Monday, December 19, 2016

"Knowledge of God leads to the pursuit of holiness as we approach Christ's return!"

Day #355

Scripture Reading:  II Peter 1 - 3 …

As Peter writes his second letter, he knows 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.  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 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).  You need to be careful whom you listen to concerning the things of God and the truth He reveals in His Word.  Peter 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, have come … and are here!  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).

These 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, but "they distort the Scriptures, to their own destruction," (3:16) 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 offer prosperity, physical healing, better jobs, and all sorts of other things, and miss the Gospel!

We live in a world on a collision course with God!  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.  

Verses 3-7 are being fulfilled right in front of us.  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).  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.  "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).  This earth WILL BE destroyed, 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).

"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.  Give me wisdom and strength to live the life You have called me to live, for Your glory.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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