Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unstable Leaders – 2 Peter 2:17-19

These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. (NASB)

We are continuing to discus people who follow corrupt desires, slander celestial beings, carouse, are adulterous, seduce the unstable, and a bunch of other things. These are people who call themselves Christians and some even become leaders in their church.

Make no mistake, they are not Christians and never have been. The opening of verse 17 verifies this. They are springs without water. Jesus made it clear that Christians are springs of living water. John 7:37-39 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (NIV)

Ezekiel describes a vision of the temple during the millennium reign of Christ. In chapter 47, he describes the water that flows from the temple. Zech 14:8 says it will be a river of living water. Ezekiel tells that the living water gets deeper and deeper as it flows from the temple. This is the way it is with God’s Spirit living in us. It continues to flow to others and as it does it multiplies and becomes deeper. This does not occur with the unstable because they not only do not have living water but they have no water.

Ezekiel says that there are trees beside the river. Rev 22:1-3 says that these trees beside the river of life will bring healing to the nations. The Holy Spirit living in us should not bring contention but healing. Unstable people that Peter describes bring strife and anger. They stir up emotions by proclaiming that we should have certain rights and protect those rights at the people of other nations or ethnic groups. They ignore Scripture such as this: Phil 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (NIV)

What is Jesus’ attitude? How should we protect our rights and our freedoms? Should we follow the advice of talk show host or that of Jesus? Consider the fruitful lives of these unstable people, some of whom have been married multiple times. Consider what Jesus said. Matt 5:38-42 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (NIV) Do unstable people proclaim help for the downtrodden or a me-first attitude? They appeal to the vanity of their followers.

The living water flows from the temple and into the Dead Sea. Ezek 47:9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. (NIV) Remember that Jesus said we would be fishers of men. Do we bring life to people or death? Does our attitude turn off people or let them see the love of Jesus? Unstable counselors only breed unstable followers, people who become anxious about the future instead of embracing the opportunities to share the Gospel. They become anxious about the economy instead of trusting God in all circumstances. The unstable leaders prosper at the expense of their disciples.

They are enslaved by their own passions and seek to enslave others as well. Of course they claim that it is for the best of the nation. They claim it is patriotic. However, they are enslaved to their ideals. Their ideals prevent them from living a life free in Christ. Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. (RSV) What do you want to do? Do you want to be a slave to the anxiety that the world is pumping out or do you want to be free to do what God wants?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don’t Become Part of the Accursed Brood – 2 Peter 2:13-16

They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed — an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey — a beast without speech — who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. (NIV)

Peter continues to warn us about false prophets and teachers who would lead us astray if they could. We need to be alert by observing their actions in public and elsewhere. Peter warns that they carouse in broad daylight. This simply means that they don’t try to hide their immoral behavior. It could be drinking, partying, or sexual immorality. They really don’t care what others think of their behavior. People who call themselves Christians and worse, Christian leaders, who do this give Christianity a bad name. Jesus said in Matt 7:20 “Thus you will know them by their fruits.” (RSV) Peter does a good job describing their fruit. They seem to fall into two areas, sexual sin, and greed.

It isn’t just false prophet that fall into these sins. You can probably list several prominent Christian leaders who have had the same problem. The only difference between them and the false prophets is that they did it in secret, but it was exposed and then they fell from their position. So without dwelling on either the false teachers or the fallen Christian leaders, perhaps we should look inside and see if we are susceptible to the same sins, whether they are committed in secret or in public.

What about these eyes that are full of adultery? How do we stack up in this area? Job 31:1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (KJV) After looking at different versions and the original Hebrew, I think that the KJV did the best job translating this verse. Job wasn’t talking about just seeing someone or a glance but looking then thinking and letting his mind engage in knowing all about this maid. The warning in James 1:14 comes to mind, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (NIV )

Our society is in almost total acceptance that either sex can look all they want as long as they don’t touch. That is filthy hogwash. Peter says that the next step is to seduce the unstable. James says that it gives birth to sin. Jesus also commented on it. Matt 6:22-23 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (NIV) What we allow ourselves to see and dwell upon can lead to light or darkness. If we let our eyes constantly view sexually explicit images we will have lustful hearts leading to lustful practices. If we watch violence and play games of violence then our hearts will become accustomed to it want more. This can easily turn into violent behavior, road rage for example. If we read good books and watch uplifting movies then we will have light in our hearts leading to a life more pleasing to the Lord.

In Num 22, God gave us Balaam as an unusual example. He is a confusing figure because he actually talks with God, as did many of the O.T. prophets. He obeys God, at first. Yet when the emissaries from Balak return, he doesn’t tell them he can’t go with them but asks them to stay the night so that he can see what God will say. (There is a hint – he doesn’t take God at His word but wants to double check to see if there is a way he might get some money from these Moabites.) Strangely enough, God lets him go with Balak’s people in order to curse Israel. But God also tries to kill him on the way. Obviously, God could have killed him, but it served as a warning that Balaam must speak only what God wants. And Balaam does speak what God wanted. He blesses Israel four times over and finally ends up cursing Israel’s enemies.

You would think that Balaam would be listed as an example to follow, but that isn’t so. Later references to Balaam in the Bible are bad. Here was a guy who was in communion with God but let his greed get the best of him. It isn’t explained when he did it, but Balaam counseled Moab how to infiltrate Israel and draw them away from God. Greed can do that to any of us. It may not be greed for money, but for power, our own time, or our own space. We think that just a little more time at work and then I’ll read the Bible or pray. A little more TV and then I’ll pray. We can even pursue good things like exercise or community service and neglect time with the Lord. The pull of the world is so strong that we must constantly be alert to the things that would draw us away from God. I don’t think Balaam set out to be classified with an accursed brood.

When God speaks clearly and we know what He has said, we need not look for any way out. In 1 Kings 13 there is an interesting story of a prophet from Judah who was plainly told by God to go to Israel, make a prophesy over the alter that King Jeroboam had built, then go home without eating or drinking in Israel. A second, older prophet in Israel lies to the first and tells him that God said to eat and drink with him, so the first does, but it cost him is his life.

Balaam lost his life because of his attempt to get around the clear blessing God had given through him. The prophet from Judah died because he listened to someone who countermanded God’s clear instruction. We need to make sure we are listening to God and can recognize His voice (know the Bible) vs. the voice of false teachers. If we don’t, the consequences could be deadly.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Be Careful Who You Slander – 2 Peter 2:10-12

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. (NIV)

I’ll have to back track just a little because Peter jumps from making sure that we know that there will be a judgment for unrighteous people to some specifics about their behavior. He lists two general categories, following the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and those who despise authority. He expands on the second, despising authority, first.

These are false teachers who people think they have it all figured out but don’t really understand spiritual things. If they did, they wouldn’t be so bold or arrogant. They have their own understanding of the structure of spiritual authority. According to the Holy Spirit, who is speaking the word of God through Peter, they are way off base.

The celestial beings that these men slander are not the angles or God Himself. Peter makes that clear. That leaves only the forces of evil that they slander. Paul gives us a hint of their authority structure. Eph 6:12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (RSV) They have principalities. The Encarta Dictionary is quite helpful. It says, “The position or jurisdiction of a prince.” So the forces of evil are structured with rulers implying that there are a bunch of dukes and lower officials followed up by the peons who do all the dirty work. The Encarta Dictionary also defines principality as, “Christianity an angel of the third of the nine orders of angels in the traditional Christian hierarchy.” Don’t ask me where they came up with this tradition but it fits with the concept.

Another thing to remember is that these beings have access to God. Rev 12:9-10 says that Satan finally gets tossed out of heaven but it also says that he accuses the saints before God day and night. The book of Job confirms that Satan not only has access to God but that he is free to visit earth. Job 1:7 The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the Lord, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." (NIV) The book of Job verifies that Satan has no power except that which God allows.

This is also demonstrated in 1 Kings 22:19-24. The prophet Micaiah relates his vision in which God is seated before the heavenly hosts. Some are on the left and others on the right. God asks for someone to entice Ahab. One spirit comes and says he will be a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. God sends him to do it. The false prophet, Zedekiah, has no clue that his prophecies are from an evil being.

This glimpse into the heavenly realms is a key to what Peter is talking about. Examine 1 Kings 22:22. And the Lord said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.’ (RSV) God’s sovereignty is evident in His command to the evil spirit. If a person starts ranting and raving against spiritual beings, telling them what to do and where to go and calling them names (you can see some of this on TV,) then there is a risk that he is actually countermanding the will of God.

Take David’s example when he was fleeing from Jerusalem. Shimei cursed David and threw rocks and dirt at him. When David’s bodyguard wanted to kill Shimei, David didn’t let him. 2 Sam 16:10 But the king said, "What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'" (NIV) Now Shimei was not a celestial being but David recognized that this could have been from the Lord. Are we so confident that we know the mind of the Lord that we can go around commanding each and every spirit what to do?

There are several examples in the Bible that allow us to take command over evil spirits. I won’t talk about Jesus because He knew the perfect will of the Father. However, He did say those who believe would drive out demons (Mark 16:17). He also said in the following verse that we would pick up snakes, drink deadly poison without harm, and place our hands on the sick and heal them. Certainly the book of Acts records many demons being cast out. Does this mean that every person will do these things? I don’t think so and I’m not going to tempt God by drinking poison to prove that I believe and I’m going to be careful about what I say to spirits also.

If I see a person whom I suspect is demon possessed, will I attempt to cast out the demon? I guess that depends on how the Holy Spirit moves me at the time. What if that demon has been allowed to bring that person to repentance (1 Cor 5:1-5) and I cast it out before it has been allowed to do its work? Am I not thwarting the hand of God? If I do decide to do something, then I need to take these passages to heart and do it with respect to authority and not slander the demon.

Jude tells exactly how to do it as he uses some of the same words as Peter. Jude 8-9 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (NIV)

What did I lean from all of this?
  1. There are spiritual battles and forces in the heavenly realms which are far beyond my understanding.
  2. People who venture into them with the wrong attitude are going to end up getting burned.
  3. God is sovereign, even over these forces.
  4. If I should not slander these beings, then how much more should I be careful talking about the ones they control – like leaders of nations.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Condemnation or Rescue – 2 Peter 2:4-10

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. (NIV )

It’s pretty hard to escape the primary message of these seven verses. It’s also very easy to focus on the judgment and punishment of sinners and miss the message of rescue for the righteous person. It is a message of contrasts. If you take away the condemnation of the wicked, then the impact of rescue is significantly diminished.

One of the big problems with the way we communicate the message of salvation today is that we are afraid to tell people that hell is a real place and that people who are not righteous will go there when they die. It isn’t popular and one reason is that it is politically incorrect to let people know that certain behavior is sin. Most people will agree that the big one is sin. That would be murder. However it is increasingly difficult to convince anyone that the little ones are sin. Adultery used to be a big one but even now it is accepted as long as those involved have found their soul mates. Go through the Ten Commandments and murder is just about the only one that most people universally agree is wrong. However, there are some religions and cultures where murder is ok as long as it isn’t against members of their own tribe or religious belief.

The truth is that from God’s viewpoint, sin is sin. While one sin may more heinous than another, it only takes one, small or large, to be judged in violation of His laws. James 2:10-11 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," said also, "Do not kill." If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. (RSV) The point is that any transgression against God will condemn a person as unrighteous and as Peter so clearly pointed out, God knows how to make sure they are punished.

If it were not for the clear punishment for sin, some people would never repent and look for the rescue. This brings up another reason why preaching hell fire and brimstone is not popular. Somehow, modern Christians have gotten the idea that fear of punishment isn’t a valid reason for salvation. They think that a person should turn to Jesus because of His great love and mercy for us. Therefore they don’t tell others about His punishment for sin otherwise they might only come to Christ for “fire insurance” and not out of a desire to obey and love God and thereby become worldly Christians who continue in their sin believing that they are covered and won’t be punished.

We should not eliminate preaching hell fire and brimstone based on this misguided concept. Each person who comes to Christ is a spiritual baby and must learn and grow. The one who comes out of fear of punishment must grow in the love of God. The one who comes to God because of His love must grow in his obedience and fear of God otherwise he might assume that out of God’s love, every sin will be excused. Generally, neither of these categories of people languish in sin but grow and become more Christ-like.

What about this rescue that Peter mentions? He repeats that God rescues the righteous. What about Lot? Read the account of how the two angels had to drag him out of the city. Gen 19:16 But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. (NASB) Lot was quite captivated by his life in the wicked city. He hesitated leaving, but God had compassion on him. How different are we from Lot or those that were destroyed in Sodom and Gomorra? Is it possible that every single person in those cities were engaged in the sinful behavior that was described? Probably not, but they were still sinners. God had earlier said that He would spare the cities if only ten righteous people were found (Gen 18:32) and obviously He didn’t fine ten.

God rescued Lot in spite of his attachment to the sinful cities. He declared Lot a righteous person. This should stop and make us think about how righteous we are. Isa 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (NIV) We can’t claim any righteousness on our own. There is only one way we can be classified as righteous and that is when God says we are. We deserve the same punishment as the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. However, God has chosen us and declared us righteous. Why would He do that?

Rom 3:21-26 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (NIV)

God declares us righteous not because of anything we have done. He does it to demonstrate His justice and His mercy. Anytime we start to think that we deserved rescue we need to remember that without God giving us faith to believe, we never would (Eph 2:8-9). We can’t boast before God in way, shape, or form. We can only be thankful for His recue and be obedient to Him since we owe Him our lives.