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2 Peter 2: 16-21 Sermon Notes

By August 6, 2023August 8th, 2023Sermon Notes

What if you were told, conclusively, the way in which you would die…and that it would not be pleasant?

How would that affect how you live?

Would you avoid certain situations, foolishly thinking you could avoid the inevitable?

Would you spend your days thinking about it…fearing it…wondering “is this it, is this the day?”

Each of us, if we are wise, would choose not to know the circumstances of our deaths if given the choice

But all of us, if we are wise, will live intentionally remembering that we will indeed die someday.

Because of the gospel we need not live in fear of death…

But to live as if we are not going to die, is to live like a fool.

We need this balance of a peace empowered life (not fear of death) and a sense of real urgency (time is limited)

Today we are in 2 Peter 1:16-20, let’s back up a few verses to get a running start at this passage.

Verses 12-15

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

Peter was in his sixties when he wrote this letter, he had probably already exceeded his expectations of longevity.

He knew, what Jesus had said to him years earlier, was surely soon at hand.

In John 21, Peter, after he had denied Christ, had seen Christ crucified and resurrected…was now restored to full fellowship by Christ.

Three times, once for every time Peter had denied Christ, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him

The third time Jesus asked, it really hurt Peter’s feelings.

“He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

But Jesus wasn’t just piling on, to make Peter feel guilty…he was getting Peter to do a spiritual gut check

Peter would write in his own letter, Trace read it last week, “Make every effort to confirm your calling.”

Jesus was helping Peter do this.

Finally, Jesus said…“Feed my sheep.”

If you love me, you will faithfully pass on the truth of the gospel to others.

Love me, by loving others, by teaching them what I have taught you.

Then, he gives Peter what had to be a sobering glimpse of his future.

“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter was killed by crucifixion…not too long after he wrote the letter we are reading today.

This is what Jesus was telling Peter was coming for him

He would literally follow Jesus to the cross.

Can you imagine living under the shadow of this kind of death.

Why would Jesus give Peter this kind of information…it seems cruel and unnecessary

It wasn’t, Peter didn’t live under the shadow of death…but in the light of gospel, in the light of eternity…he will say as much in today’s passage.

He lived with gospel empowered wisdom…not fearing his death but aware of its reality and of his need to live in light of eternity.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Ps. 90:12

*Peter knew this Psalm…and Jesus helped he apply it.

Peter had a unique stewardship in human history…so he was given a unique vision of his own future.

Look again at verse 15,

And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

A part of Peter’s effort to ensure they would be able to recall the truth of the gospel after he was gone was his discipleship of John Mark, who wrote the gospel of Mark.

A second century historian named Irenaeus wrote this,“After Peter and Paul’s death Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching.”

Peter is not living under a dark cloud of impending doom.

He is living with passionate intentionality.

As long as I live in this body, that I will soon put aside…I will make every effort to see that you will always be able to remember these things

Part of that effort was in a giving eyewitness account to Mark of his experiences with Jesus…that became the gospel of Mark.

Now, let’s read our passage

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. 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.

Trace told us that Peter was writing to counter some false teachers in this letter.

They had infiltrated the church and were causing a great deal of harm.

Once again, Truth matters.

To believe, and to apply that which is not true…will mess up your life.

If you decide that gasoline is dangerous and expensive and decide to fill your tank with Gatorade, because it is safer and delicious…or water because it is cheaper…your attempts to live outside of reality will get you nowhere…literally

The same is true of the gospel of Jesus…Peter is not just quibbling about “your truth versus my truth.”

He is passionate about The Truth…as he received it from the Lord of heaven and earth.

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.

The life and death of Jesus is considered historical fact by most people, even academics who do not believe in God.

They do not, however, believe that he is the Lord of heaven and earth, that he is the majestic one.

They do not believe in his resurrection or in his future return.

He was, to them, an unusual man of human history…but anything more, is just myth…cleverly devised human stories to make people feel better.

No, Peter wrote…we didn’t make this stuff up…we are eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Majesty is kingly power…king of what?

-King over death, disease, the elements, demons…his majesty means his deity…he is God

Let’s stop and tie this back to what Trace said last week

Gospel power for gospel practice

Peter wrote,

“Jesus’ divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called us to his own glory.”

What is at stake here is not just theological debate over religious issues…but this is about real power, power to live a different kind of life…life now and forever as God has designed to be lived.

Peter is ready and willing to defend the truth because he knows what is at stake.

This is not an academic debate, or coffee shop philosophy…it is about the very truth of God.

It is putting gasoline not water in your tank…it is reality itself

He knows his death is soon at hand…he knows what he has experienced…he walked for three years with God incarnate…for much of that time he was semi-confused about Jesus…he is crystal clear now…no confusion.

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.

Of all the eyewitness stories Peter could have told at this point, why did he tell this one?

Which one? The one on the mountain where Jesus was transformed before his eyes.

Let’s read about it from Mark, Peter’s protegee…Mark most likely wrote this down as he dictated Peter’s memory.

Mark 9

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

This has been called the “Transfiguration” of Jesus, this is the event Peter was referring to in his letter.

Jesus visually showed his divine nature here…to Peter, James, John.

They got a brief glimpse of Jesus glory…they got a preview of what is to come when Jesus returns.

There are a lot of details in the gospels…sometimes details that leave you wondering, “Why is that there?”

The answer, besides, God wanted it there…is…this is the stuff that eyewitnesses say…they give memorable details.

For instance, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”

If you are giving an eyewitness account…this is the kind that would stand out to you.

Peter remembered the whiteness because it would have been very unusual to see anyone wearing white.

White was not a common color for clothes in biblical days: it soiled too easily in a workaday world…without washing machines.

Clearly the experience on the mountain had a deep impact on Peter…he remembered certain details in vivid.

Look again at what Mark wrote down as Peter remembered the experience.

“Rabbi,(Peter said) it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters(tents)—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Imagine Peter and Mark having this conversation as Mark wrote his gospel.

“Okay, Mark, this is embarrassing but there with Jesus manifesting his divine nature, and Moses and Elijah…in person…I suddenly blurted out…”Hey, why don’t we pitch some tents, hang out.”

Mark said, “Peter, no you didn’t!”

“I know! But hey, I was scared to death…you know me when I’m overwhelmed, I say stupid stuff!”

Okay, it was a memorable event for Peter, but still…why this story…why not healings, raising people from the dead, feeding thousands

There is more to the telling than just how powerful of an experience it was for Peter.

Peter is saying, “I was there, for all of it.”

“And what I saw, connects with the entirety of the Old Testament…Jesus is the promised one.”

This one experience of transfiguration on the Mountain…shows the continuity of Jesus and the entire Bible maybe like none others.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT, two of the “greats” were there with Jesus…Moses and Elijah.

He is the dazzling Son of Man predicted by Daniel.

And in Jesus’ transfiguration…his appearance that was fear evoking…Peter was seeing the future; Jesus will return in his glory.

The false teachers laughed at the idea of Jesus’ return and of his glory…more on this next week.

Peter says, “I was there…they were not.”

Then, Peter adds, “If you don’t believe me, go to the Scriptures.”

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed,

All of the OT pointed forward, clearly and convincingly to Jesus, the Messiah.

Peter’s testimony was a confirmation of the OT, or better, the OT was a confirmation of his testimony.

They perfectly aligned.

This is why, though Peter lived with a “sword” or rather a “cross” hanging over his head…he did not live in dark fear but in gospel hope.

Scripture is often said to be a lamp lighting a dark path…for Peter this was not just poetry…it was reality…it was his experience.

In his first letter Peter wrote about suffering…a lot

He continually reframed it,

“Don’t be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as if something strange were happening to you.”

Now consider that as he personally suffered and saw his friends suffer…he also had, for decades…lived with the words of Jesus in his mind and memory.

“When you are old, you will be taken to where you don’t want to go…”

He lived with death continually in mind.

But the truth of the gospel…spoken in Scripture and confirmed in experience… continually brought light to any darkness that he might have felt.

The Atheist often uses evil and suffering as evidence against God…why, if God exists, is there so much evil and suffering.

Though, as we recently talked about…there are good and satisfying answers to their questions.

The Atheist; has a bigger problem on her hands.

Why, if God doesn’t exist…is there beauty, love, purpose, goodness, hope in the world?

Then can tell they have experienced these things…but they cannot tell you “why” any of it matters…or even that these things are “real” in a meaningful way.

Love is merely complex chemical reaction…they say…but they cannot live that way.

-Not when they consider their child, or even their dogs.

Beauty is contrived, not absolute…they say, but they cannot live that way.

-They know beauty is different, absolutely, and existentially different than decay.

Meaning is made up…nothing ultimately matters…they say…but they do not or they cannot live that way…not for long.

Most cheat…they say “There is no God and no meaning”…but they live as if meaning is real, and therefore God is real.

I’m not saying they live in “God honoring ways”…I am saying they live like something matters in ultimate ways…and this is only true if God is alive and involved.

The 19th century philosopher, Nietzsche.

Said, essentially, what I have often said…

“Everything matters, or nothing does.”

The difference is in our conclusions.

His conclusion was that nothing matters…so make up your own meaning…though ultimately there is none.

My conclusion is…everything matters if you live for the glory of God (everything includes powerful ministry, times of joy and thriving, and suffering and death)…so be faithful to him in all of it.

But even Nietzsche, in all his confused living and convoluted writings could not live consistently with his own world view.

Peter has lived for decades not in the dark shadow of a painful and helpless death…but in the ever-increasing light of gospel truth.

He has suffered, he will suffer more still…but don’t be surprised by it, he writes.

Jesus suffered, Jesus rose, Jesus will return in glory.

We will suffer, we will rise, we will share in his glory.

“Pay attention” Peter writes, “To the light, not to the dark place.”

When Peter says we should pay attention…we should pay attention.

Imagine three people listening to orchestra music.

Before I met Christy, I could not imagine anyone listening to orchestra music, now I can.

Anyway…three listeners:

One listening to a recording.

One in the concert hall, listening live

Another, in the Orchestra…listening and playing.


Each would have different perspectives on the music.

Peter, probably more so than any other human had a comprehensive view of Christ.

He knew the OT, grew up versed in it…and recognized when Jesus fulfilled it.

He had heard it, read it, memorized it.

He spent three years with Jesus, day after day, night after night…a front row view of the gospel.

He had gone out with the gospel of Jesus and had himself…”played the music” and seen the power.

Peter’s view was a really good one.

I can’t imagine a more fascinating man, apart from Jesus, in history

A blue-collar fisherman.

A close buddy of Jesus.

A brash failure, who loved to put his foot in his mouth.

A man of power and courage, changed by his experience with Jesus.

A man who lived with his death sentence written by Jesus himself…hanging over him but it did not turn him to despair but to action

A man who lived with passionate purpose…he had learned to love the ones he over and over called his “dear friends.”

He didn’t make this stuff up…believe him and believe Scripture…or not

But if you don’t believe him, and it…who and what will you believe and why will you believe it?

Will you believe current science?

By all means do, to an extent…but science contrary to Elon Musk’s hopes, cannot tell us “why”…we cannot discover the questions that matter the most.

Will you believe contemporary wisdom…which if merely contemporary is never wise.

Will you believe your feelings, your doubts, your bio-rhythms

You will put your faith somewhere…where is a good place to put it?

Listen again to Peter.

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.

Peter writes that Scripture doesn’t come from some human’s imagination…Scripture has divine, not human authentication.

The Scriptures originate from God and so we can trust what they say about grace, salvation, heaven, life purpose…all of it.

The same God Peter heard speak on the mountain…spoke through the OT prophets.

In the OT, false prophets were said to  ‘speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord’ (Jer. 23:16).

But God’s word is from God himself, through men who were “Carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

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.

In this concise verse on the inspiration of Scripture…Peter simply states that these human authors somehow cooperated with God to give us the truth of Scripture.

God used their personality, experiences, life situations, limitations, education or lack of it…as human agents in the production of Scripture.

If you begin with men…you might find this difficult to believe.

If you begin with God…creator of the cosmos…with its mind-blowing macro-vastness…and the quantum world, in its mind-blowing micro-vastness.

If you begin with him…it is not, at all difficult, to believe that he could and did use human authors to give us his true word.

Peter uses a maritime metaphor, fitting for a guy who spent a lot of time on boats.

The word translated “carried along” was used to describe a ship carried along by the wind

The prophets were obedient and receptive…they raised their sails to God.

The Spirit, filled them and carried them in the direction he wanted them to go as they wrote scripture.

We don’t know exactly, specifically, how this happened…we do know that it happened.

That God used cooperative humans to give us his true Word…we can know and we don’t have to guess…

Who God is

Who we are

What is our core problem

What is our real solution

What is our purpose

What happens when we die

Is love, beauty, and meaning real…yes!

Does suffering matter or is it vain, empty, without purpose…everything matters…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.


Dr. Mandy Cohen, the new director of the CDC gave a commencement address in May.

I read her speech; she used the word “Trust” 50 times.

She spoke mostly about her time leading the Covid response in North Carolina.

She said, “The central learning for me (from Covid) and the key theme for today is the importance of trust.  Trust is the foundation of all relationships.”

It wasn’t to me, an inspiring speech…my reason for bringing it up is her focus…on trust.

She hopes to build or rebuild trust in the CDC, most people don’t trust it, post-covid.

Let’s finish by thinking about trust.

  1. She is correct on one thing; trust is essential for healthy lives and relationships.
  1. Everyone trusts someone, even if it is self above all others.
  1. It matters whether who you have trusted is ultimately trustworthy.

I won’t pile on the experts who made various calls during Covid days…you trust them or you don’t.

The same is true for political pundits telling us about the economy or the next war…you trust them or you don’t.

It is more personal and immediately practical where you live…your family, your friends…you trust them or you don’t.

The problem with trusting people, and we all know this, is they are limited:

-Limited wisdom

-Limited power

-Limited goodness

My dad was a trustworthy man.

He was, in many ways, unusual but he was a man of limits…like all men and women are.

  1. He made some decisions that were really smart…he made some that were unwise and cost him.
  1. He was a good man…but he made some choices that were not good, they were selfish.
  1. He was a strong man…he was heroic to me and to many others…but he I was there when he took his last feeble breath.

I trusted him…but he was a man.

More than 30 years ago, when he was facing potential prison time because of a false accusation that could very possibly have ended up in a conviction.

We stood at the curb by his mailbox and he wept…the strong man, the trusted man in my life said, “I need you to be strong for me, I have nothing, I’m empty.”

I hugged him and said, “I got you.”

I got in the car and wept, thinking, “But who has me?

God comforted me, challenged me…”I do” he said to my heart.

We must learn to trust others…but we must realize people, even the best ones, are only relatively trustworthy…for those three reasons…they are not truly wise, strong, or good.

God, however has unlimited or absolute wisdom, power, and goodness.

He alone can be trusted absolutely.

So, if you say… “I trust no one…then you trust yourself.”

Peter, a pretty trustworthy person if ever there was one…tells us…trust me, when I tell you to trust God…I am an eyewitness to the Majesty of Christ.

Trust God by trusting that God has spoken in his word.

Everyone lives by faith, everyone trusts someone…put your faith in God, put your trust in him.

Part of trusting God will involve trusting those God has placed in our lives…those who have proven trustworthy over time…those who have lived lives that demonstrate deep trust in God.

Trust in people and trust in God are not mutually exclusive things.

But in the end, God alone is wise, powerful and good…he alone can be completely and eternally trusted.

Have you, are you trusting him and his word?