Challenge Group #2
Prophecy Motivates Study of God's Word and Holy Living
We have the written Word of God to give shape and structure to our lives. Prophecy is the timeless voice of our living God speaking to us now, showing us a clear vision for the future, designed to help us learn to live godly and productive lives in the present.
I am more motivated than ever before to study prophecy because if our hope is fixed on Christ's return " we will live holy and godly lives as we look forward to the day of the Lord and speed it's coming". II Pet 3:11-12.
I want you to live as though Christ is coming today. In thinking about how to challenge you I thought of II Peter and his emphasis on Christ's coming. But instead of starting with chapter one, I'm going to start with chapter three and end with chapter one because I believe looking for Christ's soon return creates a sense of urgency and refocuses us on our own values as well as motivating us to evangelize our lost neighbors, friends and family.
II Peter 3:4 "Where is the promise of His coming?" an illusion to one of the central, clearest, and least ambiguous prophecies of the New Testament: the fact that Jesus Christ is going to come back. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of this event. If He does not come back, we are left with a God who cannot, or worse will not do anything about this terrible world. The second coming of Christ changes Christianity from a theological doctrine into a present day imperative---this is the authoritative punctuation point of Christianity which makes a direct claim on our lives today. This is the only answer to those who attack the character of God by looking at the world He created, it being so broken and evil.
But we do have an answer, better than any other religion or philosophy. We can explain the creativity and genius of mankind, because God created us in His image. We can also explain why it is that we have a capability for evil far beyond any creature on earth. It is because we chose to turn against God, committing treason against our Creator, living apart from Him with the result we see all around the world--the evil heart of man.
Where did God lose control? He didn't! He took the incredible step of becoming man in order to take our place, to substitute for us and die for our evil--to make it possible for us to relate with Him as forgiven & cleansed sinners.
So God is not impotent--He is loving, caring enough to powerfully set us free from death and slavery.
God has the power to put an abrupt end to evil, he is certainly not finished with this world. God is going to intervene and put an end to evil--that is Christ's second advent. If He did not intervene here on earth, we would have a situation where God is content with things the way they are. This is not true BUT He is very patient, and that turns out to be for our good.
Christ IS returning and He placed His credibility in the fact of His certain return (Mt 24, Lk 21, Jn 14, 16, 17, Acts 1)--no wonder Christ's enemies attack this doctrine and make fun of His return: there is a sure way to get people to think you are some sort of nut--i.e. say you are expecting and waiting for Christ's return.
The irony is that things are not the "same as they were in the beginning when the fathers fell asleep" (v. 4). The "signs of the times" point to an end to this world and Christ's soon return. I am convinced we are nearing the end of the age, all the "signs" point to that fact.
Sadly, these last days are filled with scoffers who ridicule the notion that God will intrude in history and dismiss warnings of the judgment to come. Postmodernism doesn't allow for intervention by God since He is merely a "spiritual" being locked out of the material universe by natural law. V. 5 Peter says they deliberately forgot that the material world was formed at God's Word. The physical universe has never been independent it has always been subject to the Word of God. God's past intervention to judge a sinning society gives us warning that He will intervene again. V. 9 Any delay is a gift of God's Grace, our patient God is giving individuals the opportunity to repent, He does not want any to perish. But when Jesus comes, then it will be too late!
V. 10-13 The "Day of the Lord" is a phrase used to indicate a time when God intervenes personally in the course of history, and focuses on history's end. When Christ comes "as a thief" people will not be ready, they will be like the people of Noah's day--marrying, partying, going about their business as though nothing was wrong. Peter points this event as one of the most awesome events biblical prophecy foretells: this world and everything in it will disappear with a roar in a furnace of fire that will outshine the sun. He urges us to realize that the whole material universe is destined for destruction. He writes about the end of the world because he is so intensely concerned for the believers of his and our day.
That's why he warns of "scoffers" in this chapter and "false teachers" in chapter two. They appeal to the lustful desires of human nature and so lead people into the very lifestyle that brings God's judgment. A lifestyle that also tempts us as Christians to go for this world's wealth, position and success. Peter exhorts us to keep our hope fixed on Christ and His soon return, then we will be on guard against this world's temptations. Instead we will "be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless." (II Peter 3:14)
Let us study a description of "practicing these things" II Pet 1:3-11 is the crown jewel of Peter's awesome life of serving his Master. In v. 14 he states that his earthly life is nearly over--he was crucified by Nero--head down, according to tradition, because he said he was not worthy to die like his Lord. This is the way Peter wrote his last letter and I think it is our message that we need in these last days.
Look at v. 12-13 where Peter says these are truths you already know but I am going to "stir you up by way of reminder". We can never study too much these necessary steps for Christian maturity. So let's look at v. 3-11---What are these last deep truths from the pen of one of Christ's most faithful disciples?
V. 3-14 Peter starts our understanding of our Christian walk with what has God done, we always need to start our study with God's Grace, all He has given us, "everything pertaining to life and godliness" and Christ made it possible for us to become "partakers of His divine nature". These position truths make it possible for us to respond to God and begin to live as a maturing disciple v. 5-10
Diligence (zeal)-- an attitude of fervor, intentness; the opposite is the apathy of selfishness which leads to a lukewarm Christian walk. This apathy can result from preoccupation with the world's values. Zeal has to be cultivated by prayer and reflection on His Word as we draw close to the Lord. Diligence is a requirement for a disciple of Christ. Our attitude determines whether we experience all the rest of these Christian virtues.
Moral Excellence--Virtue A turning away from degrading influences and destructive habits. Virtue denotes a warm and attractive person with integrity in their life.
Knowledge--definition of Christian maturity involves obtaining and applying Biblical knowledge. Our life would be like a river banked by God's Word and therefore controlled by it.
Self-Control--is to practice and control our physical appetites so that we can enjoy them with self-control and victory. Responding to every stimulation is to be driven like chaff by the TV & other areas of the World System. It is not a godly lifestyle. God wants us to live on a well-rounded diet of godly love and servanthood, not a wild diet of mindless stimulation. A godly life requires self-control.
Perseverance--an active concept, us stepping forward to undergo suffering or difficult circumstances, rejection, persecution or deprivation. If we can't take any self-sacrifice in our lives we are in real trouble in our spiritual growth because that's what's involved frequently in our life as a disciple. "Picking up your cross and following Me" Christ said.
Godliness-- is to abide in Christ and cultivate an attitude of love, reverence and respect even awe. We have to cultivate a sense of "God is Great" as we study the Word and see His character.
Brotherly Kindness--Phileo--affection. We should cultivate this brotherly-love through prayer for our brothers and sisters and being involved in their lives as we encourage them. The Body of Christ is so attractive to others when we cultivate phileo. But this is not enough: We need Christian love--which is agape love. It goes beyond warmth to sacrificial servanthood: meeting the needs of the beaten man in the parable of the Good Samaritan was agape love. It goes beyond just feeling a warmth, or a feeling that something must be done. Agape moves to do what the man needed and is sacrificial with no thought of getting anything in return.
Peter concludes by saying if these virtues "are yours and are increasing you are neither useless nor unfruitful".
This is a rather daunting list and can be overwhelming unless you see the word "increasing". As long as you are a disciple-in-progress these virtues will be increasing and we will be fruitful.
V. 9-10 If you recognize that you have stalled-out or become lukewarm in your Christian life it's always because you have "forgotten your forgiveness". You have strayed from God's wonderful Grace: your position in Christ with total forgiveness, +R, eternal life, Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit empowering you. You are living in unbelief which will always result in stumbling along in defeat. Notice Peter says if you "practice these things you will never stumble", it's all tied back to "applying zeal to your faith" (v. 5).
This is a great lifestyle--the only way to really enjoy your Christian walk.
I want to close by reiterating Peter's reason for listing these virtues which is my reason also: "I shall always be ready to remind you of these things even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth...I consider it right as long as I am in this earthly dwelling to stir you up by way of reminder" (v. 12-13).
- A Christian view of history involves a sovereign God in creation, revelation, redemption, and judgment, These doctrines teach us that there is a comprehensive and universal history of the human race; that God controls history; that because of this, history has a pattern or goal; that God acts redemptively in history; and that man and women are responsible for what they do or do not do within history's flow. Here we get into one of the great mysteries of the christian faith: the relationship between the eternal will of God and rebellious human wills. Each is real and the flow of history is wrapped up partially in human obedience to or rebellion against God. There are periods of fast-moving spiritual events; there are periods in which God's promises seem delayed. As individuals God seems at times to be moving quickly in our lives. At other times we see little progress.
- Study at least 3 O. T. lives and events which illustrate God's promise being delayed. Why did He delay?
- What application can you make in your own life of God delaying or withholding answers to your prayers, your aspirations? How did you respond?
- The Day of the Lord is a technical theological term in the O. T. focusing attention on what God will do at history's end. (Amos :18, Zeph 1:14-15, Zech 14).
II Thes 1:6-10 and 2:1-12 deal specifically with the Day of the Lord and the "secret power of lawlessness already at work" (2:7).
- How does the spirit and secret power of lawlessness express itself today?
- How can we recognize it's influence?
- What does this insight mean for us today?
- What popular moral values would you define as anti-christian? e.g. the cloak of morality thrown over evil as a disguise: like making homosexuality an "alternative lifestyle" and those opposed as religious bigots who must be silenced.