workaholic” by their peers. The sluggard of the Book of Proverbs also works hard at what he likes, but he is idle with regard to those things that are demanding or disgusting to him. The one who pursues holiness is neither idle nor useless with regard to spiritual attitudes and actions.

Our Lord had some very harsh words for those who are lazy and idle. Consider His words to this steward:

24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no [seed.] 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no [seed.] 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my [money] back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 For to everyone who has shall [more] be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:24-30, emphasis mine).

This slave did not make use of what the master had given him. He was idle and unprofitable, and his punishment was severe.[1]

I understand the term “unfruitful” to be a synonym of “idle” or “useless,” further explaining what Peter meant by the first term. To be idle is to be unprofitable or unfruitful. Fruitfulness has always been regarded as characteristic of the saint and unfruitfulness a condition to be avoided (see Psalm 1:3; Matthew 3:7-10; 7:17-19; 13:23; John 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:11). Our Lord’s cursing of the barren fig tree is indicative of His displeasure toward those who are unfruitful (see Matthew 21:19-22).[2]

(2) The blessing of avoiding blindness and short-sightedness (verse 9). Those who are not saved are blind to spiritual truth:

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The Christian’s spiritual eyes are opened so that spiritual truth can be seen. The Christian is divinely enabled to “see” the “unseen:”

14 “And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; 15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:14-16).

17 “‘Delivering you from the [Jewish] people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me’” (Acts 26:17-18).

1 Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1; see also Hebrews 12:1-2).

8 And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Spiritual sight is divinely given at the time of one’s conversion, and spiritual illumination continues to take place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

As we have seen above, the “eye” is used of more than merely physical sight. The “eye” is used to refer to one’s perception and desires:

15 “‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:15).

34 “The lamp of your body is your eye; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness (Luke 11:34 NAS).

14 Having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children (2 Peter 2:14).

The key to understanding Peter’s words regarding blindness may well be found in this text in Matthew:

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; 15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM. ‘ 16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see [it]; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear [it]” (Matthew 13:10-17).

According to Jesus’ words here, the ability to continue to “see” as he should is dependent upon his response to what he has already “seen.” To fail to appropriate previous revelation makes one increasingly blind to spiritual realities. Practicing the truth one has received causes one to possess that truth and prepares them for “seeing” further truths.

This is what Peter teaches in our text. The pursuit of verses 5-7 is putting into “practice” the knowledge God has provided, a knowledge sufficient for “life and godliness.” To fail to pursue holiness is to become increasingly blind. Spiritual blindness manifests itself as short-sightedness.[3] Instead of “fixing our hope” on the spiritual and eternal certainties which God has promised and provided for us, we see only in the present. No wonder this generation has been called the “now generation.” It is a sad statement of the spiritual blindness of our age, a blindness which has resulted from ignoring the truths of the Word of God. The pursuit of holiness keeps us from impaired spiritual vision.

(3) The blessing of avoiding forgetfulness concerning our purification from our sins of the past (verse 9). We have a neighbor who suffers from Alzheimers disease. She does not remember who anyone is, including her husband. Perhaps even worse, she does not remember who she is. Forgetfulness is a terrible ailment. I think we would almost rather be offended by someone, especially our mate, than be forgotten by them.

In one sense, Christians are to forget the past. We should not be haunted by guilt, for those sins which have been forgiven. We are not to rest upon the laurels of past achievements but “press on for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). But we should never forget what we once were apart from Christ, and what we have now become, in Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-22). We are to rejoice in our redemption. We are to be constantly filled with gratitude. We are to remember that our sins have been forgiven.

Paul never forgot who he was and what God had done in his life, forgiving him of his sins and trans-forming him from a persecutor of the church to a preacher of the gospel:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are [found] in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost[of all.] 16 And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, [be] honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Timothy 1:12-17).

This message is being written on my computer which has several forms of “memory.” One form is known as “ram”—random access memory. This memory must be “refreshed” literally millions and millions of times, or it will be lost. When the power to the computer is turned off (or goes off in a thunderstorm), all “ram” memory is lost in a fraction of a second.

Our memory of spiritual things is just about as volatile and short-lived. This is why we are reminded so often in the Bible. How many times did Jesus repeat the same truths to His disciples? How many times in the Scriptures are we admonished not to forget what God has said and done? How many times are we encouraged to remember the great spiritual truths of the Bible?

Peter’s words indicate to us that the pursuit of holiness, as described in verses 5-7, is a divinely appointed means of keeping our memories refreshed, of preventing forgetfulness. When we cease to strive after holiness, we become forgetful of our forgiveness from our sins. A kind of spiritual Alzheimers disease sets in, and we become a different person than we once were when our spiritual memories were intact.

How does the pursuit of holiness refresh our memory? I think Paul tells us in Colossians 2:

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:6-7).

The spiritual life should be pursued in the same way we were saved. Salvation is the way of the cross. Sanctification is likewise the way of the cross (see 1 Peter 1:17-21). Thus, we must “take up our cross daily” if we are to be our Lord’s disciples. To pursue holiness is to walk in the way of the cross, to die to self and to live out the life of Christ (see Romans 6:2-11; 1 Peter 2:18-25; 3:15-22; 4:1-2).

False teachers take forgetfulness to the extreme. They not only forget the Master and His redeeming work on Calvary, they deny Him (see 2 Peter 2:1, 20-22). But the individual of our 2 Peter 1:8-11 text is not one who doubts his salvation; he is one who so carelessly lives his life he does not even remember it. He goes about his daily life as though he were not saved, not a new creation, not a possessor of eternal life. His life thus becomes one centered about this world and what it has to offer (see 2 Timothy 4:10). Christians in this condition are indistinguishable from unbelievers, so far as their attitudes and actions can be judged by others.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet 1:10-11)  

With his introductory word “therefore,” Peter indicates that verses 10-11 flow out of the verses which precede them. The Christian not only seeks godliness, he shuns ungodliness (compare Romans 12:9). The Christian should therefore delight in Peter’s words in verses 8 and 9. We should all find the promise of avoiding uselessness and unfruitfulness, blindness or short-sightedness, and forgetfulness a great encouragement to the pursuit of holiness.

Peter’s exhortation is now put before the reader:

10a … be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you… 

I must admit I am not excited about the way the translators of the NASB have rendered this exhortation. Consider the ways other translations have rendered this text:

Wherefore then rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure (KJV).

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure (NIV).

All the more then, my friends, exert yourselves to clinch God’s choice and calling of you (NEB).

Brothers, you have been called and chosen: work all the harder to justify it (Jerusalem Bible).

Set your minds, then, on endorsing by your conduct the fact that God has called and chosen you (J.B. Phillips).

Exert yourselves the more then, brothers, to confirm your calling and election (Berkeley).

So, dear brothers, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen (Living Bible).

To properly interpret verse 10, we must do several things. First, we must locate every biblical passage which employs the terms rendered “make certain about” in the NASB. From all these texts and various uses of these terms, we must decide what the options are for translating this term. We must consider these options in the light of biblical theology. Finally, from the immediate context of verse 10, along with the broader context of the previous verses, we must decide which of these options best conveys Peter’s meaning here.

The term Peter uses in verse 10, rendered “make certain about,” is also found in Romans 4:16; 2 Corinthians 1:7; Hebrews 2:2; 3:6, 14; 6:19; 9:17; and 2 Peter 1:19.

One of the most critical texts is Romans 4:16:

16 For this reason [it is] by faith, that [it might be] in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (Romans 4:16, emphasis mine).

In this text, Paul not only employs the term “certain,” he also uses it in such a way that we can tell what Peter cannot mean where he employs the same term. Paul writes that God has designed “it” (justification) to occur “by faith,” so that “the promise” (of justification or salvation) might be certain. In the context, Paul instructs us that if salvation were by our works, it would not be certain because it would depend on us. Justification by faith makes the promise of salvation—of the forgiveness of sins (see verses 7-8)—certain. We can therefore hardly suppose that Peter is now saying the opposite, namely, that we make our election and calling certain by our works, by working hard at the pursuit of holiness.

Now let us consider the other passages where the adjective[4] “firm” or “certain” is employed:

7 And our hope for you is firmly grounded [“stedfast,” KJV], knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are [sharers] of our comfort (2 Corinthians 1:7, emphasis mine).

2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable [“stedfast,” KJV], and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense (Hebrews 2:2, emphasis mine).

6 But Christ [was faithful] as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end (Hebrews 3:6, emphasis mine).

14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm [“stedfast,” KJV] until the end (Hebrews 3:14, emphasis mine).

19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a [hope] both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil (Hebrews 6:19, emphasis mine).

17 For a covenant is valid [only] when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives (Hebrews 9:17, emphasis mine).

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

From all the uses of this term in the Bible, it seems the expression refers either to setting something in motion—to activate or fix something securely—so it cannot be moved. A will is not activated—set in motion—until the death of the one who made the will (Hebrews 9:17). Christ set in motion the promises of the Old Testament prophets in such a way that they cannot be stopped (see Romans 4:16; 15:8). Paul’s hope for the Corinthians was firm; it was unshakable (2 Corinthians 1:7). The prophetic word has been made sure by the miraculous display of power which accompanied its origins (see Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:2, 3; 2 Peter 1:19) and thus we see that God’s promises are a solid foundation, something we can trust as sure and certain. Just as God does not change (see James 1:17), neither does His Word. We have “an anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19) which cannot be moved. We are therefore held fast and secure. 

Peter is not urging us to “make certain about” our election and calling. Our election and calling are from God, and they are not reversible (see Romans 8:29-30; 11:29). On the one hand, the God who has called us will confirm us to the end:

4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-8).

On the other hand, we are not to be passive in our salvation and sanctification. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive the salvation God has provided through Him (see John 6:28-29; Acts 2:38; 16:31; Romans 10:8-15). Likewise, while faith is a gift from God (2 Peter 1:1), we must add to our faith through the provisions God has given to us (2 Peter 1:3-7).

I believe the exhortation in verse 10 is but an intensified repetition of that given in verses 5-7:

5a Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply … (2 Peter 1:5a).

10a Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure … (2 Peter 1:10a).

We are to continually strive to grow in our faith and in the godly qualities Peter spells out in verses 5-7. As we do so, we confirm, or establish, that which God began and which He is committed to establish in and through us. To make our calling and election sure is to make it stable. It is to set our lives on a course that cannot, and will not, be changed or moved away from the faith. It is to become so solid and stable that we will not be moved, especially by those who come to us with another gospel:

13 Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15).

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:6-8).

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).

6 But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6).

Peter buttresses his exhortation to pursue holiness by summing up the benefits in two contrasting promises. On the one hand, the pursuit of holiness gives us a stability, a steadfastness which keeps us from stumbling. Since Peter is writing to Christians here, I do not believe he is referring to a “fatal fall” which results in the loss of one’s salvation. I believe he is speaking of the kind of stumbling which results in being useless and unfruitful, but not complete destruction.

24 When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand (Psalms 37:24).

14 The LORD sustains all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down (Psalms 145:14).

16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in [time of] calamity (Proverbs 24:16).

The term “stumble” is used elsewhere in Romans 11:11 and James 2:10; 3:2 (twice). In these texts “stumble” seems to mean “to sin.”[5] Peter surely knew what it meant to “stumble.” And so do we. But sinning is not inevitable. It is avoidable, by the pursuit of godliness in the power and provisions of God. When we cease to grow in Christian character and conduct, we set ourselves up for a fall.

If our diligence to make our calling and election sure keeps us from stumbling, it also promises us something very positive—it promises us an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God:

11 For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:11). 

The Bible teaches that some Christians will enter into God’s kingdom by the proverbial “skin of their teeth:”

12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is [to be] revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

5 [I have decided] to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5).

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (1 Corinthians 11:28-30).

It is certainly possible for a Christian to live in such a way that God removes him from this life (1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:28-30). I do not think one would expect a “Well done, good and faithful servant!” upon his arrival in the presence of God. He will be saved, yet as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). For the Christian who pursues holiness, there is a far better entrance into the kingdom of God. It is an entrance we eagerly anticipate (see Philippians 1:19-23; 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10). It is an entrance abundantly supplied to us. This is the reward of diligently seeking to confirm our calling and election.

Conclusion

While God has ordained that we will be conformed to the image of His son (Romans 8:28-30), we are to be actively involved in this process. There is a sense in which the growth process involves the entire body of believers. Paul speaks of this corporate growth in Ephesians 4:11-16 and elsewhere in relation to the concept of spiritual gifts. But there is also a sense in which spiritual growth is a life-long personal endeavor, to be strenuously engaged in by every individual believer. This is what Peter urges us to do in our text.

Each individual believer is to pursue holiness, actively striving to manifest the “divine nature” in his or her life, not only because this is our destiny but because it is our duty. And we are to actively do so not only because of what it promises but also because of what it prevents.

The dangers Peter speaks of here are very real dangers for the Christian. Who should know better than Peter himself? These things can and do happen to Christians. They do happen when we fail to pursue holiness, as urged in verses 5-7. When we pursue spiritual growth through God’s provisions, we begin to manifest the “divine nature” of God. When we cease to grow, we stumble, and we become hardly distinguishable from the false teachers described later, or even rank pagans.

The promises of God are just as certain as the warnings and threats of the Word. The threats or the promises of Scripture are “made sure” by our acting, either in obedience to the commands or in disobedience. Our actions activate the promises or the threats. We avoid the sandtraps of life, as outlined here by Peter, by pursuing holiness—the characteristics of God which He has purposed to be ours. We may possess the promises by making use of what God has provided:

24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” (Mark 4 NAS)

11 Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).

This text does not focus on doubt, but on faith and the proper aspirations and fears faith instills within the Christian. We are to remember what we once were and the redemption we have received in Christ. But we are not to be content with what we are now in Christ. We are to press on to a greater and more intimate knowledge of Christ and to a more complete obedience to His will and His Word.

Our motivation should be to become more like our Master and to fulfill the task for which we were chosen and called. Our confidence is in Him, in His character and His provisions for our growth, godliness, and final salvation. We labor and strive, not to earn our salvation but to demonstrate the salvation God has accomplished in Christ. Our dread should be in falling short of what God’s provisions have enabled us to become.

This text from the pen of Peter has caused me to think differently about what Paul has written to us in 1 Corinthians 10:

13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

I have always thought the “way of escape” was not evident until the time of crisis, and the escape was by some kind of divine intervention. Such “escapes” do take place occasionally, but we should not seek to force them by leaping from the pinnacle of some temple, as Satan sought to tempt our Lord, thereby forcing the Father to come to His rescue (see Matthew 4:5-7). I have heard Christians say, “If God doesn’t want me to do this, He will stop me.” The problem is that what they are doing is biblically wrong. They should turn from sin rather than expect God to rescue them from it.

Peter’s words, found in 2 Peter 1:5-11, are God’s “way of escape.” We do not have to enter into temptation. We should desire to stay as far from temptation as possible (see Matthew 6:13). The pursuit of godly character—the pursuit of holiness—as Peter has described it in these first 11 verses of his second epistle, is God’s primary means of escape. Growth in godliness keeps us from sin.

[1] Some seek to explain this master’s sentence of judgment as the “loss of rewards” which results in “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” I understand this to refer to hell and its eternal torment. This slave was not a true believer, which is evident by his conduct. His “one talent” seems to have been the gospel, which he did not embrace by faith. Thus, to fail to make use of the gospel was, for him, sufficient cause for eternal torment.

[2] Once again, as with the “wicked, lazy slave” in Matthew 25:24-30, I understand the fig tree to represent the unbelieving Jews of Israel. They made profession of holiness, but they surely did not manifest its fruits, and thus they were worthy of divine wrath.

[3] I understand “blindness” or “short-sightedness” to be virtually synonymous terms. To be spiritually blind is to see only physically and only in terms of this life. We do not view this life in the light of eternity. Next Peter will show that we not only fail to see ahead, we also forget the forgiveness of sins we have experienced in the past.

[4] The verb form of this term is found in Mark 16:20; Romans 15:8; 1 Corinthians 1:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 2:3; 13:9.

[5] “Literally the verb means ‘stumble’, ‘trip’, and so comes to mean ‘sin’ (so Jas. ii. 10; iii. 2).” J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969), p. 309.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to brotherly kindness, love – 2 Peter 1:7


This love is “agape love,” which might be called the highest love. It is also the capstone of all the virtues the Christian should pursue.

Michael Green shows its uniqueness: “In friendship (philia) the partners seek mutual solace; in sexual love (eros) mutual satisfaction. In both cases these feelings are aroused because of what the loved one is. With agape it is the reverse. God’s agape is evoked not by what we are, but by what he is. It has its origin in the agent, not in the object … This agape might be defined as a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good.

That is what God did for us (Jn. 3:16). That is what he wants us to do (1 Jn. 3:16). That is what he is prepared to achieve in us (Rom. 5:5). Thus the Spirit of the God who is love is freely given to us, in order to reproduce in us that same quality.”[1]

While “Phileo love” is directed toward fellow-believers, “Agape love” is universal in scope. It is a love which applies both to believers and to unbelievers:

“ And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also [do] for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

The meaning of love. — Storge: family love; the love of parents for children, children for parents, brothers and sisters for each other. Eros: sensual love. It means a love that is egocentric, “wanting to have,” seeking union with the object of its desire. The value that evokes it is found in the thing loved. Philia: friendship; love given to all kinds of human beings, shown in such terms as philadelphia, brotherly love. Agape: a spontaneous impulse of the heart to desire that which is good for the one loved, and it will be at my cost. There are no prerequisistes, no conditions, no requirements.

What these words mean to marriage. Storge: “my family is important to me. I want my family to be important to you. I recognize that your family is important to you. Your family will also be important to me.” Eros: “I am physically attracted to you.” Philia: “Í like you. I enjoy being with you, going places with you, experiencing things with you.” Agage: “I will be good to you. I will treat you with patience and kindness, with courtesy, consideration, and deep concern. That is an unconditional promise. I will always, under all circumstances, treat you that way.”

Agape is self-giving love, gift love, the love that goes on loving even when the other becomes unloveable. Agape love is not just something that happens to you; it is something you make happen.  Love is a personal act of commitment. Christ’s love (and hence the pattern for our love) is a gift love. Christ’s love for us is a sacrificial love. Christ’s love is unconditional. Christ’s love is an eternal love.

Agape is unconditional — That means: There are no conditions necessary. You don’t have to earn my love. You don’t have to deserve my love. You don’t have to measure up to any standard to get me to love you. You don’t have to work for my love. You don’t even have to appreciate my love.

Agape is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Agape is a commitment to act in the best interest of another without any conditions on his/her part, except his/her need. Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

Agape is the love that gives full recognition to all men as the common offspring of God. God created all men in his image. This means we must even love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45). This is the love God had for man which made the cross possible (John 3:16). Love is the logical and natural, the crown of the Christian graces, because it reflects the very nature of God who is “love” (1 John 4:8). Love is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14).

Married Love.  You have said to another, “I will,” and with those words you have declared your voluntary assent and turned a crucial point in their lives. You know full well all the doubts and suspicions with which a life-long partnership between two persons is faced. It is you as a married couple who must bear the whole responsibility for the success of your married life, with all the happiness it will bring. It is not your love which sustains the marriage, from now on the marriage sustains your love.

“I will give to you a love that is patient…a love that is kind, a love that endures. I will pledge to you a love that is not jealous or possessive, a love that is not proud or selfish, a love that is not rude or inconsiderate.

“My love for you will not insist in its own way, will not be irritable or resentful, will not keep account of wrongs or failures. I will rejoice when good prevails.

“Our love will know no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope. It will outlast everything. Our love will stand when all else has fallen. Our life together will have three great qualities: faith, hope and love. But the greatest is love.”  — Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Marriage was designed by God to provide companionship. “…not good to be alone” the key to a great marriage is delightful companionship. Long-term, delightful companionship is at its best in an intimate friendship!

How Love Acts (1 Cor. 13:4-7). (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {5} It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. {6} Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. {7} It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Agape love is not prompted by what the other person is or does, but by a love rooted in what God is. It is the love of God which flows through us.

 We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Paul speaks of this love as the greatest of the Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13). As we love others we manifest the perfections of God to men: “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

This 2 Peter passage makes several contributions to the Christian. First, it shows that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not incompatible. We need not choose one in place of the other. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are interdependent truths.

Man cannot contribute to his salvation. Though the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. All we must do is receive it by faith through baptism for remission for sins, and even this occurs by divine grace. But once we have come to faith in Christ, we are to diligently strive after godly character—for God has provided the means for “life and godliness.” We strive in our Christian walk because He has given us the means.

The sovereignty of God should never be an excuse for passivity or inactivity; rather, His sovereignty is the basis for disciplined living. The Christian life is not: “Let go, and let God;” it is “Trust God, and get going!”

Our text also contributes lessons on discipleship for the Christian. Salvation is the first step of discipleship. We must first believe in the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Having done so, we must then forsake our former manner of life and former manner of thinking and engage ourselves in the pursuit of holiness.

We are not merely saved to be rescued from the torment of hell and enter into the blessings of heaven. We have been saved to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have been saved to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and, by so doing, bring glory to Him.

We must be careful that our presentation of the gospel does not minimize what salvation is all about. Jesus never did (Matthew 5:1-16; Luke 9:57-62), and neither did Paul (Acts 14:22; 24:25; 2 Timothy 3:12). While men and women are saved so they may enter into God’s blessings, they are saved primarily to bring glory to God by manifesting His excellencies to men and to celestial powers (Ephesians 1:1-12; 3:10).

How interesting that Peter speaks of love as the end product of the Christian’s striving and not the source of it. Many wait to “feel” love and then act upon it. Peter tells the Christian he or she has already received faith, and they are to act on it so the outcome is love. For Peter, love is a result and not merely a cause. It seems to me we must say from the Scriptures as a whole that love is both a cause and an effect. Peter would have us strive to obtain love by obediently pursuing the characteristics of the divine nature.

Our text provides the means for Christian growth and also the means for how stumbling can be prevented. I wish the Christian community would wake up and see how we have exchanged Peter’s inspired list for another list, a list provided not under inspiration but from the warped thinking of unbelievers. According to a distressing number of believers, the key to understanding success in the Christian life, as well as failure, is “self-esteem.” Poor self-esteem is the source of failure; good self-esteem is the basis of success. Not according to Peter. Who, then, will you believe?

This leads to one of the most significant contributions of our text. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit” (verses 22-23), the qualities God produces through the work of the Holy Spirit. The key to manifesting the “fruit of the Spirit” is to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

Peter has a list of qualities which includes some in Paul’s list in Galatians 5. But Peter does not emphasize the work of the Spirit, as true and as essential as the Spirit’s work is. What does Peter emphasize as the basis for Christian growth? Peter emphasizes the Word of God. He speaks of our salvation and our sanctification as the result of knowing God through His revealed Word. This is the thrust of his entire first chapter. In chapters 2 and 3, Peter shows how false teachers seek to undermine the Word and turn saints from the truths of Scripture. How quickly, how easily we are turned from the truths God has revealed in His Word to the alleged “truths” of men, who appeal not to the spirit but to the flesh. Let us recognize that the knowledge of God not only saves us but sanctifies us. This does not happen independently of the Spirit, but through the Spirit, as He illuminates the Word of God in our hearts.

Our text also tells us that Christian growth is neither automatic nor is maturity merely a function of time. I fear many Christians have a “civil service” mentality concerning their Christian growth. They seem to think that time alone results in growth and maturity. This is not the case:

“Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Christian growth does take time, but growth occurs as believers diligently and obediently seek to grow, in the power of the Holy Spirit and through the provision of the Scriptures. The writer to the Hebrews rebukes his readers for failing to grow. Growth results from the application of biblical truth to daily living. Growth occurs when we employ the resources God has supplied through His Word.

Failing to grow does not mean that we simply grow stagnant, never moving beyond where we are in our spiritual life. No; failure to grow means we move backwards. According to Peter, failure in striving toward Christian growth and maturity sets us up for a fall. That which we once possessed we can lose. This happened to the church at Ephesus, who lost their first love (Revelation 2:4). If we do not use what we have, we lose it:

“And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Mark 4:24-25).

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to godliness, brotherly kindness and love – 2 Peter 1:7


In a good marriage, the husband and wife are also friends. Philia’s companionship is many things…being reasonably happy to go shopping with her…watching TV together and munching popcorn…feelong lonely when he/she is out of town.

Friendship also means communication. Philia’s communication is many things…sharing something you read in a book or magazine…reminiscing how you had to catch all the mice and remove all the bats before you could move into your apartment…eating breakfast together without the morning paper…agreeing on the design of the new wallpaper for Jane’s room…having the courage to tell you her you don’t that dress she’s trying on.

Philia is also cooperation. While eros is almost always face-to-face relationship, philia is very often a shoulder-to-shoulder relationship. When there is philia, husband and wife are working together on something greater than both of them. They are finding their oneness, not directly in each other, but in their interest in a common cause. In eros, each seeks fulfillment in the other; in philia, they both seek fulfillment in one mutual goal.

“Brotherly kindness” is the love saints should have for one another as fellow-believers. It is a love based in part on what we share in common with the One we love. There is a certain element of reciprocity involved, for ideally we should be a blessing to our brother in Christ, and he should be a blessing to us.

This love, based on a shared relationship with Christ, can be sensed immediately even though two saints may never have met before. This does not mean that brotherly love is a snap, that it is automatic. If it were, Peter would not have found it necessary to command us to pursue it with diligence, not only in his second epistle but also in his first: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, (1 Peter 1:22, emphasis mine).[1]

Sin not only alienates men from God, it also alienates them from one another. Thus, when men come to faith in Christ, they are united with Him and also with their fellow believers. This union of believers with one another crosses every barrier, racial or social: “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” [which is] performed in the flesh by human hands—12 [remember] that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:11-16).

While God has removed the barrier between fellow-believers, this is something we must strive to practice and to preserve. It is a humanly impossible task for which God has provided the means to accomplish. As believers, we must diligently strive to practice brotherly kindness by employing these means.

This love is the fraternal or family love one has for his fellow Christians. This love recognizes the difference between the church and the world This love binds us together in a common bond in he family of God (Rom. 8:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:13). Next to the love Christians have for God should be their love for fellow Christians (1 John 4:20). A man who does not love his brethren is not converted to Christ (1 John 3:14-15).

Paul emphasizes love for brother when he speaks of helping others (Gal. 6:10). Throughout the New Testament, Christians are urged to love one another (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8).

In love of the brethren there is to be no partiality. God shows no partiality in loving his children and neither should we? Every Christian is precious to Christ no matter what his station in life may be. Love is the only real body of unity in the church of Christ. Paul says it does not matter what you do, if it is not motivated by love it is worth nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

The unity pleasing to God is not limited to a few essential acts of worship and living.  Love makes service to God pleasing. Agreement among brethren without love is hollow mockery. Brethren can dwell together in total unity in regard to techniques and yet be totally separated before God, because of a lack of love (Gal. 5:15). Since we are human, it is difficult to achieve this unity in love, but God expects us to grow and progress in this respect. The Christian who loves and hates any discord or strife in God’s Family, will do everything possible to correct it.

If we truly love the brethren, we will want to be with them in worship and also during the week. Because of this love, when any part of the Family suffers the whole Family suffers and likewise all will rejoice with each member who rejoices (1 Cor. 12:26). The proof of discipleship is the way we love one another (John 13:34-35). Brotherly love must be demonstrated, not just verbal affirmation (1 John 3:18).

When Christians treat one another with kindness, benevolence, courtesy and consideration, they eloquently declare to the world that they do indeed love one another, and that we are thus true disciples of Christ. There were many examples of brotherly love in the early church (Acts 2:42-44; 4:32, 34, 35). Christ set the example (John 13:34; 13:1; Eph. 5:2).

John makes it very clear that we cannot love God and not love our brethren (1 John 4:20). This is something more people should consider as they put their soul in danger by holding ill feelings against one or more of God’s children. If we can’t love our brethren, we can’t love God – that is serious.

And to brotherly kindness, love.NIV While Christians must exhibit “brotherly kindness” in their dealings with others, their love must also go deeper. To brotherly kindness, they must add love that always puts others first, seeking their highest good. The Greek word agape refers to self-sacrificial love. It is the kind of love God demonstrated in saving us. Such love among believers allows for weaknesses and imperfections, deals with problems, affirms others, and has a strong commitment and loyalty. Such a bond will hold the believers together no matter what persecutions and suffering they may face.

1:8 For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.NRSV The eight qualities mentioned above (these things) ought to be part of every believer’s life, but they are not static. Believers don’t merely “have” these qualities; instead, they are increasing in these qualities. To grow in these qualities, we must practice them in the rough-and-tumble of daily life. As these characteristics increase, they keep believers from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Ineffective” means idle and slothful, literally “out of work,” and parallels James 2:20, “Faith without works is dead” (nkjv). “Unfruitful” means barren, unproductive, and refers to the life crowded with pleasures and cares (see Matthew 13:22). The false teachers exemplified these qualities (see chapter 2 and Jude 11).

Believers “know” the Lord Jesus, but their knowledge must bear fruit in such qualities as those mentioned above; otherwise, the believers are “ineffective” and “unfruitful.” This can happen when believers rest on past achievements, stagnate, and cease to grow, or when other priorities dampen our desire and service to Christ. The false teachers sought knowledge for its own sake, but Peter explained that we must go beyond knowledge. Our knowledge must bear fruit.

Our faith must go beyond what we believe; it must become a dynamic part of all we do, resulting in good fruit and spiritual maturity. Salvation does not depend on positive character qualities and good works; rather, it produces those qualities and works. A person who claims to be saved while remaining unchanged does not understand faith or what God has done for him or her. Faith in and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ that leads to growth in these qualities causes believers to make a difference in their world and persevere to the end.

1:9 For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.NRSV In contrast to the believer who is increasing in the positive qualities Peter mentioned above, a believer who lacks these things, who is not growing in these qualities, is nearsighted and blind. Peter had harsh words for believers who refused to grow. The word “nearsighted” is also translated “shortsighted.” Peter may have meant that believers who were not growing could see only as far as the world around them. Their shortsightedness left them blind to the big picture—the promise of eternity and the glory of becoming more like Christ. Thus they remained tied to earthly possessions and transient promises. The word muopazo (shortsighted) can also mean “to blink” or “to shut the eyes.” Thus Peter may also have meant that these believers were intentionally closing their eyes to Christ’s light, thus causing spiritual blindness. This second interpretation is most likely, for the phrase is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins pictures those who deliberately put out of their mind all that Christ had done in erasing the sins they committed before they were saved. The “cleansing” was a reminder of the believer’s vows at baptism—the public show of faith and desire to live for Christ. At baptism, believers professed their cleansing from past sins and their break with old, sinful lifestyles. A believer who is “forgetful” of this and refuses to grow becomes unfruitful for God.

1:10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election.NRSV The word therefore ties this verse with the preceding passage (1:3-9):

  • therefore, because Christ has empowered believers through knowledge of him to live morally excellent lives (1:3),
  • therefore, because he has given believers great and precious promises so that we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world (1:4),
  • therefore, because believers desire to increase in godly characteristics so that they do not become ineffective and unfruitful (1:8)—

then believers must be all the more eager to confirm themselves as God’s children. The Greek word translated “all the more eager” (spoudasate) was also used in 1:5, “make every effort.” Peter urgently called upon these believers to determine to live for God, no matter how difficult it might become, and to be growing in the virtues mentioned above. To confirm your call and election is also translated “make your calling and election sure.” On one hand, the calling and election were already “sure” and “confirmed” because they were by God’s initiative. However, the believers’ behavior would “confirm” that call by their good qualities and good works. They were “confirming” their call and election not for God, but for themselves. Peter probably was making no distinction between the words “call” and “election” and was using them to emphasize God’s initiative in salvation.

For if you do this, you will never stumble.NRSV The believers to whom Peter wrote were in danger of turning to the doctrine of false teachers who were teaching that immoral living incurred no judgment. These false teachers said that once people were “saved,” they could live any way they pleased. Peter countered this teaching, explaining that Christians must match their calling and election with holy living. If they did this, they would never stumble (see Colossians 1:22-23; 2 Timothy 2:12-13). The word “stumble” means more than merely to “trip.” It means to come to grief or ruin, referring to the Day of Judgment, when sin takes the unbeliever and rebel into eternal damnation.

1:11 And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.NIV Those who live fruitful and productive lives for God, who do not disastrously stumble along the path to the eternal kingdom (heaven) will receive a rich welcome. This pictures the type of welcome Stephen experienced as he was martyred, “‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:56 niv). All believers will experience a wonderful welcome into their true home, the eternal kingdom of the Lord and Savior. Those who have been called and chosen, but have been unfruitful and have stumbled much along the way, will still reach the kingdom and receive their salvation, but it will be, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “only as through fire” (nrsv). Whether this welcome will be any different is unknown; but Peter encouraged his readers to confirm their calling and election (1:10) and to ensure a rich welcome by living to please God during their time on earth. Looking toward our future eternal life provides the motivation for right living now. We must be centered on heaven’s priorities, not those of this world. We can face hardships and still be faithful to God because we know the bright future he has for us. How wonderful it is to contemplate that God wants, expects, and waits for us.

1:12 Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you.NRSV Because of the glories awaiting the believers, Peter intended to keep on reminding them not to allow their salvation to become a license for immoral living, nor to rest content in knowledge of the gospel without obeying it and applying it to their lives. The times were difficult—persecution was increasing from without; false teachers were spewing evil doctrine from within. He encouraged the believers to continue to stand firm on the basics of their faith, to continue to remind themselves of these truths (even though they knew them already), and to reestablish themselves in the truth they had been taught.

Peter explained that he knew these believers were established in the truth. The word “established” translates the perfect passive participle, esterigmenous. Jesus used a form of the word when he told Peter, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen [sterizo] your brothers” (Luke 22:32 niv). Knowing (being established in) the truth is a source of spiritual strength.

1:13-14 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.NIV Peter would continue to “remind” the believers (1:12) and refresh (literally “wake up” or “arouse”) their memories regarding the basic truths of their faith as long as he lived. The phrase as long as I live in the tent of this body emphasizes the transitoriness of this life on earth (see Paul’s use of the word “tent” in 2 Corinthians 5:1, 4). As nomads pack up their tents in order to move to a new location, so human beings one day will put aside their physical bodies in order to move into eternity—in the case of believers, to new and glorious bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Peter reminds us that the eternal realm matters, not the temporal.

Peter knew that he would die soon. Many years before, Christ had prepared Peter for the kind of death Peter would face, although the only timing Peter knew was that he would be “old” (see John 21:18-19). At the writing of this letter, Peter knew that his death was at hand. Scholars have discussed whether Peter had received some kind of revelation so that he knew his death was coming, or whether Peter simply thought he would die because of the intense persecution in Rome and his being a prominent Christian figure in the church. In any case, Peter was martyred for the faith in about a.d. 68. According to some traditions, he was crucified upside down, at his own request, because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Master.

1:15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.NIV Christ had told Peter about Peter’s own death, and Peter carried this knowledge through his years of ministry. Now, as an old man, knowing he would soon die, Peter wrote of his coming departure calmly and fearlessly. It would be merely a “departure” (the Greek word is exodos), a moving on to another place. Peter was prepared to leave the “body” (1:13) and move into the “eternal kingdom” (1:11).

Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Peter and Jude.

[1] It should be noted that in 1 Peter 1:22, both the noun, Philadelphia, and the verb, Agape, are found. Some seek to make too much of the distinction between “Phileo love” and “Agape love.” These two terms are sometimes interchanged. This is true in John 21:15-17.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to  perseverance, godliness – 2 Peter 1:6


The terms Peter employs here for “godliness” are infrequently used in the New Testament.  This may be because the same expression was the most common word for religion in the pagan culture of Peter’s day.[1] Godliness refers to practical religion, or, perhaps we should say, practiced religion.

Godliness simply means “God-likeness.” In the original Greek, this word meant “to worship well.” It described the man who was right in his relationship with God and with his fellowman. Perhaps the words reverence and piety come closer to defining this term.

It is that quality of character that makes a person distinctive. He lives above the petty things of life, the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do the will of God and, as he does, he seeks the welfare of others.

We must never get the idea that godliness is an impractical thing, because it is intensely practical. The godly person makes the kinds of decisions that are right and noble. He does not take an easy path simply to avoid either pain or trial. He does what is right because it is right and because it is the will of God.

The Greek word for godliness was used by ancient pagans to describe a religious individual who kept in close touch with the gods. Here Peter uses the word to speak of the need for Christians to be continually aware of God’s presence. Knowing that all of our life is in His hands should influence every aspect of our life. We should live for God and not for ourselves.[2]

Godliness is the religion we practice in our day-to-day walk. It is “the attitude of reverence which seeks to please God in all things. It desires a right relation with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life.… This characteristic distinguishes the true believer from the ungodly false teachers (2:5-22; 3:7).”[3]

The Old Testament Law related true faith to the daily aspects of living. The New Testament does the same:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.… 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:14, 23).

“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, [and] to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27).

We were once “ungodly” as unbelievers, ripe for the judgment of God (see 2 Peter 3:7). Now that we have come to newness of life in Christ, we must put off our old way of life and put on the new: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:8-10). 

In Acts 10:2, used to describe Cornelius as “a devoted man.” Godliness here carries the idea of “god-ward-ness, a state of mind which accepts God as the central object of trust and life (1 Timothy 6:11). The adding of all the Christian graces is to make us “godlike”, not just one grace. To possess the grace of godliness, one must live a godlike or moral life; however, it is possible for a person to live a good moral life and not even believe in God. The truly godly person obeys moral law “because of his respect and reverence for its divine giver.” His life is bound to God by love.

One who possesses godliness has truly given his heart to the Lord (1 Peter 3:15). True godliness is dynamic, not static as a spiritually empty life is an irreverent life (2 Timothy 3:4-5). Reverence for God is inseparable from reverence for his holy name (Matt. 6:9; 12:34-37; Psalms 111:9).

Relationship of godliness to other graces. Godliness gives us a sense of divine purpose in adding the other graces. Unless God is “true” all these things will have little meaning. All the graces must be “God” oriented. The Christian who possesses godliness can’t be self-inflated (1 Cor. 15:10). Godliness will help keep us from taking Christianity for granted.

Developing Godliness. Godliness must be developed (1 Tim. 4:7). To achieve godliness we must exercise our spiritual bodies as the athlete exercises his physical body (1 Tim. 4:8). The faithful Christian desires a greater realization of God’s presence in his life, a deeper sense of His majesty, holiness and power.

He will accomplish this as he devotes himself to the following: Bible study – no one can study without expressing some reverence in his approach to this study. The study of the Bible will reveal the nature of God, who is portrayed as the “creator” (Gen. 1:1); “eternal” (Gen. 21:33); “holy” (John 17:11); “omniscient” (1 Sam. 16:7); omnipotent” (Gen. 1:3); “omnipresent” (Psa 139:7); “love” (1 John 4:8); and many, many other expressions of the greatness and majesty of God.

Meditation – not enough to read and study, but must make God’s word a part of us (Prov. 23:7; 4:23; Phil. 4:8). The more we contemplate the nature of God, the more reverent we become.

Worship – in worship the Christian approaches God directly to express his appreciation for the presence of God in his life. Worship is where we prostrate our spirit before the throne of God (Matt. 4:10; John 4:24; 1 Peter 2:5; Rev. 19:10). The spirit of godliness makes for acceptable worship, and such worship contributes to the development of godliness. The more we reverence God in worship, the more reverent we will be toward God in our daily life. The various acts of worship, prayer, communion, study, giving and singing, are our ways of interacting with God and developing the grace of godliness.

It takes time to be godly. In a society which practices everything to the contrary, it takes an effort to be godly. With so many things to distract him, the Christian may find himself without time for the things of God. It is up to the individual as to whether he develops godliness or not, it does not happen by accident. As in everything good, Christ is our example. Christ was on earth to do God’s will (Matt. 26:39; John 17:4; Heb. 5:8-9). Our aim should be as Christ’s, o do the will of the Father.

Too often Christians do not give proper consideration to who they really are. Christians belong to God because he bought them with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

[1] “The word eusebeia is rare in the New Testament, probably because it was the primary word for ‘religion’ in popular pagan usage. The ‘religious man’ of antiquity, both in Greek and Latin usage (where the equivalent word was pietas), was careful and correct in performing his duties both to gods and men. Perhaps Peter uses it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behaviour both to God and their fellow men. Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God (which they mistakenly boasted they possessed) manifests itself in reverence towards him and respect towards men. There is no hint of religiosity here. Eusebeia is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.” Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), revised edition, p. 79.

[2]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[3] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude (Greenville, South Carolina: Unusual Publications, 1989), p. 54.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to self-control, perseverance – 2 Peter 1:6


These Christian graces are beginning to link together in their natural sense: A person who exercises self-control will not easily succumb to discouragement or the temptation to quit. Viewing all circumstances as coming from the hand of a loving Father who is in control of all things is the secret of perseverance.[1]

The word is hupomone.  Chrysostom called hupomone “The Queen of the Virtues.”  In the Authorized Version it is usually translated patience; but patience is too passive a word.  Hupomone has always a background of courage.  Cicero defines patientia, its Latin equivalent, as:  “The voluntary and daily suffering of hard and difficult things, for the sake of honour and usefulness.”

Didymus of Alexandria writes on the temper of Job:  “It is not that the righteous man must be without feeling, although he must patiently bear the things which afflict him; but it is true virtue when a man deeply feels the things he toils against, but nevertheless despises sorrows for the sake of God.”  Hupomone does not simply accept and endure; there is always a forward look in it.

It is said of Jesus, by the writer to the Hebrews, that for the joy that was set before him, he endured the Cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).  That is hupomone, Christian steadfastness.  It is the courageous acceptance of everything that life can do to us and the transmuting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.

The word is not passive; it is active. It is not the spirit that just sits back and puts up with the trials of life, taking whatever may come. Rather it is the spirit that stands up and faces life’s trials, that actively goes about conquering and overcoming them. When trials confront a man who is truly justified, he is stirred to arise and face the trials head on. He immediately sets out to conquer and overcome them. He knows that God is allowing the trials in order to teach him more and more patience (endurance).

Patience is the ability to endure when circumstances are difficult. Self-control has to do with handling the pleasures of life, while patience relates primarily to the pressures and problems of life. (The ability to endure problem people is “long-suffering.”) Often, the person who “gives in” to pleasures is not disciplined enough to handle pressures either, so he “gives up.”

Patience is not something that develops automatically; we must work at it. James 1:2-8 gives us the right approach. We must expect trials to come, because without trials we could never learn patience. We must, by faith, let our trials work for us and not against us, because we know that God is at work in our trials. If we need wisdom in making decisions, God will grant that wisdom if we ask Him. Nobody enjoys trials, but we do enjoy the confidence we can have in trials that God is at work, causing everything to work together for our good and His glory.

“Faith” brings us into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “Moral excellence” seeks the character of God as the standard and goal for our own character. “Knowledge” describes what God is like, and what we should be like as well. “Self-control” enables us to curb our physical passions and to make our bodies servants of the will of God. The next character trait—“perseverance”—enables us to persist in our pursuit of godly character, even when we suffer for doing so.

If self-control has to do with physical pleasures, perseverance has to do with pain. Our natural tendency is to pursue pleasure and flee from pain. The gospel calls for us to identify with Christ, which includes identifying with Him in His suffering: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25).

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of [this church] I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the [preaching of] the word of God, 26 [that is,] the mystery which has been hidden from the [past] ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:24-27).

Perseverance is the frame of mind and character which persists in doing what is right even though doing so may produce difficulties, suffering, and sorrows. Perseverance is the commitment to suffer in the short term in order to experience glory for eternity.

Perseverance was exemplified by our Lord: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Perseverance also includes patience. In the light of eternity, suffering is light and momentary (see 2 Corinthians 4:17), but when our Lord’s tarrying seems to be endless, we desperately need patience to persist in the stewardship God has given to each of us. The false teachers point out that our Lord has not returned as proof that He will not. They urge men to live for the moment and to pursue fleshly pleasures, doubting the reality of a day of judgment or even our Lord’s return as told in Scripture (2 Peter 3:1ff.). Knowing that in God’s economy one day is as 1,000 years, and 1,000 years is like a day, we must patiently persist in doing what is right, looking for our eternal rewards when He returns.

Practicing Patience…A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. 

A train was filled with tired people.  Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot dusty plains and at last evening had come and they all tried to settle down to a sound sleep.  However, at one end of the car a man was holding a tiny baby and as night came on the baby became restless and cried more and more.  Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group.  “Why don’t you take that baby to its mother?”

There was a moment’s pause and then came the reply. “I’m sorry.  I’m doin’ my best.  The baby’s mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead.”  Again there was an awful silence for a moment.

Then the big man who asked the cruel question was out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child.  He apologized for his impatience and unkind remark. He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep.  Then in loving patience he cared for the little child all through the night.

I cannot think of a virtue that is more desperately needed, or harder to produce in our lives, than patience. And we’re not often prone to waiting. It reminds me of the prayer offered by the impatient Christian: Dear God, please grant me patience. And I want it right now.

The story is told of a young Christian who went to an older Christian for help. “Will you please pray for me that I may be more patient?” he asked. So they knelt together and the old man began to pray. “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man…”

At that point the young Christian blurted out, “No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience.” “Ah,” responded the wise old Christian, “it’s through tribulation that we learn patience.”

WHAT IS PATIENCE?

“Patience” (makrothumia) is the quality of putting up with others, even when one is severely tried. The importance of patience is evidenced by its being most often used of the character of God, as in the great text from Joel: “Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” (2:13, RSV).

Ulrike Ruffert had an interesting take on this, as well: “Patience is the ability to put up with people you’d like to put down.”

“Patience is self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate against a wrong.” That’s pretty good. When someone does you a wrong, how do you respond – with patience or anger?

Here’s another: “Patience is the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously.” How do you deal with delay or disappointment? For some that’s really tough. Yet, patience is the ability to accept it without becoming upset.

Finally, perhaps this speaks to each of us? “Patience is the powerful attribute that enables a man or woman to remain steadfast under strain – and continue pressing on.”

Maybe that is where some of us are. We’re dealing with difficult circumstances. We’re a raising a child, or we’re caring for aging parents, or maybe we’ve had a loved one who is ill and we’ve spent long hours at the hospital or nursing home.

We’re weary, but patience is the quality that says, “This too, will pass. It’s almost over. I can keep on keeping on.”

This is my favorite definition: “Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control.”

In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, “Shake me off; I still have wings.” [2]

From the spiritual realm, and because of our devotion to petitions through prayer to God, we learn valuable lessons. As a rule, prayer is answered and funds come in, but if we are kept waiting, the spiritual blessing that is the outcome is far more precious than exemption from the trial. [3]

The word translated for patience (makrothumia) expresses a certain attitude both to people and to events. It expresses the attitude to people which never loses patience with them, however unreasonable they may be, and which never loses hope for them, however unlovely and unteachable they may be.

It expresses the attitude to events which never admits defeat, and which never loses its hope and its faith, however dark the situation may be, and however incomprehensible events may be, and however sore the chastening of God may be.

The story is told of an artist who went to visit an old friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a beautiful handkerchief that had great sentimental value, but which had been ruined by a spot of indelible ink.

The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail a few days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty. Now it was more beautiful and more valuable than ever.

Well, as desirable as patience may be, as the young Christian found out, it is not easy to develop patience. For instance, I think developing patience is difficult because it goes against human nature. We aren’t born patient, are we?

When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and is hungry, or its diaper is wet, it doesn’t lie there and think, “I know Mom and Dad are tired. So I’ll just wait until a more convenient time to let them know that I need something to eat or my diaper changed.”

No! That baby cries impatiently and continues to cry until it receives the attention it demands. Children aren’t very patient. Have you ever traveled with a child? That can be quite an experience.

How about the little 4-year-old boy who was traveling with his mother and constantly asking the same question over and over again: “When are we going to get there? When are we going to get there?”

Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.”

The boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”

A second reason why developing patience is difficult. It’s because there are weeds of pride, selfishness and anger that can choke out the fruit of patience.

A couple of years ago a survey revealed that we have become an impatient and often times angry nation. You see it at work. You see it in school. You see it on the highways.

A man’s car stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green. All his frantic efforts to get the car started failed, and a chorus of honking horns behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car and walked back to the first driver behind him and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and honk your horn for you.”

Thirdly, patience is difficult to develop because it’s contrary to our culture. We don’t live in a relaxed culture. Go to most third world countries today and you’ll find a much different lifestyle. They’re more laid back. They think, “Whatever happens, happens. It’ll be all right.” And they wonder why we’re so uptight.

It’s because we’re on a fast track, and in a rat race. We’re in a world of fast food and quick print and expressways and 10-minute oil changes and instant cameras and microwaves.

One Calvin and Hobbes comic strip pictured his father sitting at a computer saying, “It used to be that if a client wanted something done in a week it was considered a rush job, and he would be lucky to get it. Now, with modems, faxes, and car phones everybody wants everything instantly.” About that time Calvin walks by holding a microwave dinner, reading the instructions. “It takes six minutes to microwave this,” he says. “Who’s got that kind of time?”

I think another reason that patience is difficult to develop is because we have convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue. So you hear people say, “Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done.”

We like “type A” personalities, hard-charging people who get things done, and somehow impatience is seen as a virtue. Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

A young man was very upset with his mother. They had argued, and at work that day he wrote her an angry letter giving all the things that he felt were wrong with her. It was a very nasty letter. After sealing the envelope, he handed it to a co-worker to mail it for him. Well, the co-worker knew what was in the letter, so he put it in his pocket. “Maybe he’ll have second thoughts about it. I can always mail it tomorrow,” he thought.

The next day, when he went to work, his friend was sitting there all forlorn, saying, “Oh, I wish I had never written that letter. I’d give $100 to have it back.” Well, you know what happened, don’t you? His friend pulled it out of his pocket and said, “Here it is.”

Patience in marriage works a lot like faith. It demonstrates the certainty that what we hope for–physical, emotional, spiritual oneness–is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it in the here and now. [4]

Sometimes expectations push us, making us grow in ways we wouldn’t otherwise. You can’t just automatically say no. Maybe God is opening a door. [5]

Thomas a Kempis offers this advice: “First put yourself at peace, and then you may the better make others be at peace. A peaceful and patient man is of more profit to himself and to others, too, than a learned man who has no peace.”

Christians, of all people, should understand that the MasterCard mentality is not the way to master life.  The pattern Jesus established was one of deferring desires–not because the fulfillment of desiring is wrong, but because “my time has not yet come.”  Most of us think our time has come five minutes after the desire first pops into our minds. [6]

People often discuss the importance of delayed gratification; what do you mean when you talk about “displaced gratification”?      In delayed gratification, we put off something so that we can enjoy something even better later on–avoiding a “sex life” before marriage, for instance, so that we can more fully enter into a deeper love of the marital union. In displaced gratification, we put off something so that the gratification can go to somebody else. Within marriage, for example, we put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own.

When William Booth finally left the Salvation Army, he sent a one-word telegram to every member of his army. That one word embodied the guiding principle of Booth’s life: “Others.”

What is the reward of displaced gratification?  The man or woman who understands delayed and displaced gratification realizes that “others” are what it’s all about. Instead of demanding our rights and satisfaction, we can work for the rights of others, we can find fulfillment in seeing other people satisfied, and we can serve instead of trying to conquer. Displaced gratification is the oil that keeps our society running smoothly.

Where do you draw inspiration to live this way?   Learning to put the needs of others above your own is the “displaced gratification” my father taught me about. The ultimate understanding of displaced gratification is reflected in the life of Christ, who gave up heaven for earth, who could have been crowned king, and who could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross. Instead He accepted brutal, humiliating torture on our behalf. He put serving others ahead of serving His own needs. [7]

Would you consider yourself to be a patient person? Do you show patience in your life? No doubt many of us struggle with this. No doubt we all could use a little more patience. It’s so often the case, is it not, that we allow ourselves to become guilty of impatience.

You know, it can even be said that in some ways, impatience lies at the heart of almost every sin you can think of. Just look back to the beginning of sin, when Eve was tempted by the serpent in the garden of Eden. The serpent tells her that if she were to eat of the forbidden fruit, she could be like God, knowing good and evil. She saw that the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. She became impatient for that wisdom, she became impatient with the command of God which said to her that she did not need to have that wisdom, so she ate, and she gave some to her husband, and he ate.

We should simply wait on him. So doing, we shall be directed, supplied, protected, corrected, and rewarded. [8]

Consider also the Ten Commandments, and how impatience will cause you to break each and every one of them:

  • Command 1: You shall have no other gods before me. Why would we want other gods? Because we are impatient with God, and we think that perhaps some other gods can give us more of what we want than God.
  • Command 2: no graven images. We make graven images because we are impatient with the way of worship which God commands of us in his Word, we impatiently want to make an image of Him that we can see. Remember how the Israelites were impatient when Moses was up on the mountain, so they made a golden calf.
  • Command 3: no taking God’s name in vain. We take His name in vain in cursing because we become impatient in reaction to something which has happened to us. Can you think of any instance where you would swear in anger when you are not being impatient?
  • Command 4: remember the Sabbath. We break Sabbath, doing unnecessary work because we are impatient to see that that work gets done. We can’t wait until Monday to do what we want to do.
  • Command 5: honor your parents. You do not show your parents the proper respect which God commands of you because you are impatient with their weaknesses.
  • Command 6: no killing. You show anger toward your neighbor, perhaps even going so far as killing them, because you believe that they did something wrong to you, and you are too impatient to leave it to God to avenge.
  • Command 7: no adultery. You lust after someone sexually, you commit some sexual sin, because you are too impatient with respect to having your physical desires satisfied in the proper context of marriage.
  • Command 8: no stealing. You steal from your neighbor, because you are too impatient to actually earn for yourself that which you stole. Someone steals a car to sell for money, they are too impatient to earn their money in a legitimate job.
  • Command 9: no bearing false witness. Someone lies about their neighbor, bearing false witness against them, because they are too impatient to let the truth takes its course.
  • Command 10: no coveting. You envy what belongs to your neighbor, because you impatiently believe that God has not given you enough. You are impatient with His providence, knowing that He has promised to take care of all your needs, but not believing that he is taking care of them fast enough.

I would dare say that there is hardly a sin which you could think of which somehow is not connected, if not directly, than at least indirectly, to impatience.

It should not be surprising then, that impatience is so completely contrary to the will of God. It should not surprise us that God commands his people to be patient. As Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

And Colossians 3:12 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” 

We have been called by God to live as his chosen, redeemed people, and as redeemed people, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, we should be living as patient and humble people, putting up with one another as people who share a common bond of love.

This is not just simple moralism here. I am not just trying to promote a feel-good, let’s-all-try-to-get-along, sort of attitude. People of God, this is the will of God for His people. This is what redeemed people will be like, having the Holy Spirit live in their hearts, producing in them the fruit of patience. This is the will of our God for our entire lives.

We must be patient with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But now, consider this: if you are sitting there thinking, “Yeah, that’s right, that so-and-so over there, he sure has to be more patient”, then you yourself are being impatient with that brother or sister, and you had better look to your own heart to see where you yourself can be more patient.

In a crowded department store a young mother had the added difficulty of a small girl pulling and tugging at her side and whispering incessantly.  Suddenly the harassed mother pleaded softly, “Quiet, Susan, just calm yourself, and take it easy.”

An admiring clerk commented on the mother’s psychology, then turned to the child, “So your name is Susan.”

“Oh, no,” interrupted the mother, “her name’s Joan.  I’m Susan.”

Harvey Mackay in his book Swim with the Sharks tells of the 88 year old President of Japan’s largest enterprise, Matsushita Electric, answering an interviewer’s questions on the future of his company. The interview went as follows:

Question: “Mr. President, does your company have long-range goals?”

Answer: “Yes.”

Question: “How long are your long-range goals?”

Answer: “Two hundred fifty years.”

Question: “What do you need to carry them out?”

Answer: “Patience.”

A chaplain who was ministering to a seriously wounded soldier was requested by the dying man to write a letter to his former Sunday school teacher. “Tell her I died a Christian because of what she taught me in that class in church. The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to accept Jesus has stayed with me. Tell her I’ll meet her in Heaven.” The message was sent, and some time later the chaplain received this reply: “May God forgive me. Just last month I resigned my position and abandoned my Sunday school pupils because I felt my work had been fruitless. How I regret my impatience and lack of faith! I shall ask my minister to let me go back to teaching. I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blessed!”

[1]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[2] Wayne A. Lamb in 100 Meditations on Hope;  Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 4.

[3] J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), English Missionary to China, Founder of the China Inland Mission. “Money II,” Christian History, Issue 19.

[4] Harold B. Smith, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 9, no. 1.

[5] Bonnie Halcomb, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3.

[6] Joel Belz in World (May 11, 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 8.

[7] John Ashcroft, former governor of Missouri, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994. He is author of Lessons from a Father to His Son; Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.

[8] Vance Havner, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 4.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2022 in Christian graces

 

…and to knowledge, self-control… – 2 Peter 1:6


“…and to knowledge, self-control…”(2 Peter 1:6)

Temperance is the next quality on Peter’s list of spiritual virtues, and it means self-control. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls” (Prov. 25:28). Paul in his letters often compared the Christian to an athlete who must exercise and discipline himself if he ever hopes to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:12-16; 1 Tim. 4:7-8).

Self-control means mastering one’s emotions rather than being controlled by them. The false teachers whose views Peter was exposing believed that knowledge freed people from the need to control their passions.[1]

To this practical knowledge must be added self-control, or self-mastery.  The word is egkrateia, and it means literally the ability to take a grip of oneself.  This is a virtue of which the great Greeks spoke and wrote and thought much.  In regard to a man and his passions Aristotle distinguishes four states in life.

There is sophrosune, in which passion has been entirely subjugated to reason; we might call it perfect temperance.

There is akolasia, which is the precise opposite; it is the state in which reason is entirely subjugated to passion; we might call it unbridled lust.

In between these two states there is akrasia, in which reason fights but passion prevails; we might call it incontinence.

There is egkrateia, in which reason fights against passion and prevails; we call it self-control, or self-mastery.

Egkrateia is one of the great Christian virtues; and the place it holds is an example of the realism of the Christian ethic.  That ethic does not contemplate a situation in which a man is emasculated of all passion; it envisages a situation in which his passions remain, but are under perfect control and so become his servants, not his tyrants.

We don’t use the word “temperance” in our daily speech very often, but we’re all likely familiar with the concept of self-control. It speaks to the willingness to seek to master and control the body or the flesh with all of its lusts. It means desire, appetite and passion, especially sensual urges and cravings. It means to be strong and controlled and restrained. It means to stand against the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16).

William Barclay informs us that the term rendered “self-control” means literally “to take a grip of oneself.”[2] Self-control is the opposite of self-indulgence. As unbelievers, we are dominated by our physical appetites, enslaved as we are to them: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14). 

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

But we have been delivered from our bondage to the flesh: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:15-18; see Romans 8:12-13).

Living a godly life requires us to master the flesh and make it our servant, rather than our master: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but [only] one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then [do it] to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Sin uses the flesh to keep us in bondage (Romans 7:14-21). Satan and the world encourage us to live according to the flesh. But being a child of God requires that we live no longer for the flesh or in the power of the flesh. Our flesh still has a strong attraction, as Paul’s words in Romans 7 and our own experience make painfully clear. Only by God’s grace can we overrule fleshly lusts, and because of His provisions, we must diligently strive to do so. The prompting of the flesh must be brought under control, and we are to heed the prompting of the Spirit of God, as He speaks through the Word of God (see Romans 8:1-8; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 3:16-17; 4:6).

False teachers appeal to fleshly lusts. They gather a following by proclaiming a gospel which indulges the flesh rather than crucifying it: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.… 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; … 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:1-3, 9-14, 18-19).

Such false teaching is not uncommon in the pulpit today. The “good-life gospeleers” offer a different gospel than the apostles. Rather than proclaim a gospel which involves suffering and self-denial, they proclaim a “better” gospel of self-indulgence and success in life. They promise that those who possess enough faith can escape suffering and adversity and be guaranteed peace and prosperity. They promise that when one gives a little, one may be assured of receiving much more in return. These rewards are not looked for in heaven as much as on earth, now.

The gospel of the apostles was very different: “But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him [speak] about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you” (Acts 24:24-25).

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 Envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).

Let us not dilute the gospel to make it attractive to men by appealing to their fleshly lusts. We must proclaim the message of the gospel in its fulness and its simplicity, knowing that only through the Spirit of God are men enabled to grasp the truth of the gospel and quickened to do so (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 14-16; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 3:1-11; 4:1-15).

A father noticed that his son lacked self-control and decided to confront him about it. Before he had a chance to do so, however, he felt the Spirit begin to deal with him. He realized that his son lacked self-control because he lacked it too.

After seeking the Lord for direction, the father recognized he needed to develop discipline in certain areas of his own life. He then apologized to his son for failing to set a good example.

Next, he began to incorporate discipline into his everyday life through consistent Bible reading, prayer and personal devotions. The change in his father had such influence on the boy that shortly afterward, the son also began to change. The difference was so dramatic that the boy’s baseball coach called the father to ask what he’d done to effect such improvement. The boy’s attitude had changed, and he no longer had a temper. The father responded, “My son’s changed because I’ve changed.”

In Peter’s day, self-control was used of athletes who were to be self-restrained and self-disciplined. Thus, a Christian is to control the flesh, the passions, and the bodily desires, rather than allowing himself to be controlled by them (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:23). Virtue, guided by knowledge, disciplines desire and makes it the servant, not the master, of one’s life.[3]

Henry Ward Beecher told of an acquaintance who barged into their home one day, his face flushed with anger. “He was in a terrible rage, supposing he had a serious grievance against us,” said Beecher. “As the man aired all of his complaints, my father listened in complete silence. Then he said in a low tone, ‘You only want to do what is right, don’t you?’ ‘Certainly,’ replied the disturbed visitor. Before anything could be explained, however, he again flew into a rage and restated his charge. Father then inquired gently, ‘Brother, you are misinformed, wouldn’t you be interested in knowing the true facts in the case?’ When calmness was restored, our side of the story was quietly presented. The man cooled down as the circumstances were fully revealed. Meekly he said, ‘Forgive me, Sir, forgive me! I was wrong!’ My father had won a great victory. It was a lesson I never forgot, for it gave me an insight into the calming effect of Christian self-control.”

Suppose some morning we go to a race. Runners are lined up, stripped to the bare essentials. All is ready for the race when suddenly we see another fellow coming to the starting line. But strange as it seems he is fully dressed. He has on a full suit, heavy overcoat, hip boots and a heavy woolen cap. In his hands he carries his lunch bucket and an umbrella. His pockets are filled with medicines. Everyone is surprised that such a person would try to win the race.

Finally we approach him and ask him about it. “Of course,” he says, “I’m running the race. What’s wrong with what I wear? Is anything wrong with a coat or cap or medicines? After all, the race is long, the terrain is treacherous, and I may become ill. I’m going prepared for whatever may lie ahead.” We can’t tell him that what he carries is a burden, maybe even a sin. But we know he’ll never win the race. Why? Because he is loaded with weights.

The writer of Hebrews told the Christians to lay aside every weight. Self-control requires us not only to avoid sin but also demands the discipline to give up good things that will keep us from being and doing our best for God.

Self control gives us the ability to know the right thing to say. In a department store a young husband was minding the baby while his wife was making a purchase. The infant was wailing, but the father seemed quite unperturbed as he quietly said, “Easy now, Albert,” he murmured, “keep your temper.” A woman passing by remarked, “I must congratulate you! You seem to know just how to speak to a baby.” “Baby nothing!” came the reply. “MY name is Albert!”

Some times we can over do it. In Scotland, during the early days of aviation, a stunt pilot was selling rides in his single engine airplane. One day he got into an argument with an old farmer who insisted upon taking his wife along on the ride — at no extra charge. “Look,” said the pilot finally, “I’ll take you both up for the price of one if you promise not to utter a sound throughout the entire trip. If you make a sound, the price is doubled.” The deal was made and they all clambered aboard. The pilot then proceeded to put the aircraft through maneuvers designed to make the bravest tremble. But not a sound came from the back, where his passengers sat. Exhausted, he set the plane down. As the farmer climbed out, the pilot said, “I made moves up there that frightened even me, and yet you never said a word. You’re a fearless man.” “I thank ye,” replied the Scotsman. “But I must admit that there was one time when ya almost had me.” “And when was that?” asked the pilot. The farmer replied, “That was about the time my wife fell out!”

Self control certainly speaks to the issue of anger in our lives. We must control our self! Anger is only one letter short of danger. And no man can think clearly when his fists are clenched. When angry, we need to take a lesson from technology; always count down before blasting off.

Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism.  Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a sharp letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded missive to the President. “What are you going to do with it?”  Lincoln inquired.

Surprised, Stanton replied, “Send it.” Lincoln shook his head.  “You don’t want to send that letter,” he said.  “Put it in the stove.  That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry.  It’s a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better.  Now, burn it, and write another.”

Erwin Lutzer, in his book Managing Your Emotions, writes: “We all know that Alexander the Great conquered the world. But what few people know is that this mighty general could not conquer himself. Cletus, a dear friend of Alexander’s and a general in his army, became intoxicated and ridiculed the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger, quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a soldier and hurled it at Cletus. Though he had only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend. Deep remorse followed his anger. Overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but was stopped by his men. For days he lay sick calling for his friend Cletus, chiding himself as a murderer.”

Lutzer concludes by saying, “Alexander the Great conquered many cities. He conquered many countries, but he failed miserably to conquer his own self.”

How does one develop self discipline:   These are some things that help through the years:

  1. Start small. Start with your room. Clean it, then keep it clean. When something is out of place, train yourself to put it where it belongs. Then extend that discipline of neatness to the rest of your home.
  2. Be on time. That may not seem very spiritual, but it’s important. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time! Develop the ability to discipline your desires, activities, and demands so that you can arrive on time.
  3. Do the hardest job first. Doing that will prevent the hardest jobs from being left undone.
  4. Organize your life. Plan the use of your time; don’t just react to circumstances. Use a calendar and make a daily list of things you need to accomplish. If you don’t control your time, everything else will!
  5. Accept correction. Correction helps make you more disciplined because it shows you what you need to avoid. Don’t avoid criticism; accept it gladly.
  6. Practice self-denial. Learn to say no to your feelings. Occasionally deny yourself things that are all right just for the purpose of mastering doing it. Cultivating discipline in the physical realm will help us become disciplined in our spiritual lives.
  7. Welcome responsibility. When you have an opportunity to do something that needs to be done, volunteer for it if you have a talent in that area. Welcoming responsibility forces you to organize yourself.

Why is teaching self-discipline so important?  The kind of self-discipline we’re teaching our children at home is no different than self-discipline on the football field or at the office or, for that matter, in any aspect of life. Each of us has tasks to carry out. Each of us gets the job done.

When the Chicago Bears were at a peak in the mid 1980s, winning the Super Bowl in 1986, we had an unbeatable defense not only because of the talent of the players but because we all carried out our given assignments. We didn’t freelance. We didn’t take a day off. We had a plan to execute, and we stuck with it. We demonstrated self-discipline.[4]

[1]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[2] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976. The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 302.

[3]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

[4] Mike Singletary. Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 2.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2022 in Christian graces

 
 
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