Saturday, November 15, 2014

"When everything happens just as God says it will … where will YOU be?"

Day #323:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 16th

Scripture Reading:  II Peter 1 - 3 …

You can know everything there is to know about "Christian Living," and you can live a good "Christian life" and read all the latest books about what it means to be a follower of Jesus … and still not know Him or be saved!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls you and me to confess our sins, to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness.  All of that happens as the Spirit of God works within those whom God calls to be His, transforming us from the inside out to be children of God … disciples of Jesus, prepared for life, now and forever!!  Living for God, in the present and the future, makes life worth living!

As Peter writes his second letter, he knows that the end of his life is near.  He says, "I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me" (1:14).  The Church was being horribly persecuted and many were being put to death.  What would you be doing in that situation?  Peter was concerned about his fellow-believers.  He writes "to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours" (1:1).  This letter is written specifically to those who have believed in Jesus Christ and who trust in Him for salvation.  Peter's desire is that they stand firm in their faith and continue to be witnesses for Christ.  As we approach the return of Jesus, what message could we possibly hear that is more important?!

While many operate on the basis of their feelings, at times being sure of their relationship with God, at times having doubts, Peter points us to something more definite, something that never changes and that forms the foundation of "a faith as precious as ours" … KNOWLEDGE!!  And this is not just "head knowledge," but knowledge that has touched the heart, the very core of your being … the knowledge of GOD!!  "His divine power has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED for life and godliness through OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIM who called us by His own glory and goodness" (1:3).  Without the knowledge of God you are just practicing "religion."

Peter calls us to pursue holiness, not to earn our salvation, but to give us the assurance that God is working within us.  When asked, "What marks a true believer?" I usually answer:  "The desire to please God."  True repentance means having a desire, produced by the Spirit, to turn from sin to righteousness.  Where that desire is absent, so is the Spirit of God!  So Peter says, "Make your calling and election sure (to yourself!) … For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!" (1:10-11).  Living the Christian life just to make you feel good about yourself is pointless, but pursuing righteousness because you know you are forgiven, because you know God and His holiness and His grace in Christ Jesus, brings assurance that God is at work and He is not finished with you yet!

Peter writes this letter to remind us of things we already know and so to encourage us not to look for some shiny new thing!  He recalls being an eyewitness of the majesty of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, and declares that Scripture comes not from men, but from God.  "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (1:21).  This is one of the clearest definitions of the "inspiration" of Scripture, along with II Timothy 3:16, which tells us that Scripture is "God-breathed."  People ignore the Bible to their own destruction, for it alone is the very Word of God.

You need to be careful whom you listen to concerning the things of God and the truth He reveals in His Word.  I can identify with Peter when he says, "I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things" (1:15).  Why?  Because false teachers will come … and have come … and are here!  False teachers make me angry!!  More importantly, false teachers make GOD angry!!!  They "bring the way of truth into disrepute" (2:2).  They "follow the way of Balaam," (2:15) … speaking what "itching ears want to hear" for profit.  They "love the wages of wickedness" (2:15).  They "entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity" (2:18-19).  "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them" (2:21).

Who ARE these people?  They are the ones who claim to be Christians and who enter into the spotlight of popularity among those who do not know the truth and so are easily misled.  They talk about Jesus, they quote (or misquote) verses and passages of Scripture and do, as Peter writes in 3:16:  "they distort the Scriptures, to their own destruction," and sadly, to the destruction of those who follow them.  They "know the way of righteousness," they have heard the Gospel, but they replace it with a message that appeals to the flesh.  "Sow a seed into the kingdom," they say … Translation:  "Give us your money!"  They promise "miracles" and fail to point people to the cross of Jesus Christ, where the real miracle takes place:  where dead people come to life through faith in Jesus!  They offer prosperity, physical healing, better jobs, and all sorts of other things and leave people to wonder why some get what they want but THEY never do.  Yes, they take the truth of God's Word and twist it and distort it to suit their own purposes.  God has nothing good to say about them and neither should we!!

You and I live in a world on a collision course with God!  The ONLY way to live with hope and courage and boldness and zeal for God in this world is to remember the truth God has revealed in His Word:  Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead.  Peter says, "This is now my second letter to you.  I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.  I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles" (3:1-2).  Jesus is coming again.  This age will end and there is only one escape.  Knowing the truth gives life here for believers meaning and purpose.  Nothing else does, nothing else will, nothing else can.

Verses 3-7 are being fulfilled right in front of us.  You might think that this has always been the case, but while that may be true on a small scale, it has never been like today, where thoughts of the end of this world are not being spoken only by those who believe the Bible, but by the secular world around us.  The difference is, WE know what is coming!  This world was created by the spoken Word of God, and it will end when GOD says so.  What is God waiting for?  "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).  Again, some mistakenly think this means God wants to save everyone and perhaps, they propose, in the end He will.  But that's NOT what Peter is saying … that's not what GOD is saying!

The "you" in verse 9 is pointing to those to whom Peter is writing, whom he describes in Chapter 1, verse 1:  "those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours."  God is not willing that any of THESE should perish.  By His Spirit, He will bring every one of Christ's sheep to Himself and not one will be lost (John 10:27-30).  "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief " (for those who are not ready - read I Thessalonians 5:1-4).  Peter describes what the prophets and Jesus describe:  a cataclysmic event in which this present earth is destroyed by fire, by the judgment of God upon mankind.  How can you and I possibly prepare for such an event?

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (3:11-12).  Jesus told His followers to be ready by doing what He has called us to do; by living for Him and serving others and proclaiming the Gospel.  This earth WILL BE destroyed, as Isaiah describes in Isaiah 24, BUT, "in keeping with His promise WE are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness!" (3:13).  We who believe rejoice in God's promises and need to be reminded often as we face life in this world so deeply affected by sin.

KNOWLEDGE of these things is crucial!!  Peter concludes, "Dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To HIM be glory both now and forever!  Amen!" (3:17-18).  This is the way all of God's true children will stand firm:  by knowing the truth, continuing to learn and grow in the GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by living with and for Him.

Living in this world for the glory of God requires knowledge of God and the truth He reveals.  Those who are His will KNOW it, not because we are perfect or because we simply have knowledge in our heads, but because we KNOW the One who speaks through His Word and we love Him, because He first loved us.  We KNOW we have eternal life because we have received it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.  And we KNOW that when all of this happens, just as God has said it will, we have a home in the new heaven and the new earth, for we know the One Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and He promised that He has gone to prepare a place for us and He will come again to take us to be with Him … forever! (John 14:1-6).

I pray that YOU know where you will be on that day!!

"My Father and my God, it is in knowing You through Your Son Jesus Christ and by the power of Your Spirit working within me that I find my hope, my joy and my peace.  There is nothing in this world that offers true LIFE.  I thank You, Father, for all You have given me, for all Jesus did for me and is doing for me, and I ask that You hold me close to You, giving me wisdom and strength to live the life You have called me to live, for Your glory.  To You, O Lord my God, I give my praise and my life, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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