Saturday, May 30, 2020

False Teachers - The Rock Speaks Vol. 2 (5)

I took a few days off, but hope to finish 2 Peter by Monday AM.

Resuming writing... and as I write, our country is burning in chaos, confusion, anger, bitterness boiling over, and dysfunction. I also have been wrestling with writing procedures for 'on campus activities' in line with the Co-vid 19 guidelines from our authorities.... 

Interesting that this passage is where I am supposed to return.... God's timing is always so appropriate. I will never doubt that He is in full control of my circumstances... He has a purpose,

It would be easy to start with 2 Peter 2:1, but I think the word "also" in 2:1 makes us go back and 'complete the thought',

I have grown to love Peter and admire him so much!

Here is the full stream of the thought:

2 Peter 1:19– 2:3

[19] And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, [20] knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. [21] For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

[2: 1] But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. [2] And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. [3] And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (ESV)


Any casual reading of the New Testament will show that the new church was in a fierce battle with false gospels and false teaching.

It is one of Satan's most effective tactics. The 'copy cat' neon light is actually an illusion. It is the sinister twisting of truth. This is as old as Genesis 3 where the serpent beings with "Did God indeed say?"

Jesus Himself warns of this very issue:

Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV)
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

John had his cautious concerns and his test:

1 John 4:1-6  (ESV)
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.


For the sake of this topic though, I do want to go to Paul's tearful, final words to the Ephesian elders as he is about to leave them, likely for the last time, never to see them again.....

Acts 20:17–38
[17] Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. [18] And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, [19] serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; [20] how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, [21] testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. [22] And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, [23] except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. [24] But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. [25] And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. [26] Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, [27] for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. [28] Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. [29] I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; [30] and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. [31] Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. [32] And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. [33] I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. [34] You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. [35] In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

[36] And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. [37] And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, [38] being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. (ESV)



THE MOST SINISTER OF ALL


Deuteronomy 13:1-3  (ESV)

13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Revelation 13:11–17

The Second Beast

[11] Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. [12] It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. [13] It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, [14] and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. [15] And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. [16] Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, [17] so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (ESV)

I know that was A LOT of Scripture, but together they give warning, traits, and advice to us as followers of Jesus:


An Attitude for Discernment and Tools for Thinking

It is OK to have a healthy skepticism for anyone who teaches when you first encounter them. I believe it is MORE important to apply that security buffer to ourselves! As I read these passages about false teachers... the first place to apply these 'tests' are to me!

TELL TALE SIGNS OF FALSE TEACHING:

From these passages, we get a number of things. I will discuss some of these in no particular order.

False teachers have disingenuous, selfish, and greedy motives. Often their lifestyle is opposite their message. Paul was quick to point out that he was pouring himself out for the benefit of others. That is the correct flow. False teachers will exploit, and use up others for their own gain.

False teachers are rooted in worldly pleasures.... interesting that Peter adds.. And many will follow their sensuality, John addsThey are from the world; therefore they speak from the world,

One fruit of a false teacher is to lead others to accepting worldly status and pleasure, likely because it justifies their lifestyle and tastes.

False teachers are masters at twisting and subtly subverting the truth.  

Some actually can produce 'evidence'- signs and wonders.

Oh man- we are in such a dangerous place right now. Just today, I had a social media exchange with one of my former players who posted an important article on a new phenomenon called : Deep Faking
Basically, it is a technology where editors can craft a message from YOU that puts together words you have said... but can 'stitch' them together that it totally manufactures things you never said. It is mostly used for 'fun' right now... but the potential for evil is dramatic!


I wrote a reply to my friend that I first became worried about this when CGI was used to sell diet coke in 1991.  1991 Diet Coke Ad

I distinctly remember thinking... this actually could be dangerous as I watched Elton John co-star with Humphrey Bogart, Louis Armstrong, and James Cagney in an obviously brilliant stitching of the purposeful anachronism. 

WHY THIS MATTERS:

I quote the answer directly from Ravi Zacharias:

"French philosopher Auguste Comte once observed that "ideas govern the world or throw it into chaos." I believe he was absolutely right. History has shown that crimes of logic can be more catastrophic for humanity than crimes of passion. Like a herd of mindless sheep following their leader off a cliff, many in our day have lost the ability to think critically to their own detriment."

"How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings?"

THE ABSOLUTE BEST WAY TO DISCERN FALSE TEACHING

The most full proof weapon in this never ending battle is to KNOW THE REAL GOSPEL so well, that the forgery is obvious! 

You and I have to fight for authenticity in our lives... knowing that we often fail. We have to be disciplined enough to put off our desires for the sake of others.

We also have to be willing to carefully admonish and speak up for truth... this is what Paul means when TWICE he says "I did not shrink" in his final speech to Ephesus in Acts 20.

And I am NOT talking about a twitter war.... if we care enough about it, we will go through the Matthew 18 process of going in private. And I don't think it starts with an email.

Finally, I am so encouraged by how many great examples we have here locally with faithful ministers of the gospel. Over the last month and a half, I have watched MANY live streamed worship services of many different flavors here in Birmingham. They all have preached straight from God's Word... thank-you!

We do benefit from a wonderful ministry of God's Word here.... and the work needs to grow! 

This is such an important topic in 2 Peter, that we will explore more of what he says tomorrow.

Further reading:




Saturday, May 23, 2020

Peter's High View of Scripture: The Rock Speaks Vol. 2 (4)

What level of regard do you have for the Bible?

It has been interesting to see how often Peter refers to God's Word in his letters. I find it fascinating because he was an eyewitness! But he still elevates prophecy and Holy Spirit inspired writing as more authoritative.

As you read our next section, take note of how Peter uses his eyewitness account, especially the transfiguration of Christ, as confirmation of the prophetic word and then, in the companion piece after, how he confirms Paul's writings also as Scripture!


2 Peter 1:16–21

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. [17] For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” [18] we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. [19] And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, [20] knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. [21] For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

2 Peter 3:15–16

[15] And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (ESV)


This post is not going to be very long.... but it carries a theme even from our last post.

GOD"S WORD.... it HAS to become a prevalent part of our lives!

Peter saw the light and majesty on the mountain of transfiguration along with the spoken word of God. But he counts that spectacular light no more important than the light of the Word of God.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

That last line is PURE POETRY!

If I may, I an going to share my transfiguration experience - where my eyes we opened and I saw Jesus in a new light. But also how GOD'S WORD became the lamp to my feet and the light unto my path.

The following is the testimony of my conversion to Christ:

Spring of 1980
My realization about eternity abruptly came back up in the summer before my junior year.

An acquaintance of mine was tragically killed while robbing a convenience store. He was with a group who was doing it just for the thrill. I was heartbroken and our school was in despair!
I remember receiving this news from my mom as I was coming home from Sunday School. I don’t know why I went to church that day and remember nothing from the visit.
All of the students were grief stricken and I was confronted once again with the idea of death.
We had a student gathering at a home and I was very impressed by the message. It was my first experience with Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. A minister, Tom Caradine, gave a clear gospel presentation along with Biblical answers for grief and loss. I was stirred immensely.
After the meeting, a college student who had been an athletic role model for me, Benny Parks, found me and shared a gospel tract with me. 

There were some Bible verses that really struck hard in that little yellow book:

Romans 3:23- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ESV)

and especially:

Romans 6:21 and 6:23


[21] But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 

[23] For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

The tract had a drawing of two lives (see below) and I knew that my life was not being directed by Christ.
self directedThe above image was me… and I wasn’t happy with my life at all!
The next drawing was NOT me... at all!


Christ Directed
This is what I desired… and it led me to a desire to get it right with God!
I went home that night and re-read the tract and knew it was time to make a choice.

I got on my knees and prayed that God would forgive me and take me back. At the time, I thought I was re-dedicating my life to Christ. I now know from thinking through Scripture that this was my actual conversion.
Right after that prayer, I got up and went to sleep..no smoke or fireworks. But when I woke up the next morning..I remembered and I knew something was different.
Some immediate changes took place. I told my mom and a few friends that I had re-dedicated my life with Christ. This was a big step for me. I also began to read the Bible with great interest. I read the whole New Testament in about 2 days and the words seemed to burn in my soul. I have not had that sensation since, but it was a really cool moment.


And here I stand today- 40 years later- sometimes faithful, sometimes faithless

God's Holy Word..... I would not be a Christian without it,
I only continue in faith because of it.

When I started 2nd Peter, I had to stop and do some more research, reading, and praying. 

The next few posts are not going to be easy: false teachers, the dark world, dark news, and coming judgement....

Every answer to every topic is found in a deep and abiding grip on the Word of God

The key to false teachers? Knowing the truth of God's Word
Navigating a dark and cruel world? The Bible is your compass and comfort

The coming judgement?

Romans 10:13–17

[13] For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


[14] How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” [16] But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” [17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV)
Those who are reading this, I ask for your prayers.... the next few posts are rather difficult, but I want to be faithful to His WORD!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Be Careful with Lists: The Rock Speaks Vol. 2 (3)

2 Peter 1:5–15

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, [6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, [7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. [8] For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. [10] Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. [11] For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[12] Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. [13] I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, [14] since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. [15] And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (ESV)

Oh the plans I have made! They have been elaborate, typed, color coded, calendarized, with reminders and even Bible verses! Most of them are failed diet and exercise plans... but I have made them to do everything from increasing knowledge to trying to be a better husband!

The Bible records some amazing lists, especially godly attributes. You find them in the prophets, in proverbs, in Paul's letter, and here now in Peter's 2nd letter.

Here is this list:

faith
virtue
knowledge
self-control
steadfastness
godliness
brotherly affection
love

awesome list!

Here are the instructions:

if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Sounds easy... put this on your refrigerator and get going!

Not so fast, my brothers!

Don't detach this list from the message and the mission.... everything above is TRUE... but make sure you don't lost the context!

FOR THIS VERY REASON... it is important to find out what 'this" is. And it all points back to the powerful, jam packed, theologically loaded, mission, process, and purpose statement we looked at in the previous post.

And this is going to get repetitive, but Peter is really simply saying, 'never stop growing!'.

I say it like this... never stop working (knowing that any improvement is by grace and I will always NEED grace).

The reformers would say,  semper reformanda "Always be reforming"

But we must be CAREFUL AND WISE!


R. Scott Clark balances us here a bit in an article entitled, Always Abusing Semper Reformanda

There is much truth in the slogan the church reformed, always reforming, but it was never intended to become a license for corrupting the Reformed faith. We should understand and use it as a reminder of our proclivity to wander from that theology, piety, and practice taught in Scripture and confessed by the church. Certainly, our confessions are reformable. We Protestants are bound to God’s Word as the charter and objective rule of Christian faith and practice. Should someone discover an error in our theology, piety, or practice, we are bound by our own confessions and church orders to hear an argument from God’s Word. Should that argument prevail, we must change our understanding or our practice. But we should not, under cover of this late-seventeenth-century slogan, subvert what Scripture teaches for a continuing, never-ending Reformation that leads us away from the heart and soul of what we confess.Ÿ

Our natural bent is to take the gospel message of grace by faith and create a man made religion, often with 'to do lists' of Christian credentials. Man made religion is nothing but two ditches off on the side of the road of the gospel.

And we often steer right into them.

THE DITCH OF LEGALISM

       On the right side of this road is legalism- our diabolical self comes in and says- 'Oh you are cleaning up so well'- and you start feeling really good about yourself – and you start looking around at others- and in your desire to help them you package your rules and rituals and begin to try and help others. Before long, we find ourselves as self righteous Pharisees- looking down at sinners and trying to be everyone’s Holy Spirit.
I know the Pharisee well- I play him a lot. Our culture helps me play him very well. We have become the biggest opinionated and judgmental civilization in the history of man. We have talking heads on TV espousing one view after another and call it entertainment. We crave it! I used to be a Fox News junkie. The problem is that I began to love my arguments over loving people. The less I watch of any news, the more clear I begin to see.
The worst part of my Pharisee legalistic self is my gossip and criticism of others. I am not loving- I am condemning. I point out the 10% bad and refuse to see the 90% good. 
THE DITCH OF LICENSE
So I finally get out of the legalistic path and drink grace and liberty. Ahh! Christian freedom. It is glorious! Christ’s death frees us from the ceremonial and civil law. There is a better law- the moral law, written on my heart- the Sermon on the Mount puts it into my motives and mind- it is a beautiful thing! 
But just beyond Christian liberty is license. It is a ditch as derailing as legalism. Paul wrote in Romans “How can we who died to sin, still live in it?” In this state, everything goes; all truth is relative, I do what I think and I feel- there is no suspicion of my motives or actions. I do what is right in my own eyes and put it 'under the blood'.
I walk into a situation, run to sin, eviscerate my conscience and say “I am forgiven”. Before long, I am powerless, hardened, and my God is my comfort. The irony of the ditch of license is that we love people even less than the Pharisee! We hide away in our blankets of personal freedom and comfort and tune out the cries of the broken. I am cold to the hungry.I never think about protecting the marginalized. I don’t care about the eternal destination of others. I am afraid of confrontation. If I stand for truth, it will indict me. So I walk around and tell people all is fine when I know we are growing colder and darker by the second. Loving someone means sometimes saying 'no' - and that includes to myself.
THE PATH OF LIFE 
Out of that ditch I find this beautiful path- a balanced and tense walk with my Savior as He directs me by His Spirit and through His word in a new life- in this life I learn to love and lean on Christ- I become an admirer of people- I seek my way less and edify others more- I pour myself into relationships, especially my wife and children. I laugh- I cry- I get weary- I long for heaven- God picks me up at the right time- I fall in ditches- He cleans me off and starts me straight again- 1 step forward- 2 steps back- 3 steps- 5 back and when I lose hope- He allows the dust to settle and I look back and God’s kingdom has been built- in spite of me. To His praise and glory!

So Peter is completely right in his list.... they are the fruits of gospel living!

if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.


So how can I keep on the road and out of the ditches and still keep moving forward?
My color coded, refrigerator ready, LIST: 
  • Devotion to the Word and Prayer
  • Unflinching commitment to consistent worship
  • Continuous Education
  • Private fasting- hobby/TV/delicacies- it is good to restrict these at times
  • Prudent feasting- when the right moment presents itself- permission of the King
  • Small group accountability
  • Loving my wife well
  • Pushing work down my priority list
  • Crying out for God’s spirit 
I am powerless to do any of this- I need to abide in the vine of Christ.
A final note: Be patient- God’s sanctification takes TIME. It is measured in decades, not in days. 

Want a final encouragement? Read again what Peter is writing to us! These are his words of departure, he knows we get distracted and fall down... we NEED reminding! My spiritual attention deficit disorder is REAL!

[12] Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. [13] I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, [14] since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. [15] And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

I had to stop writing.... could not type for the tears....

If you have been following this blog, you know that I have tried to immerse myself in the man, Peter.

The warrior- He had the MAN'S MAN LIST- tough, stoic, dependable, dangerous, adventurous, competitive, gritty, impressive, persistent, consistent, focused, rough, intense, and relentless.

His devotion to Jesus ran him into the ground and ran him into the teeth of Roman rule.

As they were nailing him to the cross... he had a better list:

faith- 
virtue- 
knowledge-
self-control-
steadfastness-
godliness-
brotherly affection-

love- 

and much, much more!



Thursday, May 21, 2020

Partaking of the Divine: The Rock Speaks Vol. 2 (2)

In the end, every advertisement fails.

In the end, every idol falls.

Too bad that we were forced to read “Great Expectations” when we were young; when we were never excited about required reading and just skimmed the Clif Notes! This great Charles Dicken's novel (originally published as a serial from December 1860 to August 1861)  captures human desire of status and social acceptance through a character named Pip.

Because I taught literature, I was blessed to finally enjoy it more, many years later. I remember HATING it as a high school junior but CHERISHING it as a young man in my 20's trying to find the purpose and meaning of life and love. Education is often wasted on the young!

Pip experienced the letdown of life.... like we all do.

It was the subtle frustrations that Pip noticed first. Maybe you feel this way right after you open an Amazon.com delivery:

My (new) clothes were rather a disappointment, of course. Probably every new and eagerly expected garment ever put on since clothes came in, fell a trifle short of the wearer's expectation.

Then, the dreaded day when he discovered his whole life had been based on a lie; that his secret benefactor was a criminal and his legitimacy as a gentleman forever tarnished:

“All the truths of my position came flashing on me; and its disappointments, dangers, disgraces, consequences of all kinds, rushed in in such a multitude that I was borne down by them and had to struggle for every breath I drew.”

And, without Christ, every human narrative has this SAME foundation; regardless of fortune, fame, power, or pursuit.

I wish there was some 'easy button' or program that works in every situation. But everything comes up short, and that is a primary catalyst for perpetual change. The world is always changing because improvement and reformation is essential to a world of decay and corruption.

Right after the salutation in 2 Peter, there is an amazing advertisement... a 'take it or leave it' ... an 'all in one' package that is loaded with eternal promise... slow down and really think about what Peter is selling here:



His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV)


I have been thinking about this small, rich deposit for many days now- and it could take decades to truly wrap my head around these 68 words.

Just when you are ready to give it up for loss.... you find a small, quiet, simple truth.... if you can dare to believe!

God has already given to you ALL you need for life..... God has already given ME everything I need...

He is calling us to Him... it is a process and a journey... a quiet walk, a bloody conflict, a climb marked by death and failure, but also a solid pursuit with times of peace and unspeakable joy, a mission with meaning.

MISSION:(Pt 1) 

One important ground stone that keeps us moving in life with peace and joy is a steady, clear purpose AND destination.

There is an interesting 'destination' in this set of verses.... it is something for us to BECOME...to 'BE' and on the surface it seems rather weird. "...so that... you may become partakers of the divine nature".

Does this mean we will become gods? NO

It is a place- now and the not yet.... and it implies renewal... and it doesn't come with a task list.

Just in this passage, we get hints to what the 'divine nature' is:

power, life, godliness, knowledge, glory, excellence, promises from the Creator, escape from corruption.... it is an essence, an attitude, a steady state yet not stale, a pursuit of holiness yet not stifling.

I just finished the mesmerizing and thrilling documentary series on Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, rushed in production and pushed out in reaction to the pent up demand of sports fans shut in by Covid-19. I was so happy with it and so impressed by the way the story was told moving back and forth in the timeline of Jordan's life.

I loved it, but I do not want to 'be like Mike'. Would I love his competitive fire and talent? ABSOLUTELY! But Mike is like any man, an unbalanced mixture of beauty and beast.

There is a deeper call that beckons us BEYOND the longing we have to 'Be like Mike', or a desire to 'be like Bond'- in the end, even their lavish lives have trap doors and skeleton closets.

As I watched the series, I found myself admiring Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, and yes- even Dennis Rodman.. but I also was praying for them. As cool as Phil Jackson's mystical approach to life is- I still want him to know Jesus Christ and find an authentic taste of the divine nature of the one true God who has faithfully revealed Himself in the Bible and who cries out for us to pursue Him. The one who offers to pay the debt of all sin from an unending bank account of righteous blood.

MISSION:(Pt 2) 

who called us to his own glory and excellence

Our mission is also a calling- God is calling us to shine a weighty significance on His name and reflect that glory by our excellence.

This is sneaky.. because it implies our 'being' does result in our 'doing'

ACTION:

There are things to DO to set us securely on the mission to BE! And we act according to our nature.

We have to be disciplined to display excellence. 

What is discipline? It is saying NO - put off a desire because we understand the payoff will be better if we wait and work...... the gratification delayed is more desirable!

Get up early? No fun... but is the best way to have a profitable day.
Work? There are no shortcuts to success.
Eat healthy and exercise? Great benefits.....

But without DISCIPLINE, we are limited in the acquirement of knowledge and skill.

We HAVE to obtain knowledge... and it doesn't just come in by osmosis.

Power comes THROUGH knowledge- and it is knowledge of Him.... look at the personal pronouns here:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godlinessthrough the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promisesso that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature


Jesus said that this knowledge OF God (not about Him) is the initiation, source, and sustenance of eternal life:

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

AND with this knowledge of Him leads to a parallel discovery as well.

"Precious and great promises"- that THROUGH THEM... we become partakers of the divine.

What are the promises of God? Literally every page of your Bible... handwritten by God's Spirit and guaranteed by His blood.

Peter's task for you.... get to know your Bible with depth and expertise.

We see this all the way back into 1 Peter and the allusions to "written" and 'Scriptures" saturates Peter's writing:

1 Peter 1:23–25

[23] since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; [24] for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
[25] but the word of the Lord remains forever.

Interesting advice from a fisherman!

If I could ever have just one wish for my children, or my friends, or any human being is they would have a deep hunger and a keen interest in the Word of God. Anything that is 'of the Lord' that is in me has a multi-faceted infusion with the Bible. My happiest moments in life are those times where I get lost in God's Word and, as I read it, I feel the Holy Spirit burning it in my soul.

Yes, there are days I ignore it, days I skim, days I an bored.... but every now and then, it hooks me and before I know it, I am eating and drinking from the fountain of the divine. And though I know the old man will visit again soon, for a little bit- I am elevated and I am convinced I am changed.

As we lose our ability to enjoy reading, we are losing a vital weapon .. we are losing spiritual milk and meat.

If the shadows of sin are hiding the glory of God in this world today, it is because most Bibles sit in book cases unopened. It is like having lights, but never flipping the power on.

REACTION

read it one more time.... a drink it to the last drop....

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godlinessthrough the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promisesso that through them you may become partakers of the divine naturehaving escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV)

Do you see the result?

We have all we need for life... we have all we need for godliness- what is required is DIVINE power, unleashed by knowledge- bathed in the security and hope of PROMISES...and as we partake of the divine nature, there is a REACTION

We get delivered, we escape, we are saved from corruption that is the fruit of sinful desire.

I wish I had the time to indulge my reader on the plan that Ben Franklin put forth to accomplish  "the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection."

He wrote about it in his famous "Autobiography":


" I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason." 

He worked on it... making a daily ledger where he would write sins and virtues.

"I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I ruled each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I crossed these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day."

And in this great attempt, he soon found a truth we all know.....

"I entered upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continued it, with occasional intermissions, for some time. I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined;"

And even a man like Ben Franklin, finally ran out of steam

"After a while I went thro' one course only in a year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I omitted them entirely, being employed in voyages and business abroad, with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little book with me."

And that is the case of every person who seeks to 'be better' or 'be good' or 'acquire godliness"

In the end, it is all a gift- God's call, God's power, God's promises, 
and through them, 

we find a gradual escape from corruption...

and as Peter will soon show.... a final escape from destruction!

STAY TUNED!












Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Rock Speaks Volume 2 (1)

Are there things in your life that, if you knew beforehand, would have done differently?
Are there times you wished for a mulligan..... a re-do?

Many years ago, I was the golf coach at BCS. We were having a match against our rival high school at the old Eagle Point Golf Course and I was walking from hole to hole to watch the action.

On one par 3, a student from the other school was about 6 inches off the green and I grimmaced when he pulled his pitching wedge out of the bag and began taking practice chip shots.

This isn't going to be good.

And he did exactly what I feared he would do.... hit the ball thin and it shot across the green into a shrub!

So I broke all the rules of golf purity... I gave him a do over!

"Hold on," I interrupted, and I jogged over and retrieved his ball out of the middle of the shrub.

"I'm the course official and I am giving you a re-do."

The kids on the green just started at me.

"I'm serious," and I placed his ball back to its previous position.

And then the kid pulled out the same club and started over!

"No, no, no" I was fully disrupting everything.

"I am not giving you a do over to do the same thing! You need to think about a better way to play this shot."

At that point, the kid finally took out his putter and nearly holed the shot, leaving him with a 2" tap in for par.

My team's golfer walked over to me.

"What if he ends up beating me?"

I looked him right in the eye and said, with great confidence, "Not a chance".

(Please do not write me about my violation of golf sacredness.)

I am starting 2 Peter with a 'do-over'. We are going to go to the end and then come back to the beginning.

The END of 2nd Peter to give you a chance to think about this scenario.....

[17] You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. [18] But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17–18 ESV)

The next several days, we are going to explore what Peter means when he says we should know "this beforehand" and how that SHOULD direct us to playing better shots and make better decisions.

If we continue in disobedience after expressing a faith in Christ, then there is a problem. At best we are living with fragile instability... at worst, maybe we are not a follower of Christ at all!

Peter is pretty clear at the end..... he is calling us to GROW.

Grow in grace..... fully grasp that we are saved by what Jesus has done for us and we receive it as a gift.

Grow in knowledge.... get to know Jesus more fully and understand His desire for our life.

And all of this brings GREAT GLORY now and even more so at the Day of His Coming!

So let's talk about the Day of His Coming briefly.....

Peter asks a great question in this letter:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

[11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (2 Peter 3:10–11 ESV)

and this last statement we have been reading answers the rhetorical question:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. [18] But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17–18 ESV)

And this concerns me... because I am so prone to wander 

Jesus asked another haunting question:  "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8 ESV)

Over the next few days, we are going to pour over these three chapters of this 2nd letter of Peter. He writes with a clear understanding that his days are but few.....

The final words of a man lie this deserve some attention.... and his basic encouragement is to KEEP GROWING....

Let's pray and encourage one another to do so!





Monday, May 11, 2020

A Fisherman's Tale (5) - Tell No One

It was many days later, yet Peter still closed his eyes and became lost in the moment. He played the sights and sounds almost continuously. He wished he could keep the good parts and leave the mistakes in a pool of forgetfulness.

In just a week's time he had been blessed and admonished for his words. He felt embarrassed and small. Privately, he was once again punishing himself for his shameful inability to tame his tongue.

And twice now, Jesus had strictly warned him to speak nothing of the events of the last six days.
On the inside, Peter was glad. He was tired of his brash boasting and the habit to quickly jump in and dominate any conversation.

Also, even though it was hard to describe, Peter was 'unsettled' now around Jesus. He was drawn to Him. Peter was a man with deep thirsts but cursed with a sense of trepidation to drink. Peter was weary and often confused by both the actions and the words of his master.

Earlier in the week, the men had been at Caesarea Philippi. It was easily the most evil village Peter had ever seen. Almost every trail ended at an altar where unspeakable acts of human existence occurred throughout the evenings. Peter never doubted the existence of God, but he had a new faith for the demons of darkness that had revealed themselves in just a few short months.

As the disciples followed a snakelike stream, a large rocky cliff suddenly threw a shadow on the disciples. This was the Temple of Augustus that Herod had built almost two decades ago. Matthew explained to the others that the stream that flowed from the cave was believed to be the gateway to Hades.

They all sat down in the shadows, and Peter stared at each idol. Much energy had been spent on the carvings. One idol had eyes that seemed to follow him as he moved.

Jesus never looked up at them, He just looked quietly at each man. After a few minutes, He began asking questions. He often asked many questions; it was His style. They were provocative and He tended to take many days before answering some of them.

He tossed a small pebble into the pool of water that flowed out of the Gate of Hades. The water had a song of sadness, not even a trickle or hint of warning.

“Who do people say that I am?” 

The question was met with silence, so Jesus asked it again. He was wanting an answer.

“Who do people say that I am?” 

John rarely spoke first, but he quickly jumped on the question as it echoed a second time.

“Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah" and Peter had heard those conversations as well. He was finally catching on the prophecies of old as they were recited in the synagogues.

Matthew always participated in these debates as well.

"There is also conversations that you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

All were totally safe answers, and Peter knew it.

This time Jesus pressed harder. He said it with more authority and His voice now drowned out the sound of the stream.

 “But who do you say that I am?” 

Peter had heard enough, he had to say it.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

As soon as Peter finished, Jesus ran and embraced him. The scene was celebratory!

Jesus pulled hard until the two men were touching cheeks. Jesus replied into Peter's ear, but still loud enough for all to hear.

“Blessed are you!  Simon!  Son of Jonah!"

He then stood beside Peter, facing Peter and the large cliffs of the temple.

"For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven". 

The excitement and passion in Christ's voice was infectious! There was a smile and seriousness in His countenance. It was a voice of victory, an exclamation of discovery!

Days later, Peter still was thinking over what Jesus said next. He thought about asking Andrew about it.

Peter was sure it was said exactly like this:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Jesus definitely looked at the stream as it came forth when He said 'hell', but what did He mean by 'this rock'? Was it Peter himself? Was it his confession? And what did Jesus mean about building His church?

Right after that, Jesus looked at all of them and added, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

John put his hand on Peter's shoulder. Peter was quickly encouraged by his answer.

And then Jesus pulled them all in close.

"You must tell no one that I am the Christ."

It was a bold and robust charge.

A short walk away, the men built a fire and Judas left to buy some food for the evening.

What happened next still haunted Peter. He closed his eyes agin and tried to remember it word by word.

Right after dinner, Jesus began teaching from the prophecies about the Christ. Peter had always loved hearing about the promised deliverer from the line of David.

But Jesus began to point out strange passages. This Christ was much different. This was a suffering Christ, this was a rejected Christ, this was a Christ who was going to be killed by the chief priests and scribes!

The Jesus said the strangest statement of them all.

"And after three days, he will arise again."

Peter had heard enough.... it just blurted out.

"NO!"

Peter grabbed Jesus by the arm and pulled Him away from the glow of the fire.

Peter's frustration boiled over. He was tired of the mystery, he was tired of the questions, and he did something he had never done before.... He began to rebuke the teachings of his master!

Jesus immediately snatched his arm away from Peter. The jerk was so forceful that Peter stumbled! The disciples were beside themselves.

With the most authority the men had ever heard, Jesus rebuked the rebuker!

 “Get behind me, Satan!"

The words were shocking. The fire sparked and roared in the pronouncement.

"You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

For five full days, no one said much after that and Peter kept his distance. The chastisement still stung him and he had said very little in the days that followed.

The echo even reverberated in his dreams..... :"Get behind me, Satan!"

Peter was at the lowest moment since he began walking with Jesus.

Am I the rock to defeat Hades... or am I the devil himself?

The next morning, Jesus looked back at Mount Hermon.

He stood up and called out to James, John, and Peter.

"We must go," and he nodded toward the summit. He told the others to wait.

"Wait here until we return."

And the four men climbed. Jesus never slowed down and Peter felt at some point, James and John would be left behind.

Jesus led them to a plateau as the sun was setting where He knelt down and began to pray. The disciples were used to this and knew they were in for a very long night.

Peter, James, and John began to break camp, but were too tired to build a fire. Peter sat back against a tree, pulled his coverings around him, tangibly feeling the fatigue that was taking root in the ground.

What happened next was impossible to describe.

The three disciples tried to piece it together as best they could over the next few days.

Jesus changed right before their eyes!

Light struck Peter in the face as he was jolted awake in a panic!
James and John fell on their faces while Peter shielded his eyes.

The clothes that Jesus was wearing began to glow solid white. The streaks of light radiated from every small opening. It was so intense that Peter had to squint even in the shade of his hand!

Suddenly, four men were six!

It didn't dawn on Peter until later, that he instantly knew who the other two men were. In the radiance of the white light, Jesus was speaking to Moses and Elijah!

Peter's hand was now trembling from shock. He closed his eyes and would only capture a glance. James was sobbing in terror! Later, both James and John confirmed that they knew instantly who the two men were.

And then Peter recognized the old, familiar urge. It is somewhere between a naive confidence and the brashness of a fool. He had to say something!

Everyone in that spot noticed Peter finally stand and everyone's attention turned to the Rock.

“Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Looking back, it was now easy to understand it.....he did not know what to say, for they were terrified!

As soon as Peter said it, he knew it was a mistake.

The light was suddenly engulfed in a large cloud. There was a radiance and an aroma of life and power!

And the voice that came with it thundered, causing a vibration to the trees and surrounding mountain.

 "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON! LISTEN TO HIM."

The sound threw the disciples to the ground and Peter gasped for breath as he fell to the ground.

The only light now was from a partial moon.

Jesus was no longer transfigured and he picked Peter off the ground.

And He said the same phrase for the second time in six days.

"Tell no one about this until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."

Peter closed his eyes again. He wanted to see the memory flash on his inward eye, but it was fading quickly.

He had many more questions than answers.

And he was supposed to keep quiet about all of it.

2 Peter 1:16–18
[16] For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. [17] For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” [18] we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (ESV)



The Rock Speaks (9)

As I close out 1st Peter today, I am prepared to take another break from writing for a time. It has been good to take time away from it to read, research and pray.

There is A LOT more here in 1st Peter 5 than what I cover. I noticed that I skipped over spiritual warfare, and the collaboration with Silvanus... both are worthy of some discussion.

Today's passage contains one of the wisest pieces of advice I have ever received in Scripture.

I find myself rather weary of this shut down. I don't feel right to complain because so many have really suffered and I am blessed to still have a job and to have health.

We need to pray for each other..... we all need encouragement and perseverance. And I have grown to understand the signs of the mild depression that visits me from time to time. I have come to embrace it is a sign of aging and the reality of how unfulfilling this sin cursed world is. And I never doubt the presence and goodness of the Lord.

1 Peter 5

[1] So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: [2] shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; [3] not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. [4] And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. [5] Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

[6] Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, [7] casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. [8] Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [9] Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. [10] And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. [11] To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

[12] By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. [13] She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. [14] Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (ESV)

I have really enjoyed this walk through I Peter. I found myself mulling over the book throughout the day and as I pondered the words on my pillow at night. It is a great balance between exhortation and encouragement.

Pretty neat that he closes with the imagery of a shepherd. Again, Jesus restored Peter with that idea of 'feed my sheep".

My take on this is that Peter is anticipating the end of his ministry, not just the end of a letter. We get a fuller sense of this at the intro of 2nd Peter:


[12] Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. [13] I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, [14] since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. [15] And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:12–15 ESV)

So, as a faithful disciple, he has been a disciple maker and exhorts those who will be leading after he has departed. This is the most crucial aspect for the future of the church- not what are we leaving behind... but WHO?

Now, let me point out the wisest advice that I have found in the whole letter....

'SHEPHERD THE FLOCK THAT IS AMONG YOU'

See, this piece is directed toward spiritual leaders- and most leaders are always looking to lead bigger and better. This urge to move forward can create a general discontentment. Musicians want to be discovered, young pastors want to land the big congregation, assistant coaches want that head coaching position- but I love what Peter says- learn how to oversee the group you have been honored to lead. Don't look ahead- be found faithful where you are.

To me it starts in my home- I need to be found as a good shepherd to my flock of Mathews. Even as they are now moved out and on, how am I doing in loving, praying for, and encouraging them?

How am I to do it? Accept the rule of oversight and diligently be involved in their lives. I don't need to be their KING, I need to set an example in service and humility. I need to trust God and allow him to develop in me a godly contentment.

Next, I have a group of quarterbacks and anglers- same deal.

When I originally left Briarwood in 2003, I had become very discontented and overly ambitious. I wanted to lead my own program and was just cocky enough to push hard to find that opportunity.

Four times previously, I had finished as a runner-up for a head coaching position and each time grew more frustrated. The offer to move from Nashville actually came from them. I twice said NO and then went to interview. And we went for it.
Looking back, it was God's will for me to go. But it seems like (as far as how it applies to me), it was God using circumstances similar to Jacob working for Leah (7 years) when he thought he was getting Rachel.

When it looked like it was God's plan for me to return to Briarwood, you can imagine how it hit me. At first I thought, "I'm like a whipped puppy coming home with his tail tucked between his legs". I imagined the reception being something like- "Couldn't cut it huh?" Was I a complete failure?

And, here was the most interesting part- not only was I no longer a head coach, I wasn't even going to be the coordinator. I was going to just be a position coach.

But the Holy Spirit did something rather remarkable- He granted me a sincere 'God sent' contentment. And the day before I accepted the job, I felt my spirit and God's spirit come to a point of unity- Lord, I know You are in control- I willingly lay all of this down at the foot of the cross- and won't worry about 'being in charge' or 'calling the shots'- I'm going to love the players I have and 'shepherd my flock' with passion and energy.

The result? This year was the greatest professional; year of my life! The people at Briarwood only expressed love and excitement at my return. They made me feel special again after my last few years in my old position where my leadership beat me up on a consistent basis.

My wide receivers were amazing to work with, we texted in group me, we went out to eat, we laughed, we worked hard and we improved. It was incredible!

I never felt frustrated. I was part of a great team of men  who didn't care who got the credit and we respected one another and shared the workload.

I have now for a long time misunderstood the verse, humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. This doesn't necessarily mean he takes a pauper and makes a king. It most likely means that He sustains you in the task He has called you and will reward you at the day of glorification.

So as a spiritual leader (in my home, as a coach, as an athletics director, as a small group leader, as a Sunday school teacher)- what does this passage say to me?
  • Lead by example- not in a domineering way
  • Be diligent to initiate oversight- active, sober-minded-... not passive
  • Respect all lines of authority with great, godly contentment
  • Use all the means of grace to combat pride
  • Pray at all times and trust in God's goodness
  • Understand the nature of the battle- this is no day on the beach
  • If circumstances call for suffering- then bear it in all endurance

And what does Christ promise here?

He will RESTORE me

He will CONFIRM me

He will STRENGTHEN me

He will ESTABLISH me


Peter's powerful testimony is proof of the truth of all these things.
In a much smaller way- this blogger can give the same testimony.


Like Peter , I can proclaim... "I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. (Let us ALL) Stand firm in it"

When the Good Shepherd appears, I hope He finds me faithful- no matter the task......

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Rock Speaks (8)

Another Great 'Oun" "Therefore,"
οὖν,c \{oon}

1) then, therefore, accordingly, consequently, these things being so

Anytime you see the word 'therefore' in the New Testament, it should really perk up your attention. The greek word is 'Oun' is just full of meaning. The flow of most NT letters is doctrine that results in powerful transformation and action.

Because this and this and this is true...THEREFORE... do-be-act like this.
If you just packaged all the 'Therefore' verses in the NT- you would have some powerful statements.
And most of these are admonitions toward Holy living.
These words are like computer ICONS on a screen- you double click on the word and it opens many ideas and 'folders' of information.

We have another powerful οὖν,c \{oon} HERE:

1 Peter 4:1–11

[1] Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, [2] so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. [3] For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. [4] With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; [5] but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. [6] For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

[7] The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. [8] Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. [9] Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. [10] As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: [11] whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)

For several verses, Peter has been highlighting the suffering Christ.

He saw it.

If you want to see just a shadow of what he saw, take your Bible and read Isaiah 53. Watch 'The Passion of the Christ'- read the gospel accounts.

But don't miss the idea here- Christ suffered for us, but we don't suffer for HIM! Any inclination to live a godly life does require some restraint and discipline- and this is quite opposite of where we live.
I am a creature of comfort and leisure. If I am tired... I sleep. If I am hungry... I eat. If I want something... I am accustomed to getting it. And if I don't get what I want... I get grumpy.

But walking with Christ is OFTEN counter to our natural desires. Peter says...Because Christ suffered, we need to 'suffer' as well- fighting against sensuality, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and no boundaries idolatry (which I take as consumerism, get what you want and never say NO).

CAN THIS BE TAKEN TOO FAR?

Of course. Some early church fathers practiced 'mortification' - a strict asceticism where they would put the body in extreme conditions to 'prove' devotion and a passion for holiness. They would whip themselves to the point of bloodshed- pierce themselves, extreme fasting, all kind of vows. But the monastic movement did prove one thing... sin still resides in the ones that want to do good.

John Calvin commented on this practice of mortification:

There are some good and holy men who when they saw constant overindulgence wanted to curb and correct it, but thought there was no other way than to allow men only the bare necessities. This is godly advice but unnecessarily severe, because it binds our consciences in closer fetters than they are bound by God’s Word. Necessity, according to them, meant abstinence from anything desirable, so that bread and water was the rule.

The NT seems to indicate a balance- yes, we are to be disciplined and 'put to death' the deeds of the old man- but the key is 're-dedication' more than 'mortification'.

I wrote about this in a commentary on Romans 6 in May, 2009 (click here to review)

but the idea is found specifically in Romans 6:20-23

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

THIS DOES REQUIRE (GOD POWERED) EFFORT ON OUR PART!

Hebrews 12:3-4 supports this idea:

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

THIS WORK DOES NOT MERIT SALVATION, BUT IT IS EVIDENCE OF SALVATION

Look again at what Peter is saying:

We should be willing to think (arm ourselves) about pursuing holiness- Christ suffered... and we can suffer:

1) By discipling our lives to live more holy

2) Which will bring mockery and ridicule and pressure to give in

3) But self control and 'living on purpose' produces great fruit and glory to God

DISCIPLINE WITH LOVE AND GENEROSITY:

Some disciplined people get real cold. Sometimes it is a hidden pride where we look down on people who don't get it or don't seem to be able to do what we do.

Peter says the opposite- let your increased success produce love and hospitality. Be positive and hopeful- don't be 'Mr. Perfection' who stays grouchy at all of the imperfection around him.

Humility and love still trump morality. When Peter says 'love covers a multitude of sin' it is almost like he says- Go read Paul's letter to Corinthians Ch 13- a tender heart of love can do more than good than 10,000 days of disciplined living.

And the final beautiful image: A GOOD STEWARD OF GOD'S VARIED GRACE.

As I have received God's grace, I continue to realize that any good I do is from Him. Even if I did become very moral, I'm still a desperate sinner at the cross. I see Christ's love and suffering and realize that I am nothing compared to Him. So I am free to love and serve and free to pursue a more Holy lifestyle in response to all He has done for me.

So read it again:

Therefore...... are you willing to push a little harder, dig a little deeper, practice more self control, resist a little more as a result of the gospel?

And can you do that while maintaining a beautiful spirit of love and grace?

It allows me to make great decisions- moment by moment- and fast and feast with prudence.

Let's keep inspiring one another to do it better even today!