THE BOTTOM LINE OF A NON-PROPHET MINISTRY
2 Peter 2:4-22
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 24, 2013
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness. These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them:“The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
-- 2 Peter 2:4-22, ESV
Who speaks for God? And, if someone is speaking, who’s listening to God these days?
Count out the Atheists and Agnostics. It is difficult to speak for or listen to someone in Whom you do not believe or doubt exists. But what will become of them at judgment day? Their judgment will be just and unbelief nor ignorance will be an excuse.
Many religions and religious people claim to speak for and listen to God. However, if we base their claims on the claim made by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 14:6 and other exclusivist words in the inspired pages of the New Testament, their claims cannot be true. For one cannot speak for nor truly listen to the Lord who rejects our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Their judgment, too, will be just and their own denials of the Lord will testify against them in the last day.
So, it must be the Christians, especially Christian preachers and teachers, who speak for God, and all Christians recognize their voice and gladly listen to them. Well, as someone told me in my early days as a follower of Christ, “Everything in the name of Jesus, isn’t.”
Simon Peter has already warned us in his second epistle that false prophets and preachers and teachers will come in the name of Jesus Christ (ref. 2 Peter 2:1-3). Their end and the final fate of those who follow them will be “condemnation” and “destruction.” In the remainder of this chapter, he tell us that their judgment will be meted out by the Lord much more severely than upon any atheist, agnostic, or adherent of any false religion. For the “prophets for profit” and their followers, the bottom line of such a non-prophet ministry will be beyond any horror one can imagine or think.
A Bottom Line Like Demons, Antediluvians, and Sodomites
Simon Peter reminds us of God’s judgment against demons (fallen angels), antediluvians (those besides Noah’s family who lived and died in the great deluge, or flood), and sodomites (the homosexuals run amuck in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah). What do these groups of angelic and human beings have in common? They failed to listen to God, or the true prophets of God. The fallen angels preferred Lucifer’s promises to God’s. The antediluvians liked their own lifestyles compared to the religiosity and seeming dementia of Noah the boat builder. And today’s gay rights movements has no moves on the ancient liberties enjoyed by the free citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, who shunned Lot’s advice for their own liberation, a freedom that captured them and led them straight to the fire.
Satan was his own false prophet. No doubt there were sunny prophets of health and wealth in Noah’s day who said it’d never rain. And certainly the homosexual lobby against the God of Lot and Abraham had ordained leaders of their own who demanded their rights and called every opponent a hater and a homophobe.
Listen to their voices. "Be your own god," they say. "Eat, drink, and be merry, fortomorrow we die," they say. “We should be free to love any one any way we want,” they say. Yet God speaks in a different voice, with different words. The verses in this paragraph read their bottom line: “cast them into hell,” “judgment,” “ungodly,” “turning … to ashes,” “extinction,” and “wicked.”
Surely no confessing Christian would suffer this fate. Surely no confessing Christians would listen to devils, licentious party animals, nor the homosexual lobby. Perhaps not directly. But they listen to people who basically preach the same values, and coat their messages with religious words, even throwing in the name of Jesus every now and then.
A Bottom Line Based on Passion, Blasphemy, and Rebellion
Actually, the aforementioned groups of demons, flood victims, and homosexuals never claimed to speak for God nor really listen to God. Their judgment is horrible, to be sure, but not as bad as the ones spoken of in the remainder of this chapter. These are the false prophets and their followers, those who embrace false messages and values in the name of God. Their judgment, which begins with the words “especially those …,” seems especially ominous. And at the end of the day, the Bible says “it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness,” which is probably worse than saying it would have been better for them if they had never been born. What makes their bottom line so bad?
In the name of Jesus they “indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” In other words, though they claim to speak for or follow Jesus Christ, their financial and sexual morals are no better than those who make no claim whatsoever of living life under the authority of God’s holy word. Look at the obvious greed and many sexcapades of the televangelists. Look at the percentage of professing Christians who engage without shame or second thought in financial misdealings, fornication, and adultery. Listen to the sermons and look at the followers of the philosophy that “God just wants me to be healthy, wealthy, and happy.” I think God cares a whole lot more about holiness than happiness. The passions of the false prophets for money and sex, and that of their followers, have scheduled them for an audit and put them in a bad bottom line position, like Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Furthermore, such false prophets and their followers engage in “blasphemy.” To blaspheme literally means to speak against. Remember Christ’s words in Matthew12:30, if you are not for Him, you are against Him. If you are not preaching and following the true gospel of true grace through true faith in Jesus Christ, which manifests itself in a true love for righteousness and true obedience, then you are following false gods home, and that home will not be Heaven. Blasphemy against the regenerative and living power of the Holy Spirit is indeed an unpardonable sin.
And finally, what is really killing them and calling them into severe judgment is, ironically, their “freedom.” Freedom to live where you want, work where you can, shop where you choose, vote for the candidate of your choice, etc., is good freedom. It is the fabric of democracy, and in part a product of the Great Reformation. But the freedom to preach and believe in no god, or another god, or in the name of God another gospel or heresy, is a dangerous, poisonous, deadly freedom, which is really not freedom at all. It is better known as rebellion.
Rebellion is what got to Satan. Rebellion describes the people of Noah’s day, Lot’s day, our day. Rebellion is one thing, with a certain judgement attached; but, rebellion in the name of Christ or Christianity, rebellions espoused by false prophets preaching an easy Jesus and a moral-less Christianity, that’s a rebellion that God will take most seriously. The irony is that while they live by the message of “profess it and possess it,” they do not possess the most important thing they profess, namely a saving relationship the the Lord Jesus Christ. In reality they are worse than, as the Scriptures graphically tell, a dog in its own vomit or a pig in its own bed of mud and mire. I’m not exactly sure what mire is, but I guarantee you it is not a Temperpedic. And anyway, it’s just an analogy for a far worse place, a place of condemnation and judgment, a place in the darkest, driest, deepest pits of Hell.
So why is Simon Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit, bringing us down by telling us all of this? Is it to gloat over the destruction of the unfaithful and disobedient? No, I don’t think so. It has nothing to do with spite nor hate. It has everything to do with love — real, holy, godly love.
When you love someone, you warn them, and this chapter is one great warning. It is a warning against prophets for profit. And it is a warning against sharing in their bottom line, the bottom line in the bottomless pit of a non-prophet ministry.
I love my four daughters and I taught them all to drive. The lessons included instructions in the right way and warnings against the wrong way. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, your foot on the pedals. The biggest dangers are the distractions, the messages via texts or loud music or friends talking that divert your attention and can lead to disaster. I also taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God. Keep your eyes on Jesus, your hands on the Bible, your feet and fanny in the church. The biggest dangers are the distractions, the temptations, the televangelists, the talk of easy believe-ism with an easy life instead of the true calling of the cost of the cross of Jesus Christ.
I hope they’ve listened. I hope you are listening now. For life is a highway that has turned in into a freeway and a free-for-all in these latter days. There are a lot of voices, a lot of signs, a lot of temptations out there. Choices must be made. You can listen to the prophets of the Bible or the non-prophets of popular Christian culture. Your decisions will add up and determine the bottom line of your life.
PROPHETS FOR PROFIT
2 Peter 2:1-3
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 17, 2013
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
-- 2 Peter 2:1-3, ESV
Robert Young was not a doctor, but he played one in “Marcus Welby, M.D.” George Clooney is not a doctor, but he was Dr. Doug Ross in the original cast of “ER.” Ellen Pompeo is not a doctor, but she was the title character in the hit show “Grey’s Anatomy.” Why would these people pretend to be doctors? Is it because they slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night? No, it was to make large sums of money! They were talented actors, plying their trade, pretending to know things they didn’t know and be someone they were not, and they were paid handsomely for it. I have no problem professional actors doing their job.
What I do have a problem with is another kind of television actor and the job they do on vulnerable people. You see him or her on the TV screen in big conference halls and behind pulpits. They pretend to be godly pastors, but they are not. They pretend to be gifted Bible teachers, but they are not. They pretend to be prophets of God, but they are not. They are prophets for profit, false preachers bringing false messages of false hope. And most of them make small, and sometimes large, fortunes doing it.
Simon Peter was a true prophet of God, an Apostle in the early church, a pastor/elder, and a writer of Holy Scripture. He knew two thousand years ago that false prophets had come and would always have to be dealt with until the return of Jesus Christ. He writes a whole chapter about them in 2 Peter 2. The first three verses deal with facing the fact that false prophets exist, or prophets for profit, and the remaining verses tell of what will happen to them and the followers of such a non-prophet ministries.
The Meaning of False Prophets
Diamond experts can spot a fake because they are well-trained to identify the real thing. So to begin to identify the existence of false prophets, perhaps we should take a look at the characteristics of a real one. A prophet is a person who has been especially anointed and appointed to speak for God. Sometimes called seers, they see things the way God sees them. It has very little to do with telling the future and everything to do with telling it like it is. A prophet’s only aim is to please God by preaching a message that is consistent with the word and will of God, period. There were canonical prophets whose words were enshrined in Holy Scripture, like Moses, Jeremiah, and Malachi. There were non-canonical prophets like Elijah and Elisha, who were not commissioned to write books of the Bible but their words were iron, nonetheless. The Apostles, like Simon Peter, were prophets, too. Anyone called and gifted to preach the gospel and the word of God are exercising the gift of prophecy, as long as the message is consistent with the whole plan of salvation and the moral demands of our almighty, sovereign, and triune God.
Therefore, “false prophets” are those who prophesy, or preach, or teach “false words.” The term for “false words” is where we get our English word “plastic,” meaning a fake substitute for the real thing. Sometimes they use psychology instead of theology, and sometimes they use theological or biblical words but change or distort their true meaning. They come in “secretly,” literally like parasites, preying on people who are genuinely interested in God but gullible enough to fall for their “destructive heresies” and the promises of “sensuality,” physical and material pleasures that appeal to the flesh but have nothing to do with the Spirit of God. They preach wrong things about the wrong god and lead people in a decidedly wrong way. And, they always have been and always will be amongst God’s visible people.
When the prophet Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, false prophets tried to get the people to turn back. When Jeremiah preached that Israel must repent or face the wrath of God poured out through the Babylonians, false prophets preached peace when there was no peace, and the Babylonians came and wiped Israel off the map for seventy years. When the Apostles preached Jesus as the incarnate God crucified and resurrected for the salvation of God’s people, false prophets preached, and still preached, that He was a mere mortal at best and a figment of deranged imaginations at worst. False prophets and teachers were prevalent throughout the Old Covenant period and are with us in the New Covenant period and won’t be completely wiped out until Christ returns to earth.
The Motive of False Prophets
The text mentions their “greed” as motivation, hence the title of the sermon, prophets for profit. But greed can express more than a wonton lust for money. It is a term that can applied to anyone who is willing to take ungodly ways and untruthful means to gain a fortune, or a following, or some fame. Unfortunately, one of the easiest ways to do it is the name of Christianity.
Medical doctors have to undergo years of accredited education and training. You can’t just say you are a doctor and be one. School teachers are required to have proper degrees and certification. You can’t just say you are a teacher and be one. We could say the same thing about so many professions and occupations, from architect to zoologist. But any idiot can be a preacher or a teacher in a church, if he or she knows how to weasel their way in front of a flock. Even among pastors and teachers with degrees, including doctorates, you would be shocked to learn how many of them are mail order degrees or outright fraudulent papers. It is a rare thing to catch a doctor or lawyer practicing without proper education and licensing, but if we monitored vocational preachers the way we do other professions, jails would overflow. This is not to say that one cannot be a gifted teacher without formal education, it just points out that of all the professions charlatans are attracted to, preaching seems to be one of the most popular.
As we watch the rise of so many false prophets today, you would not be surprised now to learn that most of them, especially the most infamous, the ones with the most air time on TBN and other religions networks, have no history of any serious theological training at all. And, if greed is your thing, one of the quickest ways to gain a little fame, a little fortune, and a little following is to claim to speak for God. Do it seductively enough, and the fame and fortune and following will not be small.
The Message of False Prophets
There are really two types of false prophetic preaching that causes to “the way of truth” to be “blasphemed.” One type features the “heresies” that deny Jesus as “Master.” The other plays upon people’s “sensuality,” or sinful desire for health and wealth.
To deny Jesus as “Master” is to deny Jesus as Lord. Master means Lord, ruler, owner, boss, sovereign. The true gospel requires repentance and ensuing obedience. We are not saved by works, but real salvation really works, and causes one to persevere for God until God calls them home. It requires sacrifice and suffering, and sometimes poor health and poverty. There is a cost of true discipleship, and this rings true in authentic preaching and teaching. False prophets bring a different message, a message of easy believe-ism and cheap grace.
False prophets say it is okay to allow Jesus to be your Savior without making Him your Lord. By the way, no one makes Jesus Lord. He is Lord, whatever you make of Him or not. False prophets say salvation is a mere decision that guarantees you fire insurance from Hell, no matter how you live your ensuing life. False prophets have real appeal to false Christians, because their false version of Christianity is cheap and easy, just like so many other things in American life. Fame, fortune, and a following is almost guaranteed if you can preach smooth and flattering words to people and make them feel good about their sin.
The other way false prophets win followings and fortunes is by changing the emphasis from the word of God to the so-called word of faith. The word of God teaches the sovereignty of God and Lordship of Christ, and that God’s people exist to glorify God and do what He commands. The so-called word of faith movement puts people in the driver’s seat and seduces them to think they can use certain means of self-driven faith to speak to God in such a way that God becomes their genie-in-a-bottle, bound to acquiesce to their assertive claims. God serves us, not vice versa. The means usually include planting a seed of faith, or a good sum of money, in their ministry now so you can get yours later. The sad and shocking thing is that we Americans are so stupid (we think if it’s on TV or the Internet, it must be true), we fall for it by the thousands in terms of people and by the millions in terms of the dollars. And the prophets for profit prosper.
People, especially in our day and age, like a Christ-less Christianity, a guilt-free gospel, a way of worship that gives us what we want instead of giving to God what God requires. So, from small churches to large television studios, prophets for prophets thrive. Shame on them, and shame on the people who support them. For lost people — and often times lost people are better thinkers than professing Christian people — see the excesses of the lack of Lordship and greed for material prosperity in so many so-called Christians. Then they “blaspheme” the real gospel because of their impression of the false.
I thought about naming some names, but that would not be gentlemanly of me. Some of them are easy enough to spot, the ones that own religious television networks, the ones that get involved in sexual scandals, the ones that wear white suits and sport giant comb-overs, and the ones that look like skinny hay farmers in three-thousand dollar suits who can't say two words without blinking. Not all of them are that easy to identify, and not all of them are on television. But the word of God, and their words, speak for themselves.
The question is, why does God let them get away with it. Believe me, He does not. These prophets’ profit is just an aberration. “Swift destruction” and “condemnation” is coming their way, along with a whole lot of their followers, when Jesus Christ comes again. Simon Peter will use the rest of this chapter to talk about the destruction, and the following chapter to talk about the return of Christ.
TRUST AND OBEY
2 Peter 1:3-15
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 10, 2013
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. 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,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 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, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 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.
-- 2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV
My freshman English teacher was Mrs. Lassiter. Her favorite subject was Greek mythology. I secretly loved the class, but I didn’t tell anyone because all the students through Mrs. Lassiter was crazy. She did have very peculiar ways of walking and talking. And when she taught on Greek mythology, she spoke as if she really believed in Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, and the other gods of Mount Olympus. Surely anyone who really believes in the Greco-Roman gods as a means of explaining the origins of the universe and the meaning of life would have to be a little touched, wouldn’t they?
Today, people like us, who believe in the Judeo-Christian God, who credit Him with the origins of the universe and go to Him for the meaning of life, are looked on by the world at large as being at least a little bit touched, too. Just like the civilizations before us, atheism is present and rising, religion is largely relegated to the mythological side of life, and a small minority of even professing Christians seem to take God’s word seriously. So what are we to do? Let’s ask Simon Peter, who has a good word for us in and about God’s word in 2 Peter 1:16-21.
The Gospel is Not a Myth
In the early days of Christianity there were a lot of erroneous ideas about God. The Romans still believed in or gave lip service to the pantheon of Greek gods. The Jews believed in the one true and living God, but considered Him to be monolithic, and in no way tri-une. He could be transcendent, but not imminent. Therefore, the Romans and the Jews throughout the Lord Jesus Christ was an encroachment upon their idea of God or gods. It is no wonder then that a Roman-Jewish conspiracy led to the crucifixion of Jesus and the ensuing hostility towards His followers. Somebody in this picture was crazy, but most people thought it was the Christians.
So, Peter in this passage takes great pains to point out that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a system of “cleverly devises myths.” Like his counter part John, and others, Peter spoke of a Messiah named Jesus “we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” (ref. 1 John 1:1). Peter could honestly say “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Peter was there for virtually every day of the public ministry of Jesus Christ. Simon Peter watched Jesus work, saw Him get arrested, bailed at His trial, wept through His crucifixion, and was an eyewitness of His resurrection. Peter knew Jesus Christ and Peter knew what he was talking about when he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are pure pagans and professing Christians who deny the historicity of Jesus Christ and dispute the accuracy what the gospel and the word of God teach about Him. The so-called search for the historical Jesus seems to be gaining steam as true believers await His second coming to provide the punctuation mark to His first. All I can say is, in agreement with Simon Peter and other Apostles and authors of Scripture, Jesus Christ lived, Jesus Christ died, Jesus Christ rose again, and Jesus Christ is Lord! Eternal salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in the gospel of Jesus Christ, alone. This is no myth. This is the meaning of life.
The Bible is the Final Word
Of all the experiences and proofs Simon Peter could have offered, the one he chose to recount was the transfiguration of Jesus Christ (ref. Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke9:28-36). He did this to prove his first point, that reliable eyewitnesses were there to accurately record the things that Jesus said and did. Therefore, the gospel is not a myth. And, it enables Peter to make a profound second point, that the Scriptures, the Bible, God’s word, is the final word on any matter.
Can you identify the three ways in which God speaks in this passage?
Obviously, God the Father spoke out loudly and proudly at the transfiguration of His one-of-a-kind Son. The Father did the same thing at the baptism of the Son, and the Holy Spirit was there for good measure, too. There are other times recorded in Scripture where God the Father spoke in an audible voice, but they are quite rare. Far be it from me to put God in a box, but I honestly do not believe He speaks in an audible voice to people today.
It is mentioned here that God also speaks in “the prophetic word,” or through select spokespersons called prophets. Old Covenant and New Covenant faith both record the ministry of the prophets, persons specifically called by God and given a message to communicate about and for God. Moses, Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, were prophets. The Old Testament closes with the words of four “major prophets” and twelve “minor prophets.” The Apostles were prophets of the New Testament. Various others, like Simeon and Phillip’s four daughters, prophesied for the Lord. Ironically, at the same time Homer and others were inventing the Greek gods around 700 BC, Isaiah was prophesying about the Suffering Servant who would become the Savior of the world. I don’t think Zeus ever showed up, but Jesus did! Prophets preach prophecy that was, is, or will turn out to be true. When called and commissioned by God, prophets speak words for God that are as good as God’s word from Heaven.
There are God’s audible words, prophets who audibly speak God’s words, and a special written collection of all of words called “Scripture.” As great as it was to hear God speak, as great as it was to himself have the gift of prophecy, Simon Peter refers to holy Scripture hear as “the prophetic word more fully confirmed.” Christianity confirms a closed canon of Scripture, the sixty-six books of your Holy Bible, as the ultimate word of God. It is not a myth. It is not a myriad of messages merely made up by one's “own interpretations” or by the “will of man.” It is the inspired, infallible, inerrant word of God, produced and directed by “the Holy Spirit,” and it contains the meaning of life.
Would you pay attention if you hear a voice right now, a voice you knew to be God’s, if it came down from Heaven? Would you pay attention to a person who spoke to you, if you knew that person was a prophet, and if that person had a word to you from God? Well then, you should pay equal attention to the word that you can hold in your hands right now, the word of God, the Bible. Think of it that way as you hear it taught and preached, as you read it for yourself, and as you stake your very life upon it.
Trust and Obey
If the gospel is not a myth and the Bible is the final word, then the meaning of life can be summed up in three words: trust and obey. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life; and, live by the Bible for an abundant, honorable, holy, and useful life. It is only when we look to the gospel and the word of God as “a lamp shining in a dark place” that “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Trust and obey.
This, by the way, is the title of one of my favorite old hymns: “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” (John H. Sammis). I might change one of the last words, happy, for holy, but it is still a great song that captures the message of the meaning of life.
Distorted versions of Christianity tell you to tackle the seven sacraments or walk and aisle and pray a prayer to be saved. Those are myths. God’s word says to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only then will you will be saved, forgiven, granted eternal life. But “believe” could better be translated “trust” in modern English. It means total commitment of your life for the eternal life that Jesus brings. Trust and obey.
If you have trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then it is time to obey. You do not have to obey to be saved, but if you are truly saved you have to obey. The source and standard of your obedience is the word of God, the Bible. Obey the Bible for your spiritual life. Be baptized, be integrally a part of a local church, use your time and treasure and talents to expand the kingdom of God and strengthen your church. Obey the Bible for every aspect of your life, because every aspect of your life is now a spiritual matter. Let God’s word guide you when you make vocational decisions, financial decisions, sexual decisions, and all ethical and moral decisions. Let it speak to you as if God were speaking to you, for in actuality, He is.
Simon Peter could have paraded his experiences into a multi-million dollar religious enterprise. Instead, he submitted his select experiences to the Holy Spirit as he influenced the Gospel of Mark and wrote 1 Peter and 2 Peter. He affirmed the authority of the other books of the Bible also, and commended them to our use. Look to the Bible, he says, for in it you will find life, the meaning of life, and eternal life. Trust the gospel. Obey the Bible. Trust and obey, and truly live.
2 Peter 1:3-15
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 27 - November 3, 2013
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 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.
-- 2 Peter 1:3-15, ESV
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God teaches us that all things are under God’s control. Sovereignty means sovereign, complete authority, absolute power. This prerogative is God’s and God’s alone, and it is comforting to know that such awesome power rests solely with Him.
The doctrine of the responsibility of man teaches us that some things are under our control. We are free to make choices every day, and we will be held responsible, by others and by God, for them. This prerogative is ours, and we must be very careful how we use it.
The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are both taught in Scripture, never more so than in this long paragraph from the pen of Simon Peter. Peter wrote both of his epistles with God’s sovereignty in mind, addressing the first one to “the elect” (ref. 1 Peter 1:1), and the second “to those who have received faith ... to confirm your calling and election” (ref. 2 Peter 1:1,10) . He also wrote to encourage Christians to make responsible choices in order to remain faithful in the face of sufferings, temptations, false teachings, and other things that the world, the flesh, and the devil will throw at true followers of Jesus Christ. God is in control of all things, especially salvation; however, the quality of your Christian life is under your control.
God Controls the Quantity of the Christian Life
How many people will be ultimately be saved? God knows, because He has chosen each and every one of them. The wayward prophet Jonah, among others, teaches us definitively that “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (ref. Jonah 2:9; Psalm 3:8). Jonah didn’t want God to save any of the Assyrians. God pointed out to Jonah that He can and will save whomever He chooses to save whenever He chooses to save them from wherever He chooses to save them. Salvation is a sovereign gift of sovereign grace in the hands of a sovereign God.
In Paul’s great treatise on salvation, the book of Romans, he clearly points out that all people who are saved are saved because of God, not because of anything about themselves. People don’t look for God, God looks for people (ref. Romans 3:10-12). People don’t initiate a relationship with God, God initiates a relationship with His people, and finishes what He starts (ref. Romans 8:28-30). Salvation does not depend upon human will but upon God’s will (ref. Romans 9:10-18). God controls the gift of salvation and gives it to the people He chooses.
The very things required to be right with God, repentance and faith, are actually gifts God controls and gives so that the people of His choosing can turn to him in belief (ref. Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Peter 1:1). Picking up on this theme in 2 Peter, look at all that God controls and gives: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life.” The repentance and faith that gives spiritual life are sovereign gifts of a sovereign God.
God gives “the knowledge of Him” to people whom He foreknew for “His own glory and excellence.” God made himself known to the elect for our benefit to be sure, but at the end of the day He did it mainly for His own glory and praise, and so we can praise Him for His glorious person and work.
God gives “His precious and very great promises” to believers who believe with God-given faith. Salvation is a promise from God for all who believe. Abundant life now and eternal life in Heaven are promises from God for all who repent and believe the gospel. Just remember that the belief to make these promises yours is a sovereign gift from a sovereign God.
God gives His Holy Spirit, “the divine nature,” to people who were spiritually dead and doomed. Adam’s sin led to immediate spiritual death that was passed on from generation to generation. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates, that brings repentance and faith, that brings to life the dead.
God gives salvation so that one day we will have “escaped the corruption that is in the world,” though for now we still battle with “sinful desire,” which brings us to the merger of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. God controls the Christian life, but you control the quality of your Christian life.
You Control the Quality of the Christian Life
God’s sovereignty is at the forefront of many Bible passages, but it actually serves as the background of this text. The big idea is not that God saved you by sovereign grace, although that is certainly true, but rather since God saved you, you have a great responsibility. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith.” God gave you the faith by His sovereign choice. Now it is your responsibility to work, to strive, to be determined to add certain qualities to your Christian life, and these things are in your control. In effect, you are the “quality control” person in your own Christian life, and there are at least seven things, “these qualities,” that God wants you to have in high quality.
Number one: “virtue.” Virtue is moral character, a character based on some faith, creed, or other principles. Therefore, the virtue we need to strive to have in our lives is the morality based on the revealed truth of the inspired word of God. Virtue is practicing what you preach, walking what you talk, conforming your Christian life to the life-giving call of the word and Spirit.
Number two: “knowledge.” Virtue is impossible without experiential knowledge. You cannot live by the word of God if you do not know, study, and apply the word of God. You definitely control how much time you spend in the Bible, how attentive you are to biblical preaching and teaching, and how faithful you are to the ways and means of learning more about God and God’s word. God gives saving knowledge, but you must gain sanctifying knowledge for your own Christian growth.
Number three: “self-control.” This is the negative side of the virtue of applied knowledge. It literally means to “hold it in.” I think Christians should be better known for what they do than what they don’t do, but I also believe it is very important that Christians don’t do certain things. This requires self-control, and it is under your control. Sins of speech, sexual immorality, substance abuse, and many other harmful things can be eradicated from our lives with a little effort in the area of self-control.
Number four: “steadfastness.” Here is the positive side of the Christian life, here is what we do. We keep on keeping on, we hang in there, we remain faithful to the Lord even in the face of difficulties, persecutions, sufferings, or to any other crossroad we come carrying the cross of Jesus Christ. Again, this is a favorite theme of both epistles of Simon Peter. It is better not to fall, but when you fall, get up, get going.
Number five: “godliness.” To oversimplify, this means be good, in a particularly godward way. Dwell on good things. Do good works. Imitate God in Christ. It speaks of a person who chooses obedience over rebellion, kindness over meanness, living for God over living for self and sin. What our godless world desperately needs is more godliness, and you have it in your control.
Number six: “brotherly affection,” or brotherly love. This is one of two types of love taught in the New Testament. It is the love of fellowship, teamwork, helping one another. It is true friendship, a love that makes you the kind of person other people want to be around and makes you want to be around other people. It is a great and important love, but there is actually another love even greater and deeper.
Number seven: “love.” Simon Peter crowns his list of quality controls for the Christian life with crowning characteristic of love, agape love. This is absolute, unconditional, sacrificial love. It is the kind of love that God the Father had for your when He chose you to be His child. It is the kind of love that God the Son had for you when He left glory for the cross. It is the kind of love God the Spirit had for you when He regenerated you and took up residence in your life. It is the love that God chose to give you; now, he wants you to choose to give that kind of love to Him and to one another (ref. John13:35; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). This love is at your disposal. This love is under your control.
Proverbs 6:16 speaks of the seven deadly sins, so I suppose Simon Peter’s words here could be called the seven sanctifying supplements, or something much better. You were dead when God saved you and gave you life. Now, these are the seven things God wants you to add to your life, in ever increasing measures. The quality of your Christian life depends on it.
The Benefits of the Quality Christian Life
If you are responsible “if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” your life on earth will be greatly blessed. Not in a quid pro quo way in which the modern prosperity preachers promise, but in much more important, lasting ways. God does not want to give you mere money. He wants to give you much more.
First of all, possessing and progressing in the Christian character that is under your control, “these qualities” will “keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful.” It is a great benefit in the Christian life to bear fruit for the Lord. The right inward character always abounds in outward fruit. These are acts of love, joy, and peace brought to bear on others’ lives. These are efforts of prayer and witness that result in other people coming to Jesus Christ. These are gifts of time, talents, and treasure that build up the body of Christ, the church, and help her to grow. These are things that bless you life now, and thing that will follow you into eternity.
You will not take one cent of the money you’ve made with you to Heaven. You will not take your prized diamond ring, sports car, or any other material possession. But the fruit your bear will follow you there. I suppose it is possible to get into Heaven “nearsighted” and “blind,” or by the skin of one’s teeth, but what Christian in their right mind would want to live like that now and look into the eyes of Jesus Christ later, holding out hand with no fruit? Bearing fruit is a blessing now and forever, but you need to be a person of quality Christian character to do so.
Secondly, the great blessing of great Christian character is eternal security of your “calling and election,” and your “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Like the credit card commercial says, there are some things that cost money and there are some things that are priceless. Salvation is by grace, but the firm feeling of eternal security comes through cultivating a godly character and dutifully obeying God in doing good works (ref. also 1 John 2:3).
There is no way for an unbeliever to know he is not elect. But there is a way for believers to be assured they are one of God’s chosen ones. A valid profession of faith is always followed by the practice of the Christian faith, which takes “these qualities” into account and action. There is no price that can be placed on the feeling of laying your head down on a pillow at night and knowing, for certain, that you will go to be with the Lord in Heaven when you die. This is a profound blessing and one that you, at least in part, can control.
The Importance of the Quality Christian Life
These last few verses are attached to the larger context because Simon Peter once again mentions “these qualities.” He wrote that, for as long as he lived, he would preach them, “remind” the church of them, and strive to live them himself. He had an idea, from what Christ has prophesied about him many years ago, that his life would soon come to an end in a similar manner to that of our Lord. And after he was gone, of all things, Peter wanted the church to remember “these things.”
Beloved, “these things,” the seven character qualities that should compliment a Christian profession of faith, are desperately important in our day and age, and in our particular culture. Liberalism that ignores the word of God and so-called conservative easy believe-ism that makes a mockery of the word of God have ravished the American church. The majority of church members in our country either do not believe the basic truths of the Bible or they ignore the basic moral commandments of the Bible. Most of them are not present in a public worship service today and most of them will display a horrific lack of virtue, ethics, and character in the week to come. No wonder it is getting harder and harder to get people to take the gospel seriously in our world. How can they, if we don’t?
But you can do something about this. It is under your quality control. Go back and look at the list of “these [seven] things.” Are they in you, springing from a moment of grace in your life that brought you into the Christian faith? Are you working on them, pursuing them, embracing them, and displaying them in your life? Your blessings and benefits depend on it. Your church hangs in the balance on them. The countless lives of lists souls around you needs to see them. Simon Peter literally died for them. Now, will you live for them, by showing yourself to be a “quality control” Christian?
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org