Well, through a blunder of mine in planning, I had the same texts on our devotional plan this week as last week, which works out okay because I didn't blog last week. God is Sovereign even over our stupidity. Hope that hasn't thrown anyone off. Here we go...
1 Peter 5:6-14
This passage shows Peter's keen awareness of the multiple dimensions but single reality we find ourselves in. He gives this call to a conscious and intentional pursuit of humility that's reinforced by warnings of our eratic emotions, confused thoughts and mindsets, and the unseen attacks of an enemy whose bent on our destruction. With our own weaknesses and personal vulnerabilities, there is no room for arrogance.
In v. 9, Peter tells us to, "Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world..." he doubles down in v. 10, saying "And after you have suffered a little while..."
The realities of our own sin and weakness, as well as the enemy of our souls and the worldly systems that are anchored in the flesh and feed the flesh leads to an unavoidable reality that Peter is explicitly clear about... we are going to suffer. Life with Jesus and lived for Jesus will entail suffering. It will hurt. It will be painful. We follow a Savior who was crucified and killed. How could following Him be otherwise? How could our pursuit of Christ, the man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief, be expected to be so sorrowless or painless?
Peter is unequivocating here... suffering is part of the deal. It's absolutely worth pointing out that suffering is part of the deal for the non-Christian too, by the way. It's not like you choose between suffering for Jesus and living the dream without Jesus. We get suffering with Jesus or suffering without Jesus. Those are the options. The idea that Jesus is a ticket to life above the fray or a life immune to fallen and war-time realities is fanciful and fictional. Life is hard. There is no fixing that. But life isn't pointless, and neither does our pain have to be pointless. We can make it count.
And Peter says that when we live for Jesus and walk with Jesus and surrender to Jesus and suffer like Jesus, for doing good, for walking in humility, and standing firm against the enemy... well, then there is a really bright future for us and a solid place for our souls to land. I love the promise and hope of v. 10... that if we'll suffer for the short while our earthly lives are unfolding, then "the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
If you will enter into these realities with ultimate reality in full view, then that ultimate reality will be confirmed and made obvious soon enough, and you will enter into the peace and rest and comfort of the Father that is far more real and all-encompassing then the pain we endure now. As much as our sufferings consume us here and now, there is coming a time when we will be utterly caught up in and swallowed up by the life and love we were created.
2 Peter 1:1-11
Peter lays out some lofty ideas in his opening here, which are summed up in this assertion, that "we are partakers of the divine nature." That is not to say that we are God, but that God has embedded something of his godness in us. Like a biological son of his earthly father, we are not our Father, but because of our union with Jesus, the Son of God, we bear the marks of His glory, and resemble something of His likeness. As those who are sealed with the Spirit of God, we have taken on some of the characteristics, mannerisms and traits of God... certainly not perfectly or completely, but identifiably and visibly. That's almost scary to think about.
We have not had our human nature and sinful flesh fully eradicated at this point, but now alongside that old nature, we have a new nature that is empowering us to live a new life... we are not bound to sin, or controlled by sin, or ruled by sin any longer. We have a new nature that is godly in all it's impulses and reflexes. That new nature is now warring within us against the old nature to lead us into the life God wants for us and which we crave ourselves. A real Christian won't be sinless because of our retained weakness, but we should feel the tension always of desires for holiness and fruitfulness which are asserting themselves against the old man that desires to indulge the flesh and live for self.
A Christian doesn't stop sinning completely, but a Christian can no longer sin peacefully. Instead, God's Spirit in us, gives a new instinct and appetite. And as we lean into that and follow that, it will something like v. 5-7 which is essentially a description of taking on the character of Christ. It doesn't just happen to us. God's Spirit is giving us a new impulse yes, but we must "make every effort" to comply with that impulse and live into that impulse. The Christian life requires effort... and no small amount of effort... but every effort.
Peter is saying that we will give ourselves to something in life and expend effort in some direction or some activity developing habits and character... you may as well apply all that effort toward that which is truly satisfying and beatuiful. So effort is an essential thing.
But it's not the only thing. What will largely determine the direction of our efforts, Peter indicates, is where are thoughts take us. He says that when these qualities are yours and growing, it is at some level because of your conscious awareness of what is true and real in Christ. And if you are not, it's because you have forgotten the truth and reality of the gospel. What we believe will drive where we place our efforts. And how deeply we believe those things will determine the strength of those efforts.
I wonder if people can look at my life or your life, and clearly determine what we believe and know to be true, by the efforts they see and the character displayed. I wonder what you claim to believe about Jesus is obvious by watching you and observing how you use your time, energy and resources as well as how you approach your relationships and work and interactions. That's something to think about...
And where you're falling short, even woefully short, don't be condemned by that old man inside you... be reminded of what you are prone to forget... that you have been cleansed from your sin and you are now a partaker of the divine nature... that is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.
2 Peter 1:12-21
Peter gives us some insight into two essentials for Christianity:
Peter already made clear that our lack of progress in following and becoming more like Jesus is the direct result of our forgetfulness about what’s in Jesus. We simply get distracted by and fixated on the visible circumstances surrounding us, the powerful emotions and natural thoughts within us, the reflexive behaviors which dominate our lives, and the relational dynamics which seem to swallow us up. These things, and others, shape our experience of reality more than the Truth of Jesus, and his grace to guilty sinners and the newness of life available to us through our union with him. We forget all that.
So Peter says he intends always to stir his readers up by way of reminder… he isn’t trying to come up with new ideas, or to create new truths, or to invent a new system, or come up with a new way to motivate them, or to generate new information. He is totally convinced of the power of the gospel and the centrality of the gospel for all of life and he isn’t intending to divert from it.
This is what gospel ministry is… it’s reminding people of what is Real and True in the ultimate sense; refreshing them with the encouragement of God’s nearness to them and approval of them; re-embedding them and their lives in the story of redemptive and purposes of God; reassuring them of the love and grace of Jesus, the significance of their lives and the hope of their future.
This is how we move forward in our discipleship… we stay anchored to the unchanging gospel, continue grounding one another in the gospel and surround ourselves with other people who rooting themselves and us in the gospel. Christianity is always tethered to and advanced by the Spirit’s work of making the gospel real and personal.
Peter then goes on to explain why it is that this gospel is so reliable, powerful and transformational. It’s because it is not a human invention, but it is divine revelation. This is a First Concern of Christianity. If Scripture is only human ideas, than we remain the authority of our own lives and what’s true, and because we can just pick and choose the parts we find helpful or worthy of our acceptance. Scripture’s claim about itself is that it is God’s revelation of Himself, and his purposes and of us and ultimate reality. Either that’s true, or the Bible is like any other book that’s ever been written or compiled.
And Peter isn’t suggesting that God literally wrote things down through robotic human agency. Rather, the Bible is written by human authorship and human personalities with human language and style, but God is the source for the material written. These are not their ideas or their thoughts or their truths… it’s God’s revelation. Voddie Baucham offers a helpful and succinct summary of this passage when he explains why he believes the Bible. He says that it is "a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.”
If this isn’t true than the Bible is as most, worthy of our consideration, just like any other book. But if this is true, than we have to pay closer attention, and engage more seriously and personally they we have. If this is human wisdom than take it or leave it. If this is God’s wisdom than why are se cavalier with it?
Brothers and sisters, the wisdom of our age attacks the credibility of Scripture, undermines the authority of Scripture and even resents blames many evils on Scripture. We have to decide what we believe about Scripture. If you aren’t convinced of it’s reliability, authority, necessity and sufficiency, then the world and your own pride will convince you of it’s illegitimacy. If you are convinced of those things, then be prepared for criticism, rejection, dismissal, mocking, accusation and increasing persecution in our cultural climate because you will be considered a fool and a freak and on the “wrong side of history.”
But if Peter is right, then you will experience the peace of God and settledness of heart in the midst of such opposition; you will be on the right side, not just of history, but of eternity; and you will continue to find the revelation of God i his word to be a sufficient help and guide through the insanity and chaos of this world.
A Prayer for Understanding:
Father, I confess I waver in my own heart and mind regarding your Word. I want to believe it and engage it and understand it, but I often detach from it and ignore it. Give me a persuaded heart and mind regarding the authority, reliability, necessity and sufficiency of your Word, and give me an voracious appetite to read and study it, that I might receive understanding and insight. I don’t want to read or engage at an intellectual level only. I want to be changed by it. As the Psalmist wrote, “give me life, according to your Word.” Let me love Scripture, lean in to Scripture and live out of what is revealed there. Human wisdom has had it’s day… our ideas have had their opportunity. I submit myself under your Word and to your Truth… Holy Spirit, enhance my understanding, illuminate my reading, so that I might know Jesus more deeply and personally and transformationally. Amen.
2 Peter 2
2 Peter 3