Thursday, November 7, 2019

2 Peter, Day 15: 2 Peter 3:15-18 - How Should We Respond to Those Who Twist the Scriptures?

How Should We Respond to Those Who Twist the Scriptures?
2 Peter, Day 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, 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. 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. 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 3:15-18, ESV

2 Peter ends with one of the most remarkable verses in the New Testament. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter refers to the letters of Paul as Scripture, on the same level with "the other Scriptures," most likely a reference to the Old Testament Scriptures, but possibly also including the Gospels. It is remarkable for one living Apostle to refer to the letters of another living Apostle - his contemporary - as Scripture. It is a strong affirmation of the truth that the books of the Scripture were almost immediately recognized by the church as the Word of God.

What we really glean from this final passage of 2 Peter, though, is not just an affirmation that the letters of Paul were recognized as Scripture. We can see how Peter handles those who twist the Scripture and how we should respond to them ourselves. Sadly, people have always been eager to twist the Scriptures to their own destruction.

As I write this final devotional in 2 Peter, recent news reported fundraising appeals by Paula White in which she claims "apostolic and prophetic authority" to ask people to give $3,600 to her ministry. To support her appeal, she refers to Old Testament animal sacrifices. For her to claim to be an apostle or a prophet or to use these Old Testament texts to support her high-pressure fundraising tactics is just wrong. It is twisted and self-serving and ugly. But things like this are done all the time by professing Christians all around the world. [More about Paula White]

So, how should we respond to such people? Simply by doing two things:

1. Expose them for what they are. Peter calls them "ignorant and unstable."
2. Have nothing whatsoever to do with them. As Peter says, "take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability."

Instead of following after these kinds of people, we are called to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." We are to focus on Christ, on His word, and on His Gospel, for He and He alone is our salvation. 

That's the wonderfully refreshing truth woven throughout 2 Peter. Do you remember how Peter had begun this letter? "Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." (1:1-2)

Notice how Peter is relentlessly Christ-centered and how his focus is strongly on the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. That's what we all need to focus on, instead of the nonsense of Scripture-twisting false teachers. We need the grace of Jesus to grow in our knowledge of Jesus. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

2 Peter, Day 14: 2 Peter 3:11-14 - How Should We Live as We Wait for Jesus?

How Should We Live as We Wait for Jesus?
2 Peter, Day 14 

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
- 2 Peter 3:11-14, ESV

So, now what? We know Jesus is coming again. We know He is patiently waiting for all His beloved chosen ones to enter His kingdom. We know that when He comes all passing pleasures and temporary things of this world will come to an end, and all things will be made new. So, how should we live until then?

To put it simply: We need to live as beloved chosen ones who do not belong to this fallen and doomed age but who do belong to the glorious age to come and to the King whose coming will usher in that age. We need to live as God's holy people, set apart by Him and for Him. We should seek to advance His kingdom and not our own, and we should be looking forward to His glory and not our own.

What does that mean? Well, we live in a world where everyone is taught to look out for Number One - and, of course, we're all taught to think of ourselves as Number One. We should look out for Number One. That just makes sense. The craziness in our world is the tendency to think of ourselves as Number One, when we're not. Only King Jesus is Number One.

In the world's way of functioning, you can only really desire three things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17) Those three basic items are the only things on the menu: satisfy your appetites (food, sex, rest, recreation, adrenaline rushes, etc.), acquire possessions and power, or achieve greatness in some way. You can pick one, two, or three of those things, but that's all. Even those who seem very committed to doing good and making the world a better place are most often motivated by pride. 

But why would we want to live to satisfy appetites that are never satisfied and that will pass away? Why would we want to work hard to accumulate a bunch of stuff that's going to burn up? Why would we want to seek to make our name great when it's His name that is the name above all names? 

One of my struggles on Thanksgiving Day is waiting for the main meal and not spoiling it by eating a bunch of junk all day. If we belong to Jesus, we have a feast coming which nothing in this world can touch. We have a new heavens and earth to enjoy forever which will put everything in this passing world to shame. Let's not ruin our appetite for the world to come by over-valuing and over-indulging in this temporary one. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

2 Peter, Day 13: 2 Peter 3:10-11 - What Will It Be Like When Jesus Comes Again?

What Will It Be Like When Jesus Comes Again?
2 Peter, Day 13

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.

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

When I was growing up, I loved taking family road trips, just like my own kids love taking them now. I remember eagerly wanting to know three things: where we were going, how long it would take to get there, and what it would be like once we got there.

All creation is headed for a destination on our journey through time and space. This destination is the Day of the Lord, the ushering in of the new creation, the new heavens and the new earth. This new creation was inaugurated by the resurrection of Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, the first-fruits of the new creation. The full arrival of the new creation - our ultimate destination - will come when Jesus comes again. 

We have learned that Jesus is coming again and that He is waiting to return until the full number of His elect exiles are redeemed into His kingdom. But what will it be like when Jesus returns?

First of all, His coming will be completely unexpected: "the day of the Lord will come like a thief." Many people over the years have made bold and confident and completely incorrect predictions about when Jesus would come again. When He comes, He will take the whole world by surprise.

The day of the Lord will also bring destruction and exposure. This present world is passing away. Like our mortal bodies, which perish and die, so this present world is a mortal world, which will perish and die. This should teach us not to put our hopes in the temporary, passing pleasures of this world. 

The day of the Lord will expose the true spiritual character of everyone and everything. The enemies of God will have their evil natures exposed. The redeemed children of God will have their glorious new natures in Christ revealed, too. All of our works will be tested by fire and burned up, the worldly and rebellious destroyed and the God-honoring refined and made to shine. 

A chunk of gold or silver dug up from the earth may not look much different from an ordinary rock, but the trial by fire makes the one more glorious and destroys the other. That's exactly what Peter teaches us to expect when Jesus returns. Shouldn't this motivate us to seek to have more gold and less garbage in our lives?