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The writings of Peter - Part VII

The Writings of Peter

Part 7

We continue to be in a series of messages on the New Testament writings of Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Letters written to Christians who were experiencing persecution because of their Christian faith. People Peter challenged to live in ways that are pleasing to God. 

Including, as was discussed last week, supplementing their faith in several ways, thereby growing as Christians. Those ways are virtue or courage, practical knowledge, which is having the ability to apply the Bible to life,  self-control, steadfastness, which is staying true to the Lord, no matter what, godliness, as in doing things according to God’s will, brotherly affection, which is having enough patience with and interest in others to help them when help is needed. and love for all people, wanting the best for all others, including the best spiritually, as in them accepting Jesus as their Savior.

Peter challenged those who first read I and II Peter, and he challenges Christians today, to grow in those ways, promising that all who do grow in those ways will be effective and fruitful in their Christian lives.

As mentioned last week, it is not always easy to stay true to God and grow spiritually. That is especially the case because of what Peter wrote in the first part of today’s passage, which is verses 1 through 16 of chapter 2 of II Peter.

The passage begins with verses 1 through 3. Those verses teach the danger of false prophets. 

As discussed last week, false prophets were teachers who twisted the teachings of Jesus to fit what they wanted to do. Teachers who reworded many of the things Peter wrote about proper Christian living.

An example is those who lived in sin and did not care, daring others in the congregations to try to stop them, claiming that since God loves to forgive, we ought to sin as much as we can so He can do more of what He wants. That is of course wrong, but it is what some in those congregations tried to get established.

Others took advantage of the fact Jesus had not returned. In I Peter he wrote that the end of all things was at hand. It was now three years later. Some said that if Jesus had not come back yet, He was not going to come back, so sinning will not be punished. We also know that is wrong, but it, too, is what some tried to get established.

Christians - true Christians - in the churches to which Peter wrote were facing the danger of false prophets. Hence Peter’s teaching in the opening paragraph of today’s passage. There will be - there already were and it would continue - false teachers among you, just as there were historically. 

Peter may have been thinking of times of Jeremiah and Ezekiel when false prophets kept saying there was peace when there was no peace. They did that because they knew that is what the people and the kings wanted to hear.

In the time of Jehoshaphat, a false prophet reported it was acceptable to God that he go to war. He said that against the advice of a true prophet. I assume that since Jehoshaphat wanted to go to war, he listened to the false prophet. That time Jehoshaphat was soundly defeated.

In addition to those examples, here are some descriptions of false prophets in the Old Testament. They did what they did for only the money and many involved themselves in drunkenness, which is part of what verse describes as licentiousness.

Plus - back to verse 1 - false prophets - false teachers - brought in - they introduced into the congregations - destructive heresies. By that Peter meant anything that argues against Jesus being the way and the truth and the life. Any argument against Jesus being the only giver of blessings now and the one and only way to Heaven.

The danger of the false prophets was the teaching that a person is free to decide to live however he or she wants to live. Indeed, that is true. However, the false prophets taught that such living is OK because all ways of living are acceptable, which is not true. Again, only Jesus is the standard by which we are to live in order to receive blessings now and Heaven later.

False prophets - false teachers - who had appeared within the Christian congregations to whom Peter wrote denied Jesus and His teachings. They did so by what they taught and how they lived. 

The bad news? Verse 2. Many were following the false teachers, including their licentiousness - their bad behaviors.

The bad news for the false prophets? Judgment will come. 

In verse 1, notice the wording. They bring destruction upon themselves.

It is not God’s wish to destroy anyone. He spent all the Bible teaching how people are to live. He gave His only begotten Son Jesus to die as the perfect sacrifice so people can live correctly. He sent the Holy Spirit to encourage people to live correctly. All they and we need to do is follow what God taught, which leads to God rewarding us. 

So those who do not follow God’s ways bring destruction upon themselves. Destruction is their fault for not doing what God taught.

The bad news for false teachers is that they will be destroyed. That is a sad thing to think about. But there is something even worse. Verse 2. Those who follow the false prophets cause the way of truth to be reviled - abused and insulted.

Here is something I read. Every Christian, then, now, and in the future, is either a positive or a negative advertisement for Jesus. Whoever claims to be a Christian but lives in ways opposed to Jesus’ teachings, such as those in Peter’s time who followed false teachings, is a negative advertisement since others are able to see no difference between a follower of Christ and anyone in the world. It is by obeying Jesus - by living righteously - that Jesus is honored and can be attractive to others in the world.

Verse 3. False teachers, in their greed, did - and will - try to exploit people. As that happened even in the Old Testament, so it continued in the time of Peter. It continues today. But rest assured, God will judge and punish the false prophets. As mentioned, they themselves will be responsible for judgment and punishment. Their refusal to follow Jesus’ teachings brings those things on themselves. But they will be dealt with, proved by a number of examples.

The first example are angels who sinned. 

This example is introduced in the Old Testament Book of Genesis and is explained more deeply in Jewish tradition. The example refers to angels who came to earth because they were attracted to the women of the earth.

There is nothing wrong with being attracted, but the angels referred to were so enamored, they lusted for earthly women. They did all kinds of evil to have their way with women.

The result was that those angels were cast into pits of nether gloom, where they have been and will remain until the judgment. And of course we know that unless they repented while they were on earth, God’s judgment will send them to Hell.

The point of Peter is that since angels were not spared when they disobeyed God, people in Peter’s time and people today who claim to be Christians but do not obey Jesus will also not be spared.

What happened with the angels is recorded right before we are told about the Great Flood.

God was sorry about what He had created. In His grief, He decided to blot out men and women and animals and birds.

As we know, there were a few animals and birds that God saved so life could go on after the Flood. And there were a few people saved - Noah, his wife, their three sons and three daughters-in-law. But that was it.

The point is that God’s creation had been a pleasure for Him. All the people He had created were special to Him. However, when all of them except Noah were found to be disobedient, all but the eight who were saved perished. Since that happened back then, it can and will happen again that following false teachings will be judged harshly.

And listen. Noah and the others were saved by being on a boat - an ark. It took a very long time to build. All that time, Noah preached, which means God gave the disobedient ones more and more and more time to repent. 

Apparently none of them did repent because all but Noah and his family were destroyed. Again, since that happened back then, it will, according to Peter, happen even now.

Another example is Sodom and Gomorrah. The report of that is also found in the Book of Genesis. 

Those two cities were in a wonderful, lush, productive area of the Middle East. The people who lived there should have been so appreciative to God for His blessings that they would have obeyed Him wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead, they turned to perversion and what is referred to as unnatural lust - men for men and women for women.

The result is that both the cities were destroyed. Everyone in the cities was killed. Everyone except Lot, who was righteous enough - willing enough to obey God - to be spared. In addition, it appears Lot’s two daughters were also spared. Actually, Lot’s wife was included to be spared, but she did not obey the instructions given for the rapid escape from the area, so she, too, died.

As did everyone else in those cities, the point again being that since God did not spare people He had earlier blessed, this time with a wonderful area in which to live, the same will happen even now for those who claim to be followers of Jesus but do not obey His teachings.

Destruction for those who are disobedient is certain. That is what Peter taught. But remember Noah and Lot. They were saved because of their faithful obedience. 

The challenge is that we be obedient, even in the face of any and all false teachings that come our way. That is critical because being obedient - obedience built on faith in Jesus, then supplementing our faith with virtue and knowledge, self-control and steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love - results in being blessed. We know that because of a promise in verse 9. The Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment, but - here is the promise - He also knows how  to rescue the godly from trial.

Let’s be dedicated to being godly, always being aware of the ploys of those who threaten to turn us away from Jesus. From obeying His teachings. 

The ploys are in verses 10 through 14.

Passions that defile or spoil. That ruin purity.

Despising authority. Do we see that in our time?

Speaking against Jesus. We can hear that so many places.

Being creatures of instinct. Remember the phrase that started a number of years ago that if it feels good, do it because it must be right? No. Following God - accepting Jesus and obeying His teachings - is right, whether it feels good or not.

Reveling and carousing and adultery and not being satisfied with one or another sin. Engaging in as much sin as possible to try to achieve some happiness.

All who teach that any of those things is good and right is a false teacher. They must not be followed, no matter how popular they are, no matter how good or persuasive they are at speaking. And yes, standing strong against such teaching is possible. Noah and Lot are examples. 

Beware false teachers - false prophets. That is what Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote. Something we must do so our faith can remain strong.

*       *       *       *       *

A man and his family live in an apartment. They have a flower garden. It consists of what they can grow in indoor pots.

The man writes that for a long time their plants did not flower despite watering and fertilizing. They discovered the soil in the pots had to be raked and turned over if the plants were to bloom. He and his family did that. Now their potted plants are a joy to look at with their their healthy leaves and blooming flowers.

The man writes that sometimes we need a little raking and turning in our lives to make us bloom. The raking and turning might come in the ways worded by Peter as fiery trials, struggling to grow in our faith, or, as discussed in today’s message, standing firm when confronted by false prophets. Like the soil in the potted plants, we might feel like our lives are being raked and turned over, but God’s purpose in doing that is to allow our faith to bloom in praise and glory to Him. 

Jesus wants to loosen whatever can choke our lives. Whatever can prevent us from radiating joy. He sometimes allow pains and troubles that help stir up the soil of our lives.

If you are experiencing that, rejoice. Surrender to His touch and acquire a joy and fruitfulness you never imagined possible.

The story ends with this. Those who bless Jesus in their trials will be blessed by Jesus through their trials.

Today’s closing song also challenges us to stay close to Jesus, obeying Him, even in difficult times. It challenges us to consecrate ourselves - dedicate ourselves - to Him. Let’s sing, before each verse looking at the words to make sure we understand the challenge in each of the verses. I will summarize them. Let’s listen to and sing Consecration.

Verse 1. Jesus gave His life for us, which leads to the interesting question, should we not give our lives to Him? Probably not physically, but in service to Him. Service and obedience. In fact, let’s dedicate ourselves to Jesus. Let’s be wholly His.

Since Jesus gave His life for me

Should I not give Him mine?

I’m consecrated, Lord, to Thee,

I shall be wholly Thine.

My life, o Lord, I give to Thee,

My talents, time, and all;

I’ll serve Thee, Lord, and faithful be,

I’ll hear Thy faintest call.

Verse 2. We should not care where the Lord directs,  including - especially - if His way is different than what false teachers teach. No matter His way, it is the Lord’s  purpose we are to fulfill. A promise. He will protect those who do His will.

I care not where my Lord directs,

His purpose I’ll fulfill;

I know He ev’ryone protects

Who does His holy will.

My life, o Lord, I give to Thee,

My talents, time, and all;

I’ll serve Thee, Lord, and faithful be,

I’ll hear Thy faintest call.

Verse 3. Home and friends are of course dear to us, but Jesus is to be even more special. It is His will we are to do, which will display our love for Him.

My home and friends are dear to me,

Yet He is dearer still;

In my affection first He’ll be,

And first His righteous will.

My life, o Lord, I give to Thee,

My talents, time, and all;

I’ll serve Thee, Lord, and faithful be,

I’ll hear Thy faintest call.

Verse 4. Will we give Jesus our all? Will we give our will and our way to Him? Let’s live for Jesus alone. May we, today and always, allow Him to rule in our hearts.

My all, O Lord, to Thee I give,

Accept it as Thine own;

For Thee alone I’ll ever live,

My heart shall be Thy throne.

My life, o Lord, I give to Thee,

My talents, time, and all;

I’ll serve Thee, Lord, and faithful be,

I’ll hear Thy faintest call.

Lord, You warn us in today’s passage in II Peter 2 that there are false  prophets - false teachers - around us. Hopefully never in this church family, but other places, even in society. False teachings can appear appealing, but false teachings are still false.

So help us, please, to know Your will and Your way. Help us to stay true to Your will and Your way, knowing and trusting Your promise to rescue and protect those who are godly.

Help us to be godly. Help us as we give You our lives. Amen.

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