Linda, came to faith after her husband, Moses, died.
Jesus has transformed her life.
-He has not, however, given her all her earthly dreams…she is not wealthy, or healthy (like most would measure health)…she lives in a wheelchair, she lives with constant physical pain.
-She is often sad because her life is difficult…but she is hopeful and her faith is stable.
-Last Sunday when we talked about how she would someday be with Jesus…she spontaneously raised her hand in praise.
-She told Jim Lewis that she couldn’t wait for her new body so she could fall at the feet of Jesus.
-When Linda says things like that…it is believable, and challenging.
Research reveals that more and more American churchgoers believe in some form of prosperity gospel.
This is a kind of transactional relationship with God…if you give away more money, he will give you more money…or if you have enough faith, you will get what you want from God…gold medals, make winning kicks in football games.
You will also get more health, and not have to suffer physically.
Besides being a potentially heretical view (if it is about earning God’s favor, versus effort to live in his favor), it is also perfectly designed to make people less Christlike, and less resilient.
It’s the opposite of what Peter said, “They are completely surprised at the painful trials they suffer, because it not what they expected.”
So, what, exactly has God promised, what can we expect from him and what does he expect from us?
Let’s go back to 2 Peter 3:11-13 then move into the final passage of this letter.
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.
Richard Dawkins, is one of a group of men who have been called the “New Atheists”.
Dawkins confesses that he does not know what caused the origin of the universe but he “Believes” (his words, a statement of faith) that will one day there will be a naturalistic explanation of it.
Naturalistic, not supernaturalistic.
He said, in a debate with John Lennox that he does not need to resort to “magic” to explain the universe.
Magic, is his sarcastic appraisal of belief in God as cosmos creator.
After the debate he responded to a reporter’s question by saying that he believed that the universe could have just appeared from nothing.
“Magic” the reporter replied.
He disregards creation as magic, but believes that the universe could have magically popped into existence.
Everything from nothing.
Another of this group, Chris Hitchens, died of cancer in 2011.
He is most famous for his philosophical principle, called Hitchens razor,
“what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence”
He puts Christian faith in this category…he believes that there is no evidence for it, so it can be dismissed without evidence.
So, if we apply one atheist’s principle to another’s statement of faith…they cancel each other out.
Dawkins makes a statement without evidence, that the universe could have just popped into existence…so Hitchen’s principle says that his view can be dismissed without evidence.
Christians don’t assert that their faith is without evidence.
Peter, certainly doesn’t.
Peter, was an eyewitness to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus…this is conclusive evidence.
He had experienced personal transformation through his relationship with Christ…also important evidence.
He had been a part of manifold miracles, the birth and spread of the church, faith in the face of suffering…further compelling evidence.
Peter, tells us, quite reasonably, in line with these and other facts.
What God has begun (the cosmos), he will bring to a conclusion, he is now directing for his own purposes…the evidence for all this is conclusive.
We should, therefore be people who think and live in line with this kind of divine purpose in our lives…current history has a beginning, a middle, and an end…and it purposeful, not random and meaningless.
In fact, in God’s sovereign plan, he has included human choices in how the timing of the end unfolds.
Peter says that we are waiting for and hastening the coming of Christ.
We don’t get a lot of details on how this works, how we can “hasten” his coming…other than it is tied, somehow to world evangelism.
Jesus addresses this in Mark 13.
Our final destiny as a redeemed people of God is that we will live in a new heaven and earth…with resurrected bodies, living in a physical cosmos.
No one is going to be able to map out in detail what will happen at the end of time.
Just consider the fact that in spite of all the Old Testament prophecies, nobody got the details of the first coming of Christ right
We do know that those who looked forward to the Messiah’s first coming…found their lives shaped by hope and faithful actions.
The same is true for those who look to his return.
Okay, now let’s finish Peter’s second letter.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Three times, in three verses (12,13,14) Peter uses the word “waiting” or more literally, “Watching for.”
He learned this from Jesus, who repeatedly told his friends to “watch”, to live in ongoing state of readiness.
On September 11, 2001 military bases went to Force Protection Delta, the highest level of alert possible.
Normal is the lowest, then Alpha, Beta, Charlie, Delta
Over time, the threat level was lowered but it remained elevated above normal for many years.
What this meant was that when airmen pulled up to a gate and saw “Bravo” which is level 3, elevated alert….day after day…the eventually lost their sense of alertness.
“Bravo” became “Normal”
The intended warning stops meaning anything…it loses its affect…because human nature is adaptive…this can be good or bad.
It’s bad, if we let down our guard when we should remain vigilant.
Peter knows that just a couple decades after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension…the church wasn’t living with a heightened sense of his immanent return anymore.
Peter is not raising the fear threat level, but the faithfulness alert level.
“Waiting” or “watching” is living in an active state of readiness.
So, for the second time he uses the phrase, “Be diligent” or “make every effort.”
Do the work to live in a state of readiness.
So, you can be found by him without spot or blemish.
Recognize this phrase, “spot or blemish”?
This is the third time he has used it.
(First letter) 1 Peter 1:19, He wrote that Jesus was without blemish or spot.
(Chapter 2) 2 Peter 2:13, He wrote that the false teachers were “blots and blemishes”
Now, we hope to be found by the spotless Jesus, without spots ourselves.
Jesus was morally perfect…he was “spotless”, sinless
The false teachers denied Christ…they were moral blemishes as they tried to blend into the church.
So, again, a right perspective on the end has moral implications for our lives.
Peter casts vision for his readers to put their hope in Jesus in a way that has actual, practical implications.
“Be found by him, when he returns, becoming more like him in his moral perfection.
We, of course, will not become morally perfect…we are, however, to train to become like him.
Though we will not experience moral perfection, there should be consistent moral direction.
Notice that we are to be found “At peace”…again, proper attention to the reality of the end ought to increase, not decrease personal peace.
If your planning, thinking, reading about the end…decreases your peace…you need a different strategy.
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.
Notice a couple of things Peter says about Paul’s letters:
- God gave him wisdom to write them…they are not merely of human origin…they are Scripture.
-Really important point for a theology of the NT.
- Even Peter finds them hard to understand (not impossible)…this is encouraging.
-We shouldn’t be surprised that it takes work to understand and apply the Bible.
- Ignorant (literally “uninstructed”) and unstable people distort or twist them to their own destruction.
-He is probably alluding to Paul’s teaching on justification by faith which was twisted to mean that once justified by Christ, a person could do whatever they wanted.
-The more you sinned, the better…more sin equals more grace.
-Paul did teach that the Christian is free by grace from earning God’s favor, but this grace frees us from sin’s bondage
-Grace is not freedom to sin, but freedom from it.
*He describes those who are ignorant (uninformed) and therefore “unstable”…because they twisted the scriptures and this will lead to their destruction.
I had a professor at WSU who did not understand the Scripture, yet presented himself as an expert.
He twisted key passages in order to make light of the bible.
I was 19, and I knew he was wrong…but I was young in the faith myself…I didn’t know how to respond…other than, disregard him.
Now, looking back I know his shallow and uninformed approach to the Bible was quite silly…his attacks on Scripture, easily responded to.
There is no shortage of examples of unstable people distorting Scripture…online, or in the halls of your school, or at your place of work.
They can get laughs, or online likes…but this is very serious stuff…they are further destabilizing their lives, the end will be destruction if they do not turn from their own folly.
Later on, during my college years I had a friend mocking biblical morality…with words and actions… and by then I did know better how to answer this kind of folly…I challenged him and I warned him.
I shared the gospel with him…and he eventually came to faith.
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.
Once more, Peter calls them “beloved” or “dear friends”…we have been hearing, in all of Peter’s letters, the heart of a pastor.
He has spoken with clarity and bluntness because he loves them…he wants what is best for them.
He knows from experience that no one has permanent immunity from error…to think otherwise is proud and unsafe.
Peter was arrogant at one point in his life, and he failed, he denied the Lord.
Another time, He, along with Barnabas, got caught up in theological and practical error and had to be rebuked by Paul. (Galatians 2)
If this happened to Peter, it could happen to anyone.
Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
We don’t live in immobilizing fear…we are to live in a state of alertness…this is hard to do well.
*I read an article about how the Ukrainian people are trying to adapt to life in a state of war.
*There were pictures of weddings and people going to work, eating out, HS graduations…and bombed out buildings, and other signs of war.
-They have to balance the tension of war and everyday life.
-They have all lost someone they know…they live in a state of readiness…curfew, blackouts, bomb shelters….but they have to live…because life is more than just war.
*We have something similiar in our own remote warfighting capabilities:
-A pilot can remotely fly a plane from Las Vegas into combat in the middle east, kill an enemy combatant in near real time, then go home to his kid’s soccer game and family meal.
-This can be hard for the human mind to make sense out of.
-How do you live in normal life while participating in a war?
We learn to compartmentalize…this again, is healthy adaptive behavior.
The problem comes when we either lose a sense of everyday life, or lose a sense of the war.
There must be balance in this.
Some, in their attempts to stay engaged in the spiritual war…become nothing but loud and angry belligerents…or fearful and disengaged from the mission of God in the world.
They forget that the war is not the focus, Christ, the gospel is.
Some, forget that there is a spiritual war at all, and they become more susceptible to error…they fall prey to the enemy’s information warfare.
In all wars truth is a vital resource…and deception is an important strategy to defeat your enemies.
We talk a lot about “information warfare” now.
This is the fight in the cybersphere.
Looking for dominance in the information domain.
Information is defined as facts learned or provided about something or someone.
The spiritual battle has always been primarily about information warfare.
In Genesis, we see that Satan through the serpent twisted God’s words and weaponized lies against the first couple.
Jesus replied to Satan’s information warfare attack in the desert with the truth, from God’s word.
Peter is doing information warfare in his letter…fighting for truth against weaponized lies.
Truth believed leads to truth lived.
Lies believed leads to lies lived…the consequences are devastating.
Peter has addressed this over and over.
The result of believing what is not true is instability and eventually destruction.
So, he ends this letter with the counter-attack.
A friend was the commander of what is called the Network Operations Security Center…they defend the Air National Guard network against attack.
He described their job as a mile long chain link fence, with a plastic cup in each opening.
For him to be successful, he said, we have to keep every cup in every hole every minute of every day.
For the enemy to succeed, they need only poke out one cup from one hole.
That sounds overwhelming, impossible.
But that is the nature of only playing defense.
Imagine a sport where one team could only play defense and scoring was only possible for the offense.
And then the game is played until someone scored…guess what, the team playing defense will lose 100% of the time.
So, Peter doesn’t just give us a defensive strategy…though he has given us that.
But he also gives us an offensive one.
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.
Peter ends like he began his letter…with a growth focus.
We are not passive observers, hoping things turn out well…biting our nails, wondering what will happen in the world, or to us.
We take action to grow.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this letter then return to this final verse.
1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith…
We have been given everything we need for life and godliness.
*We have been fully resourced; we lack nothing that we need to wage and win this war.
For that reason….make every effort to add to your faith
The background for the Greek word used for “Add” came from the world of the arts.
Greek drama festivals were expensive affairs…like modern movies with multiple producers sharing the expenses…because movies have become so expensive.
-The Butler, a 2013 movie, had 41 producers.
The writers, the state, and certain wealthy individuals would share in the expenses of these drama festivals.
The name for these wealthy benefactors is where the Greek word for “add” comes from.
It came to mean, “generous and costly cooperation.”
It is largely lost in translation, but Peter’s readers would have understood…this “add” to your faith, is about costly cooperation with God in our own spiritual formation.
You don’t trust by God by setting the cruise control of your life.
So…you have been GIVEN in the gospel all you need…now you need to give costly cooperation, fully effort to add to your faith
*Not for salvation, but to train to become more like Christ.
So…let’s take a run at this costly additions.
-Add Virtue: this means excellence, or life in line with purpose.
-The excellence of a knife is to cut, of a horse is to run, of a man or woman…to become like Christ.
He was the human of absolute excellence.
-Add knowledge: Pursuing Christ requires knowing truth about him.
Knowing true truth…takes effort…it doesn’t just happen to us.
Not being controlled by passions like the ones Peter said were destroying their lives.
This is not miserable, unhappy, purposeless submission of the body…it is not running from pleasure and embracing pain.
-It’s not just about food, or sex…it is in all the passions that we experience…for control, power, revenge…we surrender them to Christ.
-We are boss of our passions and Christ is to be boss of us.
-There is no growth, no progress without self-control…Christ leads us, we lead ourselves.
-Self-control is both a human choice (as in this verse) and a fruit of the Spirit.
-Again, you see that great and powerful cooperation…us and God.
-Add endurance: long term faithfulness through adversity of all kinds.
Not short bursts of emotion and energy, but long endurance…there are not shortcuts.
*When we lived in Ft Worth, I knew a guy who could lift incredible amounts of weight, his muscles were massive.
*One day I walked in the gym that he owned and he was in a wheelchair, both legs in casts.
*He had shattered both knees attempting to do a heavy squat.
*He had showy muscles, but because of steroid use, his bone and ligaments were not able to withstand the weight.
He had strength…but there was no foundation…he tried to skip some steps and it cost him.
There is no getting around the need for endurance in order to reach maturity.
Every time I have seen or read of someone trying to speed up or skip the process of endurance…they try to travel the path of least resistance…it has ended poorly for them.
-Add godliness: reverence for God.
As we grow close to him and know him as friend, we are not to treat him with too much familiarity.
There is a tension here that must be kept.
He is friend, Savior….and He is and always will be God, judge, ruler of heaven and earth.
-Add brotherly kindness: There is no growing love for God without growing love for people.
*This is the best measurement for spiritual growth…how are you treating the people right around you?
-Add love, agape: Agape is a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one who is loved.
-For God so loved the world that he gave…
*All this is offensive not mere defensive:
-Not as in being offensive to others…but as in being proactive…taking decisive, consistent actions.
The merely defensive Christian is often negative in his life posture…he is known for what he is against.
He lives his life trying not to be beaten, rather than pursuing becoming like Christ.
The Christian living in an offensive posture…proactive in pursuing Christlikeness is known for what she is for.
How would you describe yourself?
How would your friends, families, co-workers, online community describe you?
*Could they readily recall what you are for…or more quickly be able to say what you against?
How are you known by them?
Okay, now let’s go back to verse 18, with the understanding that there is a lot packed in his “grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.”
These are not practically contentless words…this is actionable…there are things that we can do.
We are not helpless against the riptides of current culture or even the pull of our own passions
-We have agency…God in his grace has granted it to us.
-We decide if we will remain faithful.
-We decide if we become more like Christ over time…God is all for it, it only remains for us to be for it as well.
What can we expect from God, and what does he expect from us?
Can we expect a life of wealth and health?
-If it is God’s specific will for you, then yes.
-If not, then no.
And eventually for all…you will die and you won’t take your stuff with you…so no in the end at least.
Will things go our way if we go his way?
-It depends on what your way is.
-Scripture does say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Yes, but in that passage, he will give you what you want, when what you want is him.
Can we guarantee the good choices of our children and our children’s children by our good choices?
Your choices, can make it easier or harder for your children to choose God…but your choices, won’t remove theirs.
What can I expect from God and what does he expect from me?
It’s a big question, and the answer has been unpacked in fuller fashion as we have walked through the NT letters for more than two years.
In a nutshell…we can expect God to be faithful to his promises.
God expects us to be faithful to him.
God’s divine power has given us all we need for life and godliness, therefore, Peter writes…”make every effort” to add to your faith
It will not be perfect faithfulness but it is to be a settled one…we are to live decided not forever deciding if he is Lord.
To live faithfully in line with God’s faithfulness requires ongoing balance.
Do the work to maintain the balance: There are so many examples
Take personal responsibility for your faith/Don’t neglect community, there is no growth without it…you can’t do well all by yourself.
Walking with Christ will maximize a thriving life/Don’t be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering
Live faithfully in the place and time where God has you/Don’t live merely for the here and now
We could go on and on but you get the picture.
Piano strings require tension to make music
Muscles require tension to maintain strength
Christian growth requires holding biblical truth in proper tensions.
You can expect Faithfulness from God…he will keep every promise he has made.
-He must NOT be expected to keep promises that he has not made.
God expects faithfulness from you…he will give you the grace to be found faithful, he expects you to apply the grit to be found faithful.
One more tension as we close
For Peter there is knowledge about Christ and there is knowledge of Christ…we need both.
Head and heart
Knowledge about him are the facts of faith, the truth of who he is.
Knowledge of Christ is our relationship of faith, our experience as we trust him in real life.
We need both…knowledge about and knowledge of Christ.
Peter ended his letter with this:
“To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”
Let’s imagine, Peter putting down his pen…sitting back and looking at what he has just written.
Imagine…this now old man, thinking back to his first meeting with Jesus, when he was a young, brash, muscular, suntanned fisherman.
Thinking to the three years with Jesus, the things he saw and heard.
Remembering his failures and restoration…seeing the power of the emerging church standing against the mighty Roman empire.
He had to think…if only I knew then what I know now.
I had all those hours and days with the glorious Lord of heaven and earth.
But I will see him again…either in his return or at my death.
The days were for Peter, like they are for all of us at times…often long.
But the years were, were for him, like they are for us…strangely short.
It’s a quirk of how humans perceive time…long days, short years, short lives.
My Dad would often say, “I look in the mirror and ask, ‘Who is that guy and how did I get here so fast?’
Linda will “soon”…be free from her suffering and her current physical limitations.
Today it doesn’t feel soon, but it will be.
She will, in fact, have the opportunity to bow at the feet of Jesus.
Imagine if our faith were shaping our desires such that this was OUR grandest dream, like it is for her?
Wouldn’t that be something?
How would that dream shape our expectations of God?
How would it shape our choices to live in line with what God expects of us?