Read 2 Peter 1
Over 4 decades ago I read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was a good book. I remember part of the ending.
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.
I think that one of the main characters was on his way to the guillotine, taking the place of another character.
I couldn’t tell you the story without reading it all again, but the ending reminds me of part of the beginning.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
It seems that a good author always foreshadows the outcome, sometimes very indirectly, but in hindsight it all comes together.
The first time I wrote a book, it wasn’t even 50 pages; I placed a hint of the protagonist’s route to victory on the third page. It was a just a children’s book but somehow I just knew that there needed to be something in the story early on that would make sense at the end. I needed something that told everyone, I am the author.
I know what’s going to happen.
If I hit my intended target, that avenue would only register at the conceptual level early on and would not become evident until much later in the book.
You don’t want to go to the movies and sit next to me. I will scrutinize the first 5 minutes looking for that sign or phrase or interesting twist of words that somehow might appear in a more apparent and much more significant context later on. I am on the lookout for a harbinger of things to come. I am tuned in and looking for the smallest detail that foreshadows something to come.
Good screenwriters put in a few decoys these days to go along with the real hint of things to come.
Peter writes to believers, Jew and Gentile alike, probably from Rome. It could be that he was accompanied by his wife. We get only a slight hint of this from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.
But regardless of whether this was an accompanied or unaccompanied tour, Peter tells the readers of his second letter about the same thing Paul told those who read his letters to Corinth.
We didn’t use gimmicks.
We didn’t invent some clever story.
We let the story—what we now know is the greatest story ever told—tell the story.
Peter is telling those who read these words, that he witnessed the life of Jesus Christ. He witnessed the transfiguration of the Lord and the majestic glory that came with it. He heard a voice from above saying:
So many things that were prophesied had come to pass.
Peter is talking about a foundation authored by God. Paul talked about the prophets and apostles framing out the foundation set upon the cornerstone of Christ.
Peter tells us that no real prophecy has its origins in human will. No revelation of God can come from anywhere else but God.
Human hands may put words to parchment, human keystrokes may move words to cyberspace, voice to text software may take sound waves and produce written text; but none of these are prophetic unless they are inspired by God’s own Spirit.
I can watch an Oklahoma sunset and be inspired to write a poem. Some of the words might even rhyme. Some of the words might even be spelled correctly.
You may think my poem is corny or you might go out and proclaim it the literary work of the century.
It may have wonderful metaphors and inspire someone in Siberia to move to Oklahoma. There may have been a few days in February where it would have been hard to tell the two regions apart.
My poem may be alliterative as well as literary, characterized with corresponding clarity and concision, correlating classic and contemporary, complementing and chastising concurrently.
But as long as it comes from my human will, it will never be prophetic.
I shake my head in amazement every time someone tries to deduce a prophecy. Most have to do with the return of Christ or some end times event. There often is a lot of study and research, calculation and innovation, and surely some new interpretation that brings about this revelation and ultimately produces a specific date.
True prophecy comes from the inspiration of God only. It is an immediate message from God.
It is a message from God.
You might think, well, Jeremiah looked at the potter’s wheel and came up with a prophecy.
Actually, Jeremiah was told by God to get up and go to the potter’s house and there he would receive God’s message.
Jeremiah saw the potter reshaping the marred vessel and then received the message that God had for his people.
We have prophecy upon prophecy. Listen for God’s message in Micah.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Again, hear the message of the Lord in Isaiah.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
And hear his message found in the first book of the Bible.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Hear what God said through the prophets Samuel and Isaiah.
When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Why are these messages important today? They tell us that Jesus would be:
· Born in Bethlehem
· Born of a virgin
· Descended from Abraham
· From the line of King David
How will the world receive the Messiah?
Hear the words of Isaiah once again.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Peter tells his readers, “I know that you know all of this, but as long as I’m still kicking, I will remind you of it.”
God’s message to us is clear.
He loves us.
He loves us so much that he sent his son as a sacrifice for our sin.
We know this because he told us he would do this long before any of us were alive.
These prophecies and so many more were preserved for centuries with great fidelity so that we may know the love of God in his Son.
Peter says, “It is no problem at all for me to stir up these wonderful memories.”
We need to remember that what we pass on to the next generations are not just religious stories. They are messages from God.
God has been telling us that he loves us and has good plans for us and wants us to live with him eternally, free from sin and free from death.
Through the centuries he has told us that his love would come for us all in the one called Messiah, Savior, Wonderful, Counselor, Emanuel, or in this century, we just call him Jesus.
Peter is reminding us that what we read in the scriptures is not just history or documentation. It is a message from holy God. It is a message from our Creator. It is a message that says, “I told you what I would do and I did it. I want you to know with certainty not only that I am the God of all creation but the God who loves you enough to spill my own blood for you.”
We know the messages that have come by psalms and prophets and we know they are fulfilled in the one called Jesus.
Today, we know the truth from the accounts of prophets and apostles. We were not witnesses like Peter, but we can still connect the dots.
And from time to time someone needs to stir us up.
We stir soup.
We stir paint.
We stir the pot when we talk politics and sports.
The latest news is called the stir.
If we do something different, sometimes it causes a stir.
People say they are bored and they want to stir something up.
Peter says, “I’ll be glad to stir you up.”
He says that he wants to stir us up so much that even after he departed his human body, he wants us connecting the dots.
God said it.
It came to pass.
Not just a specific set of events, but the ultimate outpouring of his love.
There is still some dispute over what actually transpired, but Babe Ruth became immortalized in this moment. Everybody remembers this even though few saw it in person.
God said he would send a Savior. He did it. How can we let that blend into the background of our lives?
If we read on in Peter’s letter he talks about the destruction of everything and everyone false. That demise is not for us. We eagerly await the Day of the Lord.
That demise is not what is in the heart of the Lord. He is patient hoping that all come to repentance. But so many have not connected the dots. So many remain unstirred.
So many put The Bible and A Tale of Two Cities on the same bookshelf.
So many believe the prophecies of human understanding over the clear and convincing messages from God that have been fulfilled.
And so many remain unstirred.
They have read and acknowledged the truth but it has not prompted them to action.
They know there is a just and holy and merciful God, but that knowledge has changed nothing in their lives.
It might just be time for us to stir something up.
Do we know someone who needs a little stirring? The truth of this unbelievable love is so apparent to us but do we know someone who is somehow not realizing how great this story is?
Do we know anyone who has put their faith in the wisdom of the world and ignored the truth that we know in God?
Peter was a unique individual. One minute he is revealing to Jesus that he knows he is the Christ. The next minute Jesus is admonishing him for wanting his own desires over God’s will.
One minute Peter is walking on water. The next minute he is drowning.
One minute he is telling Jesus he will never deny him. The next, well, you know the story.
Peter was a unique character, but we are unique ourselves. Are we willing to stir things up just a bit so people can see the truth?
Have we become complacent with the magnificence of the truth?
I think I can safely say that we all want our children and grandchildren to have not only a saving relationship with God through Christ Jesus, but the abundant life that goes with it.
But what would we do to keep reminding them after we are gone?
What would we do that would keep our children’s children on a course of faith that leads to goodness and to knowledge and to self control and to perseverance and to godliness and to mutual affection and to love?
Peter lived as a message of love and hope and truth to the very end of his life. Peter continued to proclaim not only that Jesus had come as the Lamb of God and cares for us as the Great Shepherd, but that all of this was exactly as God said it would be.
We can’t ignore the truth now that we have seen it, but much of the world has seen and just won’t believe. The truth has just been obscured in the midst of everything else in our lives.
Much of the world has yet to hear the gospel, but this challenge is to stir those who have heard it and know it to be true; yet, they have forgotten the glory of this story of love.
What is the story that everyone is caught up in? Let’s look at what’s on television. I am not talking about programming. What is our world trying to sell us?
About a third of the ads on television these days are about retirement planning. Another third is about new medications and the final third is about the side effects of these new medications.
I wonder what Peter would think about all of this. Peter never talked about retirement. He was thinking about stirring up generations to come even after he was dead.
He wasn’t concerned about his own health or the side effects of anything. He wanted to remind us of how blessed a people we are to the very end of his life.
He wanted to stir us up to live as the people of God.
We say that we want people to know God through our love and actions and attitudes, but have we checked our attitudes and actions lately?
When people see us will they see a people that know the greatest single piece of information that the world can know—God really does love us.
Or do we look just like everyone else, griping about prices, shouting at the guy who cut you off in traffic, single digit communication, hanging our heads, and living like people who have no hope.
My charge this day is to stir you up and affirm in you that God loves you so much that he took away your sin with the spilled blood of Jesus Christ and he wants you to live in faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, with perseverance and godliness, with mutual affection and with love.
We know this unbelievable love from the prophecies of God and the witness of the apostles.
We know the prophecy, life, witness, ministry, healing, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven of Jesus to be the absolute truth.
And I want my children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren to know this with the same certainty as I know it.
I want you to know this truth with such certainty that you will do things in his name that your children’s children will remember.