June 17, 2010 David Balzer

2 Peter 1:12-2:22: Standing Firm

Sometimes the difference between truth and mistakes can be LY.  A WA skydiving school has been in the news recently for a number of s over the last few years.

Now if you’re learning to skydive, you’re supposed to do a solid training course over a of days. And then sit a WRITTEN EXAM to check you’ve UNDERSTOOD what you’ve learned.

It’s not the sort of thing you’d take SHORT-CUTS on, is it? After all, getting it RIGHT is a matter of life and .

But apparently, a group of 19 English language students from Dubai were rushed through the course in less than a day, with the help of an Arabic translator who couldn’t skydive.

And at the end of the course, they were allowed to skydive because they were given a VERBAL test, where they all answered AS A GROUP.

Here’s how dodgy the test was. One of the questions was multiple choice. What are the main priorities for your first jump? a) Smile and look cool, or b) climb out and jump as quickly as possible.

Which makes you wonder how much TRUTH young Salem Almazrooei understood. He jumped out of a plane for his first solo parachute jump. His chute became tangled, and failed to open properly. He fell to his .

They found later that he’d answered a number of his written exam questions incorrectly. The instructors never even MARKED it because he wrote in Arabic!

Sometimes the difference between truth and mistakes can be LY. And false teachers like THAT need to be STOPPED.

Which is exactly what Peter reckons as he writes the next part of his letter. It’s hard to think of any tougher language in the Bible. “Brute beasts, blots and blemishes, eyes full of ery. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. Slaves of depravity. Dogs returning to vomit, pigs wallowing in mud.”

Remember, these are guys IN THE CHURCH! These weren’t OUTSIDERS! They were the guys sitting next to you on a Sunday morning!

We BAULK at that sort of language. It seems a bit INTOLERANT and UNFORGIVING to us. A bit FULL-ON!

But Peter’s so worked up because they’re doing SO MUCH DAMAGE. These false teachers SAY they’re Christian. They SAY they’ve got special knowledge every Christian needs to know. But they’re leading young Christians astray. With ly consequences.

Instead, Peter wants his readers to STICK WITH what HE’S taught them. The gospel passed down from Jesus through the Apostles. That’s the solid foundation to base your life on, he says.

Don’t FORGET it, don’t LOSE it, don’t go BEYOND IT.

I can understand a little of how Peter must have felt. I’m part of a group of Christians who teach Scripture seminars at one of our local high schools. Some of us are Pressies, others Anglican, a Baptist or two, someone from the Reformed church. And then there’s some representatives of a well-known Pentecostal denomination, as well as the Catholics.

We WRITE the seminars, so we make sure there’s great stuff there that makes Jesus VERY CLEAR. And then everyone chips in to present different sections of the seminar.

And some of the OTHER presenters just have no idea about the gospel. Of what the cross means. Of what a Christian is.

And we’ve got the incredible privilege of proclaiming Jesus as clearly and attractively as we can, to 3 seminars of 200 students each day. 6 times a year. Of making an eternal difference in the lives of hundreds of youth.

And it makes me SO MAD when I hear some of the presenters stand up and say things like “You’ve just got to be as good as you can to be a Christian. Just try your best, and hope that’s good enough for God.” My boils!

Or when I hear someone say, “If you become a Christian, you’ll be a WINNER. Everything will be GREAT. God wants to give you success, and prosperity, and great friends, and good health, and a great career.”

But God doesn’t PROMISE that. It’s RUBBISH. And it’s WRONG. And mistakes like THAT can lead to !

Truth (1:12-21)

Which is just what PETER thinks. So it’s no WONDER he starts off this part of his letter with these words, talking about the truths of Jesus. Have a look there at the beginning of the section we read. Ch 1 v12

12 So I will ALWAYS REMIND YOU of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right TO REFRESH YOUR MEMORY as long as I live in the tent of this body,

And then, down to v15.

15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will ALWAYS BE ABLE TO REMEMBER THESE THINGS.

This isn’t NEW stuff he’s emphasising. It’s the OLD TRUTHS. REMINDING people of what first believed in.

And one of the reasons Peter’s SO KEEN to do that/ is because he’s not going to be around for much longer. He needs to make sure that when he’s gone, there’ll be faithful people holding SOLIDLY onto the flame. And then who pass the baton ON TO OTHERS.

Like the Olympic torch relay. One person passes the flame onto another, who runs a km down the road, and passes it on to the NEXT person. And so on. And if you’re carrying the flame, your priority is to make sure that flame passes safely onto the next runner.

And that’s the way Christianity has kept going ever since the time of Jesus. One generation at a time. One giant torch relay. Passing on the light of Jesus. Paul put it this way when he was writing to Timothy. 2 Tim 2:2.

2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

It’s what the PY internship program is all about. Training others who’ll then be able to pass it on to others.

Your first priority, as you sit here this morning, is to make sure you RECEIVE the flame we’re passing on to YOU. The truth of the gospel. Keep it safe, keep it fuelled.

And THEN make sure you’re passing it on to OTHERS.

You guys are the NEXT generation of church leaders and teachers. Some of you are beginning to do the passing on already. Perhaps teaching Sunday school, or helping at Beach Missions or kids club.

Begin NOW to build a legacy of passing on the gospel to all sorts of people.

But it’s important to know that it’s REALLY the truth you got, and not a counterfeit. You’re wasting your time if you spend all your time and energy receiving and passing on something that’s not REAL. That’s just A LIE.

In the movie National Treasure, Nicholas Cage steals the American Declaration of Independence from the National Archives in Washington. He rolls it up and puts it inside his jacket. On the way out, he passes through the souvenir shop, and he’s stopped by a vigilant shop assistant who thinks he’s stealing one of the posters that are copies of the original. And he has to PAY FOR IT.

When he makes it outside, there’s a whole bunch of people chasing him, trying to steal the Declaration of Independence from HIM. They finally succeed, but when they open the case, they discover, instead, that they’ve been chasing after THE COPY. The POSTER. The FAKE. Complete with price tag!

He’s done the old switch-aroo! And he’s got the REAL ONE hidden.

What a waste! To spend your life chasing a COUNTERFEIT.

It’s what I feel when I see the two young Mormon missionaries walking the streets around our house. They’re genuine and committed and energetic. Giving up their lives. But they’re following a MISTAKE. It’s TRAGIC!

But how can YOU be sure YOU’RE not doing the same thing? It’s a fair question!

Look at the two-part answer Peter gives. There from v16. Firstly, his PERSONAL EXPERIENCE as an eye-witness, and secondly, SCRIPTURE. If you’re following the truth revealed in the Bible then you can be CONFIDENT. V16.

16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,

That’s talking about his SECOND coming. Which is what ch 3 is all about. And then he goes on to talk about a time they got to see Jesus revealed in his FULL SPLENDOUR. Like they’d taken their sunglasses off, and were looking straight at the son. Which only Peter, James and John witnessed.

but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

Listen to me. I’ve got the true information on Jesus. I’ve seen him MYSELF. The Apostles were chosen because they were EYEWITNESSES. They’d seen the historical events. Jesus’ miracles. Jesus’ . Jesus’ resurrection.

Reliable, solid, actual events in history. No fairy story. Stick to the facts the Apostles passed on.

The second piece of evidence for Peter is the testimony of SCRIPTURE. In his case, the OT. The OT that promised Jesus. And that promises judgment day. And his point is that the prophets DIDN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP, but God TOLD them what to speak. See it there near in v21?

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.

Stick with the message of the APOSTLES. And stick with the stuff GOD’S revealed.

And Peter’s point with all this proof, where the rubber hits the road, is back there in v19.

You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place

Pay ATTENTION to the truth, because your life DEPENDS on it. Like the skydiver.

The better you know the TRUTH, the better you’ll be able to pick the LIES when you see them.

Lies

Which is what Peter goes on to describe. What the FALSE teachers are like. The LIES we need to be careful of.

And there’s a whole lot of detail there. Which I’m not going to cover. You’ll get to look at SOME of it in your small groups.

But what I WILL do is point out some general characteristics. And then make some observations about LESSONS WE CAN LEARN.

Have a look there at the first paragraph in Ch 2.

For starters, their WORDS. They’re teaching FALSE DOCTRINE. Destructive heresies (v1). Lies instead of truth. Or V3 Stories they’ve made up.

Then there’s their MOTIVATION. This isn’t some genuine mistake. Someone who’s just misunderstood a Bible verse or two. They’ve SECRETLY INTRODUCED the lies. It’s DECEIT, not mistakes.

And they’re doing it for GREED. See it there in v3?

3 In their GREED these teachers will EXPLOIT you with stories they have made up.

Making up stories that PAY. Attractive and interesting and motivational. Doesn’t matter what they’re ABOUT as long as people will PAY to listen to them.

And when you’re that crook on the inside, it’s going to show itself on the outside. In your ACTIONS. “Shameful ways” there in v2. You can see the sort of things they got up to down in v13.

Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.  14 With eyes full of ery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed.

Satisfying whatever pleasure they feel like whenever they want to. Partying all day. Experts in greed. Exploiting people. Using them to satisfy whatever they’re hungry for

And look at the RESULTS. First, on CHRISTIANS. back in v2, MANY follow their shameful ways. They’re POPULAR. Smooth, slick, impressive.

But not because they’re HELPFUL. V14. They’re SEDUCING the UNSTABLE. Dragging people down to their level.

That’s explained in a bit more detail down in v17.

17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.

In other words, they PROMISE MUCH, but DELIVER LITTLE. They promise MATURITY and SUCCESS and FREEDOM. But all they deliver is SLAVERY and FAILURE and LIES.

Promising much but delivering little. Like movie backdrops in a Western movie. They look like solid buildings, but if you go and lean against them, or try to open a door, they’re HOLLOW, empty. Made of nothing more than plywood, paint and canvas. Downright DANGEROUS.

And here’s why. Peter goes on:

18 For they mouth EMPTY, boastful words and, by appealing to the ful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them FREEDOM, while they themselves are SLAVES OF DEPRAVITY-

It’s a TRAGIC picture. No wonder Peter gets so worked up. Brand new Christians. Just learning how to put their old lives behind them. And these guys come along, promising a BETTER way. An ATTRACTIVE way. Freedom from rules and regulations. Freedom to do whatever you want.

When the reality is the OPPOSITE. They’re not free at all. They’re hopelessly trapped, constantly giving in to their sinful nature. And dragging young Christians down to their level.

But look at what ELSE. Look at the effect they have on NON-Christians. Back up to v2. THEY BRING THE WAY OF TRUTH INTO DISREPUTE.

People who SAY they’re Christian, but who live an immoral life cause the name of Jesus to suffer. If there’s one thing that gets up the nose of non-Christians, it’s HYPOCRISY. People who say one thing, but do another.

The lessons from history

That’s a bit of a snap-shot of the teachers. Some boxes to be ticking off if someone starts saying things that just don’t sound right.

Peter goes on to give us some HISTORY LESSONS. There in v4-10. Puts the false teachers into perspective. I’ve listed the basic points there in the outline. But I’m going to skip over them today.[1]

The lessons for us

So where does that leave US? Some lessons for US

First, REMEMBER the basics. Don’t be tempted to think you’ve got to come up with something new and fresh. The basics of the gospel are that God made us, we’re sinners who deserve judgment. But that God sent Jesus, fully God, but also the only perfect human, to die in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. We can be his friends instead of his enemies by accepting the gift of forgiveness, and living with Jesus as our king.

That’s the BASICS. Straight from the APOSTLES. Straight from the Bible. Those four points are the GOSPEL. Or the EVANGEL, in Greek. Evangelism is telling the gospel. Presbyterians are called EVANGELICALS because that’s our FOCUS. It’s our EMPHASIS. There’s NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT than that news. Those FOUR SIMPLE POINTS. It affects everything we do, and say. Every aspect of our message comes BACK to it.

There’s always MORE we can learn, but we never get BEYOND it.

So don’t be tempted when someone offers you something EXTRA. Something BETTER. Or a SHORT-CUT, or inside track, to maturity.

Lesson one. Remember the basics.

Second, TEST what your teachers are saying. Including ME. Don’t just accept something because someone SAYS it. Check it out for yourself. Check it out against what’s in THE BIBLE.

Paul commends the Bereans in Acts 17:11 as being of noble character because they received the message with great eagerness and EXAMINED THE SCRIPTURES EVERY DAY TO SEE IF WHAT PAUL SAID WAS TRUE.

Read the Bible. God’s made it so that most of it is easy enough for most Christians to understand.

And get to know your Bible SO WELL, that when someone starts to say something a bit dodgy, warning bells start going off, and you say, “That doesn’t sound right! I’m sure I read something different!”

The Bible is the measuring stick for everything.

My 11 year old son Daniel came home from school, and said that his Scripture teacher had said something he didn’t think was right. So he came home and asked ME. And he was RIGHT.

Test what your teachers are saying.

The third lesson is that there will always be non-Christians in church. These false teachers were IN THE CHURCH.

Don’t assume that every church-goer, or everyone who goes to your Yth Group is a Christian. Sometimes the non-Christians are EASY to pick, but OTHER times they’re DIFFICULT.

The reality is when people have hung around Christians for a long time they get pretty good at knowing what to say, and how to act.

Perhaps that’s YOU.

You’re good at talking the talk. Knowing when to stand up, when to sit down. You know all the stories. You think you’ve got all the answers. You’re ONE PERSON on Sundays, and someone completely different Mon to Fri.

You can fool everyone ELSE, but you’re not fooling GOD.

What are you like ON THE INSIDE? You’re talking the talk, but are you walking the walk?

Christianity is about a change on the INSIDE. And it’s not about who your parents are. Or what books you’ve read. Or whether you can win the arguments. Or how long you’ve been in Youth Group.

These false teachers had fooled lots of people. But they couldn’t fool GOD. And judgment was hanging over their head. Don’t let that be YOU. EXAMINE YOURSELF. Have you been mucking around with God?

Get real! Get serious! Accept the truth. Forget the lies. Today would be a GREAT DAY to start.


[1] From v4 we learn about some angels who God was holding for judgment, then about NOAH who God saved, while he destroyed the rest of the world. And finally, we find out about Sodom and Gomorrah that God burned to the ground because of their sin.

And there’s a number of points Peter wants to make about the false teachers. Points to comfort his readers. First, NO ONE is exempt from judgment (4). If ANGELS will be judged, why do THESE GUYS think they’ll miss out?

Secondly, judgment, although delayed, is SURE (4-6). People gave Noah a hard time because it took so long for the flood to come, but it CAME. And Peter’s point is that judgment day WILL SURELY come –whatever smart alec comments the false teachers make.

Third, judgment will be JUST. The wicked WILL be punished. And the godly WILL be spared. Ch 2 v9

the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Which is all the right sort of context to put these false teachers in.

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