For our summer Bible study friends . . .
I am just going to tell it like it is for me right now. The swirl of our world this year – from pandemic, to unrest, to political ugliness, to the usual pre-election intensity – threatens to send me south on any given day. I determined a long time ago that watching the news is not an option for me. It is just too stressful. The little bubble I live in feels threatened on every side. The palpable tension and uncertainty are NOT comfortable for me. This week’s lesson was not an easy one to swallow when already on shaky ground. To realize that there are evil intentions underfoot, intentionally hunting us down to trip us up, is unsettling at best! I am SO thankful for our ZOOM conversation, to wrestle through it all together, and to remind one another of the solid ground on which we stand. In Christ we never need to be shaken! For those who are following along as we study 1&2 Peter, see below for a recap of our chat. . .
YESTERDAY’S DISCUSSION – 2 Peter 2
I sat down to summarize yesterday’s conversation and discovered the following verse on my computer. Before I even attempted to collect my thoughts about our discussion covering this challenging chapter, it was sweet to have this look back to timely encouragement in Peter’s first letter:
For the eyes of the LORD are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the face of the LORD is against them that do evil. 1 Peter 3:12
And then… (I promise I am not making this up!) … my phone spontaneously started playing “We Won’t Be Shaken” by Building 429!
So, what from our lesson has prompted this flood of reassurance from the Father’s heart to mine? This second chapter of 2 Peter includes stern, impassioned warnings and the serious dangers of false teaching. In a nutshell, Peter is effectively pleading: “don’t fall for empty promises of freedom and self-indulgence only to find yourselves in greater, scarier, subtle and deceptive bondage to the sin that will never serve you, but will instead slowly destroy you, causing you to miss true rescue and abundant provision from our Savior and Shepherd of our souls – the LORD JESUS alone.”
Peter points to a string of historical support to strengthen his warning that the enemy of our souls has been on the prowl for generations, luring the unsuspecting to grasp for the “easy button,” the allusion that man can chart his own course, only to rebel against his own Creator, Provider, and Redeemer. It is so tragic! Digging into our study has drawn a picture of stark contrasts for me.
Scripture shows us again and again that rebellion will not go unnoticed or unpunished by GOD – but will lead to swift and utter destruction, like the flood in Noah’s day or the judgment that leveled Sodom and Gomorrah. In contrast, GOD’s Word teaches us that obedience is immediate and complete, full-heart surrender that leads to abundance – mercy in salvation, and His exhaustless provision for every need, not the least of which is eternal life!
Our study also prompted us to look at Psalm 92 in conjunction with 2 Peter 2, taking a closer look at the basis for blessing as well as the justification for judgment. The truth remains: the LORD is hard on those who follow their own evil but rescues Godly ones from their trials.
Our GOD does not callously dole out pain and punishment. If only we could fully understand His heart, His willingness to go to any length to demonstrate the fallacy of ill-placed confidence. His correction has only one intention – to draw straying souls to the One who offers to be their true Shepherd! Our choice is really quite simple. Find true peace and soul rest in GOD’s promises fulfilled, or never know peace, always wondering if you’ve done enough on your own to make yourself secure. Which guarantee will we pursue? The LORD’s enemies will perish, but those who trust GOD will flourish!
When the choice seems so clear, how could we fall victim to accepting lies that are presented as truth? In addition to Peter’s descriptions, our lesson points to Jude as well as old testament examples of false teachers and even false shepherds in Jeremiah to help us gather a list of characteristics that should raise our red flags: heretical teaching (assumptions and end-goals that are profoundly at odds with scriptural truth), motives and tactics that are arrogant, self-serving, use flattery, appeal to creature comforts, and capitalize on our love of instant gratification, a tendency to prompt division, strife, or distain for authority, and in some cases an unhealthy greed for money.
In Peter’s words, “Christ and His true way are slandered.” These false teachers proclaim the Name of JESUS, but lead people in the opposite direction of the Savior. In choosing to serve themselves or the approval and other people, they are effectively rejecting and grossly dishonoring Christ. As one of our group members described it, the empty promises of false teaching make following GOD look easy, painting a prosperity gospel that can’t hold water. When real life hits, what foundation do these deceived “believers” have to stand on? When their concept of GOD fails them, where will they turn? . . . This is exactly why the Lover of our souls tirelessly pursues our hearts! He wants us to discover and choose to stand on the foundation of truth. Eternally unchanging, utterly reliable truth of GOD’s Word, His heart, His character, the salvation and promises He offers that never fail!
With a ray of brilliant hope, our lesson turns us to fix our gaze on GOD’s alternative, helping us to identify the true gospel message and the characteristics of those who faithfully proclaim it! What is consistently true about those who re-present Christ and His eternal plan of redemption and security to others? From 2 Corinthians and I Thessalonians, we learn that Godly teachers are trustworthy, faithfully point away from themselves to Christ alone, are quick to humbly say that they’ve received GOD’s mercy, never use trickery, but speak a clear, plain, pure message that is accurate to GOD’s Word, reach out to others in genuine love, with gentle, nurturing care (as if they are their own children), and are willing to endure any depth of hardship patiently, if it will be the means by which even one soul will be drawn to trust the Savior.
One of our group members mentioned Paul and his personal experiences described in Acts 16. He obeyed the LORD’s call to bring the gospel message to the people of Macedonia. Immediately upon arriving, he encountered opposition and was falsely accused and imprisoned! His path was not easy. But he trusted GOD, and even sang praises to Him from the depths of that cell. In the end, a dear man and his whole family were won to faith in Christ! Paul would say without hesitation that any hardship was a price worth paying to reach even one lost soul! This is the worth of the hope we hold! The urgency to bring GOD’s true message to all who need it so desperately.
Now knowing the choices set before each of us, even the dangers as sincere believers to be lured off the path of following Christ with the appeal of an easier road or a moment of self-indulgence, how do we respond? Lesson 11 closes with a look at Paul’s advice to a younger man in 2 Timothy. In short, like Peter, Paul encourages Timothy to be alert, sober (taking these warnings seriously), to test everything he sees and hears against the infallible Word of GOD, to avoid foolish arguments with those who refuse to hear the truth, and to walk away (run when necessary!) from any temptation to accept teaching that is not accurate or honoring to the LORD.
As a group, we agreed that the best protection from being deceived is to know GOD’s truth SO well that we are quick to recognize even the smallest deviation. Our enemy can be sneaky. We need to be on our toes. If we want to choose GOD’s way every time, we need to be diligent about keeping our noses in the Book, our knees on the floor, and our eyes fixed on the only Lover and Shepherd of our souls!
One last glimpse of Jude also reminds us that we don’t embark on these efforts alone. Our redemption was never up to us. Our ability to stay on the Father’s path isn’t dependent on us either. The saving power of JESUS is also a keeping power! It is with His help and the prompting of His Spirit that we recognize what is of GOD and what is not. Let us be faithful to remind one another of truths from Jeremiah and from Jude as we wrap up this study of 2 Peter 2:
This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, Godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To GOD our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
As before, lesson 11 ends with an “apply what you learned section” that causes us to pause and think. In addition to encouraging us to know how to discern truth from error, we are challenged to commit to PRAYER! One of our group members even wondered if Peter had enough compassion to make his bold appeal to any false teachers that may have been in his own audience? Will we take up that cause and earnestly pray for those who are deceived into believing a lie instead of GOD’s truth? For those who have bought into the lies so deeply that they are sharing them with others? And to pray for those who are vulnerable to accepting that error as truth?
On the flip side, we also have the call to pray for those in ministry – that the LORD will preserve them through any trials and protect the integrity of the gospel message. GOD’s Words have their own purity and power. May we never be shy in confidently sharing them in their simplicity.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
who bring glad tidings of good things!”
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