“2 Peter: Important Reminders”

 

From time to time, I have to make some major decisions. I am called on to decide between several different options. In many cases, it is difficult to choose, so I gather as much information as possible. It might require studying the facts and analyzing figures or analyzing certain data. However, there is one thing I know. The more informed I am, the better decision I can make. Perhaps the same is true for you. I know the same is true with God's Word. The more we read and study, the more we digest and understand, the better decisions we can make regarding spiritual matters. Yes, the more time we spend in Bible study the better off we will be. We will be better at understanding the difference between right and wrong; God's will versus the way of the world; true doctrine and false teaching. The apostle Peter tries to get across that point in his letter called 2nd Peter. He addresses Christians who are dealing with some false teachers who have come into the church. He is aware of the problem and encourages the believers to know what is right and to avoid what is wrong. The best way to do that is to spend time in the Word of God. It is to read deeper and understand fuller the teaching of the Bible. At times, we may find ourselves confronted with false teaching, just like Peter's original readers. If so, Peter would tell us to be aware, know the truth, and stand firmly on it. In our lesson today, Peter highlights some important truths that will strengthen our lives and prepare us for Jesus' second coming. Join us now as we study these things together.

 

>>LESSON 

Throughout the Old Testament, God encouraged His people to not forget Him. He encouraged the people to not forget how He had blessed them and how He had changed their life. He also warned that if they did forget Him, then they would slowly drift away from that relationship with Him. Well, that is exactly what happened. The people forgot the goodness of God. They began to take those blessings for granted and, before they knew it, they were drifting away from that relationship that God wanted them to have with Him. That same temptation still exists even today. Oftentimes, we take God for granted. We forget about focusing upon Him and thinking about how He takes care of us. We simply expect those blessings to show up, no matter how we live or what we do. Well, that, again, was the temptation that was facing the people in the first century. It was a temptation facing Christians to whom the apostle Peter wrote the letter called 2nd Peter. In his first letter, he addressed the issue of persecution. Many of them were being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Their families were being torn apart and some were even losing their lives. And yet, that seemed to have gone away, at least temporarily. Yet, another issue had arisen among them. They were now being led astray by false teachers. And Peter writes this letter, called 2nd Peter, encouraging them to remain focused on the Lord. He wants them to remember how God has blessed them and taken care of them throughout the years. He does not want them to be misled by the false teachers but to remember God's great love for them. That's the way Peter begins this letter called 2nd Peter. I want to read the words found in chapter 1, beginning with verse 16. "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the majestic glory saying, 'This is my Son whom I love. With Him I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain." Peter is referring to the time when he and James and John were with Jesus on that mountain of transfiguration. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, they hear the powerful, mighty voice of God saying, "This is my Son, Jesus Christ. I am pleased with Him. Listen to Him." Those three men witnessed with their own eyes Jesus being completely transformed right before them. His outer appearance changed as they heard from God. God's own confirmation was saying, "Listen to Jesus. Pay attention to Him, just as I had commanded the people in the Old Testament to listen to Me and pay attention to Me." Based upon those facts, Peter now writes this message to these Christians scattered in various places. He says, pay attention to Jesus Christ. He continues on in verse 20, stating that no prophecy or scripture came from one's own interpretation, but rather the Holy Spirit worked through people like Peter and Paul and others to write the things that we have before us even today. Now, these Christians needed to hear that message, because the false teachers were saying something different. They were saying, "No. You don't need to listen to Jesus. You need to listen to us." Thus, these Christians were being misled. They were being taught something different than what they had been taught in the past. Peter does not want that to happen any longer. He wants them to pay attention to Jesus and not forget the Lord. That warning is found in chapter 2, beginning with verse 1. "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought you, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." Without any shame, these false teachers are divisive. They have turned away from God. They are bold. They are arrogant. They are full of sin. They say nothing but empty and deceptive words designed to lead people away from God. And perhaps their greatest sin of all was that they were doing it primarily to get rich. They were doing it all for financial gain and to line their pockets with money. Basically, these people had turned away from God's commands. And Peter writes later on, "In fact, it would have been better if they had not even known the Lord in the first place." So, in these first couple of chapters, Peter sends a major warning about false teachers. They are present among you. Be aware of them. Do not pay attention to their teaching, but rather pay attention to the Lord God Almighty. Now, in the midst of all of that, there is some good news. The good news is God rescues those who are caught up in the midst of that false teaching. He has done it before, and He continues to do it. His love and His mercy extends to people the time and the opportunity to come back to Him, to repent of their wayward ways, and to focus on Him once again. We find that in the 3rd chapter. Listen to these words beginning with verse 8 in 2nd Peter chapter 3. "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends. With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." For many of us, the matter of time is very important. We wear watches on our wrist to make sure we know when we need to be at a certain place. We watch the clock on a wall thinking about when it's time to go home from work. We carry a phone in our pocket, which will immediately tell us the time of day so that we can make our plans according to where we need to be at certain times. Yes, time is very important to many of us, and yet we find from this scripture, time is irrelevant to God. One day is like a thousand years. A thousand years are like one day. Now, can you imagine living life like that, without giving any thought or any concern to the time of day or night? Well, it may have concerned these Christians that God was not dealing with the false teachers among them in a timely manner. Perhaps they were asking the question, "God, why don't you do something about these false teachers and eliminate them so that we will no longer be led astray?" And yet, perhaps God was demonstrating His patience. He was giving them time and opportunity to change their ways, to repent and come back to the truth. Well, we can certainly be thankful that God deals with us like that; can't we? God is patient with us. He gives us plenty of time and opportunity to repent and to change and to focus our attention on Him once again. Perhaps that is why we have those words we just read; that God is patient, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Yet at the same time, we realize time is running out. The day of the Lord is coming, and on that day God will punish the false teachers. He will pay them back for their evil ways. How do we know that? Well, Peter writes about it. He tells us that truth in chapter 2 verse 17. He states that the blackest darkness is reserved for them. Now, what does that mean? What is the blackest darkness? Think about it this way. When God is portrayed to us in the Bible, He is portrayed in glorious light; that everything else cannot even compare to the glorious beauty and the light of the Lord God Almighty. Now, these false teachers, these people who were leading the Christians astray, are cast into the blackest darkness. They are cast away from the presence of God. They are as far away as possibly can be from God's glorious light. And that's what Peter is referring to; that these false teachers who are leading the Christians astray, who are teaching something besides the Good News message of Jesus Christ will be in the blackest darkness, separated from God forever. When I think about that statement, I realize how serious it is to be aware of the false teachers who are among us today and that we do not pay attention to them nor are we misled by them. In fact, they do some of the very same things that these false teachers were doing. And perhaps one of the reasons why the Lord has not yet returned and dealt with them is that He is still waiting. He is still patient. He is still giving time and opportunity even for them to return back to Him and to come back to the truth. And yet, you know as well as I, there is a time coming when everyone who does not know the truth and who does not follow it will experience the wrath of God. Until that day comes, however, Peter encourages these Christians to grow in their daily walk with the Lord. He wants them to be spiritually mature. He wants them to grow up in Jesus Christ as they continue to pay attention to Him. According to chapter 1 and verse 3, God has provided everything necessary for that to happen. It happens through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, everything is provided for life and godliness; that we are able to escape the corruption of this world, chapter 1 and verse 4. We think about the corruption of the world in which we live. We think about the struggle we might have to live a life that is full of godliness and holiness. Peter says, yes, that can be done. It can be done through God's Son, Jesus Christ. Peter then lists a series of eight things or eight virtues that Christians can add to his or her life to enable us to stay focused on the Lord and to avoid the corrupt nature of this world. I want us to look at that passage. It's found in chapter 1. We begin reading with verse 5 and go over through verse 9. "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness, and to your goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. 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 of his past sin." Peter, in these verses, emphasizes the importance to pursue these virtues in one's life, to not only add these things one after another, but rather to add them in increasing measure, to focus on them on a regular basis. Let's highlight them once again. Faith is the foundation of the Christian life. Goodness is demonstrating the character of God. Knowledge is knowing the truth of God's Word. Self-control is allowing God to be in control of one's life and for us to give up that control. Perseverance is remaining faithful during times of hardship and trial. Godliness is honoring God in every aspect of one's life. Brotherly kindness is showing compassion and concern for one another. Then perhaps the greatest of all is love, which is being willing to sacrifice for the good of others. Peter then summarizes this list in verse 8 by stating that these virtues will prevent one from being ineffective or unproductive in the service of the Lord. Now, anyone who wants to be a part of the service of the Lord wants to be effective and productive. By adding these virtues and by adding these qualities to one's life, each and every day, will prevent that from happening. It will prevent us from being unproductive or ineffective. God provides the encouragement through these words of Peter. And these virtues are allowed to come into our life so that we can grow up and mature in Jesus Christ, so that we will no longer be misled by the false teachers of the day. And when these things are practiced, when these things are developed in a believer's life, we have the opportunity to grow up spiritually in the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul also wrote about spiritual growth at the end of his letter, and this is such a big deal that Peter does not want his readers to miss it, so he closes his letter by emphasizing that very same thing. Look at the last two verses of chapter 3, verses 17 and 18. "Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen." Peter wants these Christians to grow spiritually. He wants them to stand up against the false teachers of the day. He hopes they will rely upon the grace and the knowledge of the Lord in order to do so. And when one does that, when one grows spiritually and matures in Jesus Christ, then he or she will be prepared for the Lord's second coming. Yes, Peter wants his readers to be properly informed about that, as well, and he focuses on it primarily in chapter 3. He basically states that big things are coming. Big changes are going to happen. Be anticipating a new heaven and a new earth; then he outlines some things that will usher in that great day. Some of those details are found in the 3rd chapter. You may want to spend some additional time studying those things. Now, because of the current situation in the world, at that particular time, Peter asked, he presents a question for these people to consider, in verse 11. And as we look at this question, I want us to ask it of ourselves today. Here's the question: "What kind of people ought you to be?" In light of everything going on in the world around us today, what kind of people are we to be? How are we to live our lives in today's world? Peter then answers that question in the next phrase. "You ought to live a holy and godly life, as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." Those who belong to the Lord are to live holy and godly lives. They are to live a life that is separated from sin and one that is devoted to God. They are to keep focused on the One who saves them and to live in service to Him. Those things come about when a believer decides to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. As we think about Peter's message to those Christians so long ago, we recognize that it has some application even for us still today. False teachers still exist in the world. They are found in the church and outside of the church. They mislead people away from the Lord, and they seek a prominent role for themselves and also seek financial gain. What is the solution to that? Peter writes; know the truth of God's Word and grow up in it; spend time in the Word of God; stand firmly upon the truth of that Word; and then, seek to apply it to your daily life. In his second letter, Peter offers two very important matters to consider. He warns about the danger of false teachers, and he also offers a solution to counteract them. Yes, Peter wants us to heed these warnings and to know and to live by the truth of God's Word, which we have received, and to avoid at all cost the false teachers who might be among us. My encouragement for us today, as we close our study of 2nd Peter, is simply this: Always pay attention to the teaching of God's Word, do not forget the Lord, pay attention to His Son, Jesus Christ, and recognize the truth of the Bible. Think carefully about the teaching you receive from others, and make sure that it lines up with the teaching of the Bible. I would encourage you to do that even with my teaching, to make sure that it is the truth and it follows God's Word. Oh, I hope that we all will continue to read and study this short letter called 2nd Peter, we will heed its warnings and continually, and forever pay attention to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 
>>SUMMARY

Peter's message to Christians in the letter of 2nd Peter revolves around some important reminders and warnings. He encourages us to be aware of false teachers and to be prepared for Jesus' second coming. The best way to do both of those things is to spend time in God's Word and to become a good student of it. The more time we spend reading and studying the Bible, the more informed we will be on spiritual matters. We will be able to make wise decisions about how we are to live as God's children. We will be able to choose between right and wrong, good teaching and false doctrine. We will also be ready when Jesus does return to gather all of those who belong to Him. Peter's letter inspires us to grow spiritually and to know the joy of such growth.

 

>>CONCLUSION

Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. Some of the most important reminders Christians need is found in the letter of 2nd Peter. Indeed, it is good to be aware of false teaching and to be prepared for the Lord's second coming. I hope you will want to spend even more time reading and thinking about this important letter. If you would like to hear this message again or previously recorded lessons, please go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. There, you can download, without any cost or obligation, those that might be of interest. We are nearing the end of our study of the New Testament. If you have missed any of these messages, you can find them on the website. While you are there, please take a few minutes to look at some of the other things we offer. Short video clips, devotional thoughts, and even a Bible study are available. That same free Bible study, containing six lessons, will be sent by mail when you call the number on the screen. Leave your name and address, and we will send it without any cost or commitment. It is designed to assist you in your own personal study of God's Word. I hope you will take advantage of it. Our goal is to share messages from the Bible in a way that is easy to understand and that can be applied to today's world. Hopefully, this message has done just that. Again, thank you for being a part of today's program. I trust you will join us next week at this same time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."